June 25, 2013


17th Annual International Philosophy of Nursing Conference
in association with the
International Philosophy of Nursing Society

September 7th, 8th and 9th, 2013

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Genes, Neurons, and Nurses:
Implications of 21st Century Science for Nursing Care

The biological knowledge base for health care practice has expanded dramatically.   Genetics and neuroscience, in particular, have motivated ambitious efforts toward biobehavioral integration and translational medicine.  The 17th International Philosophy of Nursing Conference will explore the relationship between 21st century knowledge of the human body and nursing care.   How should biological models be integrated into nursing knowledge and practice, especially given nursing’s concern with the psychological, emotional, and social dimensions of health?  Does understanding of genetic or neurological mechanisms change how we should think about “evidence-based practice”?  What are the political implications and presuppositions of mechanistic models of disease processes?  And what are the ethical issues that arise out managing the vast amounts of data about both populations and individuals?  What challenges does this biological knowledge base present for patient communication and education? Should it change the way we think about the nurse’s role, nursing education, and the shape of the discipline of nursing?

Plenary Speakers

Robyn Bluhm
Old Dominion University (US)
“The (Dis)unity of Nursing Science”

Katie Featherstone
Cardiff University (England)
“The Individual, The Family, And The Clinic: Making Sense Of Genetic Risk”

Michael Yeo
Laurentian University (Canada)
“New Horizons in the Body of Knowledge: Does Knowing More Mean Caring Less?”

John Paley
University of Sterling (Scotland)
“Empathy, Self-Knowledge And Cognitive Science The Empirical Challenge To Nursing’s Moral Psychology”


Abstract Submission Instructions

Abstracts of papers are invited for concurrent sessions. Abstracts may be on the conference theme or on any philosophical aspect of health and health care. Presenters should plan to speak for 20 minutes to allow time for discussion.

Abstracts should be emailed to IPONS2013@emory.edu.  In order to support blind review, please send the abstract as an attachment (MS Word, or another common word processor format).  In this document, please include only:

  • Title of paper
  • 250 word abstract.

In the body of the email, please include:

  • Title of the paper
  • Name and title of presenter/s
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Contact address, phone number and email address
  • Any audio visual aid requirements, e.g. overhead projector, Powerpoint.

Abstracts are being accepted on a rolling basis, with a deadline of August 3, 2013.  Please direct queries to Mark Risjord (mark.risjord@emory.edu).

The conference will be held at the Emory University Conference Center in Atlanta Georgia.  Registration and hotel information are available on the IPONS website.


For more information about the International Philosophy of Nursing Society, see our website: www.ipons.co.uk


16th International Philosophy of Nursing Conference Announcement

January 24, 2012



Nursing in the 21st Century.


The 16th International Philosophy of Nursing Conference will be held on 10th – 12th September 2012 at the University of Leeds, UK. The theme for this year’s conference, held in association with the International Philosophy of Nursing Society (IPONS), is ‘Nursing in the 21st Century’.

The practice of nursing has changed in response to a number of external and internal drivers such as government policy, Professional Regulatory Body requirements, the impact of globalisation and the current economic upheaval.  Advanced practitioners with far reaching skills are a feature of modern nursing and, in some countries, there is a substantial increase in the number of non qualified assistant practitioners. Programmes that prepare students to become registered practitioners are mostly at undergraduate level and in some instances post graduate level, and it is not uncommon for practising nurses to hold Masters Degrees and Doctorates. But what are the effects of these and other changes on what might be thought of as the traditional values of nursing such as caring, maintaining dignity and individualised care?

Papers presented at the 16th International Philosophy of Nursing Conference seek to address the meaning of nursing in the 21st century.  We will discuss what is understood by the practice of nursing in the 21st century, how we may describe nursing in 2012, and explore what the future holds.

Further information on plenary speakers, and how to submit abstracts for concurrent sessions, will be available in the very near future.


Philosophy in the Nurse’s World Call for Papers

December 1, 2011

This is an excellent conference that will be of interest to anyone who happens upon this blog.  The bits below are shamelessly copied from the organizer’s material.  Submit an abstract y’all!

Philosophy in the Nurse’s World:
Politics of Nursing Practice II

May 13-15, 2012
Banff, Alberta, Canada

The May 2012 conference will continue our philosophical conversations about ‘the political’ and nursing practice and in particular, focus on philosophy in action in nursing practice. Questions that might exercise us include: What is the difference that philosophy makes to practice? Can our philosophical work politicize our practices and what effects might this have for us and for health systems?
Plenary Speakers:
 Cressida Heyes, University of Alberta, Canada
Child,birth: The philosophical and political challenge of representing pain
 Martin Lipscomb, University of West England, United Kingdom
Some may beg to differ: Political claims and the fallacy of composition
 Amelie Perron, University of Ottawa, Canada
Towards an ‘ethics of discomfort’ in nursing: Parrhesia as fearless speech
 Jeannette Pols, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Washing the patient. About aesthetic values in nursing care
 Trudy Rudge, University of Sydney, Australia
Desiring productivity – nary a wasted moment, never a missed step!


JANUARY 16, 2012

For submission, please visit:  https://uofa-nursing.gobigevent.com:443/prothos/onware.x/conference/web/index.p?Conference=17860

Registration and more information on the conference can be found at:  http://www.nursing.ualberta.ca/Our%20Research/Institutes/IPNR.aspx


What is “theory”?

November 29, 2011

A colleague recently emailed me with the question “What do we mean by theory?”

The question is difficult because the word is quite ambiguous.  I think that it is one of those terms where it helps to think of what is being opposed to theory. As J. L. Austin pointed out, many words are contextually defined by what they exclude.  “Theory” is one of them.  There are several oppositions for “theory” in both the scientific and philosophical literature, not to mention casual speech.  This partly accounts for our confusion about it.

1. Theory vs. observation. 

In the philosophy of science, this is the standard meaning of theory.  Observation statements are things like “The water is 5 degrees centigrade.”  Observations are the product of direct experience, measurement, or interaction.  Any kind of statement that goes beyond what is observable is “theoretical:” e.g. “water is H2O”.  On this conception of theory, any scientific paper must be presenting a theory, if it is doing anything more than presenting a table of data or raw interview transcripts.  Notice that both “qualitative” and “quantitative” research produces theory in this sense.  And to report a correlation between two variables is theory, since that there is a correlation is an inference from the data.  This brings us to the second distinction…

2. Theory vs. “mere” correlation.

In scientific work, this contrast is often in play because there is plenty of research that seems to simply fish for correlations.  For instance, we ask whether massage reduces pain, and then go see whether those who receive massages report lower pain. It is not guided by any larger or deeper understanding, that is to say, theory.  Theories would be more systematic or postulate some mechanism that accounts for the correlations.  One might say here: the theory would explain why massage reduces pain.

3. Grand theory vs. middle range theory.

This is a nursing-specific usage.  When people complain about the lack of theory in nursing, this is sometimes what they mean.

4. Theory vs. fact. 

This contrast is common in ordinary speech (at least among English speakers),and I find that it is often in the background of student thinking about theory. The contrast is a bit unsystematic and vague.  Evolution is a theory, my students will say, but gravity is a fact.  That contrast will not support much weight…

5. Theory vs. philosophy.

Science produces theories, philosophy doesn’t.  In this sense, theory is used in something like sense (2) above; it postulates deeper mechanisms.  Also, theory is systematically tested in ways that philosophies are not. Philosophy has a different goal than science. I use something like this distinction when I argue in Nursing Knowledge that grand theories are not theories at all.  They are really philosophies of nursing.

6. Theory vs. practice.

We often invoke this in ordinary speech, and it has a deep resonance in fields like nursing, education, public health, business, etc., where there is an important practice component to the field.

7. Theory vs. Interpretation.

I noted that in sense (1), both qualitative and quantitative research produces “theory.”  Many qualitative researchers will reject this claim and insist that they aim at interpretation, not theory.  In this use, theory is (like sense 2) being thought of as postulating causes, mechanisms, or laws.

The upshot

I’m sure that with a little more creativity we could come up with more.  (Think about what theory means in ethics, for instance.)  The most important point is that these senses are not distinct in our usage.  They tend to get all mashed up.  What counts as theory in one sense doesn’t count in another.  So, for instance, a correlation is theory in sense (1), and probably in sense (7), but not in senses (2) or (3).

So, we need to answer the question “what do we mean by theory?” by another question: what is the context in which we are using “theory,” and what contrast(s) do we intend to draw?

Canadian Journal of Nursing Research Special Issue: Philosophy, Theory, and Ethics

October 5, 2010

The following call might interest some readers

Deadline Extended to November 15, 2010

– Call for Papers –

 Canadian Journal of Nursing Research  has long provided an important venue for nurses in Canada and other countries to explore research and theory related to the ethical dimensions of nursing practice. Over the past 13 years the Journal has published three themed issues related to ethics (1997: Values and Decision-Making; 2002: Ethics, Values, and Decision-Making; 2007: Focus on Ethics, Values, and Decision-Making). This Call builds on that history, inviting research papers that explore nursing ethics in relation to philosophy and/or nursing theory. As Franco Carnevale notes in his guest editorial for Volume 39 No 4 (2007), our profession needs more “explicit attention to empirical-normative relations in nursing inquiry” (p. 15). Some of the most pressing empirical and normative questions facing us today are rooted in systemic inequities in access to resources for health and health care in Canada and around the globe. Further, as cost constraints proliferate in health-care delivery there are concomitant challenges to the moral agency of nurses and other health professionals. For this issue on philosophy, theory, and ethics, we invite papers that explore research and theorize on concepts such as social justice and moral agency.

Guest Editor: Dr. Patricia Rodney

Submission Deadline:  October 15, 2010 November 15, 2010

Please submit papers online Using CJNR E-journal Press at http://cjnr.msubmit.net.

For assistance: cjnr.nursing@mcgill.ca