Benjamin Michael Miller

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Personal profile

Research Interests

My research is mostly focused on thinking about democratic citizenship and the role that citizens should play in the preserving and improving democratic well-functioning. In democratic theory and philosphy, I am most interested in identifying which skills and value commitments citizens need in order to excel in their obligations as citizens.

Much of my research concentrates on understanding citizenship from analyzing the history of political thought. I am especially focused on understanding Aristotle's conception of good citizenship. Many research centers, scholars policy-makers, and schools today (especially in the UK) are attracted to Aristotle's theory of character education and brand themselves as neo-Aristotelians or proudly claim to be influenced by Aristotle. My own view is that Aristotle's theory of virtue is fundamentally illiberal in its basic foundations and cannot be made to fit with liberal democracy's major principle of respecting pluralism. I make this argument in my book manuscript, Character Education and Democracy: What Aristotle Tells Us about the Demands of Liberalism.

I am also deeply interested in contributing to interdiscilinary work at the cusp of political philosophy and empirical political science. Political philosophers, educational theorists, and political scientists tend to have extremely different understandings of what it means for a democratic citizen to be a good one. In today's empirical literature, the focus is almost exclusively on voting, and on what I call policy-matching--the view that a good citizen is supposed to identify their preferred policies and then vote for the candidate whose own policy platform best matches the citizen's own preferences. I know of no one in the history of political thought who believe that this matching task is a or the main job of citizens. Instead, today, most philosophers and theorist take citizens obligations to be grounded in certain liberal value commitments. They argue that good citizens should be picking leaders and supporting laws that will serve the interests of all citizens, and not just their own particular interests.

My research aims to bridge the gap between these two very different traditions of good citizenship by identifying new ways of bringing concepts in political philosophy over to empirical work on political sophistication, democratic backsliding, and affective polarization. In my view, recent alarm about citizens hating one another and supporting anti-democratic and authoritarian leaders speaks to the need to bring philosophical theories of good citizenship over to empirical research. In my view, understanding the role of citizens in preserving democracy requires a recognition that the job of citizens is not to satisfy their own preferences, but instead to be the gate-keepers of democracy and its fundamental principles of treating all people as free and equal.

Education

Ph.D. Stanford University, Department of Philosophy
M.A. Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
M.A. University of Auckland, Department of Philosophy
B.S. Northeastern University, Department of Philosophy & Religion
B.S. Northeastern University, Department of Psychology

Honors & Awards

2019 Clarence A. Berdahl Excellent Undergraduate Teaching Award in Political Science

Teaching

Intro to Political Theory
Justice in the Law
Classical Political Thought
Citizenship & Diversity
Ancient Philosophy
Children, the Family, and Social Justice

Office Address

304A David Kinley Hall

Office Phone