Recent PhD Projects

Kayla Bohannon

I defended my dissertation in April 2022. I work in social philosophy, and my dissertation project began with a     question: what makes a community durable over time? In other words, why do some communities stand the test of time, while others break apart?

This question arose from my observations of certain religious communities within the United States. It is well-known that the American religious landscape is shifting, with an increasing number of people rejecting organized religion altogether. This phenomenon is often explained in terms of belief: people leave their religions when they stop believing in their tenets. But I suspected that there is more to the story than this – namely, that there could be a distinctly social explanation for Americans’ changing attitudes towards religion.

This led me to write a rather unorthodox dissertation that drew from several bodies of literature, including contemporary feminist epistemology, philosophy of religion, and the German idealist tradition, as well as the disciplines of economics and sociology. I argued that philosophers and social theorists should view religion as a social phenomenon, i.e. a form of community, rather than a merely epistemological one. Since religions are communities, they can be analyzed as such. I spent my dissertation articulating what I take to be some necessary conditions for durable community relationships, and determining whether those conditions can be satisfied within religious contexts. (Spoiler alert: they can!)

UK’s pluralistic department provided a welcoming environment for me to develop this sort of interdisciplinary research project. My PhD coursework gave me a broad foundation in areas of philosophy of which I would have otherwise been ignorant. I was fortunate to find faculty mentors (especially my advisor, Dr. Brandon Look) who treated me as a burgeoning colleague and encouraged me to pursue the ideas that I found most meaningful. I often comment on how I could only complete a dissertation on community relationships because of the strong philosophical community that I found at UK.

I’m currently back in the UK Philosophy Department, working as a Teaching Postdoctoral Scholar and continuing my research in social philosophy. For more up-to-date info about my work, you can visit my website: kgbohannon.com.