Category Archives: Uncategorized

December 2018 Pre-Holiday Post

Hope everyone is handling end-of-term duties well, and is looking forward to the holidays. Enjoy celebrating! Some recent news from our Department members:


Katy Fulfer had a busy November. She reports that, at the start of the month: “UWaterloo Arts welcomed prospective students and their families. Greg Andres, Caroline Dack, Carla Fehr, Katy Fulfer, Theo Peng, and Nick Ray were around to answer questions and share the exciting work students and faculty do in the department. The Open House was also one of the first times we’ve been able to showcase the new Gender & Social Justice programs, which launch in the Fall 2019 term! We couldn’t let guests leave without a little conceptual work either! We asked people to tell us what philosophical questions keep them up at night, and why they need feminism.” See some of the fun:


Dr. Katy Fulfer at the Arts Open House, with an intriguing question


Also at the Open House were Theo Peng and Dr. Nick Ray


The Gender and Social Justice programs launch next Fall

Katy continues: “Philosophy and Women’s Studies also co-sponsored a public talk by queer theorist Jack Halberstam on November 19. Jack’s talk “TRANS* Visual archives of the transgendered body” explored his recent explorations of archival material in search of representations of transmasculinity.” Katy’s latest publication also appeared—”Self-Sufficiency for Surrogacy and Responsibility for Global Structural Injustice”—as a chapter in the book, Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy, ed. by V. Gruben, et al, published by Irwin Law. ( And, at month’s end, the Women’s Studies Program hosted human rights lawyer, peacemaker, and women’s rights advocate, Wazhma Frogh. Wazhma talked about how she developed a consciousness of peace and advocacy work, the work she did in her home country of Afghanistan, and the advocacy work she’s doing now upon moving to Kitchener-Waterloo.


Wazhma Frogh, second in from the right, meeting in November with UW students….



… and, at a different event, with Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama.


Carla Fehr recently gave an intriguing presentation on the very topical topic of artificial intelligence (AI), and its manifold implications for our lives. For all the talk, and reality, of AI’s potential to improve and simplify things, Carla’s contribution drew attention to AI’s potential for amplifying prejudices and biases already existing with society. She gave the example of the work of Joy Buolamwini, an African-American computer scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab, who experienced the bias of facial recognition software firsthand. The software didn’t work on her face, even though it worked on her white friends. Shockingly, Buolamwini could only get the system to recognize her as human when she wore a white mask. She proceeded to conduct a formal, detailed study, finding that commercial face recognition software is bad at identifying women with darker skin tones. The error rate was as high as 46 per cent, which Carla notes is almost no better than a random coin toss. She comments that AI is, after all, set up with initial programming, and this programming can represent biases, and that even smart, well-intentioned people can be quite oblivious to the fact and nature of their own biases, as well as their consequences. For more on Carla’s, plus other presentations at that event, please see:


Shannon Dea was featured in the Fall 2018 Waterloo Magazine issue, “Unlocking the Future of Learning”:

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Dr. Shannon Dea, second in from the left, featured with UW students. Photo credit: One For The Wall

Shannon also reports on recent, important graduate student news she’s been connected with:

Matt Silk successfully defended his PhD dissertation, Evaluation and Value Management in Science. Examiners were Lorraine Code (York), Brendon Larson (ERS), Matt Brown (UT Dallas) Patricia Marino and Shannon Dea (supervisor).

Vanessa Lam successfully defended her PhD prospectus, Harm Reduction for Corporations and is now ABD. Vanessa’s committee: Matt Doucet, Mary Hardy (Statistics and Actuarial Science) and Shannon Dea (supervisor).

Congratulations to both Matt and Vanessa on the milestone achievements!

Shannon also gave a recent invited talk on “Academic Freedom in Context” at the Within and Against Academic Freedom symposium at the New School at the University of Toronto. And she reports two new entries of her monthly online column for University Affairs – Dispatches on Academic Freedom:

And Shannon had two recent publications:

“Free Speech and the Battle for the University.” Lead article in Academic Matters’s Fall 2018 issue on Debating Speech on Campus (; and

Review of Mara Marin, Connected by Commitment: Oppression and Our Responsibility to Undermine It (Oxford, 2017). APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy 18.1 (2018) 18-20,


And Chris Lowry reports that he was recently interviewed on 570 News radio. He was on “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” to discuss a Chinese researcher’s announcement of the world’s first gene-edited babies, as well as ethical issues related to “designer babies” more generally.

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Dr. Chris Lowry recently gave a radio interview about “designer babies.”

The interview was November 28th, link following, starting at about the 21-minute mark: Chris also reports a recent publication: “Universalism, Vulnerability, and Egalitarianism”: a chapter (pp. 5-24) in C. A. Riddle’s ed., From Disability Theory to Practice (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018). Cover image below:

book cover

Happy Holidays!




Mid-Fall Update!

Hope everyone’s Fall term is progressing nicely. Here are some great things our faculty and graduate student community have been up to the past few weeks:

Jackie Feke has a new book, Ptolemy’s Philosophy: Mathematics as a Way of Life, fresh off the press from Princeton UP!  Check out the cover:


At the link {}, you’ll see the book praised by experts as “the first systematic treatment of Ptolemy’s philosophy” and “a significant contribution.” And she crossed The Pond recently to give a talk in London entitled “The Physics of Ptolemy’s Astrology,” at the annual meeting of the European Society for the History of Science, in conjunction with the British Society for the History of Science.


Ph.D. Candidate Cait O’Donnell informs us that: “For the duration of my Ph.D., I’ll be working with the Medical Professionalism and Physician Health teams at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in Ottawa. I came to the CMA for my advanced research placement. My project will involve a qualitative study that seeks to understand the policy- and systems needs of palliative care physicians (and doctors who specialize in end-of-life-care) across Canada.”

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Cait O’Donnell, Philosophy Ph.D. Candidate

She continues: “As the CMA wants to know how to support physicians at the macro level (policy, government), they will be supporting me in my studies so that I can offer recommendations as to how best to support this group of doctors. Working with Dr. Jeff Blackmer at the CMA is a dream come true. I was able to come and work here because of Waterloo, and the incredible Ph.D. in Applied Philosophy.”


And a bit of Applied Philosophy in action, so to speak: Dave DeVidi attended a gala opening of LIFEactually, an exhibit of photographs by the highly regarded photographer Pete Paterson, at the Dufferin County Museum. The exhibit features people who live in Dufferin, and who are supported by Facilitation Wellington Dufferin (FWD), doing the things they love in their communities. It’s an eye-opening display of human potential, and a lesson on what people can achieve with support from people who believe in them. FWD provides independent facilitation to adults with developmental disabilities; that is, it provides supports that help people think through what is important to them, to make good decisions of their own about important things like where and with whom they will live and how they will spend their days, and to find the formal and informal resources to put their plans into action.


Dave DeVidi, left, with Marcelle (centre) and Candice (right) at FWD’s LIFEactually Gala

Dave reports that he has spent more than a decade working to help build FWD, and is currently the President of its Board of Directors … “but he works behind the scenes, because he just doesn’t have the skills to be an actual facilitator.” The gala attracted at least 200 people. The LIFEactually exhibit will spend two months at the Dufferin County Museum, then hopes to move to other museums in the areas FWD serves. In the photo with him, above, are: Marcelle, whose own photo should appear when LIFEactually moves to Guelph; and Candice, one of FWD’s facilitators.


Another book fresh off the press is the second edition of Brian Orend’s Introduction to International Studies, from Oxford UP. The cover image, below, is an aerial shot of a local, boat-based, flower- and food market in Indonesia.


The second edition—praised by experts on the back cover as “comprehensive” and “excellent”—contains over 35% brand new material (as the first edition was five years ago, and consider how much has changed worldwide since then). This single-authored textbook considers global studies from a different perspective per each of the twelve chapters, ranging from international trade and foreign policy to the natural environment and global public health, and including his own core specialties in armed conflict, international law, and human rights. For more, see the link:


John Turri reports: “In order to care for their offspring, parents must be able to re-identify their children in different circumstances. In order to re-pay a favor, we must be able to re-identify the person who showed us kindness originally. What criteria are involved in our ordinary concept of personal identity? For decades philosophers have assumed that, on the ordinary view, one person cannot be in two places at the same time. In a ground-breaking investigation, researchers in the Philosophical Science Lab found that common sense rejects this “one-person-one-place rule”.”

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One… or two? 

He continues: “A series of carefully controlled behavioral experiments revealed that most people judge that a person can exist simultaneously in two different locations, perhaps for over a week and despite undergoing different bodily changes in the two locations. This is a major conceptual discovery with far-reaching implications for the philosophy of personal identity. The findings recently appeared in the series Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. The research was co-authored by Dr. Sara Weaver when she was a Waterloo Philosophy PhD student.”


Patricia Marino informs us that: “I was recently in Hanover, Germany for the 2018 joint meeting of the European Network for the Philosophy of Social Science (ENPOSS) and the Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable {}, presenting a paper on “Underdetermination, Methodology, and Normativity in Distinguishing Rational from Irrational Behavior.” This was my first time at a conference specifically focused on the philosophy of social science—and I enjoyed it very much! Looking at the issues from a science perspective was a refreshing change from the more ethics/values perspective I usually take, and there were some excellent talks linking epistemological issues together with social and political ones. We also went on a lovely tour of the Herrenhausen Gardens, which involved some strolling and also some wine drinking—which I regard as a perfect combination of activities.”


Patricia Marino touring the Herrenhausen Gardens in Germany

Patricia continues: “A while ago I participated in a roundtable on the book Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age by legal scholar Nelson Tebbe. My contribution — “What is the ‘Social’ in ‘Social Coherence?'”– was recently published, along with other commentaries and the author’s replies. Anyone interested can view it at {}

Also: “I was very pleased and proud to be able to hood Andria Bianchi as she received her PhD at the Arts Convocation ceremony on Saturday October 27th! Even though it was raining, it was a lovely day inside. Congratulations, Dr. Bianchi!”


Newly-minted Ph.D., Andria Bianchi, left, with Patricia Marino, at Fall Convocation


Doreen Fraser gave a talk entitled “Formal and theoretical equivalence” as part of the Emergence, Effectiveness, and Equivalence session for the 59th annual Boston Colloquium for the Philosophy of Science. Her talk inspired this awesome watercolor painting by physicist and artist Kaća Bradonjić:


A watercolour by Kaca Bradonjic


Katy Fulfer, pictured below, recently presented a colloquium on “Welcoming Refugees? Rootlessness, In-Betweenness and Belonging”, to the PHIL Dept at McMaster.


Katy Fulfer delivering a colloquium talk at McMaster University

Katy further reports that Shannon Stettner and Sasha Cocarla—two instructors in the Women’s Studies Program—recently gave presentations on their scholarship at a recent lunch hosted by the Women’s Studies Program. Shannon’s was entitled “Telling Abortion Stories,” and she talked of her work as a historian bringing to light how women spoke about their experiences with abortion in Canada. {Her co-edited book related to the subject is out at:} Sasha talked about “Bi In/Visibility: Representations of Bisexuality in Pop Culture,” examining dominant narratives about bisexuality as portrayed in television, and how characters negotiated bisexual identities.


And, as ever, Shannon Dea managed to keep up a hectic pace of activity and achievement. She presented a talk, “Does Harm Reduction Need Philosophy? (And Does Philosophy Need Harm Reduction?)” at one of two workshops at McGill, on harm reduction, which she co-organized with Daniel Weinstock. She delivered a talk, “Academic Freedom and Equity”, as part of a panel she co-organized with Barrett Emerick (St. Mary’s College) and Alice MacLachlan (York). This was at the meeting of the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy (CSWIP) at Cape Breton University, Sydney, NS.

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Taking a break on the beach, in Nova Scotia, from CSWIP: Kate Norlock of Trent (left); Shannon Dea (centre); and Barrett Emerick of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Photo credit: Kate Norlock


While at the University of Saskatchewan last week, Shannon gave two talks: a colloquium to the PHIL Dept there on “Viewpoint Diversity and the Final Opinion”; the other, the keynote address to their undergraduate students’ annual event, on “What’s it Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?” And she had two large recent initiatives related to academic freedom. First, she launched a new online column called “Dispatches on Academic Freedom” for University Affairs, the magazine of Universities Canada. {See the link:} And she provided advice for the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations leaders’ “Strategizing Response” to the Ontario Government’s new free speech policy requirement for post-secondary institutions in the province.


Announcing our New Chairs and Officers!

Hi everyone! We thought it’d be a fun and good idea to have an informal introduction to all the new Dept Chairs and Officers. Below please see personal statements from: Patricia Marino, the new Dept Chair; Carla Fehr, the new Associate Chair, Graduate; and Doreen Fraser, the new Associate Chair, Undergraduate. Following that, we have similar statements from Angela Christelis and Tawnessa Carter, the new Administrative Officers of the Dept.  A great and happy team to lead the Dept moving forward. Hope everyone’s term is off to a strong start! 😊

Carla Patricia and Doreen

From left to right: Dr. Carla Fehr, the new Associate Chair, Graduate; Dr. Patricia Marino, the new Department Chair; and Dr. Doreen Fraser, the new Associate Chair, Undergraduate.



I can’t believe it’s been fourteen years since I joined the Philosophy Department. How time flies! Our department has changed a lot since then: we’ve lost several valued colleagues to retirement and gained many wonderful new people. I am grateful to all the previous chairs I’ve had the pleasure to work with — Richard Holmes, Tim Kenyon, and Dave DeVidi — for shepherding us through the years. I’m eager to build on the initiatives and accomplishments of my predecessors, by strengthening our connections with other disciplines and departments at the University, nurturing our community of students, faculty, staff, and alums, and facilitating my colleagues’ original and creative research. While I work primarily on topics in ethics, epistemology, philosophy of economics, and philosophy of sex and love, I am interested in all different kinds of philosophy, and I enjoy writing on lots of different topics. My next book, “Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Opinionated Introduction,” will be coming out with Routledge Press in 2019, and you can enjoy my reflections on modern life and its discontents, philosophy, literature, politics, and other topics at my blog, TKIN: Accidental Philosopher Encounters Modern Life.


One of my favourite things about the Waterloo Philosophy Department is the intellectual community we share. The great things about being a professor—the class that went particularly well, a publication I’m proud of, a cool idea that popped into my head while I was buying coffee—are sweeter when I can share them with colleagues. The challenging parts of my job—creating new classes, puzzling through a problem in a grant application, figuring out the details of an argument—are more fun when I’m part of a team. My research focuses on how groups of people work together to create knowledge, and I’m lucky to be part of such a great group of scholars and teachers. As Associate Chair of Graduate Studies, I will continue to nurture our lively and supportive academic community. If you have questions about graduate studies, please stop by my office hours.


I am excited to be returning to the role of Associate Chair, Undergraduate. It’s my job to advise Philosophy majors and minors. (The advisor for Women’s Studies majors and minors is Prof. Katy Fulfer [] and the advisor for Cognitive Science minors is Prof. Chris Eliasmith [].) My favourite thing about this role is getting to know all of our undergraduates, so students who have not already met me, please introduce yourselves! I usually teach courses in philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, and epistemology. My research focuses on the paradoxes and interpretive puzzles posed by quantum theory, which raise fascinating philosophical issues. I have developed the course PHIL 252 Quantum Mechanics for Everyone to share these intriguing conceptual and historical aspects of quantum mechanics with everyone, especially those who have not studied physics or mathematics. I am currently writing a book on the role that analogical reasoning has played in the formulation of new quantum theories. When I am not advising undergraduates or thinking about quantum theory, I like reading fiction, hiking, camping, and watching my sons play hockey.


Angela and Tawnessa

On the left, Tawnessa Carter; and on the right, Angela Christelis, the new Administrative Officers of the Department


I’ve had a long and enjoyable history with this department starting with my first philosophy course as an undergrad, after which I promptly switched my major to Philosophy. Thanks to the care, enthusiasm, and encouragement of the faculty and staff, I also chose to do my graduate studies here. In my administrative role, I look forward to supporting the faculty with the same level of care and enthusiasm. I also look forward to supporting our graduate students, who contribute in so many ways to making this department a lively place to work.


I graduated from Waterloo with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature ages ago and, after years of working in several different industries, I find myself back at Waterloo in the role of Undergraduate Coordinator for philosophy, women’s studies and cognitive science.  I love the academic and creative energy on campus, most notably from the undergraduate and graduate students in the philosophy department.  I enjoy finding ways to further engage with our students by always having an open door and providing support for them during their time at Waterloo. Pop by anytime and say ‘hi!’


Engaging Philosophy: End of Summer Edition

Welcome back after summer, everyone! Plenty has happened since the last blog posting.

At the June convocation, Shannon Dea was given the Distinguished Teacher Award for her long record of pedagogical excellence. Depicted below, with University President Feridun Hamdullahpur, Shannon’s award is announced here:

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Shannon Dea being awarded the Distinguished Teacher Award by University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur, at Convocation, June 2018.


Shannon’s book, Thinking About Sex and Gender (Broadview, 2016) was reviewed both in Hypatia [] and The APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy: She also had an online publication: “Social Metaphysics and Normativity in Mara Marin’s Connected by Commitment.C4EJournal, 2018: And she wrote a series of blog posts for Canadian Philosophical Association about academic freedom:


We are very happy and proud to announce our newest PhD: in July, Andria Bianchi defended her dissertation on “Sex, Consent, and Dementia.” Her supervisor, Patricia Marino, reports: “After an excellent defense, there was some celebration at the grad house,” depicted below. Congratulations, Dr. Bianchi!


Andria Bianchi, far right, celebrates the successful defense of her doctoral dissertation, July 2018, with supporters Chris (far left) and fellow graduate student Catherine Klausen (middle).


Joining in the celebration were: second reader of Andria’s dissertation, Mathieu Doucet (middle); and fellow graduate students Chris Wass (left) and Phil Beriault (right).


Speaking of Patricia Marino, she is now the new Chair of the Philosophy Department, the first female Chair in its history. Yet in spite of all the work involved with taking that on, she reports an active summer on the research front as well: “Over the summer, I presented some work on ethics at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and some work on philosophy of economics at a large conference in Lyon, France, on the topic of norms and normativity.”  Furthermore, she was the keynote speaker at the University of Windsor’s graduate student philosophy conference, where she presented on “Science, Sex, and the Search for a ‘Female Viagra’.” She comments: “In addition to an excellent time all around, I also got to see two Waterloo philosophy alums! Paul Simard Smith, PhD Waterloo, who is now based at the University of Windsor, and Eric Bohner, MA Waterloo, who is now a PhD student at the University of Calgary, and was also speaking at the conference.”



Patricia Marino (at left), the Department’s new Chair, visiting the University of Windsor and catching up with Waterloo PhD alum Paul Simard Smith (at right).


Patricia (at right) at the same Windsor conference, where she was the keynote speaker, catching up with Waterloo M.A. alum Eric Bohner (at left).


Huge congratulations to Katy Fulfer for receiving an Insight Development Grant from SSHRC for a research project entitled: “From Rootlessness to Belonging: An Arendtian Critique of the Family as a Structure of Refugee Assimilation.” She is the Principal Investigator (PI), and will be working with a co-applicant/collaborator, Dr. Rita A. Gardiner, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at Western. Katy, pictured below, elucidates: “Our project applies Hannah Arendt’s critique of the family as a model for political inclusion as a way to think through welcoming refugees into Canadian political communities. We also draw on insights from feminist theory and refugee studies to enrich Arendt’s treatment of assimilation and identity.”


Katy Fulfer was just awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for a project applying Hannah Arendt’s philosophy to current policy efforts at integrating refugees in Canada


Jaqueline Feke has been very busy this summer, especially considering she’s on sabbatical! In April, she gave a talk at Caltech, in lovely Pasadena, on “Re-examining the Distinction between Philosophy and the Mathematical Sciences in Greek Antiquity.” And in July, she flew to the Netherlands to deliver a lecture at Groningen on “Ptolemy in Nature.”  And she spent the whole month of May as a visiting scholar at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, sending this shot of La Tour Eiffel:

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Eiffel Tower, courtesy of Jacqueline Feke, in France in May to deliver a prestigious lecture series.


While in France, Jackie gave a prestigious five-talk special lecture series on Ptolemy’s philosophy at both l’EHESS and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.  The website for the talks at l’EHESS: And for those at CNRS: She’s spending her sabbatical as a visiting scholar at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology just down the road at the University of Toronto:


The Dept was lucky enough to host distinguished philosopher Jennifer Saul in late August. Dr. Saul, of the University of Sheffield in the UK, gave a stimulating, very timely lecture entitled: “Dogwhistles and Figleaves: Shifting Norms of Racist Discourse in the Trump Era.” A dog-whistle, in general, refers to political rhetoric intended to be heard, in a motivating way, only by an intended audience, while for others it may sound neutral or innocuous. Consider, e.g., “state rights” historically in America, which might either be a politically neutral, purely legal term to some, whereas for others signalling deep racial bias. And a fig-leaf would be one of many rhetorical and conceptual devices political actors use to partially cloak, or render softer, racially-charged beliefs, practices, and policies. Dr. Saul’s talk was peppered with many quotes ripped from today’s headlines, and elicited a spirited and appreciative response from a full-house audience. Her picture:

Jennifer Saul Argument Yard

Dr. Jennifer Saul, of the UK’s University of Sheffield, gave a stimulating and appreciated guest lecture at the Department in August.


Best wishes for a successful start to the Fall term, everyone.




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