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Richard B. Miller

Provost Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Adjunct Professor, American Studies Program

Adjunct Professor, Department of Philosophy

Affiliate Faculty, IU Center for Bioethics

Sycamore Hall, Rm. 221
(812) 855-0261


Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1985

Research Interests

Professional Biography

I work in religious thought and ethics at the intersections of moral theory, political philosophy, cultural and social criticism, and Western religion. My research ranges between theory and practice and situates itself within the wider contours of the academic study of religion. Much of my focus is on social and political ethics and some of it turns on issues of moral psychology.

All of my research and teaching falls under the rubric of “social criticism and the ethics of belief.” I understand that rubric to be multivalent. I examine ethical idioms and arguments that arise from religious traditions, and I put those idioms and arguments to critical scrutiny in one or another comparative way.

In my first book, Interpretations of Conflict: Ethics, Pacifism, and the Just-War Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1991) I examine aspects of cultural pluralism as they are played out in debates between pacifists and just-war theorists. My second book, Casuistry and Modern Ethics: A Poetics of Practical Reasoning (University of Chicago Press, 1996), draws on theories of interpretation, practical reasoning, and social criticism to consider the morality of the first Gulf War, liberalism and its discontents, Roman Catholic sexual ethics, medical ethics, gender ideology, and theories about the academic study of religion. In the 1990s my research expanded in bioethics, one fruit of which is Children, Ethics, and Modern Medicine (Indiana University Press, 2003). That book builds on a fellowship year at Harvard and six months as a participant-observer in a pediatric intensive care unit. Ideas and arguments around which my research revolved during these three phases, especially the notion of rights and liberal social criticism, fed into my fourth book, Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought (Columbia University Press, 2010). That book draws on liberal political and moral theory to clarify the injustice of 9/11 and develops the implications of that judgment for thinking more broadly about respect for persons and religious toleration, multiculturalism, and the relationship between religion and ethics. I am currently at work on two projects on theory and history in religion and ethics. With Eric Meslin of the IU Center for Bioethics I co-edit a new IU Press series, Bioethics and the Humanities.

My graduate courses include Contemporary Religious Ethics, Religion and Social Criticism, From Christian Ethics to Social Criticism (2 semesters); Religion, Justice, and Culture; Religion, Culture, and Medical Ethics; Religion and the Self in Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Freud; War and Peace in Western Religion, and occasional reading courses. I also mentor graduate students as Associate Instructors in Religion, Ethics, and Public Life, a large introductory undergraduate course.

All graduate work in religioun and ethics at Indiana University is keenly interdisciplinary and includes a monthly workshop of faculty and graduate students who meet to discuss work-in-progress. For a list of dissertations of our alumni, please visit other links on our webpage.


Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights


Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought (Columbia University Press, 2010).

Children, Ethics, and Modern Medicine (Indiana University Press, 2003)

Casuistry and Modern Ethics: A Poetics of Practical Reasoning (University of Chicago Press, 1996)

War in the Twentieth Century: Sources in Theological Ethics, editor (Louisville: John Knox/Westminster, 1992)

Interpretations of Conflict: Ethics, Pacifism, and the Just-War Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1991)

Recent Articles (since 2000)

“Justice, Reason, and Luck in Rationing Lifesaving Medical Resources,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 96.3 (2013): 315-332.

“The Moral and Political Burdens of Memory,” Journal of Religious Ethics 37.3 (September 2009): 533-64.

“Killing, Self-Defense, and Bad Luck,” Journal of Religious Ethics 37.1 (March 2009): 131-58.

“Just War, Civic Virtue, and Democratic Social Criticism: Augustinian Reflections,” Journal of Religion 89.1 (January 2009): 1-30.

“On Duties and Debts to Children,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 91.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2008): 167-88.

“Justifications of the Iraq War Examined,” Ethics and International Affairs 22 (Spring 2008): 43-67.

“Art, (Human) Nature, and Social Criticism,” Introduction to Human Nature (Bloomington: SoFA Gallery, 2007), 3-6.

“On Medicine, Culture, and Children's Basic Interests: A Reply to Three Critics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 34.1 (March 2006): 177-89.

“Rules,” The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, ed. Gilbert Meilaender and William Werpehowski (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 220-236

“On Making a Cultural Turn in Religious Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 33.3 (September 2005): 409-43.

“Role Responsibility in Pediatrics: Appeasing or Transforming Parental Demands?” Ethical Dilemmas in Pediatrics: Cases and Commentaries, ed. Lorry R. Frankel, Ammon Goldworth, Mary V. Rorty, and William A. Silverman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 21-29.

“Thinking about War and Justice: A Reply to Jean Bethke Elshtain,” at

“Aquinas and the Presumption against Killing and War,” Journal of Religion 82.2 (April 2002): 173-204.Reprinted in Thomas Aquinas (International Library of Essays in the History of Social and Political Thought), ed. John Inglis (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006).

“The Virtues and Vices of Civil Society,” Civil Society and Government, ed., Nancy Rosenblum and Robert Post (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 370-96.

“Christian Attitudes toward Boundaries: Metaphysical and Geographical,” Boundaries and Justice: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, ed. David Miller and Sohail Hashmi (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 15-37. Reprinted in Christian Political Ethics, ed. John Coleman (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007).

“Religion, Ethics, and Clinical Immersion: An Appraisal of Three Pioneers,” Caring Well: Religion, Narrative, and Health Care Ethics, ed. David H. Smith (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2000), 17-42.

“Legitimation, Justification, and the Politics of Rescue,” Kosovo: Contending Voices on Balkan Interventions, ed. William J. Buckley (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm Eerdmans, 2000), 384-98.

“Humanitarian Intervention, Altruism, and the Limits of Casuistry,” Journal of Religious Ethics 28.1 (Spring 2000): 3-35.


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