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The Rotman Institute of Philosophy is excited to announce the inaugural Rotman Graduate Student Conference (RGSC), taking place on Saturday, May 15 and Sunday, May 16, 2021 over Zoom. We are pleased to announce biologist, Dr. Daniel McShea (Duke University) and Presidential Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Muhammad Ali Khalidi (City University of New York) as our keynote speakers.

This year’s conference will focus on metaphysical, epistemological, and conceptual aspects regarding the relationship between complexity and explanation in the sciences. We encourage graduate students completing interdisciplinary work in philosophy and science to submit original papers that raise important problems or are motivated by questions connected to complexity and explanation, broadly construed. 

Submission Guidelines: 

  • Submissions are accepted through: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=rgsc2021
  • Maximum 5000 words, including footnotes and appendices (but not references). If the paper includes tables, figures, or equations, an appropriate number of words should be subtracted from the limit. 
  • Papers should be accompanied by an abstract that is no longer than 300 words.
  • Papers are to be prepared for anonymous review (meaning your name should not appear within the paper).
  • Co-authored papers are not eligible for submission.

Deadline: Friday, March 5th, 2021

Accepted Papers: Each presenter will be allocated an hour-long time slot; presentations should be approximately 30 minutes long with 30 minutes for a Q&A period 

Examples of topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Conceptual engineering as it relates to concepts in the sciences and social sciences.
  • Explanatory frameworks that attempt to reconcile the nature of highly complex systems.
  • Issues regarding complexity, causation, and scientific explanation.
  • The role of idealizations in the explanation of the behavior of a complex system.

Please send any questions to the RGSC Committee: rgsc@uwo.ca

All the best, 

The 2021 RGSC Committee

Daniel W. McShea, Duke University

Daniel McShea is a Professor of Biology at Duke University. He works mainly in two areas:

1) Evolution of Complexity: In a 2010 book with Robert Brandon, Biology’s First Law, we argue that the complexity of organisms will tend to increase spontaneously in the absence of natural selection and other forces. In evolution, complexity is easy. (And simplicity is hard.) … A second book, The Missing Two Thirds of Evolutionary Theory is due out in 2020.

2) Teleology (purpose, goal directedness): A common physical structure underlies all goal-directed systems, from acorns turning into oak trees to homing torpedoes to human passions and purposes. All of these are hierarchically structured, consisting a small thing nested within a large thing, more precisely, a goal-directed entity moving within a larger directing field. For the homing torpedo, the directed entity is the torpedo itself, and the directing field is the sound field emanating from a target ship. In us, the directed entities are thoughts and behaviors, and the larger fields are motivations, in other words, wants, preferences, and cares. According to this view (and consistent with David Hume’s centuries-old argument), it is not reason that powers and directs purposeful behavior, but our passions, both calm and strong.

Muhammad Ali Khalidi, City University of New York

I am Presidential Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. Before that, I was Professor of Philosophy at York University in Toronto. I’ve also taught at the American University of Beirut, University of Nevada at Reno, and (as a post-doc) at the University of Chicago and Columbia University.

My work focuses on the philosophy of science, particularly cognitive science and social science. I’ve also done some work on classical Arabic-Islamic philosophy.

My current project is a book titled, Cognitive Ontology: Taxonomic Practices in the Mind-Brain Sciences, which is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). To get some idea of what it’s about, you can watch a 2016 presentation on mind-brain taxonomy here.

For planning purposes, advance registration is requested. Registration for this conference will be available in April.