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Uncovering a new frame of mind

Professor of philosophy, José Luis Bermúdez, has been named a 2018 ACLS Fellow and is a recipient of an NEH summer stipend.

By Allen M. Junek ’18

Though you may not know what “framing” is, you see it everywhere—it’s the lense through which we view reality. Political parties often frame issues in different ways to promote their position. Closer to home, Aggies often frame “that school in Austin” as a rival to foster a sense of institutional camaraderie. And to professor of philosophy José Luis Bermúdez, it is the subject of his forthcoming book, The Power of Frames, which will be completed with support from two highly competitive awards.

Part of the project’s funding will come from American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), of which he was just named a fellow. Out of the over 1,100 applicants nationwide, Bermúdez has the distinct honor of being the only philosopher among the 78 scholars. He has also been awarded a competitive summer stipend from the National Endowment for

the Humanities (NEH). Each university is permitted to submit two applicants, and of over 800, less than 10 percent receive funding. To receive either of these recognition is rare, and to receive both in the same year is extraordinary.

Dr. Bermudez pictured mid-lecture behind a wooden podium

Dr. José Luis Bermúdez, Professor of Philosophy and 2018 ACLS Fellow. Photo/ Joshua Gilley.

“It’s a great honor for me personally to receive these highly selective awards, and also reflects well on Texas A&M University’s many strengths in the liberal arts, strengths that deserve to be much better known,” Bermúdez said.

Bermúdez’s views on framing run contrary to other social scientists. While others see framing as an obstacle to rational thought, he sees framing as an integral part of what makes for a rational decision-making. He hopes that his book can show that framing can be a powerful tool for public discourse, and that often, our toughest decisions are really just clashes between different frames. He believes that by understanding this complexity, these clashes can be rationally resolved.

“I intend to argue [in The Power of Frames], the principal barrier to regaining intelligent and civil discourse in the political and social arena is the widespread inability, in every part of the political spectrum, to reflect and debate not just within a single frame but also across and between different and inconsistent frames,” Bermúdez wrote in his proposal to the NEH.

The funds from the NEH will be used as Bermúdez’s primary source of income this summer. And because he will have to take time off from teaching while completing the project, the funds from the ACLS will provide money for someone to teach courses in his stead.

“I think it’s important that people don’t think that the main aim of an academic is to get out of teaching. Most of us really enjoy teaching, and it’s a regret I won’t be teaching in the fall, but it will be nice to have some dedicated time to do research with no distractions,”  Bermúdez said.