Newsletter | The Rational Enquirer Issue #4

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Issue 4 | Fall 2017

Inside this issue


Gatherings, Then and Now

The University of Waterloo is 60 years old this year! Brian Hendley, a retired faculty member, and former Chair of the Philosophy Department and Dean of Arts, thought this called for the Department to do something special to remember its history.

 The result was a lunch to bring together many of the people who built the Department of Philosophy. Brian’s original idea was that it would be great to have a photo of the Department Chair together with all the remaining former Chairs, but the idea quickly expanded to also getting all the faculty retirees, who lived near enough by to make it, together for a lunch.

 The gathering happened at the University Club on September 30. Probably there are not too many departments at any university where so many people who were colleagues for so long could gather in a room and be so happy to see one another. Conversation was raucous. One thing that nobody would own up to is being the person who used to refer to Paul Thagard, a recent retiree who couldn’t be at the lunch, as “The Young Fellow from Princeton” when he arrived in the Department as a full Professor in the early 1990s.


The builders: living faculty members who retired from the Philosophy Department, which was founded in 1961. From left to right: Joe Novak; Bill Abbott; Richard Holmes; Jan Narveson; Brian Hendley; Jim Horne; Larry Haworth; Rolf George; Jim Van Evra. (Missing: Jennifer Ashworth, Don Roberts, Paul Thagard).

Current faculty and staff

What they helped build: the Philosophy Department, September 2017. From left to right, seated: John Turri; Katy Fulfer; Doreen Fraser; Mathieu Doucet; and Patricia Marino. From left to right, standing: Chris Lowry; Tim Kenyon; Brian Orend; Shannon Dea; Debbie Dietrich; Gerry Callaghan; Dave DeVidi; Jacqueline Feke; Greg Andres; Tawnessa Carter; Chris Eliasmith. (Missing: Heather Douglas, Carla Fehr, and Steven Weinstein.)

Tim Kenyon Departing Waterloo to Become VPR at Brock

Tim KenyonIt was with mixed feelings that the Department greeted the news that Tim Kenyon will be leaving the University of Waterloo and the Department of Philosophy, as of January 1, to take up a post as Vice President, Research at Brock University. Of course, we know that Tim will do an outstanding job as VPR, and expect that he will find the work a fulfilling next step in his career, but it is a big loss for the University of Waterloo and for the Department.

Immediately after he received tenure, the Department selected Tim as Chair, a post he held for six years. Many of the changes he brought in were so obviously beneficial that it’s possible to think that things have always run that way. A comprehensive list of his achievements as Chair would make this story impossibly long, but here are some important ones.

It was during Tim’s time as Chair that the Department reversed a decades-long pattern of shrinkage, from over 20 full-time faculty members in the early 1970s to, at one point, 11. He developed and convinced the Faculty of Arts to back a model of Extended Learning course delivery that has made our offerings better and more efficiently run—side effects of which have been the addition of an excellent colleague as Extended Learning Coordinator and growing EL enrollments. Tim developed a number of documents and processes for use within Philosophy that became models used by several other departments at Waterloo. And with his selfless, tireless, and effective work for the University outside the Department, he did a lot to make the Department of Philosophy a “go-to” place when the University was seeking sensible contributors and partners on university-wide initiatives … this last item, no doubt, importantly related to the first about growing our Department once more.

For the past five years, Tim has been doing excellent work as Associate Dean, Research. His time in the role has seen improved transparency in research-related decisions in the Dean’s Office, improved recognition across the University of the strength of the research efforts made by faculty members in Arts, and more awards and grants won by Arts researchers. His work has also had effects that will have benefits that may only be visible on a longer time scale, such as moving Waterloo to the forefront of the development of sensible metrics for evaluating the impact of research in Humanities and Social Sciences so that we won’t have to continue to live with the distortions that come from applying metrics developed for the natural sciences and engineering.

But Philosophy is not losing just an administrative talent. Tim is a colleague who will be very hard to replace: winner of the distinguished teacher award; a researcher who maintained significant levels of productivity while carrying a very heavy service load, and whose research is consistently discussed by figures at the top of the field; a popular and effective graduate supervisor; and the person who has probably done more than anyone to encourage an atmosphere in the department where pedagogy matters and where colleagues are on friendly terms.

Good luck Tim, and thank you!

Q and A with Dr. Jacqueline Feke

Professor Jacqueline Feke is a newer member of the Philosophy Department, and is cross-appointed with Classical Studies. We caught up with her on her latest, and future, work.

Jacqueline Feke

Q1: Congratulations on your new forthcoming book! Coming out with Princeton UP, it’s about Ptolemy’s contributions to philosophy. What’s Ptolemy’s message to, and relevance for, us today?

A: “Ptolemy lived at a time when, unlike today and especially at Waterloo, there were very few mathematicians.  At any one time in the ancient Mediterranean, there were at most a few dozen people working on high-level mathematics.  Through his philosophical program, Ptolemy carves out a space for math and justifies why he dedicated most of his life to it.  Ptolemy’s philosophy challenges us to articulate what the benefits of studying STEM disciplines are today for the individual.  Ptolemy’s texts indicate that he thought he was living the best life possible through his dedication to mathematics.  Can we say the same for scientists, engineers, and mathematicians today?”

Q2: Can you tell us a bit about how you came to the interesting intersection between classical philosophy and ancient science and math? What has been your journey in that regard?

A: “In the ancient Greek tradition science and math are philosophy, in the broadest sense; they are types of philosophy.  I came to their study precisely because the boundaries between fields of inquiry were articulated differently in the ancient Greek world than they are today.  When I was writing my undergraduate thesis way back when, I was particularly interested in the relationship between religion and science, and I learned during my graduate studies that ancient Greek mathematicians and philosophers were grappling with the relationship between theology and the sciences, because the sciences were branches of philosophy.  Eventually I focused my research on the philosophical systems of ancient Greek mathematicians.”

Q3: You’ve also had a fascinating personal journey, from your doctorate down the road at the University of Toronto to positions at Stanford, Chicago, and the Max Planck Institute. How have those experiences fed into your research and placement here at Waterloo, where you’re mainly in Philosophy but are also cross-appointed in Classical Studies?

A: “At these various institutions, I worked in interdisciplinary environments.  I had colleagues from across the humanities and social sciences, and so I learned to communicate my research to people outside my field, and those conversations led me to ask new questions in ancient science and math.  Here I teach a range of courses, especially at the intro level and in ancient philosophy, and I’m eager to teach courses in ancient science as well as the history and philosophy of science more generally.” 

Q4: Congratulations as well on your new SSHRC Insight Development Grant! What is this latest research project, moving forward?

A: “The project is called “Law and Nature in Ancient Greek Mathematics” and with it I am investigating the roots of the concept ‘law of nature’—which is generally thought to have originated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—in ancient Greek mathematicians’ deliberations on what law and nature are and what their relationship is.”

Q5: What’s the best thing you’ve experienced thus far in the Dept here at Waterloo?

A: “I’m particularly proud of the projects my students designed for my course “Philosophy in Literature: Philosophy in Utopian Literature.”  The course started with the analysis of early utopian texts and then turned to dystopian fiction: novels, short stories, and film.  My students constructed their own utopian and dystopian worlds and presented them in class.  I’m teaching this course again in Winter 2018, and I’m looking forward to seeing what my students come up with!”

Some Brand New Alumns!

We thought we’d try a new feature this issue, and profile a few brand new alums who are already off-and-running, doing fascinating and impressive things. Here are three:

Reba Nauth

Reba Nauth

Reba is currently attending law school at the University of Toronto. To gain practical experience in the legal field, she is also volunteering through Pro Bono Students Canada at the Association for Media Literacy. And she is involved in two academic journals, the University of Toronto Law Review and the Journal for International Law and International Relations. She graduated with a Philosophy Minor in June. (She had another Minor in Legal Studies, and was an B.A. Honours Major in Knowledge Integration.)

Peter Blouw

Peter Blouw

Peter is working as a research scientist at a local technology company called Applied Brain Research, Inc. The company (whose co-founders include Professor Chris Eliasmith) works on developing artificial intelligence systems and products with a practical, applied focus: ranging from software programs to robots to models of brain processes which other researchers can access and use. Peter defended his doctoral dissertation in August, entitled “Inferential Role Semantics for Natural Language”, and shall convocate with his Philosophy Ph.D. in late October. His work at the company, in part, will involve developing the practical implications of his dissertation research.

Samantha Afonso

Samantha Afonso

Samantha is currently at the University of Pittsburgh, completing her Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling. While there, she is also working at the UP Medical Center’s Hospital, in the Gastro-Intestinal Tumour Clinic as a Genetic Counseling Assistant. She helps patients with the process of arriving at informed consent to treatment, takes family histories, and provides support for an ongoing clinical research study. She graduated with a Philosophy Minor in June (and was also a B.A. Honours Major in Knowledge Integration).

New "Fun Photos" Feature!

We thought we’d experiment with something new, for extra visual—and philosophical—stimulation. Below are two photos, both appearing courtesy of Tim Kenyon. The first is just designed to be philosophically interesting and amusing. The second as well, but it appears with no caption. We’d like to run a “caption contest”, and announce some of the funniest and most clever submissions in the W issue. Enjoy!


What every logician wants in the mail!

Bathroom door

Please send your brief, funny caption ideas, by January 2018, to Brian Orend or Tawnessa Carter.

In Memoriam

Judy WubnigProfessor Emerita Judy Wubnig

The Department was saddened to hear of the recent death of a longtime faculty member, Judy Wubnig.

She received a BA from Swarthmore in 1955, and her MA and PhD from Yale. Her 1963 dissertation was titled A Study of the Rationality in Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. After a short stint as a Lecturer at Northeastern University, she joined the Waterloo Philosophy Department in 1965, where she worked until her retirement in 2002. She continued to work on Kant, including translating work on his philosophy of mathematics, and made occasional forays into political philosophy.

Judy was a well-known figure on the Waterloo Campus throughout her career. She was never shy about speaking up in defence of what she thought was right, and regarded herself as a staunch advocate of free speech. 

It is as a mentor and friendly supporter of many students during her long teaching career that Judy probably made her most important contribution. She often went out of her way to make students, especially international students or students who seemed isolated, feel at home at Waterloo.

Bill BarthelemyBill Barthelemy

The Department received some sad news recently.  Bill Barthelemy, a 1980 graduate of our PhD program and a longtime member of the Canadian academic community who spent the past three decades teaching at Kwantalen University in B.C. died recently.  Bill wrote a PhD thesis focused 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, and by those who knew him at Waterloo as "a great guy."

Philosophy blog

Did you know the Department of Philosophy has a blog ? Find out more about our presentations, publications, events and other news of all kinds.

What's new with us?

Welcome to the fourth edition of The Rational Enquirer, the Department of Philosophy's alumni newsletter.

What's new with you?

It's always great to hear from alumni. We'd love to know what you are up to, so please send an email to Tawnessa Carter.


Dr. Eva Kittay to visit Department, October 2017
The Department is proud to announce that Dr. Eva Kittay will be visiting the Department as the Rudrick Visiting Scholar. Her talks, upon to alumni, are scheduled for:

Monday, October 23, 7 p.m. in Fed Hall: "The Desire for Normalcy"

Wednesday, October 25, 2:30 p.m. in HH 373: "How Not to Argue about Disability and Reproduction"

For a detailed profile of Dr. Kittay, see Event listing.


Colloquium talk by Anjan Chakravartty: Friday, January 19, 2:30 p.m. in HH 373.

Colloquium talk by Govind Persad: Friday, March 2, 2:30 p.m. in HH 373.

Sharma lecture by Christina Starmans: Friday, March 16, 2:30 p.m. in HH 373.

If you’d like to receive details about these events as they’re confirmed, get on our mailing list! Contact our administrator for alumni relations, Tawnessa Carter, and she’ll be sure you’re added to our list.

Read the previous issue of the Rational Enquirer.