The Department of Philosophy at The University of Western Ontario is taking Montreal by storm providing more than 50 talks and commentaries at a national conference.
The Congress of the Humanities and Social Science, organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), is being held May 28-June 4 at Concordia University and Western is well represented among the Canadian and international delegates.
Described on its website as “a meeting of meetings,” the congress (formally called the Learneds Conference) amasses more than 8,000 scholars, researchers, graduate students, practitioners and policy makers across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The goal is to share ideas, debate and enrich research.
Western’s Philosophy department is presenting 44 talks and 10 commentaries, including those by faculty members. A high number of graduate students will be attending, including 31 presenting original research. This represents more than half of the Department of Philosophy’s graduate student population.
Nicholas McGinnis, PhD candidate in Philosophy, pulled together a list of the presenting students and faculty from Western.
“The conference invites submissions, but the referees enforce high standards; it’s not uncommon to be rejected,” he says.
“One paper of mine was turned down. Another got in. That’s the way it goes. Philosophy sets internal standards for rigour, clarity, and concision that rival any discipline’s. The key to success is to work hard and present a compelling argument.”
The talks span the traditional strengths in the Philosophy department at Western, including philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, value theory, history of philosophy, and feminist philosophy.
Talks range from contemporary issues in quantum mechanics, to cutting-edge work in biomedical ethics.
“This diversity reflects philosophy’s engagement with fundamental and concrete issues: What exists? What can we know? How do we come to know it? What is it to live a good life? How should we organize society to reflect our core values? Each talk is grappling with these questions in its own particular way,” he says.
“It’s a very exciting time to be a graduate student in philosophy at Western.”
This is possibly the largest group Western has ever sent to the congress.
“Many of the papers presented by graduate students at the CFHSS came out of seminars taught by faculty. They are term papers, but they’re not just term papers. They are contributions to the literature. They’ve survived the anonymous scrutiny of referees and are being presented at the single largest annual gathering of philosophers in Canada. That’s an incredible success story for graduate students and faculty.”
Giving at talk at the CFHSS allows researchers to meet others in their field, share interests and invite commentaries to help highlight problems and offer constructive criticism.
“Having to present in front of an audience and prepare for a critical commentary on your work is terrifying at first but quite rewarding. It encapsulates the very essence of the academic mission,” says McGinnis.