Department of Philosophy Graduate Theses

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    Philosophy in Pursuit of a Better World
    Lucas, Sheri Ann; Philosophy; Sypnowich, Christine
    This thesis comprises five chapters that span across (overlapping) domains in analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, and traditional philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, epistemology, hermeneutics, ancient philosophy, the philosophy of science, virtue ethics, political philosophy, environmental ethics, animal ethics, and feminist philosophy. While covering a lot of terrain, the chapters are united in employing philosophy in pursuit of a better world.
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    Theoretical Thought and the Method of Idealization: Revealing the Epistemological Potential of Activity Theory
    Arencibia, Rogney P.; Philosophy; Bakhurst, David
    Activity theory is a tradition of thought founded by prominent Soviet psychologists, such as L.S. Vygotsky, A.R. Luria, S.L. Rubinstein, and A.N. Leontiev. The very emergence of the activity approach was linked to the necessity, felt by these Soviet scholars, of reforming the philosophical foundations of psychology to overcome the methodological crisis affecting that science in the early 20th century. These methodological concerns led them to appropriate Marxist philosophy as their epistemology. From that standpoint, they developed an original understanding of human nature, the origin of our distinctive faculties, the character of (human) ideal activity and its relations with practical (material) activity. Such a methodological reading of Marxism defines philosophy as a particular science with theoretical thought as its subject matter. Understood thus as epistemology, activity theory’s philosophy nonetheless assumes a series of ontological premises internally related to its epistemological and methodological principles and, through them, to its psychological, anthropological, and political claims. Activity theory takes a historical-cultural approach to science as an activity influenced by social practice. Still, it rejects relativism by advocating for a universal and necessary scientific method for substantiating theoretical knowledge. The crucial aspect of activity theory’s philosophy is its methodological conception of theoretical generalization. According to this conception, generalization in science involves two main stages. The first is the isolation, through theoretical analysis, of the genetically universal simplest possible form of the analyzed object, its ‘germ cell.’ This theoretical analysis is accomplished using idealizations, i.e., counterfactual assumptions representing the object in its pure, essential form. Second, from the dynamic nature of such a germ cell, a complex ideal model of the object is deduced through the historic-logical (dialectical) derivation of its development’s necessary milestones. Such a method of the idealization of the object through analysis—and its concretization by a dialectical synthesis of determinations that follows the ‘methodology’ of the object’s real development through the resolution of its objective contradictions—is the core aspect of the epistemological conception assumed and developed by activity theory psychologists and philosophers to overcome the (methodological) ‘crisis’ in psychology and, in general, the scientific thought of their epoch.
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    From Moral Worth to Moral Praise: Doing the Right Thing, For the Right Moral Reasons, In the Right Spirit
    Regnier, Micha J.; Philosophy; Gordon-Solmon, Kerah
    The literature within moral philosophy about praiseworthiness and moral worth is expansive, with varying philosophers stating varying claims. While it is commonly held that moral praise is merely a symptom of moral worth, I hold differently. The purpose of this thesis is to show that while the moral worth of an act is necessary, it is not sufficient for the praiseworthiness of an agent who performed that action, and thus, the conditions that satisfy moral worth and moral praise are separate from one another. Because of this, we require further information regarding the factors that inform praise that are different from the factors that inform moral worth. By reconstructing, building on, and extrapolating from the contemporary literature about moral worth, I develop an account of moral worth that strictly applies to actions and an account of moral praise that strictly applies to agents. I conclude that there are three factors which determine praiseworthiness that differ from the factors that moral worth is sensitive to, which are doing the right thing, for the right moral reasons, in the right spirit.
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    Negotiating Our Interdependence: A Theory of Political Legitimacy and Territorial Decolonization
    Luoma, Michael S.; Philosophy; Moore, Margaret
    In Canada, a multitude of Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments claim the authority to govern their own territories and the people who live there. This condition poses fundamental questions for political philosophy concerning the distribution of rights to land and political jurisdiction in cases where the present use and control of land is the result of historical dispossession and injustice, and where distinct peoples (1) partially geographically, socially, and politically overlap, and (2) significantly diverge in ways of life, political and legal orders, and philosophical traditions. In dialogue with Indigenous political philosophy, I analyze this domain through a focus on individual interests in occupancy and collective self-determination. I argue that respect for the collective self-determination of settler and Indigenous peoples and recognition of their interdependency requires the construction of a cooperative federal system through the non-dominated negotiation of treaties that fairly and harmoniously balance the interests of unique occupancy groups in peoplehood and territory. This is a conception of political association for settler and Indigenous peoples premised upon respect for self-determination and inherent territorial rights, the nature of interdependent identities, and the possibilities for a mutual provisioning of unique gifts that enriches the freedom and co-creativity of each member unit. To realize this vision, I argue that we must attend to both procedural and substantive requirements on the legitimacy and fairness of treaty negotiation and rights distributions. Substantively, treaty negotiations must reflect fundamental principles of territorial legitimacy – that is, they must appropriately recognize the inherent territorial rights of Indigenous peoples over particular geographical domains. Moreover, decolonization agreements must recognize the scope of lands open to restitution, considering facts about land use and human agency; the limits of supersession; wrongdoing and liability to harm; and proportionality analysis. Procedurally, legitimate treaty agreements must be negotiated with the legitimate representatives of the people for whom the agreements are made, and these agreements must enshrine political procedures and institutions that protect the political agency interests of the members of the people. We must understand representative intergovernmental negotiations within a broader system of citizen deliberation and contestation if treaty negotiations are to promote collective self-determination and avoid domination.
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    Absurd Games
    Biezenski, Maximilian; Philosophy; Fairfield, Paul
    This paper presents an attempt to synthesize two philosophical points of view, that of the absurd, primarily interpreted from the works of Albert Camus, and that of “The Joker,” given to us by Alan Watts. That life is absurd is commonly felt. The world, despite our desires and efforts to understand it, never presents us with any inherent meaning or purpose. The world remains silent. The Joker is a character who looks at the world as game-playing, and he does not take it seriously. Across these two points of view we find an abundance of parallels. The world seems to have an impenetrably weird character to it. There is no meaning to be found from our human perspective. The world is simply there. Our actions, nor those of others, need not be taken seriously. There is no absolute morality. Value judgments therefore feel inappropriate beyond only aesthetic judgments. One may act in accordance with ethical systems, but they are not justified a priori. We can, however, find passion, or fun, in our endless arbitrary efforts. While suffering is indeed a reality, and a pointless one, this does not mean we ought to commit suicide. The choice, whether to go on or not, however, is something we must face. Both philosophies present a point of view on all of these existential problems that is greatly resonant with the other. This thesis argues that we may take both points of view without contradiction. The result is a new point of view, that of Absurd Games. No meaning is unlocked from this synthesis, but rather a rich new philosophical point of view is established. Though, faced with meaninglessness, there is no need to argue for any practical value beyond interest, this new view does present a lens through which we may analyze the behaviour of ourselves and others. We may, without concern for moral judgment—thus seeing more clearly—ask: what games we or others are playing, what rules do they follow, and what do we want?