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 2014. During early 2015, Henrik Lagerlund served as Acting Director, and in fall 2015, Christopher Smeenk returned as Director. Smeenk will be on sabbatical during 2019-2020, with Anthony Skelton serving as Acting Director until his return.
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.
The Rotman Institute of Philosophy owes its existence to the generous contributions of Joseph L. Rotman. Rotman began his relationship with Western in the 1950s, as an undergraduate student, and ended his life as Western’s 21st Chancellor in January, 2015 at the age of 80. In the years between, Rotman became a leader – first in business, then in philanthropy. The Rotman Institute of Philosophy was one of the numerous philanthropic enterprises that he put into motion, and the Institute would not exist without not only his financial contributions, but more importantly, the inspiration and leadership he shared with the Institute’s leading faculty members. Remembrances of Joe, as he was known to all who knew him personally, from past and present Directors of the Rotman Institute follow below.
The Director of the Rotman Institute actively pursues the Vision and Mission of the Institute, in collaboration with the institute’s Steering Committee, and the International Advisory Committee. For 2019-20, Anthony Skelton will serve as Acting Director of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Eric Desjardins is Associate Director of the Institute, and manages the annual speakers series.
The Rotman Institute’s vision is to make progress on foundational and socially relevant questions by leading collaborations bridging philosophy, the sciences, and society.
To become a recognized global centre of excellence providing intellectual leadership and training in the investigation of ethical and epistemological issues in contemporary science.
To foster and support dialogue and collaboration between philosophers and scientists, thereby building novel and productive bridges between the humanities and the sciences.
To provide leadership in informed public discussion of ethical and epistemological issues in contemporary science, and to promote public engagement and philosophical reflection on scientific issues affecting Canada and the world.
Our mission is to catalyze and lead the production of interdisciplinary research with broad impact; train the leaders of tomorrow in both the humanities and the sciences; and to educate and lead public discourse on scientific and philosophical challenges facing Canada and the world.