Jeremy David Bendik-Keymer


Clark Hall 310
Fridays 12-4PM with some exceptions

Other Information

Classes: People & Planet
Good Relationships
Moral Character
Becoming Oneself
Climate Justice
Introduction to Philosophy: As an Ocean

Education: Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Chicago, 2002
B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Philosophy, Yale University, 1993

Research: Planetary justice, political imagination, good relationships

Expertise: Mass extinction, Anthropocene studies, decolonization, multi-species justice, wonder, interpersonal & moral relations

“I wish I was a mole in the ground.”

~ An anonymous, late 19th century song of the same name

“Scholarship has to exemplify a love for each other, not just a love for an idea.”

~ Linda Tuhiwai Smith, June 30th, 2020, Massey University

Born in 1970 in New Haven, Connecticut to Esther Ann Bendik and David King Keymer, I live in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Misty Elaine Morrison and our children, Emet Aql Bendik-Keymer and Ellery Abbie Ray Morrison.  I acknowledge the indigenous lands ceded by the Treaty of Greenville (1795), subsequently violated by the U.S.A.  A graduate of New Hartford High School, Yale College, and University of Chicago, and ancien élève of the Lycée Corneille, Rouen, I work in the philosophy department at Case Western Reserve University as Professor of Philosophy.  During the Great Depression of the 1930s, both my biological grandfather and my adoptive granddad on my father’s side had scholarships to attend Western Reserve University but were unable to attend due to the Depression.  My mother was the first person in her entire family to attend college and the only to receive a four-year degree.

Each side of my family comes from Ohio, and many cousins still live around Cleveland.  My maternal great grandparents emigrated from Vlachovo, Slovakia to Belle Valley, Ohio at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The name “Bendik” (from Latin bene,”good,” a renaming of immigrants) leads to German origins, Lutherans seeking safe haven in the 16th century.  My paternal lineage is Northern Ohioan for as long as we know.  I grew up on Haudenosaunee land in Aurora, Ithaca, New Hartford, and Utica, New York, coming back to Ohio during many summers to see my cousins and work on my aunt and uncle’s farm in Avon, Ohio.  The Oebker Farm is now Avon Junior High School.

In high school, I lettered in soccer and swimming and was co-captain of those teams.  Later in life, I trained in aikido for a time, and miss it.  Swimming is one of my favorite things in life, and I happily swim at the Warrensville Heights Family YMCA of Greater Cleveland.

I once trained as a classical singer and had a chance at a vocation as an actor in musical theater.  I didn’t pursue it because I wanted to follow where philosophy led me.  My mother was a professional actress in musical theater, but also an early childhood educator and someone who went inside herself to grow.  My impulse was toward what theater is at its best, yet in life.  I found this in philosophy’s potential.  “All the world’s a stage.”

For a time at Yale College, I published poetry and was an editor for an old literary magazine, The Yale Literary Magazine, where I met some of my closest friends to this day.  In my 30s, I was a talk show host and wrote a weekly newspaper column for a radio station and newspaper in Dubai.  During this time, I helped accredit the Department of International Studies at American University of Sharjah and co-founded its Model United Nations program, things that last to this day.

I came to Case Western Reserve University as the Beamer-Schneider Professor in Ethics with the mission of ensuring moral education for all undergraduates.  There wasn’t a clear curriculum in place to do that.  With the professorship’s goal in mind, I worked eleven years to promote ethical, moral, and civic learning across campus for undergraduates using the SAGES general education program’s ethical decision-making goals and acquiring funding from the Kent Smith Charitable Foundation for a SAGES Teaching Fellow post-doc to coordinate in-services over six years.  In addition, through various programs (the Ethics Table Chat-n-Chews, the Ethics Table Fellows; the Beamer-Schneider Lectures in Ethics, Morals, & Civics; the Moral Inquiries community group in Cleveland Heights; and the Moral Development Study of Undergraduates in 2015-2016), the professorship cultivated campus ecology to grow an increasingly clear learning culture in morals and ethics on campus [The BSPE public archive from 1997-2021 can be found here].  Near year’s end in 2021, the faculty voted to include a moral learning component in the revised general education requirements.  The University’s faculty accomplished something important in choosing the new general education requirements.

With Sidra Shahid, whom I met at American University of Sharjah, and Katherine Cassese, whom I met through a program of the Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, I co-edited a series for the online daily of the American Philosophical Association, The Blog of the APA, called Into Philosophy.  It was influenced by one of the books that inspires me the most, We Are All Explorers: Learning & Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings.

A lot of my work draws on and gets back to good relationships.  Not to be reductive, I think that many of the problems we face in existence come from having bad relationships and are structured by them.  For instance, climate change is a planetary problem.  Yet at its core, I believe, is the obstacle of societies that cannot get their act together because they are structured by bad relationships — between the rich and those who are taken advantage of, autocrats and everyday people, and within identities that are hardened and exclusive in eschewing both common humanity and thoughtfulness with all the other beings that live on Earth.

Even in academia, so much that is alienating or frustrating comes from or is structured by bad relationships:  competition that does not bring everyone up, status snobbery, ego, etc.  Students working the system similarly are dogged by bad relationships and often, tragically, reproduce them.  The cynicism shaping their realistic outlook on life attests to a world fallen apart in many ways.

Finally, so many people walk around with the effects of bad relationships inside them, continuing to make other people suffer because they cannot transform their pain or identify the ways in which they were neglected and did not have their basic human needs met.

I agree with Plato that the psychological is a key to much politics gone wrong and believe that liberalism and to some extent socialism both need to focus more on psychological deformation of the values and ends that politics expresses or pursues.  But I disagree with Plato in that his picture of justness is self-enclosed and abstract, oddly impersonal.  The key to the psychology, I think, is in good interpersonal relationships as a moral foundation.

Here’s one quote that I read in my early 20s and still use to keep things real:  “Greatness of heart is the true human greatness” (Søren Kierkegaard, 1849).  Although I’m not Christian, this quote relays something that I felt in my Slovak family of pretty humble origins.  Not letting philosophy go to my head, I am in this because of and with others.  I can’t speak for you, but my refusal to ignore your refusal to be assimilated to a “we” that you do not want is my way of staying with the trouble.