UConn Philosopher Ruth Millikan Awarded Rolf Schock Prize

Ruth Millikan, professor emerita of philosophy, at a graduate seminar with her students. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)
Ruth Millikan, professor emerita of philosophy, at a graduate seminar with her students. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)

UConn philosopher Ruth Millikan was recently named one of only four recipients worldwide of this year’s Rolf Schock Prizes for her impact on her field.

Millikan will receive the award in November from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

“Rolf Schock wanted his prizes to unite science and art,” says Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Secretary General Göran K. Hansson.

Millikan is being honored “for her groundbreaking theories about biological functions and the biological foundations of thought and language, where the representational properties of the latter are explained in terms of these functions.”

Millikan, Distinguished Professor emerita of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, earned a doctorate in philosophy from Yale University in 1969, a time when very few women chose to be philosophers.

She started her career working part-time at the University of Connecticut and, in these early years, laid the foundations of her groundbreaking research into biological functions and mental representation. Her most influential book, Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories, was published in 1984 and set the foundation for her work, which focused on what she called “biosemantics” – a distinctive approach to what is known in philosophy as the problem of intentionality.

Named a UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in 2001, Millikan’s scholarly writing includes seven other books and more than 90 articles published in scholarly journals. She has received a host of honors, ranging from the Jean Nicod Prize from The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France and The Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford University to the First Annual AAUP Award for Excellence in Research at UConn and the Distinguished Woman in Philosophy Award from the Society for Women in Philosophy.

She has lectured at universities throughout the United States and the world, and she is a past president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. She currently serves on the editorial board of Philosophical Papers, an international journal of philosophy based at Rhodes University in South Africa.