Author Archives: Heather Douglas

April 19, 2017

IMG_0777 (2).jpgAlthough the start of the Spring Term is still a couple weeks away, spring is in full swing in Waterloo with daffodils blooming, trees budding, and geese defending nest sites.

On April 12, we celebrated student achievement at our annual awards ceremony, made possible by generous donations to the Philosophy General Fund by alumni, faculty and friends of the Philosophy Department.  The afternoon included special guests Bob Ewen (BA ’71), a long-time benefactor of the Department, Sandra Burt, the first Director of the Women’s Studies Program, and Marg Kerr-Lawson, widow of Angus Kerr-Lawson.  It was standing room only this year, and emcee Gerry Callaghan commented that “I’ve been on the adjudicating committee for these awards for a number of years, and each year it gets harder to pick the winners from the pile of excellent nominees.”

To help us celebrate the impact of philosophy, Alumna Rosilee Sherwood (MA 09, BA 07) gave a thoughtful presentation that addressed the way philosophy compels us to engage productively with people we disagree with profoundly on important issues, and the benefits that come with the resulting open-mindedness and tolerance.

Awards included top philosophy students in each year of the undergraduate program, best first year and the best upper year Women’s Studies students, and a range of essay prizes for both undergraduate and graduate students. There was also an award for outstanding citizenship and contribution to the Department by an undergraduate student. And Mary Synnott, who recently retired, was recognized for three decades of outstanding contribution to Women’s Studies. Congratulations to all the award winners!

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Gerry Callaghan celebrating Mary Synnott


Congratulations as well to Sandra DeVries for successfully defending her prospectus proposal last month, on “The Role of Multiraciality in the Philosophy of Race.”

And finally, congratulations to Andria Bianchi for being named runner-up in the university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition on March 23.  Andria was also interviewed on the CBC regarding her work on sex, consent, and dementia.

Despite the arrival of spring here in Waterloo, philosophers have been traveling to give talks and participate in conferences.

First, Sandra DeVries spoke on “Philosophy of Race and Multiraciality” at Michigan State University’s Philosophy Graduate Student Conference in mid- March.

Then, Katy Fulfer presented “Family Matters: An Arendtian Critique” with her co-author Dr. Rita A. Gardiner (Faculty of Education, Western University) at the Organizing Equality Conference, held at Museum London in London, Ontario from March 24-26. This free conference, open to community members, brought academics into conversation with community leaders and organizers.   The full version of this project appeared online a few weeks ahead of the conference in Gender, Work & Organization. A shortened version of Katy and Dr. Gardiner’s presentation can be found on Katy’s blog.

From April 12-15, Katy attended the Pacific Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Seattle. She presented another project co-authored with Dr. Gardiner at the North American Society for Social Philosophy session on refugees, their talk being entitled “The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Hannah Arendt, Rootlessness, and Natality.”

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Katy Fulfer at the Pacific APA with Waterloo Philosophy alum A.Y. Odedeyi


Shannon Dea recently returned from a trip to England, where she presented “Pragmatism From Margin to Centre” on April 8 at the annual meeting of the British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP) conference at the University of Sheffield (U.K.).  She also gave a departmental seminar talk, “Toward a Philosophical Theory of Harm Reduction” at University of Sheffield Department of Philosophy on April 10.

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Shannon Dea collaborating with Christopher Hookway in Sheffield.  Photo by Jo Hookway


Closer to home, Jackie Feke gave the talk “Ancient Greek Mathematicians: Intellectual Outliers” to FemPhys on March 28.

On March 30, Heather Douglas spoke about decarbonization and long-term local energy planning at the Waterloo Energy Day, hosted by WISE.  She gave a similar talk as part of Power Shift: Transforming Energy in the Waterloo Region on April 18 to a packed Kitchener Public Library.

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Heather Douglas speaking at Power Shift in Kitchener


And Shannon Dea has been a regular voice in local media on 570 News radio, appearing on Opposing Views on March 27 and being interviewed on the Eric Drozd Show on April 5 about the proposed changes to the Canadian national anthem to make it more gender inclusive.

In publication news, Sara Weaver has co-authored an paper with Mathieu Doucet and John Turri entitled “It’s what’s on the inside that counts… Or is it? Virtue and the psychological criteria of modesty” in the Review of Philosophy and Psychology.  The paper started as a research area paper with Matt.  Sara enjoyed working with Matt and John turning it into a publishable piece and is excited to see how other modesty scholars respond to the article given the unique (i.e., empirical) approach taken to answering philosophical questions about modesty.

Wesley Buckwalter’s chapter “Epistemic Contextualism and Linguistic Behavior” has come out in The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism edited by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa. The chapter is a candid evaluation of the motivation and evidence for epistemic contextualism in epistemology to date.

Heather Douglas’s essay “Science, Values, and Citizens” appeared in the edited collection Eppur si mouve: Doing History and Philosophy of Science with Peter Machamer (edited by Marcus Adams, Zvi Biener, Uljana Feest, and Jacqueline Sullivan), published by the Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science (the preprint is also available).  The essay argues that understanding the nature of science is more important for citizens than knowing particular scientific facts, and that there are multiple avenues for citizens to engage with and even contest science.  The essay is collected with others written by Peter Machamer’s students and demonstrates his range and influence as a scholar who pursues truly integrated history and philosophy of science.

Heather also published the essay “Why inductive risk requires values in science” in Routledge’s Current Controversies in Values and Science (edited by Kevin Elliott and Daniel Steel). In it, she argues that social and ethical values are inescapable in scientific practice.  A preprint of the essay can be found here.

Katy Fulfer’s most recent publication is a commentary that raises neocolonial concerns about Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act and cross-border reproductive travel. “Cross-Border Reproductive Travel, Neocolonialism, and Canadian Policy” is published in the special 10th anniversary issue of IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.

Finally, Shannon Dea’s essay “Strong Objectivity in the Age of Trump” appeared April 10 in the online symposium about Guy Axtell’s new book Objectivity hosted by Syndicate.  There are lots of interesting ideas in this exchange about the nature of objectivity.

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 writings can be found at these blogs:

Hot Thought

Feminist Philosophers

The Kramer is Now

Philosophy in the World

March 22, 2017– Happy Spring!


Despite erratic weather signals, spring has sprung here in Waterloo, and the department has much news to share from a busy winter.

First, congratulations to the graduate students who hosted their 24th Annual Philosophy Graduate Student Association conference on March 9-10, 2017. The conference kicked off with a wonderful performance by the Aboriginal Education Centre, followed by 9 selected graduate student presentations representing work from a range of Canadian and American universities. The presentations covered a wide range of topics, from Hume’s moral philosophy to the silencing effect of reactionary rhetoric for the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the many highlights from the conference was keynote presenter, Dr. Mazviita Chirimuuta from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Chirimuuta’s talk was titled “Why do Birds Migrate, Why do Nerves Fire Action Potentials, and Why do Neuroscientists Talk about Representations?” Her talk was well attended by faculty and students from both in and outside of the department.  The full program for the event can be found here.

A week later on March 17, the department hosted its third talk by our esteemed visiting Humphrey Professor, Heidi Grasswick, “What’s in a Name? Feminist Epistemology as Social Epistemology.”  We will be sorry to see Heidi return to Vermont in April!

Prior to this, there was a lot to do in the department.  On February 27, graduate students in the department got a chance to chat with B.A. and M.A. alumnus and recently-retired president of Christie Digital Canada Gerry Remers about careers outside of academe. The lunchtime professional development event was the latest in a series of programming aimed at supporting pluralistic career planning for our graduate students.

On March 1, the Department hosted the Southwestern Ontario Feminism and Philosophy (SWOFAP) workshop. Participants read the papers “Knights of the Round Table: Meaningful Inclusion in Policy Discussions on CRISPR” by Angella Yamamoto and “Epistemic autonomy and trust in a social virtue epistemology” by Heidi Grasswick, and then discussed the work with the authors.  SWOFAP meets 2-3 times per year, and rotates among southwestern Ontario philosophy departments. This is the third time Waterloo has hosted.  More details on the event can be found at the FemLab website.

On March 4-5, the Department hosted the Pragmatism and Phenomenology, Part Deux (PrPh2) workshop. The workshop was a follow-up one held in 2015 at King’s University College at Western University. The workshop attracted scholars from both traditions and at various career stages from both Canada and the U.S. A number of Waterloo philosophers were among the workshop presenters: Katy Fulfer and Shannon Dea, “Education on the Margins: Anna Julia Cooper and Hannah Arendt”; Ian MacDonald, “Peirce’s Pragmatism and Scholastic Realism: Some Key Connections”; and Jonathan Simard, “Dewey and Heidegger on Temporal Existence.” As well, Waterloo Philosophy alumna Kimberley Baltzer-Jaray (King’s University College) presented “Mary Parker Follett and Adolf Reinach on Law.” Many thanks to Arts Research for its financial support of the workshop, and to all of the department members who attended the workshop, and helped with various aspects of it.


Jonathan Simard (M.A. 2017) discusses Dewey and Heidegger at the PrPh2 workshop March 4. Also pictured, Dan Barron (York), Jay Solanki, Nathan Haydon, Katy Fulfer, and Ian MacDonald.


On Tuesday, March 14, Professor Diana Heney from Fordham University visited the department to discuss her book, Toward a Pragmatist Metaethics (Routledge 2016) with the pragmatism reading group.

Our philosophers were also traveling over the past month.  Tim Kenyon returned from a productive trip to Portugal over reading week, where he gave three social epistemology talks in Lisbon.  Two talks, “Disagreement, from theory to practice” and “’The tale grew in the telling’: Content-drift and why it matters to philosophers and others,” were at ArgLab, the Reasoning and Argumentation Lab at IFILNOVA, the Nova Institute of Philosophy, New University of Lisbon.  The third, “Epistemic kinds of testimony,” was given to LanCog, the Language, Mind and Cognition Research Group at the University of Lisbon.  He reports that both research groups gave extremely valuable comments on the work, and were wonderful hosts.


Tim says, “Lisbon did its part as well, providing a beautiful backdrop to the week.”  Here is a huge and hazy afternoon sun behind the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.

Also, Tim’s report on his consultation visit to the University of Manitoba regarding research metrics and measures has appeared on the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences website.

Patricia Marino presented in the workshop series at Brooklyn Law School and also at a conference on Applied Ethics Methodology sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics at Georgetown University in February. At both, she presented on “Value Pluralism, Challenges to Consequentialism, and the Law and Economics Movement.” Value pluralism is the idea that there are various distinct values — such as benevolence, justice, honesty, liberty, and fidelity — that must be weighed against one another in cases of conflict. In the “law and economics” movement, economic reasoning is used not only descriptively, to explain and predict the effects of particular laws, but also normatively, to recommend laws based on their consequences. She drew on ideas from her recent book to examine the tensions and problems that arise in the normative use of economic “efficiency” in contexts of value pluralism.


Patricia on the Brooklyn Bridge, with Manhattan in the background.

Closer to home, Dave DeVidi was pleased to take part in a Post-truth, Fake News. Alternative Facts, a panel discussion held at the Kitchener Public Library on March 16. The event attracted over 250 people, and was part of the University’s Beyond 60 Community Lecture Series. In his presentation “Is fake news old news?” he used examples to show that “alternative facts” (roughly, lies politicians tell for political advantage) and “fake news” (wild, false stories that are widely believed in the public) are by no means new phenomena.  He then suggested that by understanding the economic and social factors behind how news gets made we can see what makes these phenomena possible and why changes in the economics of the flow of information make them more prevalent than they used to be.

Heather Douglas also weighed in on the alternative facts debate in the U.S. at Discovery channel’s online news magazine. She prefers to call “alternative facts” “bullshit” in the technical sense (see Harry Frankfurt’s essay on the topic), as the name “alternative facts” is misleading.

Andria Bianchi recently had a letter accepted for posting by The Globe & Mail, written in response to a recent sexual assault case in Halifax, where the judge said “clearly a drunk can consent.” Her letter is published here under the heading “Meaningful Consent.”

Waterloo alumna Natalie Evans was featured in a news story at the University of Guelph, describing her work on our conceptions of animal mental capacity and moral standing.

In publishing news, Ted Richards’s book, Exploring Inductive Risk (co-edited with Kevin Elliott), is now available for pre-order from Oxford University Press. The book has 13 chapters looking at examples of inductive risk and its implications, and includes work by five Canadian authors.  The publication date is July 3rd, and the cover features a painting by Mark Tansey.

Shannon Stettner has a new co-edited book entitled Transcending Borders: Abortion in the Past and Present with Palgrave Macmillan.

Finally, thanks to Jackie Feke for all her work crafting posts for this blog since September 2015.  If you have news to share, please send it to Heather Douglas.

Want to read more? Check out our faculty members’ blogs:

Hot Thought

Feminist Philosophers

The Kramer is Now

Philosophy in the World