Philosophia Scientiæ: CALL FOR PAPERS


A schematic illustration showing how nanoparti...
A schematic illustration showing how nanoparticles or other cancer drugs might be used to treat cancer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still room at the bottom ? The conformation of nanoscience and nanotechnology today

Special issue of Philosophia Scientiæ 23/1 (February 2019)

Guest editors: Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent; Jonathan Simon

Submission Deadline01/12/2017

Acceptance Notification: 01/03/2018

Final version due: 01/05/2018

Still room at the bottom ? The conformation of nanoscience and nanotechnology today.

In December 1959, Richard Feynman launched the nano movement with his legendary catchphrase ‘there’s plenty of room at the bottom’. Almost 60 years later, there are many reasons for thinking that the nanosciences are now reaching or have already reached maturity: A large and growing volume of publications in the area, undergraduate and graduate programmes, international conferences, and a wide range of research around different aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In comparison to chemistry, physics and biology, this is, of course, a young field, but we want to take the opportunity of this publication to take stock of what has been achieved and how the domain has evolved over the course of its short history. Thus, in this volume we invite philosophers, as well as sociologists and anthropologists of science and technology to reflect on where the nanosciences have come from, where they are now and the orientation of their development over the decades to come.

One way to think about this question would be to ask whether nanoscience has acceded to the status of a normal science as described by Kuhn, based upon a shared well-defined, consensual paradigm. Given its heterogeneous nature, one might argue that nanoscience cannot or should not pretend to such a status. Another question is to ask whether this heterogeneous or essentially interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience should lead us to expect new configurations of the field, even beyond the numerous ‘convergences’ already predicted in a relatively near future. In other words, is there still plenty of room at the bottom ?

Possible themes to be explored:

  • The contours of nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • The likely evolution of nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • The promise of NBIC and other convergence.
  • Illuminate the relationship between nanoscience and nanotechnology.
  • The realisation of the industrial applications of nanoscience.
  • The importance of foundational techniques (notably the scanning-tunneling electron microscope) and the orientations they give to research and to theory.
  • The relationship between traditional disciplines and the nano, notably in terms of the many convergence hypotheses (in particular the much-discussed NBIC convergence).
  • The history and function of particular materials – such as nanotubes.
  • The interaction between ethical interrogation around the nanosciences and the sciences themselves. Have ethical reflections had an effect on the area and vice versa ?

Manuscripts should be submitted in French, English, or German, and prepared for anonymous peer review.

Abstracts in French and English of 200-300 words in length should be included.

Articles should not exceed 50,000 characters (spaces, list of references and footnotes included).

Please send submissions to:

Guidelines for authors are to be found on the journal’s website:

General submissions within this range are welcome.


Cuteness: A Philosophical Investigation

Chase No-Face (Facebook): Cute because he’s loved, or loved because he’s cute?

Cuteness is an underrated and misunderstood virtue; its essence obscured by cat memes and intellectualization as a mere evolutionary advantage. Here I want to try to dissect cuteness as the independent quality in a person that transcends age and appearance.

There’s no denying that children and cats can be cute, but it’s not by virtue of who they are (as you’ll know if you’ve ever taught children or been allergic to cats). They have the quality of cuteness. Anyone can be cute if they have cuteness; but they and cute are not one in the same. So what IS cute, then? What is the form of cute?

Baby wombat: not my thang

To take some stabs at finding what all cute things have in common, or at least eliminate some possibilities, we can ask a form of Moore’s open question:  That which is youthful is cute (let’s say). Baby animals are youthful. Are baby animals cute? Well let’s say they are. A baby wombat is a baby animal. Is a baby wombat cute? No. So only cute baby animals are cute. Maybe it’s big eyes that are cute. I can think of many people with big eyes who aren’t cute once I get to know them. So, big eyes themselves can’t make someone cute. It’s something else.

Teaching such a range of students here in Japan, I have experienced an almost inverse correlation with age and cuteness. It seems the older they are, the more warmth and affection I feel. Also, the older they are the more reserved/nervous they are, maybe in part because they have had (especially in the countryside) less exposure to English/Western culture, and choosing to take an English conversation class with a foreigner is more of a leap for them. My feeling is that the older people who choose to speak English with me, despite their nerves, do so because of a certain purity, vulnerability, and eagerness in their intentions that makes them, well, cute. The cuteness that the little ones exude is something else altogether – indeed probably to do with the evolutionary advantage that makes me (and their guardians) tolerate their decidedly non-cute behaviour so that I can still perform my duties with patience and affection. That’s different.

This way, cute might be defined as the opposite of threatening. It’s impossible to feel defensive around someone you find cute. Instead you have the impulse to open up, to bring closer, to care. It seems like love – but the safest form because a cute person seems unlikely to reject or hurt you. Once they do, they cease to be cute. I consider cuteness as the clearest indicator in my own relationships of whether I want to stay or go. When it fades, so does my affection. The disappearance of the cute betrays an undercurrent of mistrust or insincerity. Fear seeps in – of being hurt. And loving is not worth the risk anymore.

If someone allows themselves be cute around you, it means – either because of their nature or the way you make them feel – they are they are showing you themselves with no defenses at all. They are showing you that they trust you. To consider them cute is to accept their invitation to trust – and to do with that what you will is your power and responsibility. If people find “cute” condescending, that just goes to show how they feel about defenseless people.

I’m not exactly sure how or why cuteness is such a prominent feature of Japanese culture, but mostly it seems to be a certain commodification that gives cute a bad name (in the form of big-eyed tooth or cow mascots for decidedly non-cute things like dentists or beef restaurants.) In fact, cuteness, or Kawaii, is dually defined as adorable and lovable. That which is easy to love. So, that which is easy to love is cute. Could that be the answer?

Science and facts.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration published a report Friday on climate change from its own scientists that left no doubt about its grim reality and its causes.

So now what? (multiple choice)

  1. Minds will change.
  2. Nothing will change.

Meanwhile in Canada:

One month into her new job as Canada’s Governor General, Julie Payette is taking on fake news and bogus science.

“Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period,” she asked, her voice incredulous.

“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Her statements were supported by our PM – which led the Conservative leader to opine:

“It is extremely disappointing that the prime minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion,” Scheer said in a statement posted to Facebook.

“Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments.”

An interactive report from the New York Times here.

On interpretation

Suddenly this morning I looked at the Houseman quote (above) with a different take on its meaning.

Help me out! How do you read it? Read the complete poem here.


The lines resonate with me because of  the notion of looking back on a rural life, and that is why I chose them to introduce these short stories. But, now I wonder – what does Houseman feel about the past?


Title: EARLY EXPOSURES: A Photographic Memoir
Author: Bill Pennell
Published by: Friesen Press, 2017

A memoir (from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEMOIR. The voice is first person singular: I, not we, one, or you. The memoirist is the main character, the someone for readers to be within the story. The writer’s thoughts and feelings, reactions and reflections, are revealed.

Many will remember one of the most famous of all memoirs: a young boy got in trouble for some petty theft which bothered him so much that he later straightened himself out, converted to Christianity, and eventually became a bishop. The “I” of that memoir is brutally honest about his various troubles, relates his prolific sex life in detail, and proceeds to look inward to his “soul’s eye” where he caught a glimpse of “the immutable light higher than my mind.” That, of course, was Aurelius Augustinus or Saint Augustine in his book “Confessions”.

One internet source tells us that the memoir has the following properties:
• The voice is first person singular: I, not we, one, or you.
• The memoirist is the main character, the someone for readers to be within the story.
• The writer’s thoughts and feelings, reactions and reflections, are revealed.
• There’s enough context – background information – to understand the events of the story. The context is woven into the story.
• A reader can envision the action – can see what is happening.
• A reader can imagine the setting – where and when the memoir is unfolding.
• A reader can imagine the relationships between the characters.
• The dialogue sounds like these people talking, both what they would say and how they would say it: Boy, you’re going to be sorry versus You will be sorry.
• The place is slowed down so a reader can enter the story and live it, moment to moment, with the characters.
• There isn’t unnecessary information: the writer leaves out what a reader doesn’t need to know.
• The lead invites a reader into the world of the memory.
• The conclusion is deliberate: it represents a writer’s decision about hoe to leave his or her readers.
• The writer isn’t acting as a reporter: the writing is subjective, the writer’s truth.
• The writer invents details that fit with the specific memory and the writer’s theme or purpose.
• The memoir sounds and feels like literature and not reportage.
• The reader learns something about life by reading about a life.

Pennell’s book is rich, partly because, in addition to fulfilling the above characteristics of the genre, it also adds black and white photographs which were taken from the many locations at the times indicated by the text. It is the photographic record of a talented photographer who is now looking back on the places and persons depicted in the pictures. “Early Exposures: A Photographic Memoir chronicles the travels of photographer Bill Pennell to five exotic parts of the world: Wales, Borneo, Mauritius, the interior of British Columbia, and the Canadian West Coast. Remembering his journey through stunning black-and-white photography as well as colourful personal accounts, Pennell covers a ten-year period in his late twenties and early thirties: 1969 – 1979.”

It is a highly personal account of a young man journeying to many parts of the world with his cameras to “see” those places and to record the sights as he continues his education as a biologist. He travels by boat, car, train, bicycle, and foot to see these places in a way that is now gone forever. And he writes about those journeys in a clear and concise way – telling us about the places, the plants and the people that he meets on the way. The photographs are not simply added to the text but rather the text and the photographs work together to give the book its life and vitality.
In the last paragraph of the epilogue, Pennell writes:

As we age, we often become more cautious, and our society is becoming increasingly risk averse. As I have revisited these early memories of my adventures, I stand somewhat amazed that I was so apparently fearless; spending days by myself on a giant mountain, travelling up the Rajang River in dugout canoes, or along tropical coasts in small freight boats, by myself, far from any communication. I suppose this was just youth in all its glory.

So, if you are like me, get out a map, so you will know where you are visiting as you go around the world and back in time with Dr. Bill Pennell.


The End of Faith
The End of Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conference Website:


The topic of faith, religious and non-religious, has received renewed philosophical attention in recent years. This conference will continue these discussions about the nature, value, and rationality of faith across philosophical traditions, bringing new perspectives on faith into conversation with each other. We are interested in papers that consider the topic of faith, including but by no means limited to work addressing the following questions:

What is faith? Is it solely a cognitive attitude?

What makes faith valuable?

Under what conditions is faith undesirable?

How should faith and doubt interact?

What is the relationship between faith and trust/hope/knowledge?

What is required for faith to be considered rational?

Does faith between persons function similarly or dissimilarly to religious faith?

Graduate student presenters will be given 25 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for Q&A. For consideration, please submit anonymized abstracts of no more than 500 words in an attached PDF to by November 4, 2017. Author details, including Author’s Name, Paper Title, and Institutional Affliation, should be included in the accompanying e-mail.

Please direct any questions to