Professor Kuklok gets major grant

Sabbatical work to focus on sources of political disagreement

January 16, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

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.

Allison Kuklok

Allison Kuklok, Saint Michael’s College professor of 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.

About the recent NEH grants

NEH Chairman Peede on Tuesday announced the latest grants at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which will receive a matching grant of up to $750,000 to create a new museum campus, including the construction of a new exhibition building to showcase the largest collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world. It is one of 32 NEH Challenge grants that leverage federal dollars to spur increased private investment in our nation’s libraries, museums, and cultural centers to ensure greater access to cultural and educational resources for all Americans.

An additional $48 million was awarded to fund 55 state, territorial, and jurisdictional humanities councils, which serve local communities through a range of state-focused humanities discussion and educational outreach programs. “These new NEH grants will expand access to the country’s wealth of historical, literary, and artistic resources by helping archivists and curators care for important heritage collections, and using new media to inspire examination of significant texts and ideas,” said Chairman Peede.

Since Kuklok will be on sabbatical for the academic year 2020/2021, she can devote her full time to the book project. She does not anticipate needing to travel for her research and writing.The end product will be a book and I have a fairly good sense of what the chapters will be, some of which will include or build on previously published or forthcoming articles,” she said. “But there are other chapters whose research I have only just begun, and which I will be writing from whole cloth. I will be reading Locke, but also reading what other scholars have had to say about Locke on my particular topic.”

Kuklok said she plans to incorporate a unit on some of the issues she takes up in her project in two upper level courses, her Early Modern Philosophy survey course as well as a future Author/Text course devoted to Locke’s thought.

Follow us on social.