Author Archives: Heather Douglas

1 March, 2018: Winter Update


As the spring begins to encroach on winter here in Waterloo, it is time for a late winter news update.

The department has hosted two talks so far this winter.  On January 10, Prof. Frank Zenker (Lund University) gave the talk “From Discovery to Justification: Outline of an Ideal Research Program in Empirical Psychology.”  Then, on January 19, Prof. Anjan Chakravarty (Notre Dame) gave a talk on “Scientific Disagreement:  Rationality and Uniqueness.” Both were well attended and much appreciated.

This Friday March 2, Prof. Govind Persad will be talking about “Authority without Identity: Defending advanced directives via posthumous rights over one’s body.”  Please join us!

On January 24, the Women’s Studies Program (which will officially be renamed the Gender and Social Justice Program in 2019) hosted an Alumni Career Panel. Seven alums, with graduation dates between 1995 and 2016, spoke with students and faculty about the value of their Women’s Studies degrees for their professional and personal lives. Indeed, while this event was designed to provide students some insight into how to translate and market social justice education for the workplace, many of the alums spoke about how their educations have benefitted their lives holistically–at home, in community work, interpersonally, and professionally.


Pictured:  Katy Fulfer, Susan Phillips, Mary Lou Roe, Ronda Lobsinger, Marianne Wylie, Kesseta Black, Alina Balzerson, and Safia Baccus

On February 16, Matt Doucet and Shannon Dea hosted Daniel Weinstock from McGill University’s Faculty of Law and Institute for Health and Social Policy for a day-long workshop on the philosophy of harm reduction – a new area of philosophy, in which Waterloo and McGill are leading the charge. Matt and Shannon, along with Waterloo grad students who are working on the philosophy of harm reduction, will head to McGill in the Fall for the next workshop in this emerging area.

Faculty and students have also been busy traveling and giving talks.

In early January, Teresa Branch-Smith attended Arizona State University’s 6th annual Winter School on Responsible Innovation and Social Studies of Emerging Technologies, held at Saguaro Lake Ranch, just outside Tempe. Graduate students, post-docs, and junior faculty explored the societal aspects of emerging technologies through theoretical framings, analytical tools, and lessons in responsible innovation, anticipatory governance, and real-time technology assessment. Teresa presented her research on “Values in Big Data Analytics,” which she pursued using the STIR methodology (developed at ASU).  About the experience, Teresa says: “The hands-on approach of the instructors, and enthusiasm of the collaborators, made it a dynamic learning environment set against the backdrop of desert sunsets and wild horses!”


Teresa in the Arizona desert.  Remember: Don’t touch the cacti!

Jackie Feke reports that she gave two invited talks over the past couple of months.  On January 10, she gave a talk as part of the Special Sessions on History of Mathematics at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, “the largest mathematics meeting in the world,” which took place in San Diego.  Her talk, “Ancient Greek Geographical Maps vs. Geometrical Diagrams,”  was given to a packed room, with about 100 mathematicians in attendance.

On February 9, Jackie gave a colloquium talk to the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Minnesota, entitled “Ptolemy’s Ethics.”  She reports that “the Program gave me a warm welcome, and about 50 historians were in attendance.”

Heather Douglas traveled in late January to the UK, first to speak at a workshop on “Scientific Governance at the Ground Level” at the University of Cambridge, and then to deliver the J.B.S. Haldane Lecture at UCL on January 31.   Her talk in Cambridge focused on “Governing Science for Responsible Research,” which centered on the challenges of cultivating responsibility within science, while her talk at UCL was about “How the Public can assess Expertise,” particularly without having to develop full expertise themselves.  The video for the Haldane Lecture is now available.


Heather in the lovely Oriel Room at Cambridge

Heather then traveled February 9-10 to the University of Michigan for an event organized and run entirely by graduate students there, the spring colloquium on Science, Values, and the Public, where she gave the talk “Scientific Experts and the Public: How to build trust in a complex world.”  She really enjoyed hearing the other talks and the excellent commentaries by the students.

Finally, she was in Chicago February 22 for the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting, providing comment in an author-meets-critics session on Kevin Elliott’s recent book, A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science (Oxford 2017).

Closer to home, on February 14, Shannon Dea participated in a book panel at University of Toronto’s Centre For Ethics on Mara Marin’s Connected by Commitment (Oxford, 2017).

Shannon also continues to be a regular presence on contemporary media discussions of important societal issues.  At the beginning of February, she provided comment on the new gender-neutral lyrics of the Canadian national anthem for the BBC’s Outside Source, for the Mike Farwell Show on 570 News (Kitchener-Waterloo)  (starting around minute 19), and for the Rick Gibbons Show, 1310 News (Ottawa).  She also talked about the #metoo movement in Your Say, Gulf News (out of the United Arab Emirates) and on the Mike Farwell Show (starting around minute 20).

Want to read more?

Additional online faculty writings can be found at these blogs:

Daily Academic Freedom

Hot Thought

The Kramer is Now

Philosophy in the World







21 December 2017: Happy Holidays!

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As the fall term draws to a close and winter officially begins, it is time to wrap up the year and wish everyone Happy Holidays!

First, warm congratulations to department alumnus and official Friend of the Department Bob Ewen (BA ’71), who received one of ten 60th Anniversary Alumni Awards from the University of Waterloo on December 2. He was honoured for “exemplify[ing] extraordinary University citizenship through volunteerism, mentorship, philanthropy and advocacy.” Bob has been a key supporter of the development of the Hagey Hub and other University initiatives, and has been a willing advisor and mentor to Arts students. We thank him for all he has done for the Department and the University!


Bob Ewen and his wife Anita at the Gala where he received his award

Faculty have been busy giving talks in late fall.  In November Patricia Marino participated in a really interesting inter-disciplinary conference on Law and Economics in Helsinki. The conference, co-sponsored by the group MetaLawEcon and the TINT at the University of Helksini, was attended by a diverse and international group of scholars, and sought to examine Law and Economics from an epistemological and philosophy of science perspective. Patricia presented a paper that brought debates on value pluralism and moral reasoning into contact with related debates over the use of consequentialism in Law and Economics contexts, and commented on a really interesting paper about the ethics and economics of climate change.  She also learned a lot about the economics of immigration, property law, and many other interesting things!

Closer to home in November, Jackie Feke organized and chaired a session at the History of Science Society meeting in Toronto called “Technē and Training: New Perspectives on Pre-Modern Scientific and Technical Education.”  The session featured papers on medicine in ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greek medicine, Roman architecture, and mining technology in 16th-century Bolivia.

She also gave a colloquium talk to the Department of Science & Technology Studies at York University called “Three Ancient Greek Mathematicians Against Philosophers.”

Dave DeVidi presented his paper “On What there Is, What There Isn’t, and None of the Above,” at McMaster University on November 3 and at the Western University on December 2.  He says:  “The crowds were substantial, and judging by the questions at least most of them were able to stay awake throughout. It was a pleasure to be reminded of how healthy the philosophical community is in this part of Ontario.”

On November 24, Shannon Dea participated in a discussion of her paper “Toward A Philosophy of Harm Reduction” at Concordia University by members of Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique de Montreal (GRIPP).  Her paper discusses the two philosophers who have published on harm reduction, herself and McGill Law School Professor Daniel Weinstock. Shannon and he are now planning a workshop on harm reduction to be held at McGill in the new year. Stay tuned!

Two of our graduate seminars had exciting conclusions this fall.  Doreen Fraser’s seminar on Philosophy of Quantum Theory closed with a Q&A session with Lucien Hardy (Perimeter Institute), one of several visitors from Western and Perimeter this term.  Doreen reports that the seminar exemplified engaged philosophy, bringing together graduate and undergraduate students from Philosophy, Physics, and Applied Mathematics.  They had lively and productive discussions on the themes of the realism–anti-realism debate in the philosophy of science and the contemporary quantum physics research program of reconstructing quantum theory. (This program involves proposing physical principles that inform mathematically-formulated axioms, and then re-deriving the standard formalism for quantum theory from these axioms.) Doreen says:  “I was very pleased with the way the class rose to the challenges posed by the subject matter and by communicating constructively across disciplinary boundaries!”

Shannon Dea’s seminar on Harm Reduction held a one day mini-conference on Philosophy of Harm Reduction at which students in the class presented their work to each other, the public, and harm reductioner practitioners from the community. The conference also featured a roundtable discussion with Tom Cull (London Ontario Poet Laureate and Thames River Rally founder), Colin McVicker (Program Director, Sanguen Health Centre), and Hayley Smuts (Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area Harm Reduction Program Placement Student). The students presented the following cutting edge research:  Theodore Peng, “Harm Reduction of Non-Existent Persons”; Dominic Rogalski, “Shifting Attitudes: Palliative Care as Harm Reduction”; Priscilla Larbi, “Catering Harm Reduction Interventions to the Needs of Sub-Saharan Africa”; Sabah Khokhar, “Changing Rape Culture in India”; Jay Solanki, “Situating Harm Reduction, Motivating Philosophy”; Hai-Dao Le-Nguyen, “A HR Approach to Algorithms”; Bryan Igreja, “Putting the Red in Harm Reduction: What Socialism Can Bring to HR and Sex Work”; Alex Gruenewald, “Re-assessing the Triadic Model of Care for Trans Patients Using a Harm-Reduction Approach.” Jonathan Zaid was unable to present his research on using affordable cannabis to fight the opioid crisis because, excitingly, he was meeting with the Prime Minister that day to lobby for medical uses of cannabis. (Jonathan is the founder and Executive Director of Canadians For Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.)

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Tom Cull tells conference participants how his work cleaning up the banks of the Thames River led him to become an advocate for supervised consumption sites.


In publishing news, Patricia Marino’s paper “Value Pluralism, Moral Diversity, Moral Reasoning, and the Foundations of Bioethics” was recently published in a special journal issue of Ethics, Medicine and Public Health and is available for free download for a limited time here.

She also had a paper on the “Ethical Implications of Scientific Imperialism: Two Examples from Economics,” recently published in the collection Scientific Imperialism: Exploring the Boundaries of Interdisciplinarity (edited by Uskali Mäki, Adrian Walsh, Manuela Fernández Pinto, Routledge  2018).

Also, Andria Bianchi had a book review published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, looking at Gender Testing in Sports: Ethics, cases, and controversies.

In other news, Shannon Dea was a panelist on TVOntario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin November 30 for a discussion of “Freedom of Expression on Campus.” Shannon writes: “The discussion was prompted by recent events at Wilfrid Laurier University involving a teaching assistant who has complained about pushback she received from WLU over a video she showed and a subsequent discussion she led in one of her tutorials. On the panel, I took the view that academic freedom is importantly distinct from freedom of expression, and that it is appropriate to design courses in a way that supports marginalized students.”  In a December 15 blog post, host of the show Steve Paikin discussed the abuse that women and other marginalized people often receive when they venture into the media, including some of the abuse Shannon received after the show.

Heather Douglas talked with Why? radio host and University of North Dakota philosophy professor Jack Weinstein about science, values, and democracy.  The program was broadcast on December 10 on Prairie Public Radio. The discussion was wide ranging and lots of fun. She has received no nasty emails from this show, for which she is grateful.

Finally, the department bid Tim Kenyon a fond farewell on December 15.  Tim is leaving the University of Waterloo to take up the position of Vice President of Research at Brock University.  Tim has been a central figure in the Department of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts for many years, serving as Chair of the Department and then as Associate Dean of Research for Arts.  There is much that can be said about Tim, but this poem by Gerry Callaghan sums up the important parts nicely:

Take Kenyon

’Twas Keats who wrote that beauty is truth,

Truth beauty,

That this is all we know on earth,

Withal it’s all we need to know,

To which I say, “Not so! Take Kenyon.”


A man for truth, ever there was,

Pursues it as a holy cause,

But as for beauty, dear oh dear,

I’ve seen him in his cycling gear,


Donned like a paint or second skin,

The man in full stuffed tight within—

The garish sheen, the harsh palette,

The gaud, and O the silhouette;


For this, I own I lack the words.

I’d have to speak in gasps and surds,

Though some there be could meet the task;

“Who,” you ask? Take Kenyon,


A wordsmith of the highest rank,

Though not for show, no mountebank

Is he, his terms so apt and clear,

Hard though they be upon the ear:


Take “sebaceous” or “incandescent,”

“Rebarbatively recrudescent,”

“Dispositive,” and on and on—

The stuff of truth, the death of song.


(In fairness, he’s not bad with songs;

I’ve heard him sing at sing-alongs.)


To Keats, then, is it such a shame

If truth and beauty aren’t the same?

Which, veracity or art,

Is injured when they come apart?


Neither!, for when truth is plain,

Beauty will rest and not complain.

Her hour will come around again;

’Til then, we’ll just take Kenyon.


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Tim cuts the cake.

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The cake!

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

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

Eva Kittay schedule changes

Eva Kittay has unfortunately had the change her travel plans last minute.  She will not be arriving in Waterloo next week and so the Oct. 18 and Oct. 20 events have to be cancelled. She still plans, however, to be joining us for the events of the following week.  Thus, the Oct. 23 evening lecture and the Oct. 25 afternoon lecture will still be held.

Hope we can see you there!

Eva Kittay to Visit Waterloo

As we enjoy the study days of the new fall break, we are also looking forward to Dr. Eva Kittay’s visit to the department beginning next week.

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Eva Kittay, our current Brian Rudrick Visiting Scholar, is a world-renowned scholar of Disability Studies and Feminist Ethics.  Dr. Kittay is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University and an Affiliate of the Stony Brook Women’s Studies Program.  She is the author of more than 85 articles, as well as seven books and edited volumes including Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality and Dependency.

Dr. Kittay will be giving a series of talks while at the University of Waterloo.

Her lectures will begin on Wednesday, October 18, with a talk on “The Moral Significance of Being Human,” at 2:30 in Hagey Hall 373.

On Friday October 20 she will talk on “The Completion of Care,” also at 2:30 in Hagey Hall 373.

On Monday, October 23 at 7 pm she will give the talk  “The Desire for Normalcy.” This talk will take place in Federation Hall, Columbia Room A & B.

Finally, on Wednesday October 25, she will present “How Not to Argue about Disability and Reproduction” at 2:30 pm in Hagey Hall 373.

Receptions will follow each of these events.  All are welcome to attend and we hope to see you there!

For the Monday evening lecture, RSVP is recommended, but not required, to Tawnessa Carter at Parking is available in the following lots close to Federation Hall: Lot M ($6), Lot J ($5) Lot S ($5).

The Brian Rudrick Visiting Scholar in Philosophy Program is made possible by a generous bequest by Brian Rudrick. Brian was a pathologist and lab director for Grey Bruce Health Services who completed a philosophy degree entirely by distance education while in professional practice. After his graduation he was very generous with his time, visiting classrooms to give real life examples of how the skills essential to good philosophy are also crucial for making smart decisions in a medical context.


5 September 2017, End-of-Summer Edition

IMG_1401 (1).jpgAs the days become shorter and students come back to campus, it is time to reflect on our busy summer.

First, congratulations are in order!  A suite of students (and our own Debbie Dietrich) received degrees at convocation in June, including newly minted PhDs Cathy Gee and Ben Nelson, and MAs Sajad Abdallah, Eric Bohner, Vanessa Lam, and Jonathan Simard.   Congratulations as well to Julian Chow, recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award for Philosophy.

Congratulations also to Chris Eliasmith, who was elected a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society this summer.  Hooray for Chris!

Finally, Jackie Feke has been awarded an Insight Development Grant from SSHRC, on “Law and Nature in Ancient Greek Mathematics.”  She is the sole PI on the grant, which is for $58k over the next two years.

Summer is also a busy time for traveling for our faculty and students.  In June, Shannon Dea was a visiting professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China.  Closer to home Doreen Fraser gave the keynote address “Formal analogies in the development of renormalization group methods” at the Logic, Mathematics, and Physics Graduate Conference at Western University on June 15.

Also in June, Patricia Marino and PhD student Chris Wass had a great time participating at the History of Economics Society meeting in Toronto. Chris gave a talk that brought together economics and philosophy of science, presenting on “Friedman’s Methodology and the Economic Realism Movement,” and Patricia talked about normative dimensions of the rationality debate in “A Problem In Economic Explanation: Historical, Theoretical, and Normative Perspectives.” They were both interested in how much philosophy there was in ostensibly historical talks, and they both learned a ton.


Patricia and Chris in Toronto in June

Then in July, Patricia, PhD student Andria Bianchi, and PhD alum Rosalind Abdool participated in a session on “Mental Health, Autonomy, and Relationships: Ethical and Legal Dilemmas” at the International Congress on Law and Mental Health in Prague.  The session was organized by Rosalind and included Tess Sheldon, Staff Lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre. They report that the way the session mixed theoretical and practical components was great!


Roz and Patricia in Prague in July

Also in July, Jackie Feke presented her work at the Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop at the University of Notre Dame (for which she was also on the organizing committee).  Her talk was on “Image Making in Ptolemy’s Astronomy and Geography.”

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Jackie (second from the left) with other historians of astronomy at Notre Dame in July

In August, Ben Nelson presented a paper at the European Congress for Analytic Philosophy (ECAP9) in Munich, Germany titled “On a Need to Know Basis: Putting Secret Law in Context.” He reports he had a great time, and that there were lots of stimulating talks, a highly collegial, informed, and intellectually attentive Q&A climate, and great food!


Roof of the LMU Munich main building

Also in August, Shannon visited the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, where she was one of the invited speakers at a conference on Pragmatism and the Analytic-Continental Split. Her talk, “Black Pragmatists and the Promise of the Continent,” was part of her larger project to make the American pragmatist canon more inclusive. Nathan Haydon also gave a talk at the conference on “Regulative Commitments: An Attractive Alternative to Regulative Assumptions.” Shannon reports that his talk was well received.


Nathan unwinding at the pub after his talk with Sheffield graduate students, including UW Philosophy alumnus and current Sheffield doctoral candidate, Trystan Goetze (foreground) 

In publishing news, Shannon’s paper “Deep Pluralism and Intentional Course Design: Diversity From the Ground Up” was published in a special issue of Rivista di Estetica 64 (2017) 660-82 on Discrimination in Philosophy.

Heather Douglas had two interviews posted over the summer.  The first was with SciPhi Podcasts, which provides detailed looks at the career trajectories of philosophers of science, i.e., you can hear her “origin story.”  The second was as part of The Naked Scientists (a science radio program in the UK) on existential risk (arising from Heather’s trip to Cambridge last April).

Finally, an exciting event is coming up this month.  We are hosting “Mind, Medicine, and Mechanisms” in honour of Paul Thagard on Friday, September 22.  Invited speakers are William Bechtel, Lindley Darden, Chris Eliasmith, and Miriam Solomon.  All are welcome to attend.

Want to read more? Additional online writings can be found at these blogs:

Hot Thought

Philosophy in the World

The Kramer is Now


June 9, 2017


While it is officially spring (and spring term), it certainly feels like summer has arrived in Waterloo.  And that means Congress!  Many departmental members participated in the annual festival that is the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which took place this year May 27-June 2 at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Katy Fulfer organized and moderated an author-meets-critics session on Patricia Marino’s recent book, Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World, for the Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA) meeting. Commenters included Chris Kaposy, Rosalind Abdool, and Anthony Skelton.  Patricia thought that their comments and the Q and A were all excellent and really thought provoking, raising a great mix of theoretical and more practical issues.  Patricia also presented a paper on “Value Pluralism and the Law and Economics Movement.” And Katy presented “An Anti-Commodification Approach to Animal Research” (a paper co-authored with Patrick Clipsham, from Winona State University) also at the CPA.

Shannon Dea gave a series of talks at Congress, including “Spinoza and Race” (at a joint session sponsored by the Spinoza Society of Canada and the CPA), “Detached Ideas on Topics of Vital Importance” (at the Public Humanities Roundtable: “New Cultures of Scholarship: The Humanities in the Public Sphere” sponsored by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English), and “Pragmatism From Margin to Centre” as part of a symposium on “Pragmatism in the 21st Century” (for the CPA).   She also served on an author meets critics panel with Patricia Marino for Carrie Jenkins’ book What Love is and What it Could Be.


Left to right:  Carrie Jenkins (UBC), Shannon Dea (UW), Samantha Brennan (Western), Patricia Marino (UW), Jasper Heaton (UBC), Alice MacLachlan (York). Photo credit: Esa Diaz-Leon (Barcelona).

Sandra DeVries presented a paper entitled “The Role of Multiraciality in the Philosophy of Race” at the CPA.

Doreen Fraser gave a talk entitled “Quasi-particles as a template for ‘particles’ in QFT” in a symposium on the history and philosophy of particle physics at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) meeting at Congress and delivered a commentary at the CPA.

Jackie Feke gave a talk on “Ptolemy’s Epistemology of Geography” also as part of CSHPS.

Also presenting talks at the CPA were Andria Bianchi, Wesley Buckwalter, Matt Doucet, Carla Fehr, Vanessa Lam, Chris Lowry, Dylon McChesney,  and Ben Nelson.

In addition to the academic frenzy of Congress, other talks were also given in other places.  For example, Katy Fulfer presented  “From the Global to the Local: Notes on Canadian Policy, Commodification, and Exploitation” at the Critical Perspectives on Surrogacy in Canada workshop held at the University of Ottawa May 17-18. This workshop brought together specialists in law, bioethics, philosophy, sociology, and policy, and provided an avenue for academics to speak with surrogates about their work. Then, Katy traveled to Montreal for the Canadian Bioethics Society (CBS) Annual Conference, where she presented “Vulnerability and Moral Responsibility in Choosing Assisted Reproduction.”

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Waterloo folks at CBS:  Andria Bianchi, Cait O’Donnell Kathryn Morrison, Katy Fulfer, and Rosalind Abdool

In late April, Heather Douglas traveled to the University of Cambridge at the behest of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.  There, she participated in a workshop on Risk and the Culture of Science, and gave a public talk on “Responsibility and Inequality in a Risky World.”  A video of the talk has been posted on CSER.  She also gave a talk in the History and Philosophy of Science Department on “The Materials for Trust-Building in Expertise.”


Heather Douglas and Jacob Stegenga at the river Cam.

Closer to home, Shannon continued her work on pedagogy with Centre for Teaching Excellence by giving a talk at the UW Teaching and Learning Conference on “Cultivating Curiousity and Care on the Threshold” (with Carmen Bruni, Rob Gorbet, Barbara Moffatt, Gordon Stubley, Julie Timmermans, and Diane Williams).  She also worked with Trevor Holmes to design and run a two-day advanced course design workshop (“Deepening Your Course Design”) held in May.

Department members are also involved in community governance and public outreach.  Shannon Dea has been elected as a faculty representative to both the University Senate and the University Board of Governors.  Shannon was also a panelist on Opposing Views on 570 News, a weekly lunchtime current events show hosted by Mike Farwell.  (Listen here.)

Dave DeVidi was pleased to be asked to join the Advisory Committee for Career Compass KW, a two-year project funded by a Ministry of Community and Social Services Employment Modernization grant, that aims to help people with developmental disabilities in KW to find meaningful, competitive, fulfilling and productive employment in the community.

And Katy Fulfer notes that although the Women’s Studies Student Society isn’t meeting formally during the Spring term, a few members meet up to volunteer at Food Not Bombs, an organization that provides a free vegetarian and vegan meal in downtown Kitchener most Saturdays.  All are welcome to join!

In publishing news, Ted Richards has co-edited with Kevin Elliott a special section of Public Affairs Quarterly entitled “The Responsible Use of Science in Societal Decision Making.” Part one appears in this month’s issue (Vol. 31, #3). Part two will appear in the September issue.

Wesley Buckwalter and John Turri’s paper “Descartes’s Schism, Locke’s Reunion: Completing the Pragmatic Turn in Epistemology” was recently published in American Philosophical Quarterly. The paper argues that whether a person should pursue a course of action is powerfully and directly connected to knowledge.

Shannon Dea’s paper, “Deep Pluralism and Intentional Course Design: Diversity From the Ground Up,” was recently published in Rivista di estetica.

And Heather Douglas’s essay, “The Bitter Aftertaste of Technical Sweetness” has been published in new edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, edited by David Guston, Ed Finn, and Jason Scott Robert (MIT Press).  Heather’s essay draws parallels between the experience of scientists at Los Alamos in World War II and the experience of Victor Frankenstein.

Finally, it is with sadness that the department notes the passing of longtime faculty member Judy Wubnig.  Dave DeVidi and Shannon Dea have provided this rememberance of her:

Judy was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934. She received a BA from Swarthmore in 1955, and her MA and PhD from Yale. Her 1963 dissertation was titled A Study of the Rationality in Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. After a short stint as a Lecturer at Northeastern University, she joined the Waterloo Philosophy Department in 1965, where she worked until her retirement in 2002. She continued to work on Kant, including translating work on his philosophy of mathematics, and made occasional forays into political philosophy.

Judy was a well-known figure on the Waterloo Campus throughout her career. She was never shy about speaking up in defense of what she thought was right, and regarded herself as a staunch advocate of free speech. As the then-University President David Johnston phrased it when he conferred the designation Professor Emerita on her, she was “a conscientious discussant at Arts Faculty Council and diligent in defending the interests of faculty members across campus.”

It is as a mentor and friendly supporter of many students during her long teaching career that Judy probably made her most important contribution. She often went out of her way to make students, especially international students or students who seemed isolated, feel at home at Waterloo. One of the current faculty members in the Department, Shannon Dea, was an undergraduate student of Judy’s and her memories give a feel for a side of Judy that those who only know her by her higher-profile activities on campus might miss:

Judy was one of my first ever Philosophy professors. In the Fall of 1989, in the first term of my undergrad, I took “Great Works of Western Philosophy” with her. I loved the course and I loved her teaching. She was old-fashioned in a way that, at the time, I was looking for in a philosophy professor. She treated the canon reverently; this really resonated with me at the time. She was also fiercely supportive of her students. I recall one time I had to ask for an extension on a paper because I wasn’t doing a very good job of juggling work and school. She asked me why I had a job, in addition to being a student. I told her that my job was my only way of paying rent. This really upset her. “Oh, why can’t they just let students be students?” she complained. (She gave me the extension.)

As it happens, the job in question was at a local restaurant. I remember that Judy often used to bring undergraduate students to the restaurant and buy meals for them. She was always a really generous woman. At the end of the course I took with her, she invited the whole class to her apartment for a potluck dinner. This really meant a lot to me. It was the first time I had ever been welcomed to a professor’s home, the first time that I ever shared a meal with a professor. I and another student in the class were both vegan. Judy was far from vegan, but she managed, in her own way, to make we two vegans feel really welcome by explaining to us Plato’s reasons for excluding meat from the diet of the citizens of the Republic. Years later when I became a professor, I followed Judy’s model and held student potlucks at my house at the end of term. I wanted to make my own students feel as welcome and supported as Judy made me feel.  (I don’t host these potlucks so often any more, but I still think very fondly of the practice.)

Over the years, my views about philosophy and pedagogy and about the world in general drifted pretty far from Judy’s. By the end, we didn’t agree on much. But she was the first woman philosopher I ever met, and she was a kind a generous teacher to me. For these reasons, I will remember her with great fondness.



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