Fall Schedule

September 22

Please join us for our first colloquium of the year! 

Speaker: Dr. Kristin Rodier, Center for Humanities, Athabaska University/University of Saskatchewan (Adjunct)

Title: Teaching in the Virtual Lyceum?: Strategies for Philosophers in the Age of AI and Mobile Learning

 Abstract: More and more philosophers are taking their teaching online, a trend accelerated by the pandemic's emergency remote teaching measures. While students don't always learn in our face-to-face classrooms, knowing whether they learn online is both a practical and epistemic question. In addition, with the advent of generative AI, how and whether we use standard teaching assessments online such as "The Philosophy Essay" is of increased importance. With philosophy's specific stated learning goals in mind—argument presentation, analysis, and evaluation, clarifying concepts, effective and clear communication, understanding historical schools of thought—there arises a question: How can philosophers harness technology to induce, support, and perhaps measure philosophical learning? Against the backdrop of a philosophical discussion of what it is to learn philosophy, this interactive seminar explores tech-driven strategies for inclusive, outcome-oriented teaching.

Further information on the presenter.

And please join us for refreshments after the event! 

Oct. 27

Speaker: Dr. Emer O'Hagan 

Title: On the Rational Demise of Grief

Abstract: Some have argued that the fact that grief fades over time is problematic because it signals a mismatch between the value of the loss, which remains constant, and the intensity of the emotional response, which does not.  If the fitting response to significant loss is grief, then given that the loss remains constant, the demise of grief seems inappropriate or not rationally defensible.  I will argue that this puzzle is grounded in confusion over grief’s object, and questionable assumptions about the relationship between love and grief.  The puzzle is resolved when we recognize that grief is a emotional process.

Jan. 19

Speaker: Dr. Peter Alward, University of Saskatchewan

Title: Serious Discourse about Serious Discourse about Fiction

Abstract: In "The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse" Searle defends the illocutionary pretense theory of fictional, or nonserious, discourse. According to this view, while authors of non-fictional, or serious, discourse preform genuine illocutionary acts, authors of nonserious discourse merely pretend to do so. But, in addition, Searle identifies a third variety of discourse- serious discourse about fiction- which he distinguishes from both serious and nonserious discourse. And Searle's claims about this kind of speech pose a number of interpretive puzzles. First, Searle's claim that fictional characters do not exist, but we are nevertheless able to really refer to them seems to contradict his commitment to the axiom of existence which requires existence of the referent of a name. Second, Searle's claim that authors create fictional characters by means of referential pretense seems to contradict his claim that characters do not exist. And third, Searle's claim that "sharing in the author's pretense" is required to refer to a character the author has created seems to contradict his claim that appreciators really refer to fictional characters as opposed to merely pretending to do so. In this paper, I argue that solutions to the interpretive puzzles which arise for Searle's view can be found by recasting it in terms of the extended- game model of fiction, according to which fictional characters function as props in authorized games of make-believe for (certain) works in which they appear despite not existing.

Feb. 2 

Speaker: Dr. Sarah Hoffman, University of Saskatchewan

Title: Recreational Drug Use: Some Kantian Thoughts

Abstract: Recognizing that recreational drug use is not only morally permissible but can be praiseworthy on even a kantian view of morality, suggests that we need a more nuanced view of recreational drug use. If recreational drug use means taking drugs purely for pleasure to the point of obliteration, then it is morally impermissible on Kantian grounds. It violates the moral duty to preserve our capacity to intelligently use our faculties, though Kant himself thought gluttony a worse violation than drunkeness, because alcohol at least stimulates the imagination. But the aim of recreational drug use need not be the pursuit of pleasure and its consequence need not be impermissible damage to our capacities. In this talk I explore the concept of recreation, interrogating its value and arguing that Kant's account of the morality of pursuing our own pleasure and happiness and his remarks about social intoxication give us some useful conceptual tools to naviagate thinking about the recreational use of drugs.


March 15

Speaker: Dr. Dwayne Moore, University of Saskatchewan

Title: Free Will and the Manipulation Argument

Time: 3:30- 5:00pm, ESB. 103

Abstract: Do humans have free will, or are humans determined to act as they do. Compatibilists say both. Humans are determined to act as the do, but they are still free because they want to act as they do, and are guided by reasons they indorse. The manipulation argument against compatibilism introduces a mad scientist who tweaks our brains such that we not only act as the scientist wishes, but we also makes us want to act this way, and be guided by reasons we endorse. Surely, we cannot still be free in this case, or so says the manipulation argument. In this talk I consider, and ultimately reject, various compatibilist responses to the manipulation argument. 

April 5

Speaker: Dr. Daniel Regnier, Philosophy, St. Thomas More College

Title: Happiness, Music and the Horizon of Ethics in Al-Fārābī and Aristotle 

Abstract: Al-Fārābī’s ethics are eudaimonistic. The very titles of two of Al-Fārābī’s most important ethical works insist on happiness as the goal of ethics. In fact, with regard to happiness Al-Fārābī might seem more Aristotelian than is Aristotle himself. At the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle argues for happiness as the goal of ethics. Aristotle’s approach is aporetic and – at least insofar as he recognizes three basic forms of life – his ethics remain pluralistic. By presenting arguments for his position on happiness, Aristotle suggests that he takes alternatives seriously. Al-Fārābī, by contrast, seems to take it to be an axiom that happiness is the ultimate and exclusive goal of ethics. Do Aristotle and Al-Fārābī understand happiness differently? The present paper explores this question. It raises several hypotheses: 1) perhaps Al-Fārābī simply sees himself as picking up where Aristotle left off. 2) Alternatively, it might be that Al-Fārābī’s understanding of happiness is deeply conditioned by his platonic politics. 3) Or maybe it is the Neoplatonism in Al-Fārābī’s of overarching metaphysical conception that explains how his ethics diverge from those of Aristotle. Although all three of these hypotheses have merit, I suggest that we can find more subtle clues concerning Al-Fārābī’s understanding of happiness in the context of his philosophy of music.



























Winter Schedule

Freud and the Logic of Delusion in horkheimer and Adorno's 'Elements of Anti- Semitism'

Friday, March 31, 2023, 3:30- 5:00p.m.

Friday, 3:30- 5:00p.m.

Speaker: Pierre- François Noppen, Professor

Department of Philosophy, University of Saskatchewan

Abstract: In this talk I examine Horkheimer and Adorno's controversial account of "political anti-Semitism." In essence, my reading tracks their critical appropriation of Freud. I first show how they draw on Totem and Taboo to develop the view that the core of the Enlightenment process lies a prohibition on mimesis, or imitation. I then show how they rely on Freud's view on identification and ego formation to claim that imitation nevertheless what enables the formation of the rational self and the Enlightenment process. In my reading, it is this tension that creates the conditions for political anti-Semitism to emerge.noppen.png 

Do You Have Free Will?

Friday, March 17, 2023, 3:30- 5:00p.m.

Speaker: Dwayne Moore, Professor

Department of Philosophy, University of Saskatchewan

Abstract: Libertarian free will is the view that the same agential states can cause different possible actions. Nonreductive physicalism is the view that mental states cause actions to occur, while these actions also have sufficient causes. Though libertarian free will and nonreductive physicalism have overlapping subject matter, there are few sustained expositions of a nonreductive physicalist model of libertarian free will - indeed some tell against such an admixture. This paper concocts such a blend by articulating and defending a nonreductive physicalist model of libertarian free will. 


Meaning and Social Phenomena

Friday Feb. 10, 2023: 3:30 -5:00pm, ESB 116

Speaker: Matt Dean, PhD Candidate

Department of Philosophy, University of California Irvine

Abstract: Can groups like labor unions, baseball teams, and philosophy departments lead meaningful lives as groups? And if they can, what does talk of "meaning" amount to in this context? In this talk, I address these questions. The project has two parts. The first develops an objectivist account of meaning in life, according to which meaning is a matter of narratable relations that are evaluable from both a first- and a third-person perspective. The second applies this account to various social phenomena -- including group well-being and group immortality -- to show that recent work on meaning in life that focuses on individuals can naturally be "scaled up" to investigate new questions at the intersection of ethics, social ontology, and political philosophy.


Chimeras and the Epistemology of Paleontology: Heuristics for Reconstructing Anomalous Ancient Animals (1830-1930)

January 20, 2023


Dr. Ali Mirza
Ph.D. History and Philosophy of Science
Postdoctoral Fellow 
Department of Geology 
University of Saskatchewan

Abstract: Paleontology can involve asking difficult questions about the deep-past. Due to this, claims made by paleontologists can have quite distinct aims when compared to those stemming from research on the present. In this talk, I develop concepts from philosophy of science to reveal how paleontologists between 1830 and 1930 used bold ontological claims to express unique epistemic strategies for reconstructing ancient animals from fossils. These fossil animals were found in increasingly chimeric forms, pushing zoological theories to their breaking point. The claims discussed here are: Georges Cuvier’s “laws of correlation,” stating that changing one part of an animal requires changes in all other parts; the panpsychist paleontology of Edward Drinker Cope, seeing the entire fossil record as embodied by mind; and the single-character approach of Henry Fairfield Osborn, which suggested that even a single tooth had creative powers.

Walter C. Murray Lecture Series

"Towards a Karendtian Theory of Political Evil"

Dr Helga Varden

Professor, University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Friday November 17th
ESB 18

(reception to follow)

Origins of Meaning

Dr. Dorit Bar-On

Professor, University of Connecticut

Friday, January 27
7:00 - 8:30pm
HLTH 1150

(Reception to follow)