Rowman and Littlefield International

Isobel Cowper-Coles on being the Commissioning Editor for Philosophy at Rowman & Littlefield International


Published on Friday 27 Apr 2018 by Isobel Cowper-Coles

Isobel Cowper-Coles on being the Commissioning Editor for Philosophy at Rowman & Littlefield International

During my meetings with philosophers at conferences and on campus, I am often asked whether I studied philosophy for my degree. The answer is always no – I studied for a joint degree in Linguistics with English Literature. I don’t believe that a degree in the subject you are commissioning in is necessary, and indeed a too deep or advanced knowledge of the subject might influence or determine some of the choices you make as a commissioning editor in a negative way, rather than a positive way.

It is this process of learning which most closely relates to the core of my job: managing the process of building a list in such a diverse field as philosophy means knowing what the core areas of the field are, how they have developed and what new areas of enquiry are emerging from them.

This understandably leads on to asking what exactly my job entails. I do believe that a humanities degree is necessary for commissioning in the humanities. I have also enjoyed learning about the discipline of philosophy in the course of my work at RLI. It is this process of learning which most closely relates to the core of my job: managing the process of building a list in such a diverse field as philosophy means knowing what the core areas of the field are, how they have developed and what new areas of enquiry are emerging from them. With philosophy being a skill as much as a body of knowledge, there are endless ways that it can be imagined and applied to some of the most pressing questions of our time: is democracy a fair system? Should we let robots take over our jobs? Is geo-engineering an ethical option for dealing with climate change? Increasingly, the study of questions such as these does not fit entirely within the field of philosophy. Other disciplines such as anthropology, geography, politics and psychology become essential to philosophers who are examining these questions.

With philosophy being a skill as much as a body of knowledge, there are endless ways that it can be imagined and applied to some of the most pressing questions of our time: is democracy a fair system? Should we let robots take over our jobs? Is geo-engineering an ethical option for dealing with climate change?

This knowledge then feeds in to the strategy development for my publishing. I attend conferences and make campus visits not only to keep up to date with the field, but to find out what the needs of academics teaching in the field are, and how our publishing can best serve them. This helps me identify where there are gaps in the market and build up a good network of reviewers and authors, as well as raising awareness of our publishing within the field.  As I embark on my first full year of commissioning, I’m looking forward to building a wider list of contacts, attending conferences at the cutting edge of philosophy research and building a list that represents the interdisciplinarity and diversity of philosophy.