Graduate Student Page

Welcome to the incoming grad MA student cohort for 2019 - we are very happy that you chose to join us!

Our MA students are focused, energetic and talented, and together with the faculty, make for a vibrant departmental life.

from Grad Studies, August 28 2020


If you are arriving from outside of Canada, the Government of Canada has implemented travel restrictions, including a 14 day mandatory self-isolation upon arrival. So if you are a student intending to travel to Canada you will need to arrange a 14-day self-isolation off-campus. We have an online guide available to support new and returning international students with this process.

If you are arriving for the Fall term from outside Canada, please register your plan with SFU. This information will help us support you before you arrive, as you prepare the correct information and documentation needed to satisfy government requirements. It will also help us support you after your arrival.


As of September 1, the U-Pass BC program will be resuming. (Since the decision was made to suspend the U-Pass BC program for the 2020 Summer semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Simon Fraser Student Society, Graduate Student Society and SFU have worked with TransLink, and the other public post-secondary institutions and student associations in Metro Vancouver, to reinstate the program with appropriate eligibility adjustments.) Deadline to apply for exemption is September 22.

Upcoming MA Defenses

Lutfi Shoufi 
On Regan’s Solution to the Moral Problem of Animal Predation

August 12th, 2020, 1.30pm - via Zoom
Supervisor:  Chelsea Rosenthal
Second reader:  Bruno Guindon

Abstract: In my paper, I aim to critique Tom Regan’s response to the moral issue of animal predation. Contrary to his ambition of showing that we do not have a duty to intervene with animal predation, Regan’s response actually leaves us with such an obligation. In fact, Regan’s response leads to what many would consider to be a radically counter-intuitive obligation: we ought to intervene on behalf of the predator in many predator-prey conflicts. As we will see, Regan's response to the moral issue of predation is importantly built on the putative competence of wild animals. But if my argument succeeds, I would have shown that the burden is on Regan to either come up with a plausible conception of competence, which I suggest he has not offered us, such that all wild animals would be competent in their conflicts or come up with a new, non-competence-based, strategy in order to resolve the moral issue of predation. At best, Regan's solution is incomplete. At worst, Regan's solution is self-undermining.


Somayeh Tohidi
"Can't Put It Into Words?  Put It Here:  A Framework for Modelling Inexpressible Information"

Monday, August 17th at 11am (online)
Supervisor:  Nic Fillion

Abstract: In this paper, I introduce a framework called Syntactic Probabilistic Aumann Structures (SPAS), which is an adapted version of a framework widely used by economists, to provide a novel perspective for addressing some problems in social and formal epistemology. I am going to argue that this framework is superior to a mainstream framework like standard Bayesianism for modelling situations in which inexpressible information is involved. In single-agent scenarios, learning experiences that cannot be captured by a set of sentences may impede the process of updating. I will show how thinking about these situations in terms of SPAS enables an agent to update their credence function using inexpressible information. This possibility emerges from the resources that SPAS has for modelling pieces of information as non-linguistic entities. In multi-agent scenarios, on the other hand, information that is inexpressible in the common language of the agents can cause them to disagree on the credence that they assign to an event. The question is how each agent should update their credence function upon learning the other agent's credence, considering the fact that direct conditionalization on the credence of others is computationally very difficult. In SPAS, agents can indirectly exchange their private inexpressible information simply by announcing their credence towards a certain sentence to each other. So, they can update their credence function by conditionalizing on the information that they have inferred from an announced credence, instead of conditionalizing on the announced credence itself. This possibility stems from the resources that this framework has for distinguishing between the pieces of information that can be learned (with certainty) and other pieces of information. I will show the relevance of this result to the problem of 'peer disagreement' by showing that agents with asymmetric information can be considered as peers according to the recent, less controversial notion of peerhood.


Varsha Pai 
Credibility as a Distributive Good

Monday, August 17 via Zoom - 2 p.m.
Supervisor:  Endre Begby
2nd Reader:  Chelsea Rosenthal

Abstract: The credibility that one is given plays a central role in determining the degree to which one is allowed to participate in the production and distribution of social goods. Miranda Fricker (2007) sheds light on the injustice of credibility deficit in her conception of testimonial injustice. This conception, however, views credibility excess as irrelevant to the injustice in question. In this paper, I investigate features of credibility as a good and argue that it falls within the purview of distributive justice. In doing so, I demonstrate that excesses of credibility do create corresponding deficits, making them relevant to the question of testimonial injustice. Accordingly, I offer an understanding of testimonial injustice that accommodates the distributive nature of credibility while being consistent with Fricker's broader aims.


Cem Erkli
Knowing When a Gnomon Is Not Working: A Complementary Scientific Approach to Eratosthenes' Calculation of the Earth's Circumference

Monday, August 17 2020, 4:30 pm - AQ Northeast Corner
Supervisor: Holly Andersen
Second Reader: Thomas Donaldson


Abstract: According to the model-based epistemology of measurement, measurement is justified by calibration models that allow a user to go from an instrument indication to the measured value of a quantity (Tal, 2017). In this paper, I explore the ways in which the measuring instruments themselves, as opposed to calibration models, limit certain inferences about the value of a quantity. A specific case of this limitation is seen in measuring instruments that are physical models, since the similarity of the model to its target system can determine whether an inference is justified or not. To argue this point, I apply the contemporary literature on physical models (e.g. Weisberg 2012, Sterrett 2001) and measurement to the historical case of Eratosthenes' (276 - 194 BC) calculation of the earth's circumference. In the end, I suggest a broad framework for analyzing the epistemic role instruments play in science based on Nancy Cartwright's nomological machines.


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