Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

statement of teaching and research interests


                                    Benjamin Bayer

         I have long seen teaching as an ideal mechanism for clarifying my own understanding of
philosophy. Having the responsibility to explain an abstract theory to laymen always forces one
to understand it better. For this reason my plan is to develop a series of courses that are both
informed by and complementary to my research.
         Of course I am also willing and able to teach courses outside of my area of specialization.
I find that the opportunity to teach such courses forces me to acquire a broader philosophical
vocabulary which is itself complementary to my current research. As an example, I would cite
my recent effort at teaching environmental ethics. Though this course was not part of my usual
repertoire, it prompted me to begin thinking again about the questions in ethical theory that got
me interested in philosophy in the first place. Now I am contemplating a number of new papers
in this area (see below), even though my previous research has been in epistemology.
         I wrote my dissertation on Quine and naturalized epistemology, which is a question in
contemporary epistemology. Although the dissertation was largely polemical, it also emphasized
that the most important matters of contention in the debate over naturalism cannot be settled
without first resolving traditional questions about perception and abstraction, particularly from
the early modern period. For this reason I was delighted to have the opportunity to develop a
historically-oriented introductory-level courses for both Loyola of Chicago last fall, and at
Colorado College this past fall. In the future, I want to develop similar courses which approach
select topics (such as philosophy of perception and the theory of concepts) in a similar way.
         The final chapter of my dissertation contains a section on foundationalism vs. anti-
foundationalism which I have now expanded into an independent paper, developing a version of
foundationalism which incorporates empirical research on perception and concept-formation. In
the coming year, I am interested in building on my view of foundationalism. First, I would like to
examine how my approach resolves questions about inductive reasoning, particularly insofar as it
implies that concepts abstracted from perception themselves amount to primitive inductive
generalizations. Second, I would like to begin to revisit connections between a foundational
epistemology of concepts and a theory of value concepts (especially as conditioned by sensations
of pleasure and pain). When I’ve developed these projects in more detail, the findings should
provide ample material for good philosophy of science and ethical theory courses.
         Generally speaking, I would approach the development of other courses from the
perspective of an epistemologist (see examples in my attached proposed syllabi). Although the
history of 20th century analytic philosophy is usually approached as the history of the philosophy
of language, I would try to place the linguistic turn in the context of wider questions about
consciousness that were debated at the beginning of the 20th century (as between Frege and
Husserl). In metaphysics, I would try to emphasize how the problem of universals—closely
connected to the problem of concepts—influences a variety of other metaphysical problems
(concerning change, identity, causality, and modality). In philosophy of mind, I would approach
the question of the relationship between the mental and the physical as one of applied
epistemology (philosophy of science) as I did in my dissertation: the question of what kind of
identity is supposed to exist between them, and whether it is supposedly grasped a priori or
through empirical and/or pragmatic means.

To top