Excellence in Reseach
Dr. Jeff Bell
Excellence in Research
Dr. Jeff Bell
Professor of Philosophy
Jeff Bell’s writings aren’t likely to make a popular best-seller list at least not yet.
But his books and articles are rated highly, cited frequently and recognized widely by philosophers, historians, political scientists and other scholars worldwide.
The author of five books three single authored and two edited texts Jeffrey A. Bell, professor of philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science, has carved out an international niche for himself for his extensive studies on the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and more recently David Hume, considered one of the most important English language philosophers of all time. A prolific author, Bell is being recognized this year with Southeastern’s President’s Award for Excellence in Research.
“Part of what one needs to do in academics is to find an area that’s not covered very well and delve into it,” Bell said. “I saw Gilles Deleuze as equal to, or better, than other major philosophers of the period, although at the time he was given much less attention. Deleuze became the topic of my dissertation, which later became my first book.”
Bell is internationally recognized for his interpretation of Deleuze, the influential philosopher of the late 20th century best known for his work regarding literature, film, art and interpretations of the work of other philosophers. Bell’s fourth book, Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Difference, led to an invitation to present a plenary lecture at the First International Deleuze Studies Conference in Wales. This, plus his subsequent writings, led to his selection in 2006 to serve as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world centers of scholarship in the humanities.
The fellowship allowed him to complete two additional books published last year by the prestigious Edinburgh University Press, work that, according to his department head William Robison, “cemented Professor Bell as one of the world’s leading authorities on Deleuze.”
While at Edinburgh, Bell turned to Hume because he wanted to study a philosopher with much broader appeal.
“David Hume is widely known and studied,” he said, “and I found a lot of connections between Hume and Deleuze.” According to Robison, that book -- Deleuze’s Hume: Philosophy, Culture and the Scottish Enlightenment “consolidated Bell’s reputation as an expert on the Scottish Enlightenment in general and on Hume in particular.”
“Jeff’s work on Hume is truly original and will no doubt enable valuable further research that reads Hume as a contemporary figure of great interest and relevance,” says his co-editor and colleague Professor Claire Colebrook of Pennsylvania State University.
A colleague at LSU, John Protevi in the Department of French Studies, concurs, stating that Deleuze’s Hume is the first work to “detail the relation of Gilles Deleuze and the great David Hume, who is, simply put, one of the most important figures in the entirety of the Western philosophical tradition.”
A member of the Department of History and Political Science since 1993, he holds the Fay Warren Reimers Distinghised Professorship and previously served as the C. Howard Nichols Professor at Southeastern. He is a native of southern California, earning his undergraduate degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles and master’s and doctoral degrees from Tulane University.
As an undergraduate, he had a wide range of academic interests: anthropology, psychology, religious studies and other areas.
“I realized I couldn’t major in all those areas but I figured philosophy would be a good way to tap into them,” he said. “People go into philosophy because they like to question things; it’s a good way of thinking about anything that interests you.
“I try to make philosophy accessible to my students,” he added. “Many think philosophy is some obtuse, ivory tower type of study. Then they discover that in some way everyone is a philosopher. Part of being human is to question and wonder why we’re here. Philosophy provides a way to foster that questioning.”
Bell is currently researching the topic of ethics, politics and the economy.
“I am thinking through the basic assumptions about what government should be, what it should do, and the relationships between individuals and society,” he said. “The questions have been around a while, but are becoming much more topical in today’s political climate. My goal is to write something that falls more in the popular realm. There’s a place for that, and I think it has never been more needed than it is today.”