Hughes' Editorship of Social Philosophy Today Benefits Students

By Steve Charles
  December 18, 2003

"I learned that no matter how great the idea, without a clear and comprehensible manner of expressing it, it reaches no one and means nothing; it runs the risk of becoming non-sense." - Matt Miller ’04

Philosophy professor Cheryl Hughes’ editorship of Social Philosophy Today is an affirmation of her scholarship from colleagues in the field and a plus for the Wabash philosophy department’s reputation, but Hughes has also turned the job into a learning opportunity for Wabash students.

For the past three years, Hughes has employed Wabash philosophy majors as interns to help edit, proofread, and prepare the annual publication, which compiles selected papers from the International Social Philosophy Conference sponsored by the North American Society for Social Philosophy. Students are steeped in cutting edge peer-reviewed scholarship on an eclectic range of topics in social philosophy. The most recent volume, Truth and Objectivity in Social Ethics, includes titles such as "Freedom and the Role of the State: Libertarianism vs. Liberalism,"
"Science as a Paradigm in the Formation of Socio-Ethical Judgments," and "A Sense of Ecological Humanity."

"The students are already interested in philosophy and they are all good writers, but much of the material in these essays is new to them—social and political philosophy, comments on philosophers they haven’t read yet, application of philosophical methods to social problems like race. I think they are learning something simply by reading over the essays," Hughes says. "Before we make changes to the manuscript, we talk about their suggested corrections and they learn more about technical terms and philosophical traditions.

"I encourage the students to follow their interests," Hughes says. "If they read an essay about a philosopher or issue that interests them, I suggest they read that philosopher’s work, or study more about the issue."
Jon Warner ’03, now a student at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, believes that essays he edited for Hughes have a direct connection to the focus he’s found in his studies.

"Working with Professor Hughes broadened my interest in social philosophy outside of the little box we all create for ourselves," Warner says. "Several of the essays I helped edit focused on environmental issues, and today I am a member of the law school’s environmental society—the internship has proved enriching well beyond the work itself."

Matt Miller’s writing skills and confidence were enhanced by the internship.

"I learned that in writing, the subtle mistakes can lose the meaning of an entire thought," Miller says. "I gained confidence in my own writing, and, after realizing how many mistakes the authors of these papers made, I find academic writing much less intimidating, if only because now I am better prepared.

"It also affirmed for me the importance of good writing—no matter how great the idea,
without a clear and comprehensible manner of expressing it, it reaches no one and means nothing; it runs the risk of becoming nonsense."

"These students are correcting the work of professional philosophers, professors, and graduate students, and that’s got to give them confidence," Hughes says. She wasn’t surprised to see Miller parley his summer internship into his current job as a tutor in the College’s writing center.

Warner believes his own editorial experience with the journal gave him a leg up in law school.

"In law school, writing well is a critical element to all that we do," Warner says. "With the experience I gained during the internship, I was able to enter comfortably into the law school’s summer-start program, and that allowed me to get a head start on more than two-thirds of my incoming first year classmates."

Students aren’t the only editors inspired by their work on the publication. Hughes will pass on the enriching but time-consuming job to a new editor next year, but the work may have a legacy for future Wabash students.
"One of the volumes we edited focused on environmental ethics, and I have thought about creating a new course that concentrating on that topic," Hughes says. " I know there are others on campus who teach about environmental issues, and it would be interesting to try to put together something interdisciplinary."

Contact Professor Hughes at: hughesc@wabash.edu