September 9, 2016

With the beginning of September, classes have started and our new students have arrived on campus.  Welcome!

Heather Douglas has just returned from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where she gave the 5th Descartes Lectures on the topic of “Science, Values, and Democracy.”  Three lectures were given by Heather over three days, one on Values and Science, one on Science and Democracy (and issues of accountability), and one on Science Communication.  Heather explains, “Each lecture had two intrepid commentators, who were in order: Matt Brown, Kristina Rolin, Arthur Petersen, Torsten Wilholt, Dan Steel, and Eric Schliesser.  Afternoons were devoted to parallel sessions on the topic of the conference.  It was a great, intense three days.  Matt Brown tweeted throughout, so you can get a feel for the whole thing here:

Descartes Lectures Day 1

Descartes Lectures Day 2

Descartes Lectures Day 3

Also, Eric Schliesser wrote a blog post.

By the end of the 3rd lecture, we were all pretty tired but happy.  Special thanks to Jan Sprenger and Silvia Ivani for organizing the whole thing, which was a smooth and fun affair (even the weather cooperated!).”  Congratulations again, Heather, Fifth Descartes Lecturer!


Heather Douglas with commentators and organizers of the 5th Descartes Lectures

Several of our department members have published articles this past month.  Katy Fulfer’s “An Anti-Commodification Defense of Veganism,” co-authored with Patrick Clipsham of Winona State University, was published ‘online first’ in advance of its place in the print volume of Ethics, Policy & Environment.

Andria Bianchi published an article titled “Autonomy, Sexuality, and Intellectual Disability” in Social Philosophy Today.  The abstract is available here.

Shannon Dea has a new publication this month: “Fetal Life, Abortion and Harm Reduction” in Feminist Philosophies of Life, edited by Hasana Sharp and Chlöe Taylor (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016).  You can view it here on Google Books.

Shannon’s article “A Harm-Reduction Approach to Abortion,” which we announced last month, is now available free online, as the publisher has released the volume in which it appears as an open access publication.  Readers can find it here.

Shannon also did interviews with CKCO News and 570 News about the gender-based salary anomaly and adjustment that University of Waterloo announced at the beginning of August.

Lastly, the Philosophy of Science Association Women’s caucus blog did a profile on Doreen Fraser.  Congratulations, Doreen!

August 5, 2016

August is the calm before the storm here in Waterloo, but our faculty continue to travel the globe, teaching and presenting their research.

Shannon Dea gave a talk called “Against Accommodation: Philosophy (Pedagogy) for Everyone” at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  On July 25, she served as a panelist on the 570 News’ noon hour talk show, Opposing Views, and she did an interview on July 29 with 570 News’ The Jennifer Campbell Show about Hillary Clinton’s nomination.

Paul Thagard gave two keynotes, at the Workshop on Coherence and Decision Making, Berlin, and the Workshop on Science Education, Munich.

Patricia Marino shares her news: “In July I was in Ottawa for the North American Society for Social Philosophy (NASSP) conference.  The NASSP is a great organization that brings together people working on a wide range of topics in areas like social justice, feminism, philosophy of sex and love, philosophy of race, and social philosophy more generally.  My talk, “Economic Explanation Ambiguity and Its Normative Implications,” explored some theoretical issues in philosophy of economics, then drew out normative implications related to policy choices.  Short version: nudgers and their critics are both steeped in unacknowledged value assumptions.”

Two of our graduate students also presented interesting papers at the NASSP conference: Andria Bianchi, “Medical Model of Disability: A Critique of Norman Daniels,” and Phil Bériault, “Inequality in the Workplace: How to Best Understand the Need for Democratic Workplaces.”

Heather Douglas spent the first two weeks of July teaching at the Summer School of the Institut Wiener Kreis at the University of Vienna on “Science, Values, and Democracy?” with Mark Brown and Andrew Jewett.

Heather says, “It was a great experience, working with Andy and Mark, and meeting the 25 graduate students from the EU and North America.  The students had backgrounds in philosophy of science, history of science, political theory, environmental policy and religious studies, and the mix of expertise produced some great explorations of the issues.  An intense experience (the course was in session 9-5 M-F for two weeks) but totally worth it!”


Summer School of the Institut Wiener Kreis

Lastly, the Existentialism Reading Group met last week to watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.  An attendee commented, possibly in reference to Tarkovsky’s reflections on art and cinema in his book Sculpting in Time: “I’d like to say a good time was had by all…but, well, it may be more accurate to say time was had by all.”

July 7, 2016

This month we have several exciting news items, including a new appointment, promotions, grants, awards, and the fame of one of our department members.

First, as of July 1 Katy Fulfer officially became the Department’s newest member.  We offered Katy the position after an international search.  The interdisciplinary hiring committee was looking for someone whose expertise would strengthen two important initiatives: the updating of the Women’s Studies program as it officially makes Philosophy its administrative home as of 2016, and the Fall 2016 launch of the new Applied Philosophy PhD program.  Katy’s research is in feminist philosophy, applied ethics (especially global issues in reproductive ethics and environmental philosophy), and political philosophy.  Dave DeVidi says, “She established a very strong record as a teacher in her previous appointment as a member of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Hood College in Maryland, has a growing roster of high quality publications that display every sign of her being in the early stages of a productive research career, and her track record and performance in her interviews convinced us that she will be an excellent colleague and mentor to our students.  As far as we can tell, this is the first time the University of Waterloo has ever hired a tenure-track faculty member with the intention that their undergraduate teaching activity will primarily be in Women’s Studies.  We feel lucky to have recruited her.  Welcome aboard, Katy!”


Katy Fulfer, Assistant Professor

Also on July 1, Patricia Marino’s promotion to the rank of Professor officially took effect.  The move from Associate Professor to Professor is a step up to the top of the academic career hierarchy.  In the words of Waterloo’s promotion policy, it “recognizes a high order of achievement in both scholarship and teaching….  A continuous program of scholarship with positive peer review by nationally and internationally recognized scholars is essential….  Promotion to Professor is not an assured step in the career of a faculty member,” and Dave DeVidi reflects, “indeed, many excellent faculty members are never promoted to Professor.  Speaking from the perspective of a Department Chair, I’d say Patricia is a model of what a faculty member should strive to be—to use one of former Chair Tim Kenyon’s favorite laudatory descriptions, she is a complete colleague.  Her research is creative, wide-ranging and of the highest quality.  She consistently publishes articles in the most selective venues in philosophy and her recent book Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World is readable, original, and sure to raise her international standing still further.  She’s one of the Department’s most successful graduate supervisors and an excellent undergraduate and graduate teacher, served a full three-year term as Associate Chair, and is coordinating the launch of the Applied Philosophy PhD program.  As an academic she does it all, and she does it all at a very high level.”  Congratulations, Patricia!


Patricia Marino, Professor

Katie Plaisance, a member of the Department of Knowledge Integration who is cross-appointed to Philosophy, also has some recent, significant achievements.  First, as of July 1 Katie has officially been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.  Katie’s home department does not have a graduate program, so the graduate supervision portion of her appointment is in the Department of Philosophy, where her expertise in the public understanding of science and in socially relevant philosophy of science enhance the Department’s strengths, especially in Philosophy of Science and in Applied Philosophy.  Dave DeVidi adds, “It has been a rewarding spring for Katie, since at convocation in June she received the University of Waterloo Distinguished Teacher Award.  This is a career achievement award which is given to only four faculty members per year at Waterloo (out of over 1200), so it is a remarkable achievement for someone who only arrived at Waterloo in 2009.  The commendation recognizes not only Katie’s excellence in the classroom but also her work on the curriculum design of the innovative Knowledge Integration program and her work helping her colleagues develop new pedagogical strategies.”  Congratulations, Katie!


Katie Plaisance, Associate Professor

Dave DeVidi shares his own news: “I was honored to receive the University’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.  This is also a career achievement award, given to no more than four faculty members each year.  I was especially pleased that the commendation that came with the award made special mention of ‘the time and attention [given] to each student.’”  The Daily Bulletin adds, “Professor DeVidi has played a pivotal role in graduate education in Philosophy at Waterloo.  While serving as Graduate Chair, he revised the graduate curriculum to reflect developments in the discipline and the expertise of faculty, to enhance the recruitment of female students, to aid students’ progress through their degrees, and to mentor them as they transition to diverse careers, both academic and non-academic.  One supporter described Dr. DeVidi’s impact on the graduate program as ‘incandescent.’  His former students emphasize their great respect for him and their gratitude for the attention he paid them.  They also note that he taught them how to use Philosophy both in their lives and in their careers in transformative ways.”  Congratulations, Dave!

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Dave DeVidi with Christine Liebig (M.A. 2014) and Jim Jordan (current graduate student)

Two of our faculty members are happy to share the news of their successful grant applications.  Jackie Feke was awarded a UW/SSHRC Seed Grant for her project “Laws and Nature in Ancient Greek Mathematics.”  Katie Plaisance with John McLevey, her co-investigator and colleague in the Department of Knowledge Integration, won a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for their project “Increasing the Impact of Philosophy of Science in Scientific Domains.”

Shannon Dea gave a talk to an interdisciplinary audience at East China Normal University, Shanghai, on trans issues, with particular attention to bathroom bills in the U.S., and she has a new publication.  The interdisciplinary anthology Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada, ed. Shannon Stettner, came out with Athabasca University Press in June, and it included a chapter by Shannon called “A Harm Reduction Approach to Abortion.”

At the end of June, Trevor Holmes, who taught Women’s Studies 101 in Fall 2015, presented at the National Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference at Western University with his former students and our Special Collections and Archives Librarian, Jessica Blackwell.  The team shared the approach to, and results of, course assignments and course procedures.  Participants had the chance to try part of an archive activity as well as to reflect, using journal prompts from the course.  The abstract is available here.

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Jessica Blackwell, Trevor Holmes, and students Meghan Voll, Tatianna Brierley, and Emily Lorentz

Last but far from least, Paul Thagard is the ninth most cited living philosopher with a public Google scholar page! Congratulations, Paul!








June 9, 2016

As spring turns to summer, our faculty and students are traveling around the globe presenting our research and announcing our most recent publications.

Congratulations to Shannon Dea whose book Beyond the Binary: Thinking about Sex and Gender has just been published! Broadview Press offers this description: “How many sexes are there? What is the relationship between sex and gender? Is gender a product of nature, or nurture, or both? In Beyond the Binary, Shannon Dea addresses these questions and others while introducing readers to evidence and theoretical perspectives from a range of cultures and disciplines, and from sources spanning three millennia.  Dea’s pluralistic and historically informed approach offers readers a timely background to current debates about sex and gender in the media, health sciences, and public policy.”  Ann Garry called Beyond the Binary “an amazing book,” and Jennifer Saul remarked, “This is a wonderfully gripping, fascinating, and illuminating book.”  Congratulations, Shannon!


Several of our faculty and students attended the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Calgary.  Jackie Feke and Carla Fehr both presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.  Jackie gave a paper called “Ptolemy’s Astrological Rays,” in which she analyzed the physics of Ptolemy’s astrology and proposed a new interpretation of his element theory, which explains how the rays projected by the stars and planets travel though the cosmos in ancient Greek astrological theory.  Carla gave a presentation on the philosophy of biology as part of the panel on Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, a book by Prof. Denis Walsh of the University of Toronto.

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Carla Fehr presenting at a joint session of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science and the Canadian Philosophical Association, University of Calgary

At the Canadian Philosophical Association annual conference, Jim Jordan presented a paper called “Cyberwarfare and the International Laws of Armed Conflict,” which argued that one scholar’s set of problematic questions around cyberwarfare (narrowly understood as disruption of code or data) and international law are not any more problematic than they are for war conducted by other means.  Jim went on to show that, once the reaction to the novelty of cyberwarfare has settled down, the current international laws of armed conflict are adequate to provide guidance on the use of cyber means of warfare.

Also at the CPA, Dave DeVidi and Catherine Klausen presented the paper “No Mere Difference,” in which they gave an argument about the shortcomings in the way we talk about disability in philosophical and political contexts.  The talk was given to a full room, and the discussion was lively with interesting questions.  Catherine says, “What a great experience! It was my first time attending a CPA conference, and the first time I have presented at a conference other than Waterloo’s own graduate conference.  Even just attending the CPA was an excellent opportunity to hear what philosophers are working on across Canada, and it makes having the CPA in Toronto next year all the more exciting!”

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Catherine Klausen and Dave DeVidi presenting at the Canadian Philosophical Association, University of Calgary

Tim Kenyon gave the Presidential Address at the Canadian Philosophical Association meeting.  The talk was titled “Eliteness and Diversity in Philosophy.”  Tim explains, “Two things increasingly seen as linked are the extremely white and male character of Anglo/Euro/American philosophy, and the extent to which philosophy is perceived as ability-based—that is, requiring some undefined quality of brilliance or ‘the right stuff’.  I extended this connection to the workings of the PGR philosophy ranking scheme, pointing out, first, its dependence on a carefully unanalyzed notion of ‘faculty quality’, and second, the utter absurdity of the idea that the assessor evaluations are evidence-based in any responsible way.  Like brilliance, faculty quality plausibly acts as a flag under which all manner of biases travel (and evidence mostly does not).  The notions of eliteness and hierarchy constructed from such a ranking are thus apt to be built from the very ingredients that, among other effects, make philosophy unwelcoming and inaccessible to people outside the white male philosopher trope.  If we value a diverse and open discipline, we should stop participating in such rankings, and stop treating them as if they were meaningful.”

Tim’s paper “The scope of debiasing in the classroom” (with Guillaume Beaulac) appeared in Topoi, Tim delivered a commentary at the Ontario Society for Studies in Argumentation conference in Windsor, and he participated in what he recounts was a very useful and enlightening workshop at McMaster University on indigenizing the academy from a research perspective.

At the University of Waterloo, Wesley Buckwalter gave a talk to our department entitled “Epistemic Injustice in Social Cognition.”  The abstract reads, “Silencing is a practice that disrupts linguistic and communicative acts, but its psychological effects are not fully understood.  In this paper I characterize a specific pathway in which silencing creates and perpetuates injustice in social cognition.  Drawing on recent work in experimental cognitive science, I argue that silencing constitutes a distinctively epidemic harm in its ability to impact mental state representation and deprive individuals and communities of knowledge.  These findings expand our understanding of silencing and contribute to a broader theory of cyclical epistemic injustice in social epistemology.”

Paul Thagard has given numerous talks this spring at the following conferences: Rethinking the Taxonomy of Psychology at Western University, The Neuroscience of Creativity at Plymouth University, and Philosophy of Public Health at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  He also gave presentations in Montreal, Munich, Berlin, Santiago, and Helsinki.

Patricia Marino participated in a small conference at the University of Virginia on “Consent and Coercion in the Sexual Sphere,” where she presented a paper on “Affirmative Consent and Female Desire.”  Patricia explains, “Affirmative consent policies go beyond “‘no” means no,’ and require ongoing affirmative responses from all participants.  My paper draws on recent empirical research on female sexuality to explore potential costs and tensions for women associated with adopting these policies.  For example, affirmative consent is sometimes presented in a way that suggests mutual desire is important before moving forward, but women’s desire is often ‘responsive’, emerging in connection with sexual activity already underway.  Since affirmative consent is important for protecting women from sexual assault, we should not abandon it; instead, I conclude, we should recognize consent policies as representing appropriate balancing of complex and competing considerations.  This conference was sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life and Program in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law (PPL), and brought together philosophers and legal theorists, which resulted in excellent discussion!”

Heather Douglas gave two talks in May.  The first was “Public Reason and Value-laden Science” as part of the plenary panel session on Science, Ideology, and the Public, with Audra Wolfe and Liz Suhay at the 6th Annual Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology Conference and the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE) in Dallas, TX.  Heather says, “Thanks to Matt Brown and his colleagues for putting together such a vibrant conference!”

Heather’s second talk was “The Challenge of Accountability in Expert Advice,” a keynote address for a workshop on Expertise and Democratic Accountability in Courts and Public Administration at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, Italy.  Heather relates, “This was a very interesting workshop for me because most of the participants were from political theory and legal theory backgrounds, with a few STS folks.  The interdisciplinary mix was great!”


Heather Douglas on the roof of the Norwegian Institute overlooking Rome, Italy

Lastly, we are excited to announce that our Department has a new PhD program in Applied Philosophy! “Applied Philosophy” is not a particular branch or area in philosophy, but rather a way of doing philosophy.  It involves engaging with and reflecting on real, practical situations and problems, and also requires bidirectional thinking—reflecting fruitfully both on how existing philosophical ideas and theories help us understand and solve practical problems, and also on how the details of actual cases lead us to reexamine and reformulate existing theories.  The most distinctive feature of the new program will be the Applied Research Placement, in which students spend time at a host organization (e.g., non-profit, hospital, business, government agency).  We will be accepting applications beginning in the fall and until early 2017 for admission for the 2017-2018 academic year.  For more information, see our flyer here, or contact Mary Synnott at

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May 14, 2016

With the end of the winter semester, we celebrated at award ceremonies, recognizing the accomplishments of our faculty and students, and we shared our research at conferences home and abroad.

At the end of April, our department hosted Science and Values in Peirce and Dewey: A Conference in Honour of Angus Kerr-Lawson.  The conference began with a public lecture and keynote address on “Scientific Integrity: A Pragmatist Examination of Theory and Practice in the Ethics of Inquiry” by Prof. Catherine Legg of the University of Waikato in New Zealand.  This talk was the first of two public lectures endowed in memory of Prof. Kerr-Lawson, a longtime member of the department who passed away in 2011.  In addition to Prof. Legg’s talk, the conference featured refereed papers by twelve philosophers from three provinces, five states, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Germany.  The conference closed with a plenary address by Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, Heather Douglas, on “The Interplay of Evidence and Values in Science.”  The conference attracted over fifty attendees, including an impressive number of emeritus professors, community members, and out-of-town visitors.  Professor emeritus Larry Haworth described the conference as “a great conference in honour of a fine colleague and friend,” and Prof. Legg wrote, “Not only was my keynote an enjoyable and stimulating experience, I thought the rest of the conference was notable for the international breadth of the presenters, the high quality of their papers, and the shared focus of themes presented on.”  Organizers Shannon Dea, Nathan Haydon, Ian MacDonald, and Matt Silk are grateful to the following for their financial and in-kind support of the conference: the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, the Angus Kerr-Lawson Memorial Fund, the Arts Research office, the Department of Philosophy, and the Women’s Studies program.

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Speakers and Chairs of Science and Values in Peirce and Dewey: A Conference in Honour of Angus Kerr-Lawson

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Shannon Dea introducing keynote speaker Heather Douglas

In addition to her keynote at the Peirce and Dewey conference, Heather Douglas gave four more talks in April, two in Waterloo and two in Budapest, Hungary.  The two in Budapest were at the behest of the Central European University, and they were on “Jettisoning the Value-Free Ideal: Why Do It and Where Does It Leave Us?” as part of the ToPHSS Lectures on Science and the Value-Free Ideal, and “Trusting Expertise,” a keynote address for Worldly Matters: Issues in Applied and Socially Engaged Philosophy, 6th International Graduate Conference of the Department of Philosophy of Central European University.

Back in Waterloo, Heather gave two more talks, both at the Balsillie School.  First she spoke on “The Moral Problem of Lethal Autonomous Weapons,” in which she drew from some of Brian Orend’s work on just war theory and argued that part of the problem with lethal autonomous weapons systems (where there is no human decision to activate a weapon at a particular time for a particular target) is that we don’t have a moral category for that kind of death as of yet.  Then Heather spoke at the Challenges and Opportunities for Governance of Socio-Ecological Systems in Comparative Perspective workshop organized by our Dept. of Knowledge Integration colleagues John McLevey and Vanessa Schweizer (among others) on the “The Challenge of Accountability in Expert Advice.”  Heather also hosted a roundtable discussion by Prof. Marc Saner of the University of Ottawa on “Responsible Innovation: Charting the Course for Canada.”

Jackie Feke spoke on “Ptolemy’s Harmonic Ethics,” at The Philosophy of Ptolemy and its Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew Reception workshop, sponsored by the Dept. of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.  Jackie also presented on the round table and Doreen Fraser participated at The Foundations of Methodology in the History of Philosophy workshop, organized by Prof. Sandra Lapointe of McMaster University and held at Trius Winery at Hillebrand in Niagara-on-the-Lake.


Jackie Feke and Doreen Fraser at Trius Winery at Hillebrand

Doreen Fraser gained public attention for her course “Quantum Mechanics for Everyone.” First Waterloo Stories featured the course and later the local CBC news picked up the story.

The Faculty of Arts Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Service, and Research recognize exceptional contributions made by faculty, staff, and students, and two of our department members won awards this year.  Doreen Fraser received the Excellence in Service Award, and Shannon Dea received the Excellence in Teaching Award and an Outstanding Performance Award.  Congratulations, Doreen and Shannon!

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Associate Dean Katherine Acheson introducing, and Dean Douglas Peers ready to hand the award to, Doreen Fraser, recipient of the Excellence in Service Award

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Associate Dean William Chesney introducing, and Dean Douglas Peers with prize in hand for, Shannon Dea, recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award

Shannon Dea was one of three invited speakers at the University of Miami Department of Philosophy’s first annual Inclusiveness Conference.  She gave a talk called “Against Accommodation: Philosophy Pedagogy for Everyone.”  Shannon’s latest paper hit the stands at the beginning of May: “Meaning, inquiry, and the rule of reason: a Hookwayesque colligation,” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 51.4 (Winter 2015) 401-418.  In her capacity as an Arts Teaching Fellow and with Applied Health Sciences Teaching Fellow Kelly Anthony, Shannon also gave the presentation “Fellows for Failure: Teaching Fellows’ Reflections on Failure, Challenge, and Change” at the UW Teaching and Learning Conference at the end of April.

Women’s Studies is now part of the Dept. of Philosophy, and we are happy to relate that several students who enrolled in Women’s Studies 101 in the fall collaborated with Trevor Holmes (their instructor), Jessica Blackwell (Special Collections and Archives Librarian), and Katrina Ackerman (the teaching assistant) to present at the UW Teaching and Learning Conference.  They described aspects of the course that were risky and challenging and that, as a result, led to more significant learning.  After an overview of the course design and assignments by Trevor Holmes, Katrina Ackerman, and Jessica Blackwell, participants heard from students Meghan Voll, Brianna Bennett, and Tatianna Brierley (on video) along with contributions online from Emily Lorentz and Madeline Shred.  Each addressed topics like the impact of going to the archive to transcribe early feminist diaries, the value of going out into the community for field site observations, the use of co-constructed class agreements from the first day, alternate format assignment choices, and online tools for in-class discussions of difficult material.  Some of the same team will present again at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at Western University in June.

Ph.D. student Ramesh Prasad’s paper, “Distinguishing internal property from external property in kidney transplantation” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice for their Philosophy of Medicine Thematic Issue.  The paper is based on Ramesh’s work in the CogSci 600 course he completed as part of his MA degree. Ramesh also gave a presentation, “Transplantation and the Nature of the Immune Self,” based on his MA thesis, at the University of Toronto City Wide Nephrology Rounds.  This presentation at Toronto General Hospital was webcast throughout the Greater Toronto Area.  Ramesh says, “My hope is that some physicians will now see the biological self-nonself distinction through a philosophical lens, beyond just molecules and chemical messengers.”

John Turri’s latest book is out: Knowledge and the Norm of Assertion: An Essay in Philosophical Science, published by Open Book Publishers and available here.

On April 13, we held the seventh annual Department of Philosophy Awards, recognizing the high achievement of our students.  We awarded class prizes to Amina Safdar (first year), Josephine Luetke (second year), Dominic Rogalski (third year), and Jay Solanki (fourth year).  The Citizenship Prize went to Oliver Oxton, the Sandra Burt Essay Prize in Women’s Studies to Kristine Totzke, the Undergraduate Essay Prize in Philosophy Gold Medal to Dylan Jones, and the Undergraduate Essay Prize in Philosophy Silver Medal to Cameron McKinnon.  Three of our graduate students also won awards.  Catherine Klausen received the Graduate Essay Prize in Philosophy Gold Medal, Ashley Keefner received the Graduate Essay Prize in Philosophy Silver Medal, and Nathan Haydon received the Angus Kerr-Lawson Essay Prize in Philosophy.  Congratulations one and all!

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Mathieu Doucet with class and citizenship prize winners Josephine Luetke, Oliver Oxton, Dominic Rogalski, Amina Safdar, and Jay Solanki


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Robert Ewen, alumnus and long-time supporter of the department, with essay prize winners Catherine Klausen, Dylan Jones, Ashley Keefner, and Cameron McKinnon

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Angus Kerr-Lawson Essay Prize in Philosophy winner Nathan Haydon with Kate Kerr-Lawson and Margaret Kerr-Lawson



April 1, 2016

With springtime in Waterloo has come not only an ice storm and several episodes of thunderhail but also awards of distinction.

A big congratulations to Katie Plaisance, who has received a 2016 Distinguished Teacher Award! The University’s announcement in the Daily Bulletin notes that Katie “has had a transformative impact on her colleagues,” and it quotes one of her colleagues as saying, “Her pedagogy is rigorous and exciting at the same time.  She is rapidly emerging as one of UWaterloo’s leading exemplars in teaching.”  Congratulations, Katie!

In February we announced that Waterloo Philosophy was the first Humanities department to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with Mitacs to allow our students to hold research placements outside academia, partly funded by a partner organization and partly by Mitacs.  During these placements, students will be applying their philosophical knowledge and skills to practical problems.  The Mitacs press release announcing the agreement can be found here.

An exciting development is that we have just received word of a project proposal successfully passing through the Mitacs peer review process.  Chris Lowry will serve as academic supervisor for the first Mitacs internship held by one of our students as part of this MoA.  Catherine Klausen, a first year PhD student, will take up a placement at Facilitation Wellington Dufferin beginning May 1.  The project is called “Developmental Disability, Independent Facilitation, and Citizenship,” and the abstract indicates that one of the main goals of the project will be to make progress on this problem: “Increasingly, organizations supporting people with disabilities…describe their activities in terms of *citizenship goals*, e.g., promotion of *social inclusion*, *control over one’s own life*, etc.  The key concepts…are philosophically disputed, raising a “measurement problem”—what would even count as evidence of success? Certainly, the existing evaluation tools, which were designed for services when the goals were conceived differently, do not measure it.”  Way to go, Catherine and Chris!


Catherine Klausen

The Faculty of Arts featured Peter Blouw in its Arts Research and Graduate Stories.  The piece quotes Peter describing his motivation for studying language and language learning, giving an account of his doctoral research, highlighting a standout moment in his academic career thus far, and making plans for the future.

Similarly, the March 2016 issue of Inside Arts features Chris Lowry.  He answers questions such as, “If you were telling someone from away about your department, what would you want to say about it first?” Chris describes a popular course, PHIL 202: “Gender Issues,” offered by Shannon Dea, he shares stories from our lunch room, and he tells us what he likes about living and working in Kitchener-Waterloo.

On March 18 & 19, our department held the 23rd annual conference of the Philosophy Graduate Student Association.  It included presentations by students from across North America and even as far away as the University of Melbourne.  Our own Vanessa Lam gave a paper, “The Future of Business Ethics Research,” and Kristie Dotson of Michigan State University gave the keynote, “A Road to Oblivion: Epistemological Problems & the Importance of #BlackLivesMatter.”

Paul Thagard has given several recent talks, including “Brain Mechanisms Explain Emotions and Consciousness” at Emory University and SUNY-Buffalo, and he presented at the Eastern Sociological Society in Boston at a mini-conference on cultural cognition.

Sara Weaver shares her news: “With the help of a SSHRC Canadian Graduate Scholarship-Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, I was able to spend just under three months this past fall writing my thesis under the supervision of Dr. John Dupré at the University of Exeter in England.  The trip proved immensely productive as Dr. Dupré was so motivating to work with, and it was such a treat to be able to take part in the activities at Egenis (the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences which I was visiting).  I was welcome to attend everything from seminars to guest lectures, to the conference on symbiosis they hosted in November.  It was such a great opportunity.  I would really encourage other CGS SSHRC holders, present and future, to seriously consider applying for the MSFSS if you can!”

Sara also gave a talk, “Feminist Philosophy of Biology: Let’s Keep it Coming,” at the year-end event for FemPhys, which is a group for undergraduate women in physics.  The talk reflected a paper that she and Carla Fehr are currently working on that addresses, from a feminist philosophy of biology standpoint, some very problematic research in neuroscience and evolutionary studies on humans.

The Value Theory Group has taken a turn towards constructivism.  Nathan Haydon relates, “We are currently working through G.A. Cohen’s response to Rawls in Rescuing Justice and Equality.  Exciting times indeed…”

Andria Bianchi presented at Western Michigan University’s bioethics conference on “Bioethics: Preparing for the Unknown.”  She also just published a paper in Healthcare Quarterly called “Micro Data: Wearable Devices Contribution to Improved Chronic Disease Management,” co-authored with a Toronto healthcare ethicist.

Mar 25 by Vicki Brett

Crystal Forest, After the Ice Storm, by Vicki Brett



March 3, 2016

Winter has returned with a vengeance, and we philosophers remain hard at work.

First of all, a big congratulations to Heather Douglas! Not only has she accepted the position of Associate Director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy, but it also has just been announced that she is this year’s René Descartes Lecturer.  She will give three lectures at Tilburg University and the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science in the Netherlands this September.

Closer to home, Heather Douglas enjoyed hosting Wendell Wallach of Yale University and visiting Fulbright Research Chair at the University of Ottawa for a three-talk visit to Waterloo this past month.  Wendell works on ethical issues with emerging technology, and he led interesting discussions on governance issues for emerging tech at the Balsillie School, on moral issues with autonomous machines, and on general societal issues with emerging tech over his two day visit.

Blake Freier presented at a graduate conference at DePaul University on February 12.  He gave a paper called “Hermeneutical Injustice and Climate Change.”

That same day, Shannon Dea gave the Annual Women in the History of Philosophy Lecture at the University of Sheffield in the U.K.  Her talk was entitled “Identity and Solidarity in Jane Addams’s Practical Philosophy.”  The talk is part of a new project she has undertaken to diversify the pragmatist canon by drawing closer connections between classic pragmatists, like Charles S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, and women and racialized philosophers from the period such as Jane Addams, Anna Julia Cooper, and W.E.B. Dubois.


Shannon Dea (on right) with Sheffield Professor Jennifer Saul (on left), chair of Shannon’s talk and our Rudrick Visiting Scholar, 2015

Teresa Branch-Smith attended an International Winter School in Hamburg on Systems Medicine funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.  The goal of the school was to investigate epistemic, methodological, organizational, and social challenges of ongoing developments in systems medicine.  Teresa gave a talk on Systems Virology and how it can be used to explore philosophical themes like theories of emergence and complexity.


Teresa Branch-Smith (front left) with the International Winter School in Hamburg on Systems Medicine

Jackie Feke’s article “Théon d’Alexandrie” came out in Dictionnaire des philosophes antique VI: de Sabinillus à Tyrsénos, edited by Richard Goulet in Paris’ CNRS Éditions.  The article aims to give a comprehensive account of Theon’s philosophy, and it controverts the prevailing view that, having lived in the fourth century, Theon was a Neoplatonist.

Inside Higher Ed has featured John Turri on the “Academic Minute.”  In two minutes and thirty seconds, to be exact, you can hear John summarizing Wesley Buckwalter’s and his research from their joint article “Inability and Obligation in Moral Judgment.”

Patricia Marino gave an interview with McGill-Queen’s University Press on her book Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World.  You can find a review of the book by Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here.

The philosophy writing group started up again this week.  The group provides a dedicated time every week for writing and some time afterwards for discussing writing-related challenges.  Discussions in the past have focused on the development of writing habits, the benefits of maintaining a working outline, and suggestions for how to incorporate comments and criticisms.  The writing group is a great opportunity to overcome some of that writer’s block and to spend time improving our writing in philosophy.

Lastly, the Philosophy Graduate Student Association Conference is coming up this March 18 & 19.  We hope to see you there!