ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
2014 – Charles Brown
Poet William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Dr. Charles Brown, professor of philosophy and the 2014 Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor, has been lighting that fire since 1989 at Emporia State University.
“Dr. Brown is a thoughtful, caring, and passionate educator whose influence and professional development cannot be succinctly expressed,” wrote a former student, Matthew Lexow, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Memphis. “His mentorship and friendship have not only encouraged my continued studies in philosophy, but he has also served as a stalwart model of effective and meaningful education.”
Although Emporia State University offers neither a graduate program nor a major in philosophy, several of Brown’s former students have recently earned Ph.D.’s in philosophy. Professor Amy Sage Webb’s nomination letter on behalf of Brown states “Dr. Brown’s teaching provides the type of mentorship that literally changes the course of students’ lives, enlivens philosophical discourse, and achieves career success.”
Brown credits his students with the kind of in-class feedback and constructive criticism “that makes me be a better scholar.”
He traces his enthusiasm for teaching philosophy to his belief “that by training students to be creative, adaptive, and critical thinkers they can more effectively pursue their own good, the good of their families, and be valued partners in the pursuit of the common good.” Brown believes that a well-rounded education that nurtures the ability of students to become life-long learners benefits students individually and is essential for a vibrant and informed democratic culture.
Brown attributes his success in higher education to the opportunities of freedom and personal empowerment made possible by the post World War II democratization of higher education which he claims “dramatically expanded opportunities for all.”
As a professor of philosophy in the Social Sciences Department at Emporia State, his teaching duties include courses in ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy, as well as introduction to philosophy. Brown also teaches upper-division courses such as environmental ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of human nature, and existentialism.
Brown said “being a university professor allows me to make my living by being a professional philosopher. So what’s not to like? Higher education provides the opportunity to enjoy many long-term collegial and professional relationships, as well as new and returning students each year. The pay is adequate and the work is great.”
Outside the classroom, two of his co-edited anthologies in the field of environmental philosophy, Eco-Phenomenology: Back to the Earth Itself and Nature’s Edge: Boundary Explorations in Ecological Theory and Practice are internationally recognized as having established Eco-Phenomenology as new research and teaching paradigm in environmental philosophy and cross-disciplinary studies.
Dr. Ellen Hansen, in her letter of recommendation for Brown, writes: “Early reviews of Eco-Phenomenology called it provocative, well-written and timely, and identified it as a significant and impressive contribution to environmental philosophy…In the years since its publication, the book has become a standard reference for scholars and students pursuing studies in environmental philosophy.”
Two of Brown’s published essays “What We Can Learn from Dogs about Moral Theory” and “The Who of Environmental Ethics” have been influential in the emergence of the new field of ‘ecopsychology.’
Brown is also an active scholar in the field of inter-cultural dialogue. He is a founding member of the International Society for Universal Dialogue and Editor of the on-line philosophy journal Dialogue and UniversalismE. His work with the International Society for Universal Dialogue has allowed him to present his research on just war theory in Hiroshima, Japan, on democracy in Greece, on globalization in Beijing, and on neoliberal economic and political theory in New York City. His association with this society allowed him the opportunity to research the philosophical ideas and the “ethos of dialogue” behind the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland and to speak to the Polish Senate about greater Polish involvement in promoting environmental causes.
Brown served for six years on the board of directors on the Kansas Humanities Council and was the 2014 recipient of Emporia State’s President’s Award for Research and Creativity.