Ryan Kemp, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
On Faculty since 2015

Office: Blanchard 112
Phone: (630)752-5817


Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, 2015

Visiting Researcher, Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, University of Copenhagen, Summer, 2013

M.A., Philosophy, Fordham University, Bronx, NY, 2010

B.A., Philosophy, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 2007

About Ryan Kemp

When I enrolled at Texas A&M in the fall of 2002, I had no idea what philosophy was. I had been recruited to A&M as a swimmer and the liberal arts were low on my list of priorities. This all changed early in my sophomore year when one of my roommates tossed a copy of Plato on my lap. “We’re reading this in my intro to philosophy course,” he said. “You’ll like this.” I opened the book to Plato’s Apology and I was floored: here was an unflinchingly earnest (and ironic!) character asking questions of clear importance. Learning how to balance an accounting spreadsheet was fine and well, but this was something entirely different, something that demanded my immediate attention. So it was that Socrates—the great Athenian gadfly—convinced me to enroll in my first philosophy course. The next semester I became a philosophy major; by my senior year I had decided to attend graduate school.

Seven years and two graduate degrees later, I have not outgrown my early conviction that philosophy is a practical discipline, one that—when operating properly—turns our attention toward, and not away from, life. This intellectual bent led me to the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, a thinker I have spent the last several years reading a lot of. Kierkegaard, himself a great admirer of Socrates, challenges us to remember that life’s most important questions are often the easiest to answer. The struggle, especially for the philosopher, is to remember that knowing what it means to live well is not a sufficient condition for actually living well. The latter takes courage, both to confront one’s shortcomings and—to invoke a Kierkegaardian turn of phrase—take action toward becoming the self we already are.


Area of Specialization: 18th- and 19th-Century Continental Philosophy

Areas of Competence: Metaethics, Early Modern

Publications - Peer Reviewed

Visit my Academia page.

2015 “The Self-Transformation Puzzle.” Res Philosophica (special issue on Transformative Experience)

2013 “Desiderata for a viable secular humanism.” Journal of Applied Philosophy.

2013 “In defense of a straightforward reading of Fear and Trembling.”Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook. Germany: De Gruyter.

2011 “The contingency of evil: rethinking the problem of universal evil in Kant’s Religion.” Rethinking Kant: Volume Three. UK: Cambridge Scholars. (Awarded Herz Prize by the North American Kant Society for graduate paper of the year.)

2011 “Making sense of the ethical stage: revisiting Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to ethical transition.” Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook. Germany: De Gruyter.

Publications - Invited

2015 “Johannes de Silentio: religious poet or faithless aesthete?” In Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard’s Pseudonyms. UK: Ashgate Publishing Company.

2015 “Repetition.” In Steven Emmanuel, William McDonald, Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard’s Concepts. UK: Ashgate Publishing Company.

2015 “A, the Aesthete: aestheticism and the limits of philosophy.” In Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard’s Pseudonyms. UK: Ashgate Publishing Company.


2012. “On valuing the means to one’s ends: a challenge argument for constructivist ethical theories.” Illinois Philosophical Association. (Special plenary session with response by Sharon Street.)

2012. “Is Foot an immoralist?” Pacific APA (Main Program).

2011. “Kant’s theory of taste.” United Kingdom Kant Society.

2011. “Rethinking Kant’s theory of taste.” Southern Study Group of the North American Kant Society.

2010. “The contingency of evil: rethinking the problem of universal evil in Kant’s Religion. Southern Study Group of the North American Kant Society.

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