CHRISTIAN B. MILLER, PH.D., is the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. He is the Philosophy Director of the Beacon Project (www.moralbeacons.org), funded by a $3.9 million grant from Templeton Religion Trust, and is Past Director of the Character Project (www.thecharacterproject.com), funded by $5.6 million in grants from the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton World Charity Foundation. He is the author of over 80 academic papers as well as three books with Oxford University Press, Moral Character: An Empirical Theory (2013), Character and Moral Psychology (2014), and The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (2017). His writings have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Slate, The Conversation, Newsweek, Aeon, and Christianity Today. Miller is the editor or co-editor of Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (OUP), Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology (OUP), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character (MIT Press), Integrity, Honesty, and Truth-Seeking (OUP), and The Continuum Companion to Ethics (Continuum Press).
What motivated you to pursue a scholarly career?
I knew all the way back in high school that I wanted to become a scholar. That was when I first encountered philosophy and theology, and fell in love with the world of ideas. I thought the prospect of spending one’s life being paid to think about the big questions of life and talk about them with colleagues and students, was almost too good to be true. Several decades later, I still feel exactly the same way.
What are some of your current research interests and/or projects?
I have been working on the topic of character for over ten years, and recently here at Wake Forest we finished two major projects: the Character Project (www.thecharacterproject) and the Beacon Project (www.moralbeacons.org). My latest book was my first attempt at writing for a general audience, and it summarizes many of my conclusions about character. It is called The Character Gap: How Good Are We? and was published by Oxford University Press.
I am currently finishing up a book on the virtue of honesty. Surprisingly, there are no books and hardly any articles in philosophy in the past 50 years on this important virtue. This book is an academic monograph, but down the road I hope to do a popular book on honesty as well.
Why do you think the SVPL initiative is important, and how does it connect with your own research?
As someone who has been working on the topic of virtue for many years, the connections to the SVPL initiative are easy to find. They start with the the highly successful “Self, Virtue, and Motivation” project, whose outputs have already been impactful in the field and in my own work. I am especially excited by the focus in the new project on the civic virtues. Compared to some other character traits, these virtues have been neglected in philosophy and psychology. This will change with the SVPL initiative. With the focus on deep integration between the humanities and sciences, there is great potential to bring about significant empirical and conceptual discoveries in the coming years. I am excited to see the results of this great project!