Warm congratulations to William Languedoc, Dionysia (Sia) Mounouchos, and Samuel Labun for successfully defending their Master of Arts in Philosophy theses this Spring! Read more about their fascinating research below.

Will Languedoc

Supervised by distinguished research professor Andrew Brook, Will’s thesis was titled ‘Consciousness, Representation, and Flexibility’.

Determining whether another being is conscious first involves determining what consciousness is. In Chapter 1, I argue against the view that consciousness is unlike the rest of cognition, and in favor of a view that sees consciousness as a cognitive function like any other. In Chapter 2, I argue that most cognitivist accounts of consciousness fail in one of two ways: they are narrowly circular, or they change the subject. I suggest that one way to avoid these common routes to failure is to adopt what I refer to as the Minimal Claim – that consciousness has a representational base. In Chapter 3, I apply the work done in the two previous chapters to the issue of ascribing consciousness to beings other than ourselves, suggesting that behavioral flexibility may play an important role.

Will is now heading to York University to begin his PhD in the Fall.

Sia Mounouchos

Supervised by Professor David Matheson Sia’s thesis was titled ‘Flow and Meaning in Life: Some Empirically Informed Practical Lessons’.

On Susan Wolf’s well-known account of meaning in life, activities can add meaning to our lives only if we are actively engaged in those activities. My aim in this thesis is to uncover empirically informed, practical lessons about meaning, given Wolf’s requirement of active engagement. After examining Wolf’s account and defending that requirement, I look at the psychological research on “flow,” which is the conceptual equivalent of active engagement in psychology. I then draw three important practical lessons about meaning in light of this research —one about activities that take us outside of our comfort zones, another about stress, and a third about trusting intuition.

Sam Labun

Supervised by Professor Christine Koggel Sam’s thesis was titled ‘Stand-Up Comedy and Social Justice: A Discussion of Freedom of Speech and Inclusive Democracy’.

This thesis explores freedom of speech and its capacity to promote individual agency and well-being, relieve the oppression of excluded social groups, and increase understanding and communication across differences in democratic society. The thesis applies the insights of John Stuart Mill, Amartya Sen, and Iris Marion Young to stand-up comedy. The thesis argues that comedians and audiences have a responsibility not to exclude oppressed social groups from comedy and democratic society in general. Open mics fulfill all Young’s conditions for inclusive communication, and professional comedians like Robin Tyler, Hannah Gadsby, Dave Chappelle, and Ms. Pat use their comedy to increase communication and understanding across group differences. The thesis concludes that comedy can provide an effective, inclusive, and public opportunity for social groups to voice their needs, concerns, and demands for equal concern and respect, and that comedy can edify the public about their democratic society.