It was and continues to be an exciting year for UTM Philosophy: We are welcoming new people, have planned exciting events, and our faculty continue to achieve many honours.
UTM Philosophy was delighted to host new postdocs Nicolas Coté, David Olbrich, and Michael Omoge, as well as a continuing one, Jim Hutchinson, and to welcome new part-time assistant professors (teaching stream) Steven Coyne, Mark Fortney, Robert Mason, and Owen Pikkert. Big congratulations to Jim, who in January moved on to a well-deserved tenure-track position at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. UTM Philosophy will also be welcoming its newest faculty member in the fall of 2022, Professor Nilanjan Das. Nilanjan is a specialist in South Asian philosophy and epistemology. He received his PhD in 2016 from MIT and has previously held postdoctoral or faculty positions at the University of North Carolina, NYU Shanghai, and University College London. Welcome, Nilanjan!
In March, our department again hosted hundreds of high school students at UTM, albeit virtually, for the third Ontario High School Ethics Bowl. This year’s Bowl exploded in popularity, with some 60 teams, 40 moderators, and 160 judges from all over the province participating, and 300-400 students, teachers, parents, faculty, and University administrators attending the opening ceremonies. Last year’s Bowl made the papers, with a headline in the Toronto Star that said it all: “How students in Ontario are trying to save civic discourse.” A Junior Ethics Bowl, and the second year of summer philosophy camps at UTM, are also planned for the spring and summer of 2022. Thanks to our outreach and communications officer, Jeffrey Senese, for excellent work on planning and organizing these events.
This again proved a year of significant faculty achievements. Jennifer Nagel ascended to the role of president of the Canadian Philosophical Association, after having served as vice-president and the former president of the APA. Owen Ware won the UTM Annual Research Award in the Humanities, cementing the award with his two recently published books, Kant’s Justification of Ethics (OUP, 2021) and Fichte’s Moral Philosophy (OUP, 2020). Andrew Sepielli’s book Pragmatist Quietism: A Metaethical System is scheduled to appear this summer, also with Oxford University Press. Finally, we are awed and inspired by Sergio Tenenbaum’s work to help a UTM student and her family escape Kabul after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan this past summer. Congratulations to you all!
Despite pandemic restrictions, members of our community have succeeded in coming together at different points and in different ways, for example with a fun meet-and-greet organized by the Philosophy Academic Society (PAS) on the online platform Gather Town. And we are (at the time of writing, and hopefully forever more) back in person at UTM. It has been wonderful to see the campus full of students again—and from many reports, it’s a great experience for the students too.
As we look ahead to a new and hopefully more personally interactive year, let me end with a note of thanks to all the people who make up the UTM Philosophy community, including our students, the PAS, our wonderful staff (Robert Eberts, Jane Medeiros, Jeffrey Senese, and Elisabeta Vanatoru), the graduate students who taught or provided teaching assistance for us, postdocs, and faculty, all of whom should be applauded for their resilience and flexibility in adjusting to the whims of the virus and its variants. The fact that we have or will run Ethics Bowls and camps, our Socrates Project and a Socrates Project Conference, as well as reading groups and directed studies, among many other things, speaks volumes to the quality of people we are privileged to count as members of our community.
Chair, Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto Mississauga
Another busy and productive academic year has passed for UTSC Philosophy. It is hard to overestimate the toll the pandemic has taken on both faculty and students. So, with a mixture of relief and trepidation, we have finally moved back into the classrooms. The department can be proud of how it sustained its teaching and research mission through the pandemic, which we hope will soon truly be over. Perhaps a symbol of our resilience is the little aloe vera plant in Bill Seager’s office—unwatered and untended for more than a year, it survived and patiently waited for the rest of us to return.
But unlike our hardy aloe, we have exciting news. We are in the midst of trying to recruit three new positions: a senior position in political philosophy, and two junior positions, one in the philosophy of mind and the other in ethics. We are thrilled that Nathan Howard will be joining us in ethics, Andrew Y. Lee in philosophy of mind, and Avia Pasternak in political philosophy.
The department will be searching for more new colleagues next year. We were recently awarded a position in global philosophy; our course offerings in this area have remained scanty, so this provides an exciting extension of departmental expertise. We also began work on a new specialist program in the Oxford tradition of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), although our version will be extended and globalized. This program will be supported by a new position in political philosophy.
Two of our faculty have been recognized with prestigious research awards at UTSC. Bill Seager emerged as the co-winner of the Principal’s Research Award, the premier award at UTSC in recognition of his lifetime achievement in philosophy, especially the study of consciousness. Jessica Wilson earned the UTSC Research Excellence Faculty Scholars Award for outstanding and innovative world-class research. Bill and Jessica will each receive a $10,000 award and will give public lectures in the Celebration of Research Excellence Lecture Series at UTSC next year.
On the undergraduate front, Marybel Menzies, apart from becoming the new president of the Association of Philosophy Students (APS), was named a Jackman Humanities Institute
undergraduate fellow and won the Zoltan Simo and Katherine Nagel Prizes. Syed Faateh Ali was awarded a place at a Cornell University summer school and co-authored a paper on Hegel and Marx with Michael Blezy, to be presented in the summer of 2022 at Princeton University.
The APS hosted a dozen events, some on practical matters such as “What to Do with a Philosophy Degree,” but more on a range of philosophical topics, including sessions titled “Pārthasārathi and Gangeśa on Absence in Retrospect” and “The Perils of Naivety in Moral Epistemology.” It also held writing clinics as part of its general support of UTSC students.
The department is working on two important fellowships, in memory of Howard Sobel and Waheed Hussain, respectively. Calls for donations will be forthcoming.
Overall, despite COVID-19, we’ve had a good year, with lots getting done while having some fun along the way.
Chair, Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto Scarborough
I write this note in the middle of our new admissions cycle: Yet again in the past year we had well over 500 applications to our graduate programs—offers have gone out to applicants to our PhD program, as well as to our MA generalist and the MA philosophy of science streams. The applicant pool for our graduate programs distinguishes itself not only by its size but also by the extremely impressive stature of its members, so we expect to recruit another highly talented new cohort. Many applicants mentioned the videos we made available to prospective graduate students as being helpful and informative—my thanks again to Jack Beaulieu, Andriy Bilenkyy, Alexandra Gustafson, Julia Lei, and Zain Raza, who agreed to feature in these videos. This year we also introduced a popular pilot program of reimbursing the application fee for prospective graduate students who had both financial need and identified as members of equity-seeking groups—and I am delighted that we will continue this initiative in the coming academic year. Questions about (or financial support of!) the application fee waiver are encouraged!
We continue to have a diverse and academically stellar group of graduate students, many of whom routinely win prestigious external awards. You will find more about their successes in these pages. We are pleased to continue to offer a level of support that goes beyond that provided by the Faculty of Arts & Science, mainly due to endowed awards and generous pledges by our faculty of their research funds. This support allows us both to assist our graduate students in the relatively expensive city of Toronto and to remain competitive with international peer institutions. In the past year, Philosophy faculty across three campuses provided more than $200,000 to support our graduate students. Many other graduate departments are seeking to start similar initiatives, and I hope their faculty will prove both equally successful in securing research grants and equally generous in sharing their funding.
Despite the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we have already had 10 of our students successfully defend their PhD dissertations in the past academic year, with several more scheduled. To those recent graduates not otherwise employed, we managed to offer employment either as postdoctoral fellows or as part-time assistant professors, teaching stream—to the immense benefit of our undergraduates, who could draw on their research expertise and teaching skill.
Our graduate student leaders deserve particular praise: despite the pressures of the pandemic, they have demonstrated unwavering commitment to building and sustaining a supportive community. Graduate students meet regularly for a thesis writing group and the Grad Forum, which provides an opportunity to showcase work in progress; engage in multiple graduate student research groups; advance a welcoming and equitable environment through various activities in the GPSU’s Mental Health & Disability Caucus and the Women’s Caucus; create regular innovative opportunities for socializing both in person and online; and offer valuable one-on-one peer mentorship (both academic and non-academic). All this in addition, of course, to the regular opportunities graduate students have to discuss their work with faculty and peers in research interest groups, informal meetings, practice job talks, and the like. To acknowledge our graduate student leaders’ dedication, we initiated the Graduate Student Service Awards, selecting our first winners, as you will read, in May 2021.
In sum, I think you will agree: we have the pleasure of working with an exceptional group of scholars and human beings and can look forward to what the future will hold.
Associate Chair, Graduate
(Director of Graduate Studies)
St. George Undergraduate Department
We learned in academic year 2021–2022 that the pandemic was not yet done with us. I remember the elation felt in September by faculty, staff, and students at the possibility of returning to in-person learning after having been online since March 2020. But as fall turned to winter, that happy mood was replaced by a grim sense of “here we go again” when the Omicron variant forced us back online.
Fortunately, that retreat was only temporary, and we managed to finish the year in person, back together again on campus. I am hopeful that next year will see a safe return to a pre-pandemic way of doing most things. But if the dedication, resilience, and good cheer I have seen from everyone in our department give any indication, I know that no matter what the future may bring, we will be ready to face it.
This year we offered 108 undergraduate courses, more than ever before, and our offerings have never seemed more popular, with soaring undergraduate course enrolments. Among these courses were ones taught by our new colleagues Boris Babic, Tarek Dika, and William Paris, and ones developed last year and taught for the first time, including exciting new courses on Sanskrit philosophy and on “Ethical Issues in Big Data.” In the fall, a special faculty working group discussed curriculum renewal and helped instructors develop new course proposals and usher them through the approval process. Thus, next year we will offer innovative courses on, among other topics, the philosophy of race, the philosophy of sports, Sanskrit ethics and philosophy of religion, and Sanskrit metaphysics and epistemology.
The department worked hard to furnish an impressive array of teaching and learning supports—including, once again, the equipment needed for online-only and dual-delivery teaching—and our undergraduate administrator, Eric Correia, provided above-and-beyond course assistance to faculty and students. Eric also curated a series of successful events for the students in our First-Year Learning Community. Griffin Klemick, Douglas Campbell, and Robert Mason joined us as new part-time assistant professors, teaching stream. Daniel Munro and Melissa Rees served as lead writing TAs, with Melissa doing double duty as our English language learner TA. And Maria Keller and Alexandra Gustafson did the crucial work of running the undergraduate Essay Clinic.
Extracurricular programming this year proved every bit as impressive as what went on inside the classroom. What a pleasure it was to get back to in-person colloquia and student events! As our UNESCO World Philosophy Day speaker we welcomed Vanessa Wills of George Washington University; we had very well-attended career and graduate school panels; and our Philosophy Course Union organized an impressive series of in-person and online events for our undergraduates, including “Phantoms and Philosophy” at Halloween (with Chris Fraser, Michael Miller, and me) and a Valentine’s Day “Symposium on Love” (with Alexandra Gustafson and Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray of King’s University College).
This was my first year as undergraduate coordinator, and I want to thank everyone who did so much to make the transition into this role so smooth. I am especially grateful to my predecessor, Peter King, and to Martin Pickavé and Eric Correia. Peter generously coached me on every aspect of the position. Martin and Eric are inspirations from whom I learn every day. They are also lots of fun to work with.
Congratulations, finally, to the graduating Class of 2022! You completed your studies under extremely trying circumstances and are finishing strong. I wish you happiness, health, and continued success.
Associate Chair, Undergraduate