The Mechanization of Philosophy Between 1300-1700

Standard histories of the development of modern science and philosophy have it that mechanical philosophy was driven by changes in physics that then required a re-conceptualization of the metaphysics of substance. We contest that this view is backwards. The revisions of the metaphysics of substance, including new ideas about activity, power, and natural law, occurred in the 14th century and paved the way for the well-known changes in physics in the 15th and 16th centuries. These in turn gave rise to mechanical philosophy in the 17th century. The project will involve close investigation of the relatively unexplored natural philosophy and metaphysics of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Ethics of Neuroimaging After Serious Brain Injury

With 50,000 new cases occurring each year in Canada, serious brain injuries place an enormous burden on patients, families, and the healthcare system. Patient outcome after serious brain injury is highly variable. Following a period of coma (unconsciousness) lasting days or weeks, some patients make a good recovery, while others progress into a vegetative or minimally conscious state. As it is difficult to predict who will make a good recovery after serious brain injury, families and physicians are forced to make treatment decisions in the face of uncertainty. Further the diagnosis of vegetative and minimally conscious states is itself difficult, with error rates as high as 43%. Recent advances in neuroimaging allow for the detection of intact brain functions that cannot be found by routine bedside examination. Neuroimaging offers the prospect of improved prediction of patient outcome and increased diagnostic accuracy. Remarkably, in 3 cases, neuroimaging has been used to communicate with patients thought to be vegetative or minimally conscious. Neuroimaging after serious brain injury raises difficult ethical issues that must be addressed before it can be responsibly adopted in practice. Our research team brings together philosophers, neurologists, and neuroscientists to provide answers to these difficult problems.

Ethical and Policy Issues in Cluster Randomized Trials

The gap between medical evidence and medical practice is one of the most important challenges for the health of Canadians. The cluster randomized trial (CRT) is the major methodological tool in use in the development of new interventions to bridge the gap between evidence and practice. This project brings together clinical trialists, biostatisticians, and philosophers to address ethical and policy obstacles to the conduct of CRTs. The project uses an innovative “mixed methods” approach to document current practice and analyze ethical issues. A major outcome is the development of international ethics guidelines for CRTs.

Biological Levers

Organisms regulate their own behavior and internal states by means of numerous sensitive and interconnected control systems. These systems make organisms vulnerable to manipulation, but also give them the capacity for cooperative interaction. This project examines the crucial role played by mechanisms of regulation in the evolutionary processes leading to complex organization both within organisms and in ecological and social relationships among them. It will draw on the expertise of philosophers, biologists, and behavioural scientists.

Philosophy of Cosmology

Cosmology has been transformed from a speculative backwater into a central testing ground for new ideas in fundamental physics. Cosmological theories describe the large scale structure of the universe and its evolution, and cosmologists can now lay claim to a well-supported standard model. These exciting developments present philosophers with a unique opportunity. The rapid progress in cosmology does not derive from a consensus regarding aims and method; instead, progress has occurred despite disagreements on fundamentals. Cosmologists directly confront a number of philosophical questions: the nature and limits of scientific explanation, underdetermination of theory by evidence, applicability of probabilities, and the nature of physical laws. These questions have led to lively debates among cosmologists. These debates tend to tackle the questions piecemeal, but they are interesting and challenging in part because they are so tightly intertwined. Philosophers can contribute by approaching these problems systematically, drawing on broader intellectual resources such as existing work in philosophy of science and comparisons with other scientific fields.

Ecological Theory & Ecological Management: Beyond Equilibrium

For decades agricultural and ecological systems have been managed in order to achieve efficiency and maximize productivity. This approach to ecological management was supported by the view that ecological systems have an inherent tendency to balance themselves and reach their natural equilibrium. The belief that undisturbed ecological systems tend to remain in their natural state is a very pervasive and influential driver of ecological management. However, ecologists have accumulated evidence that this representation of ecological systems is inaccurate. This project investigates new developments in ecological theory and empirical research, and their implications for conservation and restoration ecology, and sustainability planning.

Towards a Feminist Theory of Fitness

Towards a Feminist Theory of Fitness, builds on the momentum of a well-established and widely read blog, Fit Is a Feminist Issue, to engage feminist scholars, the general public, and public policy in conversations designed to promote a more inclusive attitude toward fitness than what is represented in today's popular media and scholarly research about fitness.

The Geofunctions Project

Human activity is now disrupting all of the global-scale systems upon which our societies and indeed our survival depend. People around the world are working to find the best way of understanding and responding to this situation, but disagreement is rife. The need is urgent to find a way forward that takes proper account of the full range of relevant knowledge, values and options.