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A sustained reflection on philosopher John William Miller and the metaphysical presuppositions and implications of democracy.
The ancient antagonism between the active and the contemplative lives is taken up in this innovative and wide-ranging examination of John William Miller’s effort to forge a metaphysics of democracy. The Active Life sheds new light on Miller’s actualist philosophyits scope, its systematic character, and its dialectical form. Michael J. McGandy persuasively sets Miller’s actualism in the context of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the active life and skillfully presents actualism as a response to Whitman’s challenge to craft a democratic form of metaphysics. McGandy concludes that Miller reveals how the philosophical and the political are inextricably connected, how there is no active life without the contemplative life, and that the contemplative life is founded in the active life.
"The Active Life is a remarkable achievement and a timely contribution to contemporary philosophy. It is, at once, a first-rate introduction to an important but neglected figure in American thought, John William Miller, and a cutting-edge treatment of the intertwined topics of action, symbols, history, and democracy. Miller's metaphysics of democracy is here articulated in reference to Emerson, Whitman, James, and Dewey; its viability is defended against the influential critiques of Rorty and other contemporary thinkers who are insistent upon severing the link between democracy and metaphysics. A tradition of American thought running (at least) from Royce through Hocking to Miller is, in this finely written study, dramatically extended into the twenty-first century. The salience of this evolving framework to our time and place, including our most pressing political questions, is demonstrated at every turn." Vincent M. Colapietro, author of Fateful Shapes of Human Freedom: John William Miller and the Crises of Modernity
Michael J. McGandy is Associate Managing Editor for Norton Professional Books.
Table of Contents
Preface List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Active and Contemplative Lives
1. A Metaphysics of Democracy?
1.1 Senses of Democracy
1.2 America's Antimetaphysical Tradition
1.3 Rorty's Challenge
1.4 Miller's Antimetaphysical Sympathies
1.5 Revisions of Metaphysics and History
1.6 Reinvigorating Criticism
2.1 The Disclosure of Action
2.2 Dialectic and Definition
2.3 Dialectic and Action
2.4 Action as Constructive
3.1 Symbolic Environment
3.2 The Midworld: Signs and Symbols
3.3 The Midworld: Symbols and Artifacts
3.5 Res Publicae 3.6 Conclusion
4.1 History as Constitutional
4.2 Fate, Demonry, Nemesis
4.3 Conflict, Revision, Action
4.4 Reflection and Autonomy
4.5 History and Philosophy
5.1 The Metaphysics of Morals
5.2 Liberal Democracy
5.3 The State: Universality and Process
5.4 Democracy and Philosophy