The mission of the Department of English and Philosophy is to provide a foundation for a liberal arts education—to think and write clearly, to read carefully and critically, to reason effectively and systematically, and to engage with the works and problems in our disciplines. All these prepare our students to address the complexities of the twenty-first century world. In Philosophy, we study profound questions about reality and human experience: questions concerning God, the mind, freedom, and morality. In English, we study literature, writing, and the structure of language; these investigations yield insight into the human condition, including the function of identity, culture, and history. Our graduate programs combine these areas of focus with specialized training in college English pedagogy. Across the Department, we pursue research and creative endeavors that contribute to our fields. Our service brings our disciplinary expertise to the needs of university, regional, national, and international communities.
Our Shared Activities
The faculty in English and Philosophy is an intellectually diverse group, with members specializing in British and American literature, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, creative writing, and folklore; Classical and Early Modern philosophy, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and logic.
In English, we are united by activities in several areas that link our endeavors, connect our teaching and research, and create a distinct department culture. These shared areas are:
Historical and Cultural Approaches to Literature and Language
This area includes studies of literary and cultural history, orality, and linguistic change. In research and teaching, many of our faculty members address ways that literature and language are embedded in historical and cultural movements, registering social and intellectual change. Several of us explore ideas about authorship, investigating the social significance of textual and cultural productions in the context of their authors’ biographies, political leanings, and communal affiliations.
English Pedagogy and Writing Instruction
All faculty teach writing courses, from freshman composition to specialized, upper-division classes, and our involvement in composition fosters our promotion of conscious and reflective pedagogical practices. Such commitment is evident in our support for pedagogical research among faculty and graduate students, in our graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), in our undergraduate and graduate courses in pedagogy, in our work with majors in Education, in our mentoring program for graduate student teachers, and in our regular department workshops on teaching.
Professional and Creative Writing
Growing out of our work in literature, composition, and pedagogy is a commitment to activities that engage the broader public, and the professional and creative communities. We teach courses in business, technical, and magazine writing, as well as courses in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. We also encourage professional activities in these areas, through the internship program in the professional writing track of the English major; through the publication of our literary journal, Black Rock and Sage; and through faculty and student participation in readings and presentations.
Although these are different areas, we do not think of them as independent or mutually exclusive. Our research in historical and cultural approaches influences how we teach literature, setting texts into their contexts. Our support of creative writing makes our teaching of literary history all the more pertinent. Not surprisingly, our diversity also fosters support for interdisciplinary degrees, curricula, and projects. Above all, we are involved in these three main areas, which complement and unite our diverse specialties and interests.
In Philosophy, our faculty members work in several areas:
History of Philosophy
ISU philosophy faculty are actively involved in research in many areas of the history of philosophy. With regard to Classical philosophy, our faculty focuses in particular on issues in Plato’s later dialogues and Aristotle’s moral theory. We also have scholarly interests in Early Modern Philosophy, especially seventeenth century French philosophy, and the history of 20th century analytic philosophy.
Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics
We work in many areas of ethics, including investigating foundational issues in normative ethics regarding consequentialist and deontological theories. Faculty also research in biomedical ethics, concentrating on issues of informed consent, and research ethics.
Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Logic
We work on a wide range of issues in metaphysics and epistemology, including the nature of justification, causation, and personal identity. Our faculty has special interest in questions in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science (e.g., consciousness and perception), the history and philosophy of science, and the nature of logic.
The philosophy faculty shares with our colleagues in English the general orientation that there are no sharp boundaries between areas of inquiry as diverse as philosophy, history, science, and the arts. Thus many of our philosophical endeavors draw from research areas outside of philosophy and bring the tools of philosophical analysis to bear on questions in other disciplines. Our research into the nature of the mind, for example, often appeals to work in experimental psychology; we apply results from normative ethics to issues in medical research; and we glean insights from history to understand contemporary philosophical practice.