May 13, 2020

2020 Undergraduate Defences in Philosophy

Undergraduate students in the honours seminar and directed reading courses defend their theses this month.

Earlier this month, BA Honours in Philosophy students Alexandra Sellers and Ally Jokl successfully defended their honours theses. Later this week, BA Philosophy student Elias will also be defending a project developed in a directed reading course. 

Ally Jokl presented her honours thesis “The Epistemic Weight of Intuitions in Rational Moral Decision-Making” to supervisor Dr. John Baker and committee members Dr. Jeremy Fantl and Dr. David Dick. In her thesis, she addresses what an agent should do when they conclude, through seemingly cogent arguments, that they morally ought to do some action, but they hold a strong intuitive feeling and belief that they morally should not do the action. 

For Ally, the honours program was an opportunity to spend a year exploring her personal philosophical interests, and delve into a topic different from those addressed in her undergraduate philosophy courses.

Alexandra Sellers’ honours thesis “Against the Autonomous Responsibility of Corporations” addresses the view that collectives (e.g., corporations) can possess all-in blameworthiness independent of any member possessing such an attitude. In her thesis presentation—to supervisor Dr. Jeremy Fantl, and committee members Dr. Ishtiyaque Haji and Dr. David Dick—she argued that this is not the case, that in such instances there is either a blameworthy member or the collective itself is blameless (in virtue of an applicable excuse), and there is no autonomous responsibility for collectives.

The honours thesis provided Alex with a unique opportunity to work on something entirely intrinsically motivated: “It's undoubtedly one of my proudest accomplishments. The process of developing my thesis was engaging, fun, and intellectually challenging.”

Elias audited this past year’s honours seminar as part of their directed reading course work with Dr. Megan Delehanty, developing a project entitled "What Kind of Thing is 'Mental Illness'?" They will defend the paper to committee members Dr. Megan Delehanty (supervisor), Dr. Marc Ereshefsky and Dr. Jeremy Fantl.

Elias’ thesis explores and critiques current accounts on what kinds of things mental illnesses are, including natural kind accounts, social kind accounts, practical kind accounts, and hybrid accounts. They propose a new approach to conceptualizing mental illness.

The topic of mental disorder and neurodiversity are “close and personal” for Elias, stemming from a  family history of schizophrenia. As Elias explains “Mental illness is often a topic that appears to be well defined in common language, but the closer you look, the more you realize that isn’t the case. We see this when we compare experiences of psychosis with spiritual revelations. Why is it that certain experiences are signs of mental illness while others are not? I chose to explore the metaphysics of mental illness in an attempt to better understand how we conceptualize and categorize mental illness.”