News

2019-20 Graham and Gale Wright Distinguished Scholar

Anthony Skelton has been named a Graham and Gale Wright Distinguished Scholar for 2019-20. This Faculty-wide award recognizes the prominent contributions of internationally-recognized researchers in their fields. Anthony joins an impressive list of philosophers who have previously received this prestigious award: Wayne Myrvold, 2017; Corey Dyck, 2015; Carolyn McLeod, 2011; Robert DiSalle, 2009; Lorne Falkenstein, 2008; and John Bell, 2006.


Time to Attach research team awarded funds from the Conference Board of Canada

Professor Carolyn McLeod’s Time to Attach (timetoattach.com) research team has been awarded $15,000 from the Conference Board of Canada to complete a report on inequality in, and the inadequacy of, the Canadian government’s current parental benefits system.


David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability: Former Philosophy MA and PhD student publishes book with Lexington Books

William Vanderburgh's book, David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability, will be published by Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield) in mid-April 2019. David Hume’s argument against believing in miracles has attracted nearly continuous attention from philosophers and theologians since it was first published in 1748. Hume’s many commentators, however, both pro and con, have often misunderstood key aspects of Hume’s account of evidential probability and as a result have misrepresented Hume’s argument and conclusions regarding miracles in fundamental ways. This book argues that Hume’s account of probability descends from a long and laudable tradition that goes back to ancient Roman and medieval law. That account is entirely and deliberately non-mathematical. As a result, any analysis of Hume’s argument in terms of the mathematical theory of probability is doomed to failure. Recovering the knowledge of this ancient tradition of probable reasoning leads us to a correct interpretation of Hume’s argument against miracles, enables a more accurate understanding of many other episodes in the history of science and of philosophy, and maybe also useful in contemporary attempts to weigh evidence in epistemically complex situations where confirmation theory and mathematical probability theory have proven to be less helpful than we would have hoped. 


Western's Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) Chapter host second annual Philosophy Undergraduate Conference

By Nicole Fice, March 19, 2019

student presenters from ugrad conference

Left to right: Nicholas Legallais, Zach Daulat, Larissa Eadie, Julia Albert, Andrew Au-Yeung [not picture Belinda Ding]

Western’s Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) chapter hosted it’s second annual Philosophy Undergraduate Conference on March 15th, 2019. It celebrated the excellent philosophical work of undergraduate students at Western, with particular focus on under-represented areas of philosophy, including (but not limited to) philosophy of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, etc. All six speakers delivered outstanding presentations and showcased their unique philosophical ideas to Western’s philosophy community. Topics included LGBTQ+ sexuality and epistemic injustice, ethics and organ donation, economic inequality, gender, multiculturalism, and oppression in the context of legal and criminal justice systems. Each presentation was followed by an engaging Q&A session which continued philosophical conversations surrounding the authors’ ideas. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference!

Resisting Scientific Realism: Former Philosophy MA and PhD student publishes book with Cambridge University Press

Brad Wray, a former Western Philosophy MA and PhD student, has just published a book with Cambridge University Press. The book is called Resisting Scientific Realism

Brad completed his PhD at Western in 1997 under the supervision of John Nicholas.  Brad's dissertation was on social epistemology. Kathleen Okruhlik and Bruce Freed were readers, and Alison Wylie was a departmental examiner.  Cheryl Misak, from Toronto, was the external examiner.

If you are interested in learning more about Brad’s work, feel free to email him at kbwray@css.au.dk.


Journal of Medical Ethics appoints Charles Weijer to the editorial board

Charles Weijer has been appointed to the editorial board of the Journal of Medical Ethics. In 2016, JME was recently ranked number 1 in the “Top 50 Bioethics Journals” by Georgetown University. For more information see https://jme.bmj.com/pages/editorial-board/


Adoptive parents need more time off to bond with kids, say Western researchers

By Hala Ghonaim, December 3, 2018, CBC News

adoptive-parents.jpg

A group of Western University researchers including Carolyn McLeod, far left, met with several members of parliament including Karen Vecchio, Conservative MP in Elgin-Middlsex-London. (Submitted by Carolyn McLeod)

A group of Western University researchers and community partners are asking Canadian politicians to grant adoptive parents and caregivers more time to bond with their children during the early stages of adoption.

The London, Ont.-based research team and Adopt4Life: Ontario's Adoptive Parents Association officials were in Ottawa last month to request an additional 15-week "attachment" leave to be part of a new class of employment insurance benefits for adoptive parents and customary and kin caregivers. They met with members of parliament and policy advisors.

"Our concern is that there isn't a separate class of benefits that recognizes the unique challenges adoptive parents face," said lead researcher Carolyn McLeod. The Western University Arts and Humanities professor is also chair of the board at the non-profit.

"What we are asking for is parity with biological parents," she said.

Right now, both biological and adoptive parents are granted a parental leave of up to 35 weeks. However, biological mothers are granted an additional 15 weeks of maternity leave. Read the full story.


Adoptive parents seek longer leave

By Paul Mayne, December 4 2018, Western News

Western researchers are leading a national push for 15 more weeks of work leave for adoptive parents as an important way to strengthen the bond between parents and their adopted children.

Biological and adoptive parents currently receive parental leave of up to 35 weeks; biological mothers receive an additional 15 weeks of maternity leave.

“There are unique challenges that come with adoption, and there are unique challenges that come with biological parenting too, and we think the 15-week maternity leave responds to that,” said Philosophy and Women’s Studies & Feminist Research professor Carolyn McLeod.

“The problem is there isn’t a similar leave for parents who provided permanent homes for children in care.

The team’s main partner is Adopt4Life: Ontario’s Adoptive Parents Association, of which McLeod is chair. McLeod said the ‘attachment leave’ would offer adoptive parents caregivers and children more time to address the unique needs of adoptive families. Read the full story.


World-changing research fueled by new CRCs

By Communications Staff, November 15 2018, Western News

Western will be home to three new Canada Research Chairs whose work will have global impact on earthquake disaster preparedness; psychology and brain science; and neuroimaging to help people with epilepsy.

The federal announcement this week also highlights one researcher upgraded to a Tier 1 (from a Tier 2), specializing in wireless engineering; and three renewals for researchers working in advanced robotics in health settings; meteor analysis; and particle technology.

The Canada Research Chair Program is intended to attract, support and retain outstanding scholars and scientists. Funding flows through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSRC), National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Chairholders with Tier 1 designation are outstanding researchers acknowledged as leaders in their fields; Tier 2 chairs are exceptional emerging researchers recognized for their potential to lead in their fields.

Western’s new Canada Research Chairs:
Michael Anderson, Philosophy, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science (SSHRC): His research explores new conceptual systems for psychology and provides a deeper understanding of how the brain works. His work emphasizes an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the cognitive sciences in helping researchers understand complex systems like the brain. Anderson comes to Western from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Read the full story here.


call for papers

Western’s MAP Chapter is pleased to announce that our second Philosophy Undergraduate Conference will be held on MARCH 15th, 2019. This conference celebrates the excellent philosophical work of undergraduate students at Western.

Reflecting the commitments of MAP, the theme of the conference will broadly focus on any of the following areas: philosophy of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, disability, etc. These themes can intersect with other areas of philosophy. Although papers should be philosophical, authors who apply need not be specializing, majoring, or minoring in philosophy.

Presentations will be no more than 15 minutes in length, followed by a short Q & A period.

Students are encouraged to submit a relevant term paper from a previous class, roughly 1500-2000 words or 15 minutes read aloud.
Papers will be reviewed anonymously and selected by faculty based on relevance to the theme of this conference. The selected authors will be notified by email. Faculty and graduate student organizers will be available to help authors of accepted papers prepare for the conference.

Please submit papers to Western’s MAP email address: mapwestern@gmail.com by JANUARY 31st, 2019.

If you have any questions about this conference, please send an email to Western’s MAP email address (mapwestern@gmail.com).


Summer Vacation with Professor Wayne Myrvold

Andrew Botterell, Department Chair, sat down with Philosophy professor Wayne Myrvold to chat about what he did during his summer vacation.

AB: Can you talk a bit about your philosophical background and research interests?

WM: I’m a philosopher of science, with particular interest in philosophy of physics.  My route into philosophy was one that, I believe, is a common one for philosophers of science.  I started out, as an undergraduate, in a science major (physics), became intrigued by philosophical questions arising from the science, and made a move into philosophy for my PhD.  Much of my work has been on the foundations of quantum mechanics, but more recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the use of probability in physics, and, in particular about its role in statistical mechanics.  Early this summer I completed a draft of a book manuscript on the topic, which I hope will be published in the none-too-distant future. It’s called Beyond Chance and Credence.

AB: I understand that you participated in several conferences and events this summer; can you say more about them?

WM: For me, the value of going to conferences is that it gives me an opportunity to talk to people face-to-face about matters of mutual interest, to meet new people and re-establish connections with people I’ve known for a long time, and to be exposed to work that might otherwise escape my attention.  This year I was involved in four events.  The first was New Directions in Foundations of Physics, an annual conference that brings together philosophers and physicists to discuss topic in foundations of physics.  Participants are encouraged to float new ideas, so it’s a terrific opportunity to be exposed to work that I might otherwise be unaware of.  This year it was in a lovely location: Viterbo, in Italy.  This year’s conference was special for me because it included a session in honour of our sorely missed long-time colleague, Bill Demopoulos, who passed away last year.  This included talks by a member of our department, Robert DiSalle, and by one of my former graduate students, Michael Cuffaro.

That was in early June. Later in June there was a workshop I organized, called Thermodynamics as a Resource Theory, bringing together physicists and philosophers to discuss what I regard as an exciting recent shift in direction in work on thermodynamics.  You can see videos of the talks on YouTube.

The other events were in July.  I attended, and gave a talk at, Foundations 2018, in Utrecht, and was participating faculty at a summer school in Split, Croatia, with the title The Chimera of Entropy.  The Foundations conference was this year’s instantiation of a longstanding series of interdisciplinary conferences in the UK and Europe.  These are huge events, involving philosophers and physicists at all stages of their careers. 

AB: Which event did you find most interesting/rewarding?

WM: Well, going to Italy involves eating Italian pizza, and there’s little that’s more rewarding than that.  Though, I must say, since Split is on the Adriatic coast, and attracts a lot of Italian tourists, they do pizza pretty well, there, too. Professionally, I’d have to say that it’s a toss-up between the workshop I organized, and the Split summer school on entropy. It’s always great to meet and interact with graduate students and other up-and-coming researchers from other institutions, and I’m pleased to say that, at the summer school, many of them took full advantage of the opportunity to ask questions in between sessions.  One of the things that the organizers did right was to schedule a day in the middle in which there were no talks, and participants had an option to join on an excursion to Trogir, just up the coast.  That meant that we were all on a boat for several hours, talking to each other.  Lots of good conversations.

AB: What value do you think these sorts of summer schools have for students and faculty members?

WM: One thing that’s very important, for students, is that they get exposed to different approaches to the subject.  We all do our best to steer our students towards what is most important. There’s a danger that students will become too enmeshed in a particular approach, and not realize that the presuppositions of that approach are not universally shared. It’s also valuable to have discussion face-to-face, as things that people take for granted, and don’t explicitly say in their published work, can come out.  For me, it’s valuable, as I get to meet at an early stage of their career people who are on the way to becoming the leading researchers of tomorrow.

AB: Will any of the issues discussed in Croatia make their way into your teaching or research?

WM: Absolutely.  As soon as I got back I made some adjustments to the draft of the book I mentioned earlier, in light of the discussions at the summer school. In particular, I added a section because of a question and follow-up discussion with one student, which made me realize that there was need of an explanation of a point brought out in the discussion that isn’t clearly made in any of the existing literature, as far as I know.  This will affect how I teach the topic next time I do a seminar on it.  And I’ll be doing a grad course on philosophy of quantum mechanics in the Winter term, and some of the things I learned at Utrecht conference will find its way into that.


2017-18 Chair's Annual Essay Prize

Congratulations to Nicole Nowoselski, winner of the 2017-18 Chair's Annual Essay Prize for her essay "The Unbecoming of the Self? An Existential Analysis of Identity and Dementia". The paper was written for Professor Helen Fielding's course PHIL 3555G: Continental Philosophy.


Chris Smeenk and James Weatherall (UC Irvine) awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation for their project: New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology

Chris Smeenk, Director of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Western University, and Jim Weatherall, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, have been awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation for $1.37-million USD. Their project, entitled New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology, will offer a new model for collaboration between philosophers and cosmologists.

Physical cosmology has enjoyed decades of progress, leading to a new understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. But this success comes with new puzzles. Cosmologists seek to understand events that are far removed from us. Moreover, in many cases they study historical episodes that are apparently unique – such as the origin of the universe – and which cannot be studied experimentally. To overcome these challenges, cosmologists have often revisited basic questions concerning what constitutes an acceptable scientific theory, what sorts of explanatory demands a theory of cosmology can meet, and how to understand confirmation in this context. Their answers to these – essentially philosophical – questions have shaped the character of cosmological theory. 

The principal goal of this project is to articulate and scrutinize the philosophical commitments behind cosmology’s Standard Model. The project will dive more deeply into two pressing conceptual issues, identified in collaboration with cosmologists James Bullock (UCI) and Robert Brandenberger (McGill), both of whom are collaborators on the grant: (1) the epistemological significance of the crucial role now played by simulations in linking cosmological theory with observations; and (2) the status of the large-scale structure of the universe in light of suggestions from quantum gravity that characteristic features of general relativity, such as singularities, may not persist into future theories.

Find out more information about the New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology and visit the John Templeton Foundation.


Forging on the feminist fitness journey

By Adela Talbot, April 12, 2018, Western News

Nearly six years ago, it started as a personal blog on which philosophers Tracy Isaacs and Samantha Brennan would share their fitness journeys, publicly tackling a challenge to be in the best shape of their lives by the age of 50.

Readership grew quickly, and the blog, Fit is a Feminist Issue, soon became an online community, with more than 200 individual contributors sharing their personal challenges, experiences and feminist views of fitness.

This month, Isaacs, Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and Philosophy professor at Western, and Brennan, a former Philosophy professor at Western (now the Dean of Arts at the University of Guelph) released a new book, Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness JourneyRead the full story here.


 Corey Dyck among the 2018 Western Faculty Scholars

Western selected 15 Faculty Scholars to recognize their significant achievements in teaching or research. The recipients are considered all-around scholars and will hold the title of Faculty Scholar for two years and receive $7,000 each year for scholarly activities. Read more.


Professor crosses Borders for global understanding

By Adela Talbot, March 22, 2018, Western News

Andrew Botterell couldn’t ignore the email. When a note from Academics Without Borders (AWB) popped up in his inbox, requesting curriculum support for Bahir Dar University’s law school in Ethiopia, it might as well have addressed him directly.

Botterell, who is the Chair of Western’s Department of Philosophy, and holds a joint appointment with the Faculty of Law, has adopted two children from Ethiopia. With a connection to the country and the skills to answer Bahir Dar’s need, he saw an opportunity to give back. It just happened to be during a time of political tension in the country. 

“The proposal (from AWB) was to have someone visit their law school and teach a course on advanced jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law. Bahir Dar wants to create a new PhD program in law but, to do that, they need people who can supervise PhD students,” Botterell explained.

“As I was getting ready to travel in February, the Ethiopian Prime Minister (Hailemariam Desalegn) resigned. The Minister of Defence declared a state of emergency in the country. There had been a lot of protests against the government, and while this was the first voluntary handing over of power in Ethiopia, the understanding is he was going to get pushed out, anyway,” he continued. Read the full story here.