Philosophy is central to Kansas State University's mission to "...provide all students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, understanding, and skills characteristic of an educated person" and to "... prepare its students to be informed, productive and responsible citizens..." The Department aims to fulfill this goal in three ways. First, our courses help undergraduate students develop skills in critical reasoning, reading, and discursive writing that are useful in all fields, and needed for insight into ethical dilemmas and contemporary political and cultural controversies. Second, we provide a major which equips students to pursue successfully further study in philosophy and related academic fields, and in such professional arenas as law, ministry, and business. Third, through its research and service the Department contributes directly to Kansas State University's responsibility for "developing human potential, expanding knowledge, enriching cultural expression..." and extending its expertise widely to all parts of our society.
Philosophy at Kansas State University offers students the opportunity to master valuable interpretive, critical and exegetical skills. Responsible citizens are able to make careful moral and empirical assessment of alternative policies and social visions. For them philosophy is a powerful resource, because it is a discipline uniquely concerned with the clear exposition of good reasoning in all of its forms. The department offers service courses that aim to teach students how to read challenging texts, and to compose essays that clearly explain and evaluate the arguments they find within them. Introductory philosophy courses, whether in such 'applied' fields as medical, business, or environmental ethics, or such 'theoretical' fields as metaphysics, epistemology, or the history of philosophy, all aim to teach students to think clearly and critically, and to convey their thoughts in lucid prose.
Philosophy is also concerned with the human condition broadly construed, and therefore the department does more than offer instruction in philosophical method. Liberally educated persons are able to think clearly, cogently, and critically about beliefs central to their way of understanding themselves and their role in the world. Hence, we aim to cultivate an appreciation for alternative self-understandings, and the ability to interpret and assess expressions of those understandings in every area of human endeavor, including science, religion, ethics, politics and art.
In many of its courses the Department of Philosophy aims to enhance our students' understanding of moral, political, and cultural issues. Philosophical discussion of such issues benefits from our having faculty and students bring a variety of perspectives to the to the classroom reflecting differences in culture, ethnicity and gender. Faculty diversity could be helpful in attracting diverse students into the department's courses and major curriculum, and for allowing the best mentoring of students with special potential and needs in an academic setting.
The philosophy major serves four functions related to the University's mission. First, an undergraduate education in philosophy is excellent preparation for advanced work in various academic disciplines - including literature, history, various sciences and arts - and likewise for advanced work in various professions, including law and business. Second, instructors who are actively engaged in teaching and mentoring interested majors are far better teachers at the introductory level. Third, the presence of philosophy majors in upper-level courses greatly improves the level of instruction for non-majors enrolled in them. Finally, a major program is essential for recruiting and retaining good faculty to teach philosophy courses at this university.
With the exception only of certain formal courses, such as logic, philosophy courses at all levels have significant writing requirements. Learning to write and think about philosophical matters requires active discussion in class, and careful, detailed responses from instructors to written work. When classes become large, fruitful discussion cannot occur, and instructors can neither carefully respond to written work nor provide help in office hours to students who need it. Small class sizes and reasonable teaching loads are therefore essential for teaching excellence.
Philosophy faculty maintain a serious research program in order to contribute directly to the research mission of the university and to enhance its reputation as a research institution. The Department's active research has important additional benefits. It has a positive effect on the quality of philosophy instruction. Faculty actively investigating cutting edge problems are aware of significant advances in their field, and can direct their students' attention to relevant and stimulating material. Such faculty are also excited about the material they are teaching, and will communicate their excitement in their classrooms. Moreover, good teaching and good research share a common cause. Individuals able and motivated enough to be first rate teachers are also likely to be able and interested enough to do first rate research. Finally, a philosophy department with a good research record is essential for attracting and retaining the best faculty for the Department of Philosophy itself. Therefore, while the Department recognizes that the demands placed on its faculty by teaching obligations are very high, it nonetheless expects them to regularly produce and publish work of interest to the philosophical profession. If teaching demands are kept within reasonable bounds, the quality of faculty contributions to both research and teaching will increase.
All Philosophy faculty assume a share of the Department's administrative functions, committee work, advising, and so on, without which the teaching and research work of the Department could not occur. The Department also encourages its faculty to participate in university committees, serve in elected campus office, advise student organizations, and engage in cooperative projects with other departments. In addition, Philosophy faculty may referee manuscripts, assist with tenure and promotion reviews, edit journals or newsletters, organize conferences, and contribute in other ways to the organizational tasks of their profession. Finally, we recognize the contribution philosophy faculty may make to our local, state, and national community through educational and consulting service - e.g., writing essays and reviews for popular journals and other non-professional publications, giving lectures to lay audiences on and off campus, providing testimony at public hearings, and taking part in debates or meetings with public officials in matters pertaining to a faculty member's area of knowledge. In these ways the Department's faculty carry out the University's mission of "extending its expertise to individuals, business, education, and government."
Such activities serve the University's and Department's mission in several other important ways. First, our faculty's involvement in professional work contributes to the academic reputation of Kansas State University as a serious research institution, and to the faculty's own intellectual stimulation and development. Second, our faculty's community service contributes to the public's understanding that the University is a valuable resource for informed dialogue among citizens in a democratic society. Finally, it is an example that may inspire our students to participate energetically now or later in the cultural and civic life of their community.