Philosopher ponders role of marginalized thinkers at TRU conference

SYLVIE PAILLARD / Kamloops Daily News
January 13, 2013 01:00 AM

There's some deep thinking going on at Thompson Rivers University this week.

Starting Thursday, a student-organized undergraduate conference delves deep into philosophy, history and politics.

On Friday, keynote speaker and University of Alberta professor Robert Wilson helps set the tone with his presentation Two Kinds of Folk Experience and the Enthusiasm of Philosophers.

"Philosophers often grapple with questions, problems and issues that arise in the course of everyday experience, what we might call folk experience," said Wilson.

Two examples in which folk experience plays a role in philosophical reflection, said Wilson, are the introduction of philosophical thinking to children and the history of eugenics.

The ideas and practices aimed at improving human breeding, known as eugenics, were influential across North America in the first half of the 20th century.

Wilson points out that children and people thought of - often wrongfully - as "mentally defective" don't naturally come to mind when thinking about the academic discipline of philosophy.

But, he argues, their folk experience is "substantially more important" for philosophical practice than generally accepted.

Wilson has explored both topics during his five years with Philosophy for Children Alberta and with the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada project.

Philosophy for Children Alberta is an associate organization within of the U of A's faculty of arts dedicated to developing critical thinking skills, creativity and caring communities through philosophical inquiry programs.

And Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada brings to light the history of eugenics in Canada, exploring the relationships between that history and current policies and practices with the help of 30 research scholars and sterilization survivors, and 12 community partners.

Wilson takes the podium at the Irving K Barber Centre to make his argument on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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