Descrying the Ideal: The Philosophy of John William Miller

By Stephen Tyman | Go to book overview

3
Ethos and Responsibility

In approaching the question of ethics in the work of John William Miller, one must be prepared to yield certain expectations associated with ethical programs aimed at deriving from some theoretical basis specific recommendations for human behavior. We can find in Miller's writings little or no contribution to positive morality. Nor is this an accidental omission. For Miller's view is that so much of behavior is valuable and intelligible only in relation to the historical and cultural conditions that motivate and contextualize it that no formalization of the foundations of its practice can lay claim to universality. But this is not to say that Miller is a relativist, or that he is unconcerned with morality. His reflection in this area attempts to cut through to a deeper level, to seek a fundamental stratum in the human condition.

Now for Miller, no means of reflecting upon the human condition can lay claim to what is essential, let alone be comprehensive, so long as it fails to get to the root of action. For to understand what human beings are is to understand what they can do, while to understand what they can do is to grasp their most intimate and revealing freedom. To say that freedom of action lies at the core of human existence, admittedly, risks cliché and vacuity, but, more importantly, in a positive sense, it also puts at risk an over-

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Descrying the Ideal: The Philosophy of John William Miller
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1 - View from the Midworld 1
  • 2 - The Active Psyche 22
  • 3 - Ethos and Responsibility 44
  • 4 - Refractions of Historicity 69
  • 5 - Causes and Things 94
  • 6 - Idealism and Disclosure 115
  • Notes 133
  • Works By John William Miller 137
  • Bibliography 139
  • Index 143
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