Michael Giles

Michael  Giles
  • PhD Student
  • Department of Political Science
  • LeFrak Forum

BIOGRAPHY

Michael Giles (M.A. 2016) is a PhD candidate at Michigan State University. He studies political philosophy and American politics. Prior to his doctoral work at MSU, Mike completed a B.A. in Political Economy at Hillsdale College in 2012. He is the recipient of the Humane Studies Fellowship, and his research is also supported by the LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy. He specializes in the political theory of church and state as well as in the relationship between political theory and economics. His dissertation focuses on St. Augustine’s theory of the Fall.


DISSERTATION

Dissertation: The Politics of the Fall in Augustine of Hippo

Michael Giles (M.A. 2016) is a PhD candidate in political science at Michigan State University. His scholarship tackles the question of faith and politics in the history of political thought.

Mike’s research program contains two main components. First, he makes an effort to understand faith on its own terms, the better to know its political import. In his dissertation, he examines St. Augustine’s account of the Fall of humanity. For many believers, the Fall powerfully explains many of the realities that dominate our lives, and yet Augustine’s account of it is frequently passed over. In the dissertation, Mike attempts to expose and come to grips with the most politically salient aspects of that teaching.

The first chapter focuses on the original goodness and subsequent corruption of labor. Mike brings Augustine into conversation with Locke and Marx and shows that (for Augustine) the Fall explains the moral experience of work. The second chapter addresses the meaning of sociability in a fallen world. It poses the question: are we social or anti-social beings? Augustine explains the depth of our longing for unity and friendship as well as the human tendency to quarrel. The concluding chapters analyze two different consequences of the Fall according to Augustine, namely that human beings are slaves to desire and punished with death. Augustine’s defense and explication of the Fall reveals that our political challenges are frequently deeper, more intractable, more problematic than we wish, and that humility should conquer our pride and faith in progress. This does not make Augustine dismissive of politics, but rather sensitive – and willing to speak to – its most cherished ambitions.

Second, Mike attempts to describe, in a precise way, the posture of modern political thought toward religious faith. He has found that posture to be more complex that it initially appears. His research has focused specifically on the question of whether or not faith is morally and politically useful, addressing this concern (in two separate papers) in the thought of Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. His other interests include American government, normative ethics, and the interplay of economics, politics, and political philosophy.

Prior to his doctoral work at MSU, Mike completed a B.A. in Political Economy at Hillsdale College in 2012. He is a 2019-2020 Humane Studies Fellow, and his research is supported also by the LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy.

Committee: Dustin Sebell (Chair), Arthur Melzer, Eric Petrie.

LINKS

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