Funded Research Projects

Cause and Context: An Experimental Methods Approach to Causal Discourse, Philip Corkum (PI)
SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2020-2022)

What we call the cause of an event can vary with our explanatory goals in a given context. The aims of the project are to identify the extent and nature of the context sensitivity exhibited by causal statements; to study the linguistic behaviour of English users for causal statements through experimental philosophy methodology; and to critically assess this methodology and its application to the issues raised by the causation literature. 

From the Routley-Meyer Semantics to Gaggle Theory and Beyond: The Evolution and Use of Relational Semantics for Substructural and Other Intensional Logics, Katalin Bimbo (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant, 2019-2023

A goal of the project is to analyze the impact of the ternary relational semantics for relevance logics (invented by R. K. Meyer and R. Routley) on the development of set-theoretical semantics for other substructural logics. As a preparation for the assessment of the influence of the Routley-Meyer semantics on other relational approaches, we will describe the history of the adoption of set-theoretical semantics for substructural logics focusing on the time period starting in the 1970s. We will utilize the viewpoint of generalized Galois logics to compare versions of such semantics and to introduce new ones. Last but not least, the project aims at using standard techniques from modal and algebraic logics, with adjustments if necessary, to obtain new results about certain substructural logics. More info ...

The Essence of Anti-Essentialism, Kathrin Koslicki (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant, 2018-2021

Essences have traditionally been assigned important but controversial explanatory roles in philosophical, scientific and social theorizing. For example, why is it possible for one and the same organism to be first a caterpillar and then a butterfly? Why is it impossible for a human being to undergo the sort of transformation we encounter in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, in which Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up one morning only to find himself transformed into a giant insect? Why is it possible for someone to self-identify as a man while at the same time possessing distinctively female sexual organs? And yet why is it controversial but perhaps possible for someone to self-identify as African American while having the features and parentage of, say, a Caucasian? Our project investigates the nature of what is considered essential in the face of multiple, popular anti-essentialist platforms. We set out a series of interconnected research projects, culminating in a final, collaborative research objective: to produce a defensible doctrine of essentialism that can meet the challenges raised by contemporary philosophical, social, and scientific anti-essentialist objections. More info ...

The SpokenWeb: Conceiving and Creating a Nationally Networked Archive of Literary Recordings for Research and Teaching.
SSHRC Partnership Grant (2018-2025), Geoffrey Rockwell (Co-Applicant)

The SpokenWeb partnership is developing coordinated and collaborative approaches to literary historical study, digital development, and critical and pedagogical engagement with diverse collections of literary sound recordings from across Canada and beyond. The partnership is led by Jason Camlot at Concordia University and brings together 12 university and community partners across Canada with literary audio collections. At the University of Alberta we have a collection that includes readings by the likes of Margaret Atwood, W.O. Mitchell, Timothy Findley, Robert Kroetsch and Margaret Laurence, among many others. The Ualberta team is led by Michael O'Driscoll of English and Film Studies. More info ...

2017 Hylomorphism Conference: An Examination of the Aristotelian Doctrine of Matter (hylē) and Form (morphē), Kathrin Koslicki (PI)
SSHRC Connection Grant, 2017

The 2017 Hylomorphism Conference was devoted to an in-depth examination of the doctrine of hylomorphism and its significance for a wide range of sub-disciplines of philosophy, from both a historical and a non-historical point of view. The Aristotelian doctrine of hylomorphism holds that those entities which fall under it are compounds of matter (hylē) and form (morphē). This event also coincided with the first annual meeting of the Canadian Metaphysics Collaborative. More info ...

Passion, Power and Representation in Early Modern Philosophy, Amy Schmitter (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant (2016-2021)

Many works of early modern philosophy teem with treatments of passion, power or representation, yet the philosophical reception of these concepts has sometimes generated more heat than light. This project is directed at clarifying these familiar, but poorly understood notions by examining how they function in the texts of several pivotal early modern figures. Paying attention to intersections between branches of philosophy concerned with these concepts may help explain some puzzles in early modern views of perceptual intentionality and action. The latter include questions about what fuels various mental acts, about what the nature of mental content is and about motivation to deeds, and perhaps, even about the character of the aesthetics that emerged gradually during the early modern period. The project aims at defamiliarizing common concepts, and rethinking neglected alternatives by indicating how much patterns of thought have changed, which will provide a proof of the possibility of substitute conceptions. More info …

Standards, Aims, and Values: Biological Explanation and Beyond, Ingo Brigandt (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant (2016-2022)

Philosophy of science has traditionally construed and studied science in terms of representations of the natural world, such as data and theories. This project emphasizes an additional dimension, namely, the values held by scientists, which include explanatory and other investigative aims as well as methodological and explanatory standards. The development of the philosophical framework will draw on case studies from three biological domains. (1) In systems biology, various models and modeling strategies will be scrutinized together with the question how explanatory goals necessitate the concerted use of several models. (2) Explanatory frameworks for the evolution of complexity make various idealizations, which raises the problem whether the simplifications are justified by representational aims. (3) In the domain of human evolution and of the social behavior of non-human primates, the project focuses on social and environmental values. Specifically, the impact of feminist values on scientific objectivity will be examined. More info …

'The Trial and Execution of Socrates': An Interdisciplinary Course Incorporating Blended and Project-Based Learning, Kathrin Koslicki (PI), Jana Grekul (U of A), Laura Servage (University of Toronto)
TLEF Grant (Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Grant) (2015-2018)

The goal of this project is to develop an undergraduate philosophy course, which focuses on the trial and execution of Socrates in 399 B.C. and creates an exceptional learning environment for students at the University of Alberta. The course is interdisciplinary and it takes a project-based approaches to teaching and learning. Special features of the course include (1) pre-recorded guest lectures, (2) non-lecture-type classroom activities and (3) case-study projects developed by students, which compare this historical event to contemporary challenges in democratic societies. More info …

New Narratives in the History of Philosophy, Amy Schmitter (Collaborator)
SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (2015-2018)

This is a large-scale partnership development grant (with collaborators from Canada, U.S.A., U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Turkey and Australia) that aims to develop new narratives of our philosophical past that centrally include women thinkers, and thereby reconfigure, enrich and reinvigorate the philosophical canon, focusing on the early modern period (roughly 1560-1810). It supports a network of scholars, databases and multiple projects. More info …

Turning Back the Speculative Turn: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Luc Nancy at the Limits of Phenomenology, Marie-Eve Morin (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant (2014-2017)

This research project seeks to meet the charges leveled by the new speculative realist movement against phenomenology by means of a comparative study of Merleau-Ponty’s and Nancy’s work. Speculative realism has challenged the way phenomenology comes to terms with the realism/anti-realism debate. While classic realists assume that our thoughts give us access to the world as it is, anti-realists point out that we only ever have access to mental representations and hence can only speak of the world as it appears to us, not of the world as it is independently of us. Oddly enough, speculative realism shares with anti-realism the assumption of a divide between mind and world: we are stuck inside, we need to speculate about what’s outside. Before the speculative turn, phenomenology had sought to overcome this mind-world divide by appealing to everyday experience. At the same time, phenomenology falls prey to the speculative critique because it limits what can be talked about to what can be experienced by humans. My research seeks to take up the speculative challenge to phenomenology by developing a concept of experience that respects the materiality and exteriority of what exists but without reinstating the mind-world divide. I look to Merleau-Ponty and Nancy to meet this challenge because I don’t think that their respective positions are accounted for by the two extremes of anti-realism and speculative realism. Indeed, both thinkers overcome the mind-world divide while proposing an experience of the real that is neither correlationist nor anthropocentric. For both Nancy and Merleau-Ponty, humans do not impose their own meaning on what exists, and thought is not the measure of the real. Rather, in the encounter with the real, there is exposition (Nancy) or intertwining (Merleau-Ponty) of the inside and the outside so that the relation between them becomes reversible. More info ...

Artifacts and Metaphysical Explanation, Kathrin Koslicki (PI)
U of A Killam Research Fund, Connection Grant, 2014-2015

This Killam Research Connection Grant provided partial funding for a metaphysics workshop, focused on the theme, "Artifacts and Metaphysical Explanation". The workshop took place on May 17-20, 2015, at the Banff Centre. Its main purpose was to bring together the nine members of a newly formed collaborative research team who will present their current research relevant to the theme of the workshop and contribute to the further development of the planned collaboration, with an eye towards the pursuit of peer-reviewed external funding and the dissemination of research results through publication. The distinction between natural things and artifacts, i.e., entities which are in some sense created and designed by conscious beings, has long presented philosophers with challenging questions. Despite the prominence of artifacts in the history of philosophy, however, the many interesting questions raised by them have not received the attention they deserve from contemporary philosophers. Our collaborative research team intends to remedy this short-coming and move this potentially very rich subject-area to the forefront of current debates. hrough our planned activities, we will draw attention to innovative research in philosophy taking place at Canadian institutions. We will strengthen existing ties among Canadian researchers and create new connections nationally and internationally beyond disciplinary boundaries. Most importantly, our collaborative research program will shed light on the very central distinction between what is natural and what is artificial and thereby increase our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. More info ... 

Bertrand Russell's Notes, Lectures, and Critics 1905-1914, Bernard Linsky (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant (2014-2018)

The main goal of this project is to edit notes on Russell's university lectures between 1910 and 1914 on symbolic logic and theory of knowledge from Cambridge University (1910-1912) and Harvard (1914). These notes are by Henry M. Sheffer, G. E. Moore, Harry T. Costello, Victor F. Lenzen, and T. S. Eliot. (Eliot was a graduate student in Philosophy at Harvard in 1914.) The project also includes editing an unpublished translation by Rose Rand (a graduate student in Vienna in the 1930s) of a long paper on Russell's logic by the Polish logician Leon Chwistek, as well as an examination of Russell's notes for his reviews of the Austrian philosopher Alexius Meinong. More info …

The Third Place is the Charm: The Emergence, the Development and the Future of the Ternary Relational Semantics for Relevance and some Other Non-classical Logics, Katalin Bimbo (PI)
SSHRC Insight Grant (2014-2019)

The goal of this project is to investigate the connections and interactions between different approaches to the relational semantics of relevance and substructural logics, and some other non-classical logics. An aim of the project is to write the history of the relational semantics for relevance logics starting from the late 1960s/early 1970s. The ternary relation that models fusion and entailment has different sources and interpretations. The latter will be enriched by a systematic exploration of informal interpretations. Relational semantics had proved extremely fruitful in the metatheory of modal logics. Applications of ternary relational semantics are expected to provide new results for further non-classical logics (such as linear logic) through understanding certain components of those logics through the ternary relation in the semantics of relevance logics. More info …

Computer Corpus Investigations of Mass and Count Nouns, F. Jeffry Pelletier (PI)
Anneliese Meier Prize (2013-2018)

This five-year grant enables interaction by the PI with members of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum Linguistics faculty to study the phenomena surrounding mass nouns, both from a linguistic, a philosophical, and a formal semantic point of view. Prototypical mass nouns in English are water and gold; they are contrasted (in English) with prototypical count nouns like dog and table. Count terms are so-called, because they can occur with numerals and can be pluralized, e.g., two dogs; it is alleged that mass nouns cannot be counted or pluralized, but instead are measured, e.g., a gram of gold. But there are a number of "dual life" nouns that are both mass and count (e.g., candy and candies), and there are "abstract" nouns (e.g., curiosity) that seem not to fit the distinction, and the case of nominalizations (e.g., causation and causation) raises additional difficulties. Furthermore, the particular words that are count or mass in one language can differ in their classification in another language - even in very closely-related languages like English and German.

The goal of the project is to investigate the problems concerning the mass/count distinction in English by considering a much wider group of nouns than the handful that are usually considered by those who consult their own intuitions. The research employs a large corpus of naturally-occurring English language and it examines various properties relevant to the mass/count distinction that the nouns have. Then, the results obtained shall be compared with a related study being completed for a German corpus.

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