The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

Looking for my research? You probably need the Weebly website.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Status of Minorities in Philosophy

Undergraduates and graduate students can apply to participate in this conference. (Lovely site, too, isn't it?)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I resemble that remark

This is too true to be funny.  Good thing I read it before heading into designing the intro class I teach next year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blended learning: Doing what we do better

I'm intrigued to read Queen's U descriptions of Blended Learning initiatives. I'm cautiously optimistic that I can emulate these efforts.  After all, I already do what they're describing, supplementing my interactive and interpersonal courses with online components.  It's just that I've always done so in a more makeshift way than a dedicated blended-learning design would have me do.  I have tended, in the past, to pat myself on the back every time I improve my use of WebCT/My Learning System even just a bit.
But of course, it sounds like some improvements are better than others.  I can find many arguments that  e-learning exercises demonstrably improve student understanding, but online search results are always peppered with cautionary columns debating the possibility that e-learning is failing in higher education. I will continue to learn as I go, but it certainly sounds like the problems with most blended learning strategies is that they are not -- surprise! -- very strategic, and rely on slapping one's lecture notes online as a nod to 'interactivity.'

I'm keen to try.  Not that I'm innocent of slapping up my lecture notes in a hasty fashion, but I can do more.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Philosophy Colloquium Guest Speaker - David Rondel

Thursday, November 24, 2011 - David Rondel, Ryerson University
6:00 to 8:00 pm - Champlain College Council Chambers (CCN M2)

Topic: "Rawls and Cohen on the Subject of Distributive Justice"

Abstract: G. A. Cohen’s defense of the feminist slogan, “The personal is political”, his argument against Rawls’s restriction of principles of justice to the basic structure of society, depends for its intelligibility on the ability to distinguish — with reasonable but perhaps not perfect precision — between those situations in which what Nancy Rosenblum has called “the logic of congruence” is validly invoked and those in which it is not. More importantly, I will be suggesting that the philosophical shape of Cohen’s critique makes it difficult for him to supply the required criterion, and that the methodological “intuitionism” he claims to be committed to is at odds with his larger argument against Rawls concerning the subject of justice.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remembrance Day on November 11th

Faculty were sent the following today:
Dear Instructors,

Observation of Remembrance Day on November 11th

The Office of the Dean of Arts and Science, the Dean of the Trent-Fleming School of Nursing and the Dean of the School of Education and Professional Learning would like to encourage you and your students to honour all those who have served and continue to serve our country.

If your class is being held on November 11 at 11:00 a.m., would you please consider observing two minutes of silence during your class time to honour those who have served or continue to serve our country.

Thank you.

As it turns out, indeed my class starts at 11 am on the 11th, and I am a bit surprised to realize that I wish to observe the two minutes of silence.  What is the relationship of a newcomer to Remembrance Day? When did I become someone who saw myself as a meaningful member of a Canadian society that observes silence as a gesture of respect to past Canadian soldiers that died in battle?  I still recall last year, when I bluntly asked a guest at dinner why she and everyone else wore poppies on their lapels.  She looked surprised, and answered helpfully that it was a memorial day in Commonwealth countries to honor those service members who had died in the line of duty since WWI.  Distracted by my own embarrassment at the ignorance of my question, I felt no affective chord of responsive respect struck in me, although I immediately recognized the allusion to the poem, "In Flanders Fields," and noted the similarities between Remembrance Day and Memorial Day in the United States. 

This year the poppies have sprung back up on lapels, and I don't feel it is appropriate for me to wear one.  I do plan to observe silence in my class at 11 a.m., however.  Recognizing loss seems like something I have standing to do.  Bearing a brightly colored badge of my awareness, though, that seems misplaced.  It will be interesting to see if that changes next year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stance: An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal

Stance: An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal seeks undergraduate philosophy students to serve as external reviewers.  See the "Call for Reviewers" and "Letter of Recommendation" forms found below. 

CALL FOR EXTERNAL REVIEWERS for Stance: An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal

Stance seeks undergraduate philosophy students to serve as External Reviewers or Assistant Editorial Board members. This is an exciting pre-professional learning opportunity. Selected students hone their writing, researching, and reviewing skills by serving on a national award-winning journal. External Reviewers and Assistant Editorial Board members must have advanced undergraduate experience in philosophy, strengths in writing and editing, and the self-motivation necessary to complete work by given deadlines. One letter of recommendation is required.

External Reviewers will review one to three papers in late January. Assistant Editorial Board members will consider approximately twenty papers in December. External Reviewers and Assistant Editorial Board members will receive training material that explains what is expected in the formal review and be credited in both the print and electronic versions of the journal.

If you are interested, please provide us with the following information:
Name of School:
Year in School:
Philosophy Courses Taken:
 What is your specialty or concentration?
 What experience do you have that would qualify you for this project?
 What goals do you have that working on Stance will support?
 What, in your opinion, are the makings of a good philosophy paper?

 Undergraduate student applicants should:
(1) Complete this application and return it to Please include “External Reviewer Application” as the subject heading.
(2) Arrange for a philosophy professor to send a letter of recommendation to Please include “LOR” as the subject heading. The required letter of recommendation form is available on our website:

DEADLINE: Friday, October 28, 2011

Stance: An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal
 Stance seeks your help to get better acquainted with an external reviewer applicant. Reviewers must have advanced undergraduate experience in philosophy, strong writing and editing skills, and the self-motivation necessary to meet deadlines. Please respond to the following questions in your letter. Thank you for assisting us in making this important decision.
Name of Student: 
How does this student handle deadlines?
Has this student demonstrated the level of writing proficiency necessary to develop a useful blind review?
Has this student demonstrated the good judgment necessary for writing positive, constructive reviews of peers? 
Does this student have sufficient philosophy experience to provide substantive criticism of undergraduate manuscripts or the self-motivation necessary to conduct independent research to develop enough expertise to provide criticism?
Please return this recommendation directly to us at
DEADLINE: Friday, October 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moral Philosophy paper topics

Option A:  According to Aristotle’s virtue ethic, should I wish for my friend Byron that he win the lottery?  If you think the answer to this question is easy, then you have not looked at all of Books I, II, III, IV, and VII in the EN. Papers that rely only on evidence from books VIII and IX are C papers at best.     

Option B:  Albert Schweitzer is virtuous.  Therefore, Kate Norlock is not virtuous.  If she was virtuous, she would decide to pursue, and actually pursue, a life much like Albert Schweitzer’s.  Instead, she, like you and most people, is settling for not trying very hard, and for a so-so life requiring no bravery or distinction.  Aver or refute this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First anniversary Kenneth Mark Drain Lecture

Students can now RSVP here to the upcoming talk by Dr. Roger Gottlieb, "The spirit of sustainability: why environmentalism and spirituality need each other," which starts at 6 pm on Wed., Oct. 12, in Bata Library Film Theater.  A dessert reception and cash bar follows the talk, over at the Champlain College Living Learning Commons.  See you there!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Central APA papers I will comment on

Hooray, a chance to laud and criticize excellent philosophy will also permit seeing old friends in Chicago and taking my parents out to dinner! I shall be attending the Central Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in February and commenting on two rather different papers:

Luke P. Phillips (University of Indiana), "Contempt and the Capacity for Evil," main program symposium (Thursday 12-2 PM). 

Ben Almassi (College of Lake County), “Feminist Reclamations of Masculinity,” group session of the Society for Analytical Feminism (time tba).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remember September 11, 2001

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. approaches, many of us are drawn to recognizing the losses and sufferings of that day.  Yet moral horrors and losses happen to people around the world, and they are not accorded international recognition.  The appreciation of ubiquitous suffering can be paralyzing, can it not?  Is there a virtue of mourning, and a vice of excess in contexts in which my losses receive more generous attention than others’?
As it happens, I am also currently labouring over a paper honouring the work of philosopher Sara Ruddick, whose loss to this community in the past year is also being recognized at several philosophical conferences.  My work on Ruddick is currently preoccupied with her 2003 essay, “The Moral Horror of the September Attacks.”  As always, reading her helps me consider possible answers as to the appropriateness of ongoing sadness.  She reminds her readers that all losses merit appreciation:
 [A possible] argument finds the September attacks insignificant when compared to other evils: deaths in the thousands rather than the millions, an assault of only half a day, quick death by force and fire rather than by extended torture and humiliation. The attacks seem almost trivial compared to evils of the holocaust, slavery, and apartheid; to many massacres and much extended suffering under brutal tyrannical rule. ...
Evils differ in degree and kind. A sense of perspective is important. But in comparing evils we may trivialize or excuse the “lesser,” thereby inuring ourselves to great suffering.  What matters is the specificity of moral horrors, of evil, of anyone's pain and loss.
Drawing on the correspondence of Arendt and Jaspers regarding the Holocaust, Ruddick adds:
This correspondence contains a double warning both against mythologizing “the horrible” and against denying the distinct horrors of what is done or suffered. Since September 11 the danger of mythologizing, even clinging to, the horrible has been evident. It has been harder to grasp the distinct moral horror of the attacks or even to appreciate the difficulty of that task.
Ruddick concludes on a note of lament, which affords a sort of sympathetic comfort even as she reminds us that victims’ stories and our own memories of that day are not consoling.  If we continue to remember the day with pain, perhaps it is because violence does not end.  It may ask too much to greet this anniversary, and her last sentence below, without sadness.
The values of “home” can be destroyed on factory floors, in prisons and mind-numbing schools, through “terrorist” violence and terrifying war. They can be destroyed at home. But they were not destroyed in the September attacks.
Nor did these values in any sense triumph. The September attacks are about damage and loss; intimate, emotional, social, and political loss. The victim stories are stories, true enough tales of what some people did. They express certain values, but they do not console. Instead they offer one way of beginning to grasp the moral horror we have witnessed and to feel the bitter loss of what violence has killed, now kills and will kill again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Global climate change: Not just a Manufactroversy

I haven't taught a class on trust in a while, but think I should every time I read another article on the use of global climate change in political football.  My most recent inspiration comes from Discover Magazine's coverage of the exoneration of climatologist Michael Mann by the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation:
All of this stemmed from the "ClimateGate" nonsense of the past couple of years, where leaked emails were taken hugely out of context by the press and climate change deniers, and used to smear scientists.

It's true, scientists were accused of misconduct and falsification of data [pdf], claims which have been thoroughly investigated and rejected.  I do worry, though, that when columnists write with such loaded language about the truth, trust in their veracity is undermined by resistance to their (understandable) angry righteousness.  Exhibition of one's convictions in the language of passionate opposition is easily written off as 'bias,' so that one could dismiss both true and false claimants with the statement, "They're both biased." My students regularly report having trouble reading past a particularly vehement expression. Emotional appeals evoke emotional responses, and the opportunity to persuade, to point out the truth, is deferred.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New blog: Disabled Philosophers

The reason for this unusual new blog is nicely captured by the subtitle on its flag: "We exist." 

This is not a traditional blog.  One indication of this is the categories at the right– these allow you to search for disabled philosophers by disability or by area of philosophy. (For much more free-flowing discussion of disability and philosophy, you may want to check out What Sorts of People.)
I couldn't agree more!  What Sorts is really interesting as well. 

The two founders of Disabled Philosophers are also bloggers at Feminist Philosophers; one of them is Jenny Saul, this year's recipient of SWIP's "Distinguished Woman in Philosophy" award..  She'll be honored at the December meeting of the American Philosophical Association; if you are eager to fly to Washington, D.C. the day after Christmas, you're welcome to join the party.  (If you're not eager, come anyway.  Half the fun of APA meetings is the collective griping about our travel there.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Women in Philosophy Task Force

I'm away for the next several days (until August 22), but when I come back, I'll have news from the 3rd annual meeting:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Upcoming ethics events at Trent

On October 12, 2011, the delightful Prof. Roger S. Gottlieb will be speaking at Trent as my first annual Ethics Chair guest lecturer.  He and I have tentatively agreed on the loose title, "Spirituality and Sustainability," but anyone who knows Roger realizes this title covers vast amounts of his work.  We've met on occasion and had speaking gigs at the same conferences, but I've never before had the opportunity to have him as my guest, talking to my own students.  I wish the students of mine at St. Mary's College of Maryland who read his book, A Greener Faith, had gotten to grill the author!

This coming March, the Philosophy department holds the annual Ryle Lecture Series, and this year Sally Haslanger has happily accepted our invitation.  Sally has proposed the dates of March 19-20-21, 2012, and yes, she's speaking all three nights!  Stay tuned for more developments.

Courses I'm teaching this fall

Students who took Moral Issues are well placed to take my Wednesday course, Moral Philosophy.  Note that if you took the seminar in Winter 2011 on "Responding to Evil," you are well set up to take the new seminar on Fridays, but those of you who did not take the prequel should be fine.

Class Schedule for Kate, Fall 2011

Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. PHIL3380Y: Moral Philosophy
Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.  PHIL2031Y: Feminist Philosophy
Friday, 11 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. PHIL4310H: Forgiveness and Mercy