Philosophy and World Religions

Faculty: Francis Degnin

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Francis Degnin"Even before college, I was taken with questions about ethics and the meaning of life, so during college I explored psychology, religion, ministry, and eventually philosophy. I settled on Philosophy in part because it asks fundamental questions, and in part because it does so without a strong bias towards one particular view. Eventually, I found my way to medical ethics, which offered me a chance to blend what I love most about ministry--serve others and the common good—with the rigor and questions of philosophy. My work in the hospital focuses my philosophical work on the concrete care of persons. Philosophy, on the other hand, offers a richness and perspective on how to pursue this care. It helps me to learn from my experiences. My hope is to share with students some of the insights, but even more, to share some of processes for finding those insights on one's own. Because whatever the answers to our fundamental ethical and philosophical questions are, they only really work if one finds them for oneself."


Bartlett 1087

(319) 273-3015


MA, Ph.D., Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

MA, Philosophy, Villanova University

BA, Philosophy, Seattle University

M.P.M., Pastoral Ministry, Seattle University

BA, Mathematics, Psychology, Religion, Whitman College

Research and Teaching Interests:

medical and clinical ethics, humanities, ethics, death and dying, continental philosophy, phenomenology, social and political philosophy

Regularly Taught Classes: Biomedical Ethics (Capstone), Perspective on Death and Dying (Capstone), Philosophy: The Art of Thinking
In Process:

"I am working on a series of presentations updating hospitals, social work, and hospice workers on aspects of ethics and patient care, including new tools like Iowa Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment, Moral Distress, and managing difficult provider-patient encounters. My most current article is on a new way of "dumping" patients who are unable to pay which has recently arisen and needs to be curbed. I am also updating a humanities paper on a Levinsian reading the of the Epic of Gilgamesh."

Selected Publications:

"'Difficult' Patients, Over Medication, and Dangerous Group Decisional Dynamics," The Journal of Clinical Ethics, Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring 2009, pg. 1-11. (Special section with invited commentary.)

"Truth, Faith, and Intelligent Design: A Pedagogical Essay," Universitas, Online Journal for the University of Northern Iowa, Fall 2008, with invited commentary.

"Talking with Students about Truth: Using Heidegger to Loosen the Grip of Literal Absolutes," Religion & Education, Vol. 35, No. 2, Spring 2008, pg. 27-41.

"Levinas & Society's Most Vulnerable: A Philosopher's View of the Business of Health Care," Organizational Ethics: Healthcare, Business, and Policy, Special Issue on "Business and Public Health Partnerships: Practice, Policy, and Ethics," Co-Authored with Dr. Donna Wood, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2007.

"Talking with Students about Faith in an Era of Religious Extremes," Religion & Education, Vol. 34, No. 2, Spring 2007, pg. 1-26.

Professional Awards:

Community Engagement Award, Veridian Credit Union, 2011

Davis Research Grant in Gerontology, University of Northern Iowa, 2008

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Northern Iowa, 2005

Community Service

"I'm updating and giving a public presentation on the Affordable Care Act and another one dealing with the ethics of newborn screening. I also serve as Chair for the State Legislative Advisory Committee on Congenital and Inherited Disorders, and as the ethics consultant and a night relief chaplain for Wheaton Franciscan Health Care of Iowa."