The following citation was presented at Franklin & Marshall College’s Commencement Ceremony on May 12, 2012:
The Bradley R. Dewey Scholarship Award recognizes the faculty member who best exemplifies “the ideal of the scholar whose research efforts reflect and inspire excellence and enlighten teaching.” Bennett Helm is an outstanding example of the teacher-scholar ideal we value so highly. He is a prolific researcher who has achieved international recognition for his work, and he is a devoted teacher who challenges our students to participate in the philosophical enterprise at the highest level.
Professor Helm graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 1988, summa cum laude. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and joined the Philosophy Department at Franklin & Marshall in 1995. He has been chair of the Philosophy Department and the program in Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind.
Professor Helm’s research aims to provide an account of the mind adequate to a serious moral psychology and understanding of personal and moral values. His publications are at the forefront of current work on action theory, moral psychology, the nature of emotions and the metaphysics of the self. Helm shows these areas to be interconnected in ways that force us to revise entrenched views about the nature of the mind, rationality and personhood. In his first book, “Emotional Reason,” published with Cambridge University Press, he shows that emotions are essentially intertwined with personal values and the structure of rational deliberation. Emotions and reasons can only be spelled out in terms of our commitments to revise them in light of one another. This implies that we need to abandon old distinctions between cognitive and motivational capacities: Cognizing the world and being affected by it constitute a single capacity. His second book, “Love, Friendship, and the Self,” published with Oxford University Press, broadens the philosophical implications of this analysis beyond individuals. Helm shows here that we should understand our identities as persons in terms of potentially shared values that constitute our loving and caring for one another. Traditionally individualistic notions, such as autonomy, turn out to rest on our social relations with others.
In addition to these books, Professor Helm has published the results of his research in more than two dozen articles in some of the leading philosophy journals, such as “Noûs” and “American Philosophical Quarterly.” He has presented his work at international conferences in Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, Jordan, Israel and Norway, and several of his papers have been translated and published in German. He has twice won year-long NEH research fellowships, as well as a prestigious ACLS fellowship. He is a lead investigator on a $640,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation on Love and Human Agency. Next year he will be a Laurance Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Human Value, where he plans to complete a third book investigating how our being free and responsible depends on our membership in a broader human community bound together through its members’ emotional interconnections.
Franklin & Marshall College is proud to bestow its highest award for scholarship on Bennett Helm: a true model of the teacher as scholar.