Christian Miller, Self-Plagiarist

THIRD UPDATE: After uploading a few more papers, I can say that "Assessing Two Competing Approaches to the Psychology of Moral Judgments" (2016, in Philosophical Explorations) is a 48% match, and "Situationism, Social Psychology, and Free Will" (forthcoming in an edited volume) is a 64% match. All of the papers used in these analyses are available at this link.

SECOND UPDATE: I updated SafeAssign because I was dubious of the 100% result in my first update. It turns out there was some missing text in the version I initially uploaded. In addition, I added a few more papers (still waiting on several more to be emailed to me). The paper with the 100% result improved somewhat: it's now 70% matching. Having double-checked everything that I currently have, I can now give a summary.

  • I uploaded 24 papers that are listed as being in some stage of publication, up through "forthcoming." These are all of the papers that I expected to be in the same wheelhouse. They're highlighted in yellow in this copy of his CV.
  • I purposefully did not upload anything with a title like "Introduction," as this seemed more like filler. I should note, however, that Miller lists such things on his CV as "Articles."
  • I also did not upload pdfs of Miller's monographs, as reuse of material from a monograph in an article or chapter is presumably acceptable.
  • Of the 24 papers uploaded, 2 are encyclopedia entries, 14 are chapters in edited volumes, and 8 are journal articles.
  • The worst offender (82% match) is “The Challenge to Virtue, Character, and Forgiveness from Psychology and Philosophy," an article that appeared in _Philosophi Christi_ in 2012.
  • Next (70%) is “Guilt, Embarrassment, and Global Character Traits Associated with Helping,” a chapter that appeared in Thom Brooks's _New Waves in Ethics_ in 2011.
  • Next (64%) is "A New Approach to Character Traits in Light of Psychology," a chapter that is set to appear in Iskra Fileva's Questions of Character in 2016.
  • Next (53%) is "The Mixed Trait Model of Character Traits and the Moral Domains of Resource Distribution and Theft,” a chapter that appeared in Miller's own co-edited _Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology_ in 2015.
  • Next (47%) is “The Real Challenge to Virtue Ethics from Psychology,” a chapter that appeared in Nancy Snow's and Franco Trivigno's _Philosophy and Psychology of Virtue_ in 2014.
  • Next (42%) is “Do People have the Virtues or Vices? Some Results from Psychology,” a chapter that appeared in David Bradshaw's _Ethics and the Challenge of Secularism_ in 2013.
  • Two squeaked in at 38% match: “Social Psychology, Mood, and Helping: Mixed Results for Virtue Ethics” and “Character Traits, Social Psychology, and Impediments to Helping Behavior,” both journal articles.
  • Rounding things out, we have “Virtue Cultivation in Light of Situationism" at 36% match. This appeared in _Developing the Virtues_, which was edited by Julia, Darcia Narvaez, and Nancy Snow.
  • And "Situationism," the article that first tipped me off, at 34% (the further 57% match is lifted from a monograph)

UPDATE: Several people have mentioned to me that reference works such as encyclopedia entries may fairly reuse more material than articles and chapters. So I logged into SafeAssign and uploaded some of Miller's articles and chapters; here's a screencap of the result... it isn't pretty:

 Christian Miller, noted plagiarist

Christian Miller, noted plagiarist

Christian Miller, professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University, is a self-plagiarist.

Academics familiar with the field of virtue ethics, especially those who attend to the difficulties presented by social psychological research on situational influences on cognition and behavior, will be familiar with Miller as a prolific researcher. As of the writing of this post, his CV lists 3 monographs, 4 edited volumes, 3 edited journal special issues, and 76 articles published, in press, or under review. Miller has also written several popularizing pieces on such topics as how to make people more honest. And he has received approximately $10 million to fund his own and others' research on character, virtue, and moral psychology. One of his chapters is published in my own recent volume, Current Controversies in Virtue Theory (Routledge 2015). However, the warrant for his prominence in the field has come into question.

In 2016, Miller submitted an article for publication at the International Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I reviewed it. When I did, I noted to the journal's editor, Hugh LaFollette, that the submission was a near-verbatim copy of work previously published by Miller. He is a good writer with a recognizable style and expression; re-identifying his prose was inevitable. The text spliced together paragraphs from "Naturalism and Moral Psychology" (in Kelly Clark's Blackwell Companion to Naturalism), "The Problem of Character" (in Stan van Hooft's Handbook of Virtue Ethics), and chapter 8 of Miller's monograph Character and Moral Psychology. These three sources also self-plagiarize each other without appropriate citation and quotation. There may be more sources; I don't have the time to close-read all of the ink Miller has spilled. My estimate is that approximately 9% of Miller's submission to IEP was new material. (I initially thought there was more original material, but then discovered further sources.) The reused material was not cited or otherwise indicated as unoriginal.

It now appears that, over my objections, this article will appear in the International Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition, which is due out later this year. I have been assured by LaFollette that some sort of note will be included to indicate that the text is not original. I hesitate to speculate about whether such a note would have been included had I not flagged the self-plagiarism, but the fact that similar notes were not included in previous episodes of Miller's self-plagiarism gives me pause.

A modicum of repetition is endemic to ongoing research programs. Reusing whole sentences and even whole paragraphs is not uncommon. But when it happens, it needs to be acknowledged. To obscure such reuse is an offense to the intelligence of one's audience and to intellectual honesty.

I urge academics and research funders, such as the Templeton Foundation, to take these observations into account when dealing with Christian Miller in the future.