Allison Kuklok-img

Allison Kuklok

Allison Kuklok of the Saint Michael’s College philosophy faculty learned this month that she is the recipient of a prestigious, highly competitive $60,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) year-long Fellowship, which she will use to work on a book about the status of the human being in John Locke’s natural philosophy.

She said a big part of her project will look at Locke’s views on language, and how language informs our picture of the world. “Locke was living in a time of great conflict and upheaval, and he thought that some of the sources of disagreement that he saw in politics, religion, and philosophy could be remedied if only we were more careful about how we form our beliefs, and how we attach meanings to our words,” she said. “One ambition of my project is to better understand these remedies, possibly with an eye to thinking about the sources of political disagreement in our own time.”

In publicly announcing $30.9 million in recent grants on January 14, NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede explained the significance of this recent round of funds supporting 188 humanities projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia including Kuklok’s proposed work. “In keeping with NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative, these projects will open pathways for students to engage meaningfully with the humanities and focus public attention on the history, culture, and political thought of the United States’ first 250 years as a nation,” said Peede.

An NEH state-by-state listing of the recent round of grants reveals Kuklok to be the only Fellowship recipient in Vermont, and one of 75 out of 1027 approved fellowship applications. The full title of her funded project is: “The Status of Man in John Locke’s Natural Philosophy.” Here is the “Project Description”: “Research and writing leading to a book on John Locke’s (1632–1704) natural philosophy.”

Asked to boil down to easily relatable terms the essential thrust of her esoteric research on Locke’s natural philosophy regarding the status of the human being, Kuklok said, “He seems to think that we have certain rights and duties to one another by virtue of being human beings, but he also appears to deny that there are real species, so I am trying to figure out what’s going on there.”

Kuklok, who has taught at Saint Michael’s since 2013, has her doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University after earning her undergraduate degree at Wellesley College. Her areas of expertise are early modern philosophy, Kant, metaphysics, and ethics, and the Saint Michael’s courses she teaches include “Self and World,” “Early Modern Philosophy,” and “Kant.”

The Saint Michael’s professor plans to remain based in Vermont as she pursues most of her studies through the Fellowship during a full-year sabbatical.

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