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“When they publish something that took four or five years to produce, it’s quite satisfying. However humble and modest one might be, it’s a rush to see your name on a book cover.”
Stewart Kelly, Minot State professor of philosophy

University Communications

Making the world a more thoughtful place

On the second floor of Old Main there is an office replete with books. The shelves are fully stocked, tables and chairs are covered with books and magazines of seemingly every subject. This scholarly den is where Stewart Kelly, professor of philosophy, spends much of his time when he is not teaching class. 

“I love to read and I love to read widely,” Kelly said. “It’s an excuse to buy lots and lots of books.”

Kelly’s ample collection of books are not for show. He is an avid reader, researcher, and author. His most recent book, “Understanding Postmodernism: A Christian Perspective,” was published in December 2017. He also authored “Thinking Well,” and “Truth Considered and Applied.”

While Kelly has seen considerable success as a teacher and author, his freshman year of college was not so promising.

“I didn’t get any A’s my first semester of college because I discovered videogames,” Kelly said. “It took me some time to adjust to college life and to take my studies a little more seriously.”

Kelly found his way, graduating with degrees from Vanderbilt and Notre Dame.

“I grew up in a household where education was the number one priority,” Kelly said.

Kelly completed his master’s degree and doctorate at Notre Dame in five years capping off his time in South Bend with a published dissertation on the subjects of free will and determinism.

Born in New York City, raised in New Jersey, and having attended college east of the Mississippi, Kelly was not quite sure where Minot, N.D. was when he applied for a teaching position straight out of graduate school.

“I knew North Dakota was west of Minnesota, but I wasn’t sure if there was another state in between or not,” Kelly joked.

Kelly applied for teaching jobs at 108 colleges across the country, and ultimately decided to accept an offer from Minot State.

Kelly’s approach to teaching is to make philosophy accessible to his students. The application of critical thinking skills to real life situations are a hallmark of Kelly’s classes.

 “I like to show that philosophy is not all about abstract thought,” Kelly said. “People generally find that life goes better when they make careful thought-out decisions. I even do a class in introduction to philosophy on the necessary ingredients of a healthy long term romantic relationship.”

In addition to teaching, Kelly set his sights on writing. His first book “Thinking Well,” a critical thinking text book, caused a bidding war between two high profile publishers—Wadsworth and Mayfield.

“I was at my office and Wadsworth called, and Mayfield was calling my home phone at the exact same time. It was the most fun I ever had,” Kelly recalled. 

The satisfaction of interest from publishers quickly wore off when Kelly decided on a publisher and began the process of rewriting, revising, and editing.

“I got up two hours earlier every day for 180 days straight,” Kelly said. “I was tired a lot and had short bouts of insomnia.”

Although demanding, Kelly finds great satisfaction in the process of writing a book.

“When they publish something that took four or five years to produce, it’s quite satisfying,” Kelly said. “However humble and modest one might be, it’s a rush to see your name on a book cover.”

Kelly’s most recent book, “Postmodernism: A Christian Perspective,” is an exploration of postmodernist thought. Kelly co-wrote the book with College at Southeastern philosophy professor, James Dew.

“In our book we try to lay out what postmodernism is in 8-10 main chapters. Some claims we are highly sympathetic to, some we think are not very impressive, and others are somewhere in between,” said Kelly. “There’s a wide variety of perspectives out there. We try to take the middle road.”

Kelly attributes many factors to his success as an author—his affinity for books, hard work, a joy for research, but also the very pleasure he gets from looking at a page of text.

“I love the aesthetics of the printed page,” Kelly said. “Even if it were on the history of chocolate cake recipes, I’d still like to look at it.”

Published: 03/01/18

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