Dedicated to the philosophy of John William Miller, this website is a comprehensive resource on Miller’s career and thought. Inside is information about Miller’s life, teaching practice, and philosophy. Also available is a wealth of more detailed material including bibliographies, archival resources, and other items of interest to those considering Miller’s philosophy. Select any of the pages from the above menu and peruse the gathered materials. Information on essay prizes, research fellowships, and travel stipends are on the menu to the right. Please contact the Fund with proposals and to inquire about funding in these three categories.
What’s New at Williams
This May the inaugural John William Miller Lectureship took place on the Williams College campus. The first lectureship in what is planned as an annual series was awarded to Arthur Fine, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Adjunct Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Washington. Fine is best known for his book The Shaky Game: Einstein, Realism, and The Quantum Theory (Chicago, 1986) and he is currently at work on a project addressing foundational questions relating to quantum theory and exploring objectivity in relation to relativism, instrumentalism, and constructivism. As part of the lectureship Fine visited a class in the philosophy of physics, conducted a seminar with physicists and philosophers, and gave a public lecture, “Instrumentalism Revisited,” on May 6. Associate Professor Keith McPartland was Fine’s host and the event was made possible by the support of Professor Melissa Barry, chair of the Williams Philosophy Department.
Additional news from the Philosophy Department at Williams: Taylor Oddleifson, a graduating senior, was awarded the John W. Miller Prize in Philosophy. Mr. Oddleifson wrote his senior thesis on causal structuralism. The Miller Fellowship Fund joins with the Philosophy Department in honoring the academic accomplishments of Oddleifson.
What’s New in Research Fellowships
The Fellowship Fund is pleased to announce that Gary Steiner, John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University, has received a research fellowship for the academic year of 2015-2016.
Steiner is the author of four books. In his first book, Descartes as a Moral Thinker: Christianity, Technology, Nihilism, Steiner examined the growing tension in early modernity between reason and faith and explored the questions of how faith traditionally served as a source of moral values and what can take the place of faith in an increasingly secular age. In his subsequent three books, Steiner has considered a set of questions pertaining to the moral status of nonhuman animals and has argued for an existential kinship between human beings and nonhuman animals as the basis for a revised ethical stance toward animals. In his new work, which he will pursue under the auspices of the Miller Fellowship, Steiner is exploring the respective roles and mutual influence of reason and emotion in the moral life. In this work, Steiner’s goal is to arrive at a more unified conception of moral choice, one that overcomes the influence of traditional dualistic thinking. In this work, Steiner will draw on Miller’s conceptions of the midworld, the act, and criticism, as well as on the humanistic ideal that Miller sketches. A key aspect of Steiner’s exploration of Miller’s thought is that Steiner will seek to draw out the implications of Miller’s thought for specific problem areas of philosophy. As some commentators on Miller have noted, Miller did not develop a complete theory of value, even though his work has profound implications for value. By drawing out the implications of Miller’s thought for a theory of value, Steiner hopes to initiate a new direction of research that promises to share Miller’s work with a larger philosophical audience.
For further information on research fellowships, including details pertaining to funding available and the process of making an application, is presented on this website.
What’s New in the Fellowship Committee
The John William Miller Fellowship Fund Committee recently welcomed two new members: Lawrence Miller and Katie Nash. Miller, the grandson of John William Miller, continues the involvement of the Miller family in the regular operations of the Fund and joins his uncle, Paul, on the Committee. Nash, College Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Williams, oversees the Miller Papers and so has a crucial role in maintaining Miller’s philosophical legacy. We are all grateful to have them on the Committee.
What’s New in Print
Culture and Values
In a forthcoming number of the electronic journal Culture and Values (v. 4, no. 12) there will be an essay by Katie Terezakis titled “To Philosophize is to Revise, Or, How German Idealism Became Historical in the Work of One Secluded American Thinker.” The issue is devoted German Idealism and in the article Terezakis explores connections between Miller’s training in German idealism and emergent forms of American pragmatism in the first half of the 20th century.
The Journal of Speculative Philosophy
In a recent number of The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (v. 26, no. 4, 2012: 589-626) there is an essay by Joseph P. Fell titled “Some Thoughts on the Modern Mind.” In the essay Fell considers the supposed eclipse of modern intelligence (founded intellectually by René Descartes) by post-modernism and then takes this examination as an opportunity to assess the value of Miller’s thought within that context.
Katie Terezakis’s essay, “Knowledge and Authority in the Metaphysics of John William Miller” was published in The Pluralist (vol. 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 55-76). (The Pluralist is the official journal of the Society of the Advancement of American Philosophy.) In the essay, Terezakis reconstructs Miller’s actualist account of semiotic order and human agency, and she argues that Miller’s actualism is best understood as an extension of the “metacritique” brought against Kant’s transcendental idealism. In so doing, Terezakis establishes the distinction between the epistemically authoritative and the destructively authoritarian. The understanding of this distinction, she argues, is crucial to grasping the symbolic modes of control practiced in all attempts to organize and convey meaning.
What’s New Online
Researchers and readers can now scan the finding guide to the Miller Papers online. (Click here to access the finding guide or go to the Web page of Archives and Special Collections at Williams College.) The find guide provides basic information on the contents of the archival collection including the titles of items, their date, and the basic subject matter addressed by each item. The online guide will be an invaluable aid to those planning their research or searching for an overlooked piece of writing.
What’s New in Presentations
At the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, a group of scholars presented on the theme of “Action and Historical Absolutes: Existential Strains in American Philosophy.” Topics addressed were:
- “Habit, Relaxation, and the Open Mind: James and the Increments of Ethical Freedom” by Megan Craig
- “Existentialism Comes (Again) to America: From Emerson to Miller, from Sartre to Fell” by Michael J. McGandy
- “Royce on Being-with-Others: The Sociality of Self and Nature” by Mark D. Moorman
Michael J. McGandy, Katie Terezakis, and Stephen Tyman presented on the topic of “An American Existentialism: John William Miller’s Philosophy of the Act” at the 51st annual meeting of Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy. The meeting took place in Rochester. (The program can be seen here.) The papers presented were:
- “Embodiment, Language, and Demonry in Miller’s Actualism” by Katie Terezakis
- “John William Miller and the Problem of Freedom” by Stephen Tyman
- “John William Miller, C. I. Lewis, and the Existential Inheritance of the
Golden Age” by Michael J. McGandy
The papers by Terezakis and Tyman are accessible via the linked titles.
Four scholars presented papers at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. The title of the panel was “John William Miller’s Actualism and the Genealogy of Idealism” and explored a crucial genealogy of idealism. Idealism has always been a provocative but flawed way to articulate the order of experience as well as our own compulsion to order experience. A more nuanced, earthy, and, indeed, pragmatic approach to idealism, such as that offered by Miller, the panelists argued, casts great light not only on the history of idealism but also on its future prospects.
The four papers can be accessed by means of the following links:
- “John William Miller, C. I. Lewis, and the Inheritance of the Golden Age” by Michael J. McGandy
- “Idealist Affinities: John William Miller and Josiah Royce” by Mark D. Moorman
- “John William Miller and the Metacritical Initiative” by Katie Terezakis
- “John William Miller and Henri Bergson on Activity and Consciousness” by Stephen Tyman