Upcoming Events

Virtual Speakers 2023-24

This past year, for the first time, we invited the general public to virtually attend lectures given by guest speakers in some of our classes. This was made possible by generous funding from the Frank McKenna School of PPE. At the end of the year, we had the honour of hosting a total of 17 guest speakers. A few highlights were:

  • Dr. Lee Bess (Bug Mars) on "Insect farming, green protein, and the promise of AI."

  • Dr. Ken Dorter (Guelph) on "Why Does Plato Think We are Like Prisoners in a Cave?"
  • Dr. Paul Richard Blum (Loyola University Maryland) on "Giordano Bruno"

  • Dr. Catherine Stinson (Queen's) on "What is ChatGPT made of?" 

Hybrid Speakers

With thanks to the Marjorie Hastings Memorial Fund. Please scroll down to read about the Hastings family's contribution to Philosophy at Mount Allison University.

Phoenix Colloquium Series 2023-24

Fall 2023

Oct 20
Dani Inkpen
Mount Allison University

Nov 17
Doug Al-Maini
St. Francis Xavier University

Dec 1
Elis Jones
University of Exeter

Winter 2024

Jan 29
4:30pm, Crabtree Auditorium
Catherine Stinson
Queen's University

*note change of speaker

Feb 9
Mike Doan
Oakland University

Mar 8
Suzanne Beiweis
Mount Allison University

Mar 22
Lacey Decker-Hawthorne
Mount  Allison University

Hybrid meetings begin at 3:30pm Atlantic time. Contact Dr. Drew Inkpen (ainkpen@mta.ca) for the Teams or Zoom link, room info or to join the email list. 

Past events

On Friday, March 22nd Lacey Decker Hawthorne (Mount Allison University) gave our last Phoenix colloquium of the academic year! 

The Faraway Nearby: Attending to the Aesthetic in the Commonplace and Everyda

Lacey Decker Hawthorne, MA 
Mount Allison University 

Abstract: This research-creation project draws on a series of artworks I made during a recent Artist Residency in Motherhood, in conversation with philosophers of aesthetics, attention, and the experience of art. I consider the questions of how we can bring a more expansive attention to everyday routines and acts of caregiving in order to recognize their aesthetic features, and how we can apprehend their inherent multidimensionality by widening our attention beyond their utilitarian or practical functions. Drawing on concepts from Simone Weil, Jan Zwicky, John Dewey, Kant, and thinkers in the field of everyday aesthetics, I explore perspectives on these questions in dialogue with works from the conceptual art of Lenka Clayton, Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s performances, and Agnes Varda’s film Daguerréotypes. By using generative modes of attention, refraining from judgment, and defamiliarizing the familiar, these philosophers and artists offer us a way to see these questions “in the round,” and provide a lens to observe and attend to an often overlooked but substantial portion of our lives.


On Friday, Mar 8th @ 3:30pm, our own Susanne Beiweis gave a Phoenix Colloquium talk titled "We Suck Young Blood: Aged Scholars, Screech-Owls and Sagae in Ficino’s De Vita Longa". 

We Suck Young Blood: Aged Scholars, Screech-Owls and Sagae in Ficino’s De Vita Longa

Dr. Susanne Beiweis 
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Mount Allison University

Abstract: The Renaissance Platonist Marsilio Ficino (1433 –99) discusses in the second book of De vita libri tres (Three Books on Life, 1489) antidotes to aging, including drinking gold, human breast milk, and human blood. He recommends that aged intellectuals should suck the blood of a youth from an open vein, as prophetic old women called ‘screech-owls’ (striges) had done according to ancient beliefs. Secondary literature discussed Ficino’s passage on blood-drinking within the context of witchcraft, demonic practice, and folkloric beliefs. In my presentation, I will approach this passage within the broader contexts of classical literature, natural philosophy, and medicine and as related to the overall themes and agendas of Ficino’s De vita (including, spiritus, Saturn, and melancholy) to make a deeper, more detailed understanding possible and to reveal further motives behind Ficino’s recommendation. I will suggest that Ficino presented the drinking of human blood as an acceptable, beneficial medically justified practice for intellectuals that caused not only rejuvenation, but also intellectual and spiritual perfection. 



Michael Doan (Oakland University, Philosophy) gave a talk on Friday, Feb 9th @ 3:30pm titled "Recovering Dialectical Humanism".

Recovering Dialectical Humanism
Dr. Michael D. Doan
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Oakland University
Council & Board Member, James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

Abstract: James and Grace Lee Boggs are credited with providing the philosophical underpinnings of “visionary organizing” and for influencing the development of “emergent strategy." Over the course of more than sixty years of participating in transformative social movements in Detroit, the pair contributed to fleshing out a distinctive mode of revolutionary thought and practice which they called “dialectical humanism.” This philosophical orientation guided their activism for the rest of their lives and still undergirds the work of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, among other organizations that carry on their legacy. Despite writing a good deal about what dialectical humanism is not, the Boggses never got around to telling us what, precisely, it is. To what style of thinking does this enigmatic phrase refer? How are we to understand the relationship between dialectical humanism and the more familiar philosophy of dialectical materialism? And what does it mean to say that each “belongs” to a distinct era, as James Boggs suggested cryptically in 1963? My aim in this paper is to recover what the Boggses do tell us about the distinctive philosophical orientation they helped to birth and, in so doing, contribute to reconstructing dialectical humanism for a new generation of radicals.




What is ChatGPT Made of?
The news is full of stories about AI tools that can write essays, screenplays and songs, pass the bar exam, and win prizes for painting and photography. How do these tools work? What are the risks to using them? And should we believe claims that AI is soon going to be smarter than humans?

Public Lecture
Monday, January 29, 2024
4:30pm ADT
Crabtree Auditorium

Lecture will also be available via MS Teams livestream.

Dr. Catherine Stinson is the Queen's National Scholar in Philosophical Implications of Artificial Intelligence and an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department and School of Computing at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

Reception to follow the lecture.
Refreshments and light catering provided.
Contact philosophy@mta.ca for more info.
Generously funded by the Frank McKenna School of PPE.

On December 1st, 2023, Elis Jones (Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie) visited the Phoenix Colloquium and gave a talk titled: “Philosophy of marine science? Coral reefs and ocean metabolism.”  

Philosophy of marine science? Coral reefs and ocean metabolism

In this talk I explore some ways in which philosophy and marine science can be fruitfully combined. I first present some of the results from my recently-completed PhD project, which involved interviews with coral reef scientists and conceptual analysis of the resulting data. A key philosophical question arising from this was how coral scientists decide to characterise coral reefs as either healthy or degraded, something related to the infamous problem of shifting baselines. In answering this question, I offer a view of science as fundamentally aimed at producing multispecies flourishing, as opposed to being simply a dispassionate investigative process, that is, I argue that science does (and should) factor in the value of the systems it studies. After presenting this work, I then talk briefly about my current project, which seeks to understand the philosophical implications of the concept of ‘ocean metabolism’, which is employed by biogeochemists when studying large-scale cycles of chemical compounds in the ocean.

Doug Al-Maini (Philosophy, St. Francis Xavier) gave a talk Friday, November 17th, at 3:30pm titled: “The Consolation of (Stoic) Philosophy.” An abstract for the talk can be found below. 

The Consolation of (Stoic) Philosophy

The Stoics are sometimes caricatured as a school of philosophers who suppress their emotions and try to live an emotionless life. Reasons for this caricature gaining currency are not hard to find: for example, the Stoics are famous for advocating the view that emotions are actually just beliefs, no different in essence from other beliefs such as the view that there is no largest prime number or that the earth is a sphere. To modern eyes, such an intellectualist approach looks profoundly out of touch with the lived experience of emotions. But the Stoics had their reasons for this weird attitude, and one area that their views seem to pay off is in the field of emotional therapy. Stoics hold that their intellectualist view establishes a viable therapeutic agenda, especially in the case of consolation. Consolation is a difficult undertaking, susceptible to a pair of faults in particular: on the one hand, there is a temptation to dismiss some causes of the emotional suffering as not really being that bad. Belittling the evil in this way often does not have the intended effect of consolation but rather its reverse: it causes distress to worsen. Inversely, one needs to be alert not to take the evil involved so seriously as to leave the one suffering with no hope of rehabilitation. So how do Stoics chart a course between this Scylla of belittling and Charybdis of hopelessness when trying to console someone suffering? This talk will describe and then assess the Stoic agenda for consolation as it tries to navigate between these two concerns.

Dani Inkpen (History, MtA) gave a talk titled: “Footprints in the Snow.” The hybrid talk took place on Friday, October 20th,from 3:30pm-5:30pm in Hart 218.

I'm going to share some new work on the history of searches for The Yeti, which considers an incident on Chomolungma (Mount Everest) in 1921. My analysis will draw on recent critical perspectives in the history of science to give an account of how The Yeti as an object of Western fascination and pursuit took it's first steps down from the Himalaya.


Marjorie Hastings Memorial Fund

For almost four decades, visiting lecturers in the Department of Philosophy, including some of our Phoenix Colloquium speakers, have been generously supported by the Hastings Fund. This endowment was established in 1985 in memory of the late Marjorie Hastings with a gift from her widow, Mr. Jack Hastings.

Marjorie Hastings was born in Bath, N.B., on September 6, 1919, the eldest daughter of the late Harry C. and Mary (Haggerman) Price. Most of her younger years were spent in Amherst and after high school there, she attended Normal College in Truro, followed by a term at Acadia University. She taught in the Amherst area for several years before moving to Moncton. Here again, she taught for several years before she became Secretary-Treasurer of J .E. Hastings Ltd. working with her husband, J.E. (Jack) Hastings to build a thriving candy business.

However, she never forgot her studies and completed her B.A. and B.Ed. at Mount Allison University in 1968 and 1969 respectively. She then continued her studies in English, History, Religion and Philosophy through Mount Allison's Extension Department. She was always an avid student, taking any and every opportunity for learning that presented itself. For her, the search for knowledge was a desire that never ended and the rewards of that search she keenly enjoyed.