Philosophy matters. Just ask Bill Miller. Bill started his professional journey as a philosophy graduate student at Johns Hopkins. He became a Wall Street legend. Based on my conversations with students and parents over many years, this is not the typical narrative associated with a humanities major. But Bill tells this story well.
Known for his analytical acumen and iconoclastic approach to markets, Bill attributes much of his success to the habits of mind he developed studying the works of great philosophical minds, such as William James, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Bertrand Russell. And he believes passionately that future generations deserve—and require—a similar foundation.
Indeed, philosophy defines what it is to be human, to lead lives that are meaningful, and to create societies that are just and humane. Through it, we take up significant ideas and hone the tools of critical analysis and considered judgment. And the contemporary challenges we face—of the genomics revolution, the rise of artificial intelligence, the growth in income inequality, social and political fragmentation, and our capacity for devastating war, to name but a few—all invite philosophical perspective.
Thanks to Bill's recent $75 million gift to the Johns Hopkins University Department of Philosophy, we are starting on a journey to set a new standard for excellence in this most necessary discipline.
This gift—the largest to Johns Hopkins for any department in the humanities and, we believe, the largest ever to a university philosophy program—will promote powerful, cross-disciplinary collaboration between philosophers and other scholars. It will support the growth of the department through new faculty and endowed professorships, and expand the reach and impact of faculty research. It will also ensure support for young scholars who will take up these bracing questions and allow us to attract more undergraduates to the study of philosophy.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to celebrate the first creative artist to win the President's Frontier Award, a $250,000 award from the university to support outstanding faculty. That moment reinforced our commitment to the arts and humanities at a university long known for its achievements in the sciences. Today, our commitment has only deepened. With this gift, Bill joins a growing community of Hopkins supporters who have invested nearly $250 million in humanities and social sciences fields in the past three years. This is a testament to our belief in the essential value of these fields at our university and in our world. It is also a resounding message for our students: We seek to nurture in them the capacities for critical thinking and humanity, whether that student's brilliance lies in philosophical inquiry, entrepreneurial acumen, or lifesaving research.
Qualities essential to their success—and to ours.
Ronald J. Daniels