Former Philosophy and Cinema Studies Professor Returns to Purchase for Lecture Series

by Sasha Ray




Former professor Nicholas Baer returned to Purchase for a two-day event, running from October 31 to November 1, covering both of his areas of study: cinema studies and philosophy.


After having taught at Purchase, Baer was welcomed back with open arms by past students and faculty in the philosophy and cinema studies departments.


Baer gave a talk on Wednesday night hosted and funded by the Philosophy Society covering perfectionism and its pertinence to cinematic theories and approaches. Referencing several different philosophers and philosophical topics, Baer was able to lead an intriguing talk in which he explored the phenomenon of perfection in both philosophy and film theory.


“This topic in particular jumps across the centuries,” Baer said at the introduction of his talk. “I thought this was the perfect audience given that there are people in this room who regularly teach Plato and Aristotle and Kant, up to 20th century German philosophy.”


Delving into his research, the definition of perfection in its barest forms and according to different philosophers and scholars were presented, including Aristotle, Kant, Tatarkiewicz, Valéry, and Freud. Beauty and perfection were brought to light at the end of the talk, elaborating on their differences.


Baer described the modern era as being “characterized between the space of experience and the horizons of expectation,” according to a philosopher who has heavily influenced Baer’s research. The material presented proved to be inclusive of a number of different fields, incorporating art, philosophy, a degree of political science, and the logical backing behind perfection as a concept. The research presented in Baer’s talk will be published in the New German Critique once the research is concluded.


“It’s wonderful that Nick can attract people from different schools, both students and faculty,” philosophy professor Morris Kaplan said after Professor Baer’s lecture on Wednesday night. “Of course the talk was completely engaging, and food for thought for everyone.”


“There’s more theory involved in Cinema Studies than I would’ve ever guessed,” said Jordan Green, a senior majoring in philosophy. “I ought to explore art more as a potential subject for philosophizing.”


“It was really fun to be back and to workshop new work that’s very much a work in progress,” said Baer following his lecture. “There are so many brilliant people here, bringing so many different forms of expertise. It was fun to be in a room full of people who are so versatile and so intellectually curious and are here because they want to be here. It’s really wonderful to be back.”


The following night, Baer was welcomed again by a different audience: a group more inclined towards the film industry, attracting several past colleagues from the Cinema Studies program. The screening of the German silent film "Siegfried" took place in the Music Building’s Choral Hall, accompanied live by pianist Cary Brown. Following the screening,

Baer brought to recognition that male fragility was a major theme throughout the film, and was curious to know the opinions of his former colleagues and students.


Baer is currently working at The University of Chicago, teaching in both cinema studies and philosophy.

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