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Roger William Gilman is an American writer – philosopher, poet, and educator – author of scholarly articles, centoesque poems, and lyrical essays.

He was born in Abilene Texas, April 2, 1945 and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the United States – in Portland, Boise, and Seattle – to a father who was a fire-and-brimstone Baptist minister and a mother who was a gentle church musician.  Gilman converted to Humanistic Judaism as a young man.

After his high school graduation (Seattle, 1964) he put in time as a laborer (Fisher Flouring Mills), studied music (Cornish School of the Allied Arts), and served with US Army Intelligence (attached to NATO, Heidelberg, Germany).

He attended (1969 – 1973) a new experimental college of interdisciplinary studies (Fairhaven College, an honors college of Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington) where he gained a life-long interest in the philosophy of education.  He earned a degree in a self-designed major concerning the philosophy and history of science, with a thesis on the metaphorical structuring of scientific explanations.  He began writing poetry in 1970 but did not start publishing until 2014.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Gilman read philosophy, history of science, evolutionary biology, modern poetry, ethics and political theory at the University of Chicago (1973 – 1985) in the Committee for the Study of the Conceptual Foundations of Science, the Committee on Ideas and Methods, the Morris Fishbine Center for the History of Science, the departments of biology and philosophy, writing theses on the nature of teleological explanations in science; the history of neurophysiology; the synthetic model of evolution including ecological dynamics; and on the moral limits to interpretive strategies.  His advanced degrees are all from Chicago. During this period he also served as poetry editor of The Chicago Review.

Gilman’s teaching and writing career embraces several themes: as a philosopher his writing is located at the intersection of biology and ethics (medical and environmental ethics, responsible conduct of research), or is concerned with the role of metaphor in human experience (in scientific explanations, moral development, and the moral limits of interpretive strategies) or is addressed to issues of ethics and political theory (the justification of human rights, the moral-health insurance system).  His general approach to these issues is a neoKantian critical idealism (Cassirer), American pragmatism (Dewey), progressive communitarianism (Habermas), cosmopolitanism (Appiah), and hermeneutics (Ricoeur).

Gilman’s poetry revives and modernizes an ancient form called ‘cento’.  As explained in his essay-manifesto “Cento: the art and craft of quilting poems,” cento is a technique of composition that uses words, phrases, or lines from other texts and authors for the crafting of new poems.  These poems create a partly intertextual and partly experiential source for poems – a double helix.  The style of Gilman’s own cento has a meditative content expressed in conversational tones full of intense images and subtle music.  It shows the immediate influence of Pacific Northwest poets Stafford, Roethke, and Snyder; and resonates with a deeper background of Keats, Wordsworth, and Hardy, and with Whitman, Eliot, Stevens, and Frost.

As educator, Gilman taught philosophy (ethics, aesthetics, political theory), science (evolutionary and ecological biology), and literature (modern poetry, poetics, the philosophical novel).  His own experience as a student in an experimental college inspired his interest in alternative views of the nature and value of a liberal education and ways of facilitating it.  Not only has Gilman exercised leadership as a department chair, associate dean of instruction, and dean of a college, he also has demonstrated this in his influential public commentary and scholarly writing on the philosophy and history of education.

Gilman taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1979 – 1985), Northeastern Illinois University (department chair and associate dean, 1985 – 2005), and Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies of Western Washington University (as dean and professor of philosophy, 2005 – 2013).  He is now Emeritus Dean and Professor of Philosophy, Fairhaven College, WWU.

Gilman won a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship (1992) and several excellence in teaching awards.  He serves on the boards of several educational institutions (Explorations Academy, the Institute for Village Studies, and the Alumni Board of Western Washington University) and is a member of professional associations (The American Philosophical Association, the American Council of Colleges and Universities, the Association for Professional and Practical Ethics, the American Academy of Poets, the Consortium of Institutions of Experiential Learning).

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