Consider this: Dr. William Sweet has
studied in Canada, Germany, Austria, and France. He’s taught in Canada,
France, Taiwan, and India. His research has been published in French,
German, Polish, Chinese, Castilian, and other languages. Regarding
these facts, it becomes clear that much of this StFX philosophy
professor’s work is internationally-based.
Still, his roots
can be traced back to Canadian soil. Dr. Sweet was born close to
Edmonton, and grew up near the Ontario/Quebec border. In 1990 he
joined the StFX faculty and now chairs the philosophy department.
“Philosophy deals with the basic questions that everyone has to deal
with,” he says. “Who they are as a person, what their place is in
the world, what ought they to do… I think philosophy helps you to
sort out what are some good answers to those questions.”
says an interest in politics and religion led him to the subject.
Examining philosophical questions of justice and human rights, in
politics, and questions of faith and reason, in religion, made
philosophy the next step.
Dr. Sweet’s extensive education
includes degrees from a number of Canadian universities including
Carleton, the University of Ottawa, the University of Manitoba, and
Saint Paul University. Overseas studies include time at
Humboldt-Universitšt zu Berlin, Universitšt Wien (Austria), and the
Sorbonne in France.
On top of teaching, Dr. Sweet is also
responsible for graduate studies, and is the director of The Centre for
Philosophy, Theology and Cultural Traditions here at StFX.
centre’s main focus is to coordinate on-campus resources where there
are cross-disciplinary interests involving philosophical, theological,
and cultural issues. If, for example, there is an individual
whose expertise encompasses subjects of interest to members of both the
philosophy department and the religious studies department, the centre
may help as a third party in bringing that person to StFX to work with
both departments. Guest speakers have been invited by the centre
to stay at StFX for six to eight week periods and to give lectures or
help with research. Dr. Sweet describes the centre as “primarily
a way to coordinate research activity but also to make some of the
research that’s being done…available to other people.”
Sweet has received numerous honours for his work over the years,
including several grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). He used part of this funding
to organize a seminar in Toronto earlier this year that brought
together scholars from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, and the
United States to discuss the concept of migrating texts.
texts refers to ideas or beliefs formed in one part of the world, by
people of a particular culture, that eventually shift to different
regions and enter into different cultures.
examined questions of how traditions (texts) move from one culture to
another; how they’re received, interpreted, and understood; and what
implications exist as a result of their presence.
says Dr. Sweet, “there must be some presuppositions that people are
making about these ideas that allow them to speak to different
cultures.” He provides the example of how notions of liberalism –
the belief that human rights are important – fit into Chinese culture,
where group, as distinct from individual, welfare is emphasized.
Much of Dr. Sweet’s work
involves India, China and other Asian countries. He has given
lectures in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as in Thailand, India,
Japan, and Taiwan, where he held the Lokuang Chair of Philosophy and
Culture at Fu Jen Catholic University.
Dr. Sweet sits on several international committees, and is on the organizing committee for the World Congress of Philosophy,
an event that takes place every five years. Dr. Sweet is
responsible for developing topics and themes to be discussed at the
next World Congress.
He also sits on the Washington-based Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.
The council coordinates seminars and workshops in over 15 countries
each year. These events allow philosophers from areas that are perhaps
not as well represented to share their insights and research on an
What does the future hold for
Dr. Sweet? In 2007 he will become the president of the Canadian
Philosophical Association. Though this means greater involvement on a
national scale, Dr. Sweet plans to continue working with his various
groups around the world. “It’s a lot of international work,” he admits,
“but the interesting thing is when I bring it back here to StFX, the
students have an opportunity to find out not only what philosophers in
Nova Scotia or Canada are thinking. They have an opportunity to get a
sense of what’s going on around the world.”
Return to Research Profiles