1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania professor receives John William Miller Research Fellowship

Williamstown, Mass.—Peter S. Fosl, professor of philosophy at Transylvania University, has been selected as the next recipient of the John William Miller Research Fellowship.

The John William Miller Fellowship Fund offers financial backing to scholars researching and writing book-length works addressing the philosophy of John William Miller. With the support of the Fellowship Fund, Fosl will explore the place of philosophical skepticism in Miller’s work. In his planned book, he will draw on Miller’s conceptions of the midworld, the act and criticism articulated in Miller’s five books, including “The Paradox of Cause,” and “The Task of Criticism.”

“I am deeply honored to be named the next Miller Fellow and have the opportunity to devote a year of scholarly writing and inquiry in order to better understand the distinctive way Miller’s thought illuminates and responds to the challenges of skepticism,” Fosl said. “Miller’s student, Joseph P. Fell, introduced me to Miller’s thinking and set the coordinates of my philosophical life while I was a philosophy student at Bucknell in the early 1980s. Now, after ranging across the history of philosophy for more than 30 years, I am eager to return to the seminal thoughts of Miller and Fell, and consider them afresh.” 

The $45,000 award allows worthy scholars the means to devote substantial time to research and writing. “Professor Fosl has proposed a work that will both explore and challenge the premises of Miller’s thought,” said Michael J. McGandy, chair of the Miller Fellowship Fund. “Miller sees skepticism as, largely, a necessary but flawed philosophical stance. Across his career, Fosl has engaged with and made a case for a necessary and viable skeptical stance.” The book that will result from Fosl’s study of Miller is “just the sort of critical work that the Fellowship Fund wants to support.”

Fosl, who has taught at Transylvania University since 1998, is the author, co-author, and editor of eight books, including “The Big Lebowski and Philosophy.” His most recent book, an edited volume published by Bucknell University Press, is “Commonplace Commitments: Thinking through the Legacy of Joseph P. Fell.” In that work, Fosl and 14 other contributors reflect upon and extend the philosophy of Fell, who is John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy emeritus at Bucknell University.

Laura Bryan, Transylvania’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university, said Fosl’s award demonstrates the school’s commitment to support teaching scholars. “Our faculty participate in first-rate scholarship because their scholarly activities enrich the liberal education we provide Transy students,” she said.

Fosl’s award is available beginning in July 2017. His research will involve an examination of Miller’s published work as well as his unpublished papers in the Williams College Archives and Special Collections.

The John William Miller Fellowship Fund was created in 1984, not long after the death of Miller in 1978, to promote understanding the thought of this American philosopher. Miller taught at Williams College from 1924 to 1960 and was a teacher beloved and respected by generations of undergraduates. The Fund is administered by Williams College, which also houses Miller’s papers in its archives. Six books by Miller have been published by W. W. Norton and Company, including, most recently, “The Task of Criticism.”