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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.

 

          Jarrad Felgenhauer

I attended the University of Kentucky from 2017-2022, defending my dissertation in August 2022. My areas of specialization are 19th and 20th century Continental Philosophy, particularly German Idealism and Poststructuralism. However, thanks in large part to UK’s pluralistic department, I have developed serious interests in Metaphysics (broadly construed), Critical Social Theory, and Ancient Philosophy.

At its core, my dissertation project lies at the intersection of metaphysics and history. Specifically, I’m interested in what I take to be the intimate relationship between metaphysics and historical change which was sparked by a series of questions. How does, or what makes, history ‘happen,’ so to speak? Is history something that unfolds in an linear, narrative like manner? Or perhaps is it something marked by points of legitimate ontological disruption, such that we can talk about new ways of being coming into existence that are entirely different in nature? And lastly, what kind of metaphysics must we articulate to account for ruptures or breaks in historical continuity such as social revolutions or violent fractures in nature such as ecological crises? I argue that properly addressing these question requires a fundamental shift in the way we ‘do’ metaphysics, from a framework based on conditioning to one based on genesis. That is, the aim of metaphysics is not to understand the conditions of world in which we live, or how this world coheres in terms of unity/identity but rather we should try to understand how such a world is something historically generated. Put differently, we should not presuppose categories like structure or identity but try to understand them as produced dynamically.

This is what drew me to a rigorous study of Hegel’s metaphysics in the Science of Logic. Specifically, I argue that Hegel conceives of the structured world of our lived experience in terms of  the historical actualization (or expression) of an irreducible, dynamic tension inherent to reality itself. Accordingly, my contribution is that this element of difference and not structure or identity is the most basic metaphysical element of Hegel’s philosophy. Further, I try to show how this allows us to reimagine history in terms of discontinuous and discursive “events” rather than a linear and teleological unfolding.

I am currently an Instructor of Philosophy at Seattle University. The interdisciplinary nature of UK’s department provides an excellent foundation for graduate students, especially when it comes to their dissertation projects. At UK, students will take a variety of seminars, many outside their area of expertise. This allows them to gain a deeper appreciation for the breadth of the discipline and work with faculty they may not have otherwise been inclined to. More importantly, however, UK’s department provides students with an expansive foundation to cultivate their own ideas and projects.