It’s been an exciting year for the Rotman Institute, with the first two annual Doctoral Entrance Scholarships awarded, a full slate of speakers, and participation in two important conferences. As well, the Institute welcomed a new Postdoctoral Fellow, and three Visiting Fellows, and continued to host 12 resident graduate students in its unique ‘philosophy lab.’
Rotman Institute Doctoral Entrance Scholarships
The inaugural year of the this scholarship attracted some of the best and brightest students to Western:
Yann Benétreau-Dupin studies philosophical issues in contemporary cosmology, as well as how philosophical debates on the nature of science are relevant to science teaching at the secondary level.
Andrew Peterson focuses on theoretical problems inherent in traditional philosophy of science. These problems arise in case studies in biomedicine, such as reintegration challenges faced by post-deployment military veterans, the topic of his current work.
Postdoctoral Fellow: Angela White
In October 2012, the Rotman Institute welcomed Angela White as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioethics. White studies the legitimacy of institutions in modern liberal democracies, based on her original framework for understanding legitimacy.
The Institute’s Visiting Fellow program allows leading scholars from a variety of areas to take part in the collaborative space of the Institute, enriching the research of faculty members and the graduate student experience. This past year, the Institute hosted:
John Bolender who is interested in cognition, and studies how the computational core of language may crucially enter into uniquely human cognitive capacities. Read more
Jonathan Waskan is a philosopher and cognitive scientist whose research is aimed at showing that a deeper understanding of scientific explanation will enable philosophers of mind to answer thorny questions about consciousness, artificial intelligence, and so-called folk psychology.
Cluster Randomized Trials International Consensus Conference
In November 2011, many Rotman Institute members were involved with an international consensus conference on the ethics of cluster randomized trials. This conference is an important step in the establishment of international consensus guidelines for the ethical conduct and ethics review of CRTs. Read more
In addition to these major conferences, the Rotman Institute also supported graduate conferences at Western, including the annual conferences on Feminist Philosophy (Diotima); Logic, Math and Physics (LMP), and Philosophy of Mind, Language and Cognition (PhilMiLCog).
This year saw the launch of the Rotman Institute’s blog, a place for discussion of a wide variety of issues at the nexus between philosophy and science. Read more
Our MA and PhD programs are thriving, with over eighty students enrolled, multiple award winners, and various innovations that will strengthen these programs.
Examples of recent award winners are Yann Benetreau-Dupin, who is currently receiving the prestigious Trillium Fellowship; James Southworth who won in this past year’s competition for SSHRC doctoral awards; and Stephanie Kapusta who won an OGS as an international student.
Our innovations include the creation of 4- and 5-year streams to the PhD program, with unique course requirements for each stream and the development of a two-year MA program in Ancient Philosophy that is a combined effort from Philosophy and Classics. The proposal for the new MA is still under review, but we have every reason to believe that it will be accepted and the program will be up and running by September of 2013.
Dear Alumni and Friends,
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to address Alumni and other friends of philosophy at Western through this newsletter. It has been a priority for me since I became chair a year ago to increase the Department’s outreach activities – simply, be better at showing off all the great things we do in teaching and research.
The Department of Philosophy has gone through a period of change over the last six or seven years. Many of its leading faculty members have retired and at the same time as we have replaced these retirements we have also expanded. It is a younger Department with many newly tenured and mid-career professors. The Rotman Institute of Philosophy was established in 2008 through a very generous donation by an alumnus, Joseph Rotman. The Rotman Institute has in a very short time become a pillar in the University's research profile.
In 2009, the Department moved from Talbot College up the hill on campus to Stevenson Hall. The move gave us more and newly renovated space over four floors. The Rotman Institute occupies the second floor and the Department administration is located on the third floor. The new space has overall been very good for the Department and its students.
The Department now has five areas of strength. Its strength in Philosophy of Science and the History of Philosophy go back a long time, but over the years strength has also been growing in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy and Mind and Language. Philosophy of mind has recently been given a great boost since the members in this area together with the Rotman Institute have begun to collaborate with Western’s Brain and Mind Institute. The result are very exciting for the field of neuroscience. In fact as part of the University’s capital campaign, the Department is seeking a donor for a Research Chair in this field. Our newest faculty member, Jackie Sullivan, also works in this area.
The history of philosophy group has had several very successful placements of students in the last couple of years both by undergraduates in very high profile graduate schools and by finished Ph.D. students in post docs and academic jobs. It also runs the very successful annual colloquium in Ancient and Medieval philosophy, which is on its seventh year and has drawn some of the foremost scholars in the world in these areas to Western. Securing long term funding for this colloquium is one of the Department’s priorities. This group is also launching a new MA in Ancient philosophy together with the Department of Classical Studies.
The moral, political and legal philosophy group will also be raising its profile in the coming year. In 2012, the Department will be launching the Bernard Scholarship in political philosophy. It is a graduate scholarship shared between Philosophy and Political Science, and was made possible through a generous donation by Margot Bernard in the name of her late husband and former faculty member of Political Science, Fred Bernard.
We are looking forward to a new successful year in teaching and research during which we will introduce a Minor in Philosophy of Biology and an MA Program in Ancient Philosophy. We will aslo be hiring another CRC and a Director of the Rotman Institute. I am personally looking forward to more interaction with the Department’s alumni; please feel free to contact me.
-Henrik Lagerlund, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy
Henrik Lagerlund recieved the 2012 Graham and Gale Wright Distinguished Scholar Fellowship along with Prof. Alison Conway from the Department of English. Henrik Lagerlund is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy, as well as a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Lagerlund is the editor of the book series Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind, as well as editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, which is widely considered to be the most comprehensive reference work in medieval philosophy. Lagerlund is currently working on a project entitled The Mechanization of Philosophy. This collaborative project, which looks at mechanical philosophy in the seventeenth century, supports a larger objective of bridging the gap between medieval and early modern philosophy. In the near future, Lagerlund also plans to continue research on Arabic logic, as well as the history of Scandinavian philosophy. Personal website
A paper by Western Philosophy professor Wayne Myrvold, a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, has been named among the 10 Best Papers of 2011 by Philosopher’s Annual. Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics: A Maxwellian View was published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 42.l... Read More
Matthew Leisinger came more than 4,000 kms from his hometown of Prince George, B.C., to earn an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Western. So what’s another 1,000 kms – especially when he’ll find himself walking the hallowed halls of Yale University this fall?... Read More
Imagine being able to write your own academic ticket to an Ivy League school of your choice.That’s just what Emily Kress was able to do.Thanks to Western’s Initiative for Scholarly Excellence, the 21-year-old got a head start to her post-secondary studies... Read More
Can we support veterans while simultaneously holding moral reservations about war? This question is often answered in the negative. As the argument might go, any support for veterans is tantamount to moral assent for military action ... Read More
John Bell, a philosophy professor with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Mathematics, was able to skip three grades and was set to graduate high school at the age of 14.John Bell has been described as ‘potentially one step below Einstein.’ While he laughs at the comparison now, there is no denying this teen prodigy has left a significant mark on the philosophy of mathematics Read more
Got Brains on the Mind?
As part of Western’s upcoming Homecoming activities and events, Bob McDonald, host of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks,” will play head games with Western’s brain and mind researchers. The event takes place on Sunday, September 30, 2012 from 10:00am to 12:00pm in von Kuster Hall, in the Music Building. More info
Philosophy Lecture Series:
Every year the Department’s Faculty members gives lectures on different themes at the Central Public Library. This is usually held four Wednesdays in October. In 2012, the topic will be “Philosophy and Neuroscience” and among others Professors Chris Viger and Jackie Sullivan will give lectures. More info
The Language of Nature: Reconsidering the Mathematization of Science October 11-14, 2012
From October 11th through the 14th, Western Philosophy and the Rotman Institute will be co-hosting a major international workshop along with the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science on the rise of quantification during the scientific revolution. The workshop will represent a major reconsideration of the nature and progress of the mathematization of natural philosophy by drawing from a wide variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. The results of the workshop will be published in the prestigious series, The Minnesota Studies of Philosophy of Science, late 2013 or early 2014.
The Western Ontario Colloquium in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy October 18-20, 2012
The title this year is “Modal Logic and Modality in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy”. Four of the world’s leading scholars on medieval modal logic are taking part in the workshop. Simo Knuuttila (University of Helsinki) is the world’s leading authority on medieval logic and modal metaphysics and together with Calvin Normore (McGill/UCLA) he has published ground-breaking works on medieval philosophers’ conceptions of necessity and possibility. Henrik Lagerlund (Western) is the main organizer of the event and together with Paul Thom (University of Sydney) he is the world’s leading historian of medieval modal logic.
In addition to these established scholars the workshop also features work by a group of younger scholars who are all producing very interesting and promising work. These are Margaret Camberon (Victoria), Gloria Frost (St. Thomas), Khaled El-Rouayheb (Harvard), Asad Amed (WashU) and Sara Uckelman (Tilburg). In addition to these we have invited three graduate students to contribute papers on the topic of the workshop.
World Philosophy Day at Western
In 2002 UNESCO established an annual celebration, on the third Thursday in November, called World Philosophy Day. Its purpose is "to honor philosophical reflection around the world. It is a day for people to share thoughts, openly explore and discuss new ideas and inspire public debate or discussion about society’s challenges." At its broadest, it is an undertaking to investigate and reinforce the intellectual side of our common humanity.Around the world the day is celebrated with symposia, lectures, conferences and the like.
At Western, since 2009, we have used the day to throw an accent on a fairly new development in Ontario education: the introduction of philosophy courses at the secondary level. We have invited local high school students to a half-day of lectures and discussion. The first year began modestly, with about 25 in attendance. In the second year this grew to 150, and last year to 350. We're on a roll!
The event will be held on Thursday, November 15, 2012, 9.30-12.30 a.m., McKellar Room, University Community Centre.
This year's line-up includes:
Jackie Sullivan has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining Western, she was an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Professor Sullivan works on the Philosophy of Neuroscience and specifically she asks the question what light neuroscience can shed on the relationship between mind and brain. Read more
William Harper published the monograph Isaac Newton’s Scientific Method: Turning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology with Oxford University Press.
Tracy Isaacs published the monograph Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts also with Oxford University Press.
The Philosophy Department offers full support to its recent PhDs seeking academic employment. While the job market is still recovering, 2012 was a strong year for placement of Western graduates.
Julie Walsh, who completed her PhD in 2010, has accepted a tenure-track position in the philosophy department at Université du Québec à Montréal. Jason Marsh who completed his PhD in 2012, has accepted a tenure-track position in the philosophy department at St. Olaf College.
In addition, two graduates were the recipients of post-doctoral fellowships this year: Alain Ducharme (2012) will be holding a postdoc at the University of South Carolina as part of the Classics in Contemporary Perspectives Initiative, and Nic Fillion (2012) will take up a postdoc here at Western where he will be jointly appointed in Statistics and Actuarial Sciences and the Applied Mathematics department.
We are very proud of all of our graduates, and will continue to work on their behalf to build on our already impressive record of successful placements.
Philosophy of Law
In the Fall 2012 academic term, Andrew Botterell and Dennis Klimchuk will be co-teaching a graduate seminar on Criminal Law Theory. The purpose of the course is to introduce graduate students to issues that straddle the divide between philosophy proper and criminal law doctrine. The course will feature four guest speakers:
John Gardner (Law, Oxford) on Sept. 27, 2012
Marcia Baron (Philosophy, University of Indiana & University of St. Andrews) on Oct. 18, 2012
Malcolm Thorburn (Law, Queen’s University) on Oct. 25, 2012
Antony Duff (Philosophy (Emeritus), Stirling; Law, Minnesota) on Nov. 8, 2012
Philosophy of Biology
Third year course called Philosophy of Biology for Biologists which will be taught by Professor Gillian Barker
and offered as an elective in the Major in Biology.
MA in Ancient Philosophy
The MA program in Ancient Philosophy will be a two year (five term) program, leading to a degree of Master of Arts in Ancient Philosophy. Sponsored jointly by the Departments of Philosophy and Classical Studies, it is an interdisciplinary program that will combine courses in Philosophy with courses in Ancient Greek and Latin, in order to develop students’ skills and knowledge in these areas as preparation for continued study at the PhD level. It will be the only program of its kind in the world.