The Rotman Institute of Philosophy was founded in 2008 as a result of a donation by Dr. Joseph L. Rotman. This donation was matched by Western University. The Institute grew out of the Science Epistemology and Ethics Research (SEER)-Lab that had been created a few years earlier by the Department of Philosophy’s two Canada Research Chairs (CRC), Charles Weijer, CRC in Bioethics, and Robert Batterman, then CRC in Philosophy of Science, pooling their resources and students. The idea behind the SEER-Lab was to create a unique philosophical space with a new kind of interaction and workplace for philosophers; a lab more like what is common in the sciences, but here a lab of ideas. They were able to do this with a generous grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Their idea has become the heart of the Rotman Institute where students, post docs and faculty interact.
The Institute’s original name, The Joseph L. Rotman Institute of Science and Values, was changed in 2010 with the launch of the Institute’s distinctive logo. The tagline “Engaging Science” associated with the new name reflects the Institute’s core identity. The Rotman Institute of Philosophy is a place where philosophers and other humanists engage with scientists to debate issues of global significance.
The first Director of the Institute was Charles Weijer. He lead the development of the Institute from its founding until 2012. By that time the Institute had grown to include a second administrative position, and had also been given a second generous donation by Joseph Rotman and the University. During 2012-2013, Christopher Smeenk served as Director of the Institute. From 2013-2014, Carl Hoefer, previously of University of Barcelona and London School of Economics, served as Director. He took over in 2013 and served until December 2015. During early 2015, Henrik Lagerlund served as Acting Director, and in fall 2015, Christopher Smeenk returned as Director.
The activities of the Institute have gradually grown since its start. The core faculty has more than doubled and the post docs have tripled. It has an impressive list of members active in various Institute projects. Every year some of the foremost thinkers in the world are brought to the Institute as guest speakers, and many have started to come for longer visits making use of the visiting fellows program.