Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Professor in Ethics, Associate Professor
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. My experiences at Yale and at University of Chicago were mixed. There were some great teachers and many good friends. At times the learning was astonishing. But the institutions exhibited a high degree of privilege and often a lack of humanity. We can -and must- do better.
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 have always loved philosophy as a way to find and articulate the meaning in my life and as an especially powerful way of living with purpose and clarity. I think philosophy can also be useful to humankind and to my city and state. Nonetheless, philosophy is simply a tradition to me, a tradition around logos –plain reasoning- that has opened up our communicative freedom and given us, often despite itself, more agency and humanity. My real love is literature –writing- and I do see written philosophy as a genre of literature, one with many sub-genres.
Yet philosophy itself is a way of life –just as the ancients who coined the word understood it (and the bureaucrat researchers of the last two centuries have often forgotten). So in so far as, trained in philosophy, I work in it, my work takes many forms –even in writing. Unsurprisingly, then, my most normal writing has arisen either in training or when I’ve worked with others, supporting a group project. Besides many articles and talks that fit specific academic contexts, the most substantial writing here includes my dissertation, Conscience & Humanity, and my participation in the research and project development team for We Are All Explorers ~Learning & Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings, a book about one of the best school systems in the world at the time, and it served low income children and families in Chicago. My collaborative writing also includes the co-edited volume, Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future, born out of anxiety over the 2007 IPCCC Report.
At the same time, the heart of my writing remains in abnormal academic writing (which I wear as a badge of honor, for all the reasons why we should doubt the normal after Foucault’s analysis of it), in particular, in what has ended up as stories. The first was The Ecological Life –Discovering Citizenship & a Sense of Humanity, the story of a class. The second was Solar Calendar, and Other Ways of Marking Time, the story of a hope. And the third is the story on which I am currently working, The Anthroponomists! –about a political movement.
Outside of this writing, I continue to love learning with my colleagues –who include my students- using the philosophical tradition to support education and the public, and I have been involved in a series of projects that work along the analogy between socially engaged art and ancient philosophical exercises that were part of a way of life, making new exercises in a contemporary mode. For more on that, see my tumblr blog, linked to the right of this page. It shows my latest exercise.
The blog is the public notebook in the tradition of philosophical notebooks, and it registers the work I am doing in living with a theme. My current exercise is a practical and relational study of the wind — the first philosophical study of the wind as far as I know. In the navigation menu of the blog in the upper left-hand corner, there is a link to my previous exercise, “I feel connected to something strange and strong,” written alongside the final production of Solar Calendar like a wrinkle in time. There, you can see the link between askesis (spiritual exercise) and socially engaged art for the first time.
Thank you for visiting. Have a good day, or a good night.