[Department of Philosophy, University of Saskatchewan, 100 Years]

Philosophy in the Community: 2010-2011 Schedule

Sept. 8 "The New Atheists: Threat or Menace?"

Professor George Williamson

The so-called “New Atheists” have been a media and publishing phenomenon since their appearance in the years following 9/11 and have provoked a considerably hostile reaction, not only among the religious but among other atheists as well. They have been accused of being offensive, dogmatic, intolerant and counter-productive. But what really is ‘new’ about the New Atheists? And what have they done to deserve the hostility directed their way? Why do other atheists attack them? Ultimately, is the New Atheism a positive development or will it just make things worse?

Oct. 13 "Do Animals Have Minds?"

Professor Eric Dayton

Nov. 10 "Domestic Bliss?: The Problem of Housework and Alienation"

Kristin Rodier
Ph.D. Candidate, University of Alberta

Is domestic labour inherently tedious, boring, and unfulfilling or is it just that way because it is underpaid and undervalued in our current capitalist economy?  Is paying for domestic labour an adequate response to this devaluation?  In order to answer these questions distinctions must be made between the domestic labour that is geared towards maintaining healthy, fed, and refreshed individuals (laundry, cleaning, cooking, maintaining a home) and the caring labour that takes care of dependents (children, the disabled, and the elderly).  While these forms of labour have similarities, there do appear to be differences related to whether the person receiving care is unable to do the work herself.  These differences will be discussed.

Dec. 8

"Truth, Fiction and the Value of Literature"

Professor Rhonda Anderson

What kind of value, if any, is there in reading fiction?  In this talk I explore two possibilities for the purported of value of literature: the claim that it develops moral knowledge and the claim that it develops cognitive knowledge.  Neither of these views is without problems, however.  While some have argued that literature is useless, I won’t defend such a strong claim, but will instead suggest that the subjectivity of the experience of reading literature makes it difficult or impossible to identify the value of fiction.

Jan. 12 "Do We Lack Moral Character?"

Professor Emer O’Hagan

Some social scientists and philosophers have recently argued that experimental evidence indicates that there is no such thing as a robust character trait. They conclude that what a person does on a particular occasion is best understood as arising from the situation, not the person, and so endorse “situationism”. People who we would not think of as cruel, for example, will nonetheless behave cruelly under conditions which promote cruelty. If social psychologists can show that the difference between good and bad conduct resides in the situation, not in the person, then it seems that we should abandon the idea that moral virtues and vices exist, and we should abandon moral theories which rely upon these concepts. In this talk I’ll consider some of the experimental evidence, some of the responses to it, and argue that the evidence from social psychology doesn’t undercut our appeal to character.

Feb. 9

"Lots of Living to Do, Death at any Moment: Time in Narratives of Cancer and Aging"

Professor Ulrich Teucher,
Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan

While cancer may strike at any time, it is primarily an illness of people growing older. Yet, hardly anything is known about the difficulties with which cancer patients struggle as they try to make meaning of their experiences. Particularly as cancer patients grow older, time becomes more of the essence: the uncertain certainties of endings – of lives and cancer narratives – can elicit a new generativity, rebelliousness, and sense of time. Bonds, whether established or newly created, familial or in work, are celebrated and extended into a transcendent, timeless future (“The end is my Beginning”, Terzani 2008). The qualitative study that I will be reporting about is grounded in an interdisciplinary framework of concepts of aging, time, and mortality, using Interpretive Description (Thorne 2008), informed by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith 2009) and a Therapeutic Psychopoetics (Teucher 2000), to explore interviews with 20 aging cancer patients and advocate for a better understanding of their needs.

Mar. 9 "Skepticism and the Fate of Philosophy"

Professor Anthony Jenkins

Philosophy has, throughout its past, been profoundly marked out from other fields of study by the peculiar roles skepticism has played within it. From its role in ancient philosophy to the varied roles skepticism has played in early modern philosophy, skepticism has been embraced or exploited as a part of philosophy itself.  But it has also been exploited, for both religious and also for more secularly humanist ends, against philosophy. In no other and for no other discipline has scepticism had or could it plausibly have any such roles as these. In this talk, then, we will be examining critically each of these diverse roles skepticism has had in relation to philosophy, as well as the positions philosophers and the critics of philosophy have attempted to provide in opposition to skepticism. We hope that through such an examination we may be better able to understand and appreciate not only what philosophy is and has been but also of what it can still meaningfully be.

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