Author discusses ‘Examined Life’ during reading

James Miller, award-winning author and professor of politics at the New School for Social Research, visited Linfield to give a lecture on his book, “Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche,” on Sept. 25 in Nicholson Library.

The lecture was the second event sponsored by “The Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice,” a new initiative at Linfield.

“I’m really excited to have this as our second event,” said Nick Buccola, assistant professor of political science. “It captures the essence of what we hope to do; to bring scholars to campus to debate urgent political questions and also to bring wisdom of the past to life.

“There are few people better able to do that, I think, than Jim Miller,” Buccola said.

To begin the lecture, Miller addressed the famous Socrates declaration, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” questioning the famous assertion and its validity and thus raising the focal question of the lecture: “Is the Examined Life worth living?”

“I certainly grew up believing it was true,” Miller said. “My interest in the proposition was a key motive behind the writing of my book.”

His book, “Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche,” is comprised of 12 biographical short essays, each giving detailed accounts of the lives and principles of great philosophers, including Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes and Emerson.

“Miller, a historian, does an admirable job of piecing together coherent and sometimes fascinating narratives,” Michael Shaub, book reviewer for NPR, said.

Miller questioned the feasibility of self-scrutiny, and evaluated the philosophers’ answers to such questions in order to address an open discussion about, “the potential fruits of examination.”

After the lecture, Miller opened up dialogue with the audience.

Miller has published five other award-winning books: “Flowers in the Dustbin: the Rise of Rock & Roll, 1947-1977,” “The Passion of Michel Foucault,” “Democracy in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago,” “Rousseau: Dreamer of Democracy” and “History and Human Existence: From Marx to Merleau-Ponty.”

Since the ’60s, Miller has written and critiqued music. He worked as the editor of “The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll” in 1976.

Miller has also contributed to a number of reference works, as well as publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals.

For 20 years, Miller worked as the Chair of Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. The Chicago native was educated at Pomona College of California.

In 1976, he received his doctorate in the History of Ideas at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

For the full lecture video, as well as more information regarding the mission of “The Fredrick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice,” visit:

Chrissy Shane

Feature editor

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