Monthly Archives: November 2017

13 November 2017: A busy fall

IMG_1464.jpgAs we contemplate our first snowfall, I am happy to report that the department has had a busy autumn thus far.

On September 27, we hosted the conference Mind, Medicine, and Mechanisms in honour of Paul Thagard. Four speakers gave talks that reflected Paul’s influence on their research and careers. Lindley Darden (University of Maryland) described her current research on discovering disease mechanisms and mechanism schemas with a computational biology group. She noted that Paul is one of the few fellow philosophers who has focused on the discovery process for disease mechanisms. Chris Eliasmith’s talk “Thagard’s thorough thinking on thoughts” offered a fascinating autobiographical account of the development of his cognitive models from ECHO to the latest iteration of Spaun, highlighting ideas inspired by Paul.  Miriam Solomon (Temple University) analyzed aspects of Paul’s philosophy of medicine and offered friendly suggestions, including the addition of value-laden descriptions of disease. She reminisced about the positive influence that Paul’s enthusiasm about philosophy of science had on her early in her career. Bill Bechtel (UCSD) took us from mechanisms to networks and back again by drawing out the implications of case studies from network and systems biology (e.g., yeasts, cancer genes and pathways). We also learned from Paul’s former students that Paul’s suggestive facial expressions were an important indicator of promising and less-than-promising research directions. The conference was primarily sponsored by funds contributed by Paul’s colleagues in the Department, with additional funds from the Department and the Faculty of Arts.

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John Turri, Ramesh Prasad, and Paul Thagard happily doing philosophy.


Then in October, the department hosted Eva Kittay.  She gave two talks while visiting, a public lecture on “The Desire for Normalcy” (Oct. 23) and a departmental talk on “The Moral Significance of Being Human) (Oct. 25).  The public talk drew from the broader Waterloo community, including folks that work with Dave DeVidi in disability activism.  The departmental talk was completely packed.  Prof. Kittay also participated in Patricia Marino’s “Ethics” undergraduate class on Tues., Oct. 24, where they discussed Kittay’s paper, “The Personal is Philosophical is the Personal” (published in in Kittay and Carlson, eds., Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell 2010).

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Eva Kittay says she named her dog Spinoza because of his uncanny resemblance to the human Spinoza.  Indeed!


We also had convocation in October, where three new Ph.D.’s were hooded.  Peter Blouw, Ashley Keefner, and Ramesh Prasad celebrated the completion of their degrees.  Peter and Ashley also received their Graduate Diplomas in Cognitive Science.  Congratulations to all!

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Congratulations to Peter, Ashley, and Ramesh!


More recently, both Philosophy and Women’s Studies participated in the Fall Open House on Saturday, Nov. 4th.  Students and faculty spent the day talking with a very enthusiastic bunch of potential future Waterloo Arts students. Thanks to faculty Shannon, Katy, Dave, and Tim, and students Theo (Philosophy) and Hai-Dao, Jillian, Caroline, and Shajini (WS) for volunteering to staff the booths.

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WS students and Katy Fulfer having fun at their booth.

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UW students with the philosophical questions that keep them up at night.


Members of the department have also been active giving talks this fall.

Doreen Fraser delivered a keynote talk at the wrap up conference for the Scientific Realism and the Quantum Project in Leeds, UK, on September 13.

Jim Jordan gave a talk on “Temporal and Causal Distance in Aggressive Cyberoperations” at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association meeting in Regina on October 13. The paper explored some of the conflicting factors in determining when a cyberattack against a state is severe enough to justify a use of military force in response. He reports that he is grateful to the department and Faculty of Arts for their financial support and encouragement.

The University of Waterloo was well represented at the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy meeting at Western University in London, Ontario (Oct 27-29). Andria Bianchi presented the paper “Sex, Dementia, and Consent: Implementing a Framework of Precedent Autonomy.”  Katy Fulfer presented the paper “We Welcomers: Hannah Arendt, Rootlessness, and Natality” with her co-author Rita A. Gardiner (Faculty of Education, Western University). And Shannon Dea also attended the meeting, running a workshop with Carolyn McLeod (Western) on “Contributing to Social Policy: Why, How, Who, and When.”


The CSWIP UW Trio: Shannon, Andria, and Katy


In publishing news, Shannon Dea and Julie Walsh (Wellesley) just published a major revision of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Continental Rationalism.  They aim in this revision to tell the story of continental rationalism in a more inclusive manner, which will hopefully open scholarship to more readily recognizing oft neglected voices. 

And Katy Fulfer’s most recent publication dropped in September.  You can read “Hannah Arendt and Pregnancy in the Public Sphere,” in Feminist Phenomenology Futures.

A hearty congratulations goes out to Carla Fehr for being part of the team that won a successful SSHRC Partnership Grant on Engendering Success in STEM!  This 7-year, $2.5 million SSHRC Partnership Grant will develop and test interventions designed to foster the success of women and girls who pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Shannon Dea was also in the news when her perspective on the topic “#MeToo: Taking it lightly?” was featured in Gulf News‘ “Your View.” Gulf News is a United Arab Emirates newspaper and Shannon was the only “Western” contributor to the piece.


The Department received some sad news recently. Bill Barthelemy, a 1980 graduate of our Ph.D. program and a longtime member of the Canadian academic community who spent the past three decades teaching at Kwantalen Polytechnic University in BC has died. Bill wrote his thesis on the work of W.V.O. Quine, and did research in the philosophy of language, of science, and of art. He is remembered by his students and colleagues at Kwantalen as an inspiring teacher. Steve Jones, a local alum who attended Waterloo at the same time as Bill, recalls, “His ready humour and genial ways were always a treat.”

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To celebrate Waterloo’s 60th Anniversary, retired faculty members from the Philosophy Department who live near Waterloo got together as part of the University’s annual Reunion celebration on September 30.  This brought together the current and (living) former Chairs of the Department.  Quite the bunch!

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The Chair and all living former Chairs of UW Philosophy
Left to Right: Tim Kenyon, Joe Novak, Richard Holmes, Brain Hendley, Jim Horne, Larry Haworth, Rolf George, Jim Van Evra, and Dave DeVidi (seated)


Finally, Women’s Studies is now on twitter!

Want to read more?  More news about the department’s doings can be found in the most recent version of The Rational Enquirer, a newsletter for friends and alumni.

Additional online faculty writings can be found at these blogs:

Hot Thought

The Kramer is Now

Philosophy in the World