Active Life, The
Miller's Metaphysics of Democracy
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright
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This book begins with two suppositions: The idea of the active life is worth retrieving and the philosophy of John William Miller commands serious attention. Neither the idea nor the philosophy is given much consideration in current discussions. Yet the possibility of a viable and compelling metaphysics of democracy...
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Introduction: The Active and Contemplative Lives
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John William Miller provides us with a philosophy of the act that is the basis for and ingredient to the active life.1 This is a life of deeds and legislation, power and responsibility, as well as originality and fate. It is a way of life that looks askance on the divine and the eternal and elevates the political and mortal. The...
Chapter 1. A Metaphysics of Democracy?
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It is no news that metaphysics is in disrepute. Metaphysics has been on the defensive since the advent of modernity, as has talk of ontology, teleology, and utopia. Whether one attends to the Anglo-American or Continental traditions, it is understood that respectable philosophizing should avoid metaphysics—its terms and concepts...
Chapter 2. Action
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The recovery of metaphysics and the illustration of its pertinence to liberal democracy begin with the concept of action. For while the reasons for the split between the contemplative life and the active life can be described in many ways, perhaps the most critical formulation addresses the misunderstanding of the...
Chapter 3. Symbol
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The subordination of the active life to the contemplative life is premised on the allegedly dubious status of action. Ephemeral and futile, action was displaced by the permanent and the practical in the modes of philosophical contemplation and scientific fabrication. If the active life is to be recuperated, as well as its correlates in...
Chapter 4. History
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Contingency establishes authority. Democratic authority is based in this paradoxical circumstance. The contingent and incomplete appear to threaten authority, everywhere showing its inner frailty and outer limits. Yet, John William Miller asks, “What is in control?” The answer is found by insisting on the functioning unity of...
Chapter 5. Democracy
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The expression a metaphysics of democracy is inspired by Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas.1 Miller himself only used the phrase a couple of times in his writing, the most prominent example appearing in the essay “Idealism and Freedom” where he states: ...
Epilogue: The Scholar and the Citizen
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In Miller’s estimation, the Eleaticism of Parmenides or the Ionianism of Heraclitus offers few resources for understanding democracy. At their extreme, monism or radical pluralism destroys the bases of authority. These conceptual and practical confusions are related to the split between the active life and the contemplative...
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Page Count: 252
Illustrations: 6 figures
Publication Year: 2005