Dissertation Awards for Hamish Russell, Lisa Doerksen, and Seyed Yarandi

Published: September 11, 2023

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Congratulations to three of our graduate students who recently earned their doctoral degrees. Hamish Russell, Lisa Doerksen, and Seyed Yarandi.

Russell, whose thesis titled “Roles and the Filtering of Reasons” was written under the supervision of Joseph Heath, received the Best Dissertation Award from the Society for Business Ethics. The citation read as follows:

“Taken together, this is an exceptionally written and thought-provoking thesis. In essence, it develops a moral theory of roles and thereby bridges business ethics with political philosophy in a novel way. At its core, the thesis argues that professional roles do not add additional reasons to role occupants that they can draw on to make a moral judgement, nor do they shield their occupants from ordinary moral criticism. Instead, roles transform an individual’s moral responsibilities and permissions through filters. These filters are imposed by the rules of the institution on the role occupant’s full spectrum of normative reasons, including all the reasons that apply to persons simply. Drawing on the metaphor of filtering and outlining various filters through which institutions and roles shape moral judgements, the author develops a convincing alternative model as to what shapes professional integrity. The committee considered this alternative filtering model to constitute a considerable contribution to the field of business ethics. The committee further appreciated that the author developed their argument along various occupational roles from different contexts throughout the thesis. This way, while the argument read in the best way ‘timeless’ and ‘classic,’ its current implications for business ethics research and practice, particularly for a better understanding professional integrity, were very clear.”

Doerksen and Yarandi emerged as co-winners of the 2023 David Savan Dissertation Prize, awarded in recognition “of the excellence of a doctoral thesis in philosophy submitted and successfully defended by a student in the Graduate Department.” Gurpreet Rattan supervised both Doerksen’s “Finding Oneself in the World” and Yarandi’s “Moral Words: Masks for Many Faces.”

The prize citation mentions “originality, rigour, and good writing” as the relevant criteria for the award, and the selection committee found these virtues significantly represented in both theses. The committee described the winning dissertations in the following way:

“Lisa Doerksen’s highly original dissertation,Finding Oneself in the World,’ takes on the deep problem of how we manage to think of ourselves both as the subject of a perspective on the world and as identical to some object in that world. The thesis is a systematic account of the subject of experience, thought, and judgment and challenges both contemporary and standard historical accounts of problems of the self. The first chapter was published in Inquiry, and another won the Canadian Philosophical Association prize for the best paper submitted by a graduate student.”

Seyed Yarandi’sMoral Words: Masks for Many Faces,’ is a superb thesis on contextualism about moral thought and language. It makes novel and original arguments, including the surprising claim that contextualism can sidestep the problems of disagreement in our moral life. A number of papers arising from the dissertation (about moral concepts and judgments, inquiry, disagreement, and irrelevant influences on belief) are at the revise-and-resubmit stage of excellent journals.”

We look forward to seeing the work these three junior scholars will produce in the future.