The Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Professor in Ethics, Associate Professor
I work in philosophy and am basically trying to make sense of our form of life — focusing on the logic of relationships and on planetary-scaled environmental change. Each of these is important to me because they arise at points where our form of life reveals its limits. Our aggregate collective as a species produces consequences that do not cohere with our values. And the interpersonal has been discovered only in the last several hundred years out of sources that stretch deep into our history and come from many traditions. Nonetheless, we don’t yet know what to make of the interpersonal. In my last book, I moved back and forth between the interpersonal and the planetary, the personal and the cosmic, using multiple genres as I experimented with different studies of home (“ecology”).
Here’s what I wrote about it:
*Imagine the kind of philosophy book you might have wished for when you were growing up. Seeking a reader who would be patient and open-minded enough to live with her own questions and to walk around town with her thoughts, this book would not have a single thesis but would rather work through multiple problems and be an experience, born out of life-experience. It would not be summarizable. It would be larger than the reader and open onto different kinds of readings. This is the kind of philosophy book that was at home in the 19th century.*
Being self-reflective is important to me, and I want to be around people who are also self-reflective, who are philosophical in their own ways and interested in growing together.
My family comes from Ohio–the Bendiks as immigrants from Vlachovo, Slovakia to southern Ohio mining country (Belle Valley) and then later as residents of Elyria, and the Keymers from Oberlin, Lakewood and eventually Olmsted Falls. My father’s biological father, Clem Langley, had a scholarship to Western Reserve University which he couldn’t complete.
After attending public school in New Hartford, New York (which I loved) and being an exchange student in France at the Lycée Pierre Corneille, I studied philosophy and literature at Yale University, primarily with Susan Neiman but also with O. Bradley Bassler, Karsten Harries, Denis Hollier, Claudine Kahan, Haagi Kenaan, Irad Kimhi, Jonathan Lear, Toril Moi and Wayne Meeks. I then attended the University of Chicago for graduate school in philosophy, studying with Michael Forster, Charles Larmore, Jean-Luc Marion, Martha Nussbaum and Candace Vogler, primarily. While at the University of Chicago, I was a Century Fellow and a Junior Fellow in the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion and a research assistant at the Erikson Institute for Advanced Studies in Child Development for three years. I also assisted Saskia Sassen for a short time and was a writing instructor in the Little Red Schoolhouse writing program.
In addition to assisting at an experimental high school in Manhattan and at Yale and teaching a bit at Concordia University River Forest, I lectured part-time for two years at University of Chicago where I won the Wayne C. Booth Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. I then taught full-time at Colorado College, American University of Sharjah (Department of International Studies), and LeMoyne College before coming to CWRU. At Colorado College, I organized the antiwar network. At American University of Sharjah, I helped accredit the Department of International Studies, opened up a space in the curriculum for students to propose their own course topics, fostered a student led re-evaluation of their constitution, and organized the first campus model U.N. for area high schools. At LeMoyne College, I developed a learning assessment system that folded discernment exercises and mentoring into the curriculum evaluation cycle from entering to exiting the Philosophy major. I was also a visiting professor of philosophy at Hamilton College where I experimented with some methods of Jacques Rancière and developed the technique of a verification cycle in a process journal.
I recently completed the mixed-genre, Solar Calendar, and Other Ways of Marking Time. It was a sequel to my first book, The Ecological Life: Discovering Citizenship and a Sense of Humanity. In between, I co-edited Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future with Allen Thompson of Oregon State University. My dissertation was called Conscience and Humanity -it examined the relational form of conscience. In graduate school, I worked on the research team for Dan Scheinfeld, Sandra Scheinfeld, and Karen Haigh’s We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings -a book about one of the best school systems in U.S. at that time, and it served low income communities in Chicago.
Overall, I’m an old school moral and intellectual egalitarian. I think moral universals are evident–especially in their absence–and I can’t see how truth isn’t objective–especially when we disagree or make mistakes.