On September 8, 2022, Milton Thomas Fisk died at the age of ninety in Bloomington, Indiana, where he had spent most of his life. Milton was born on February 15, 1932, in Lexington, Kentucky. His father, Edward Thomas Franklin Fisk, was a painter and printmaker on the faculty of the University of Kentucky. Until the end of his life, Milton remained the manager of a sizable collection of his father’s art. (For more information about Edward Fisk, including a gallery of some of his paintings, go to https://www.edwardfisk.com/.) Milton’s mother was Lucy Aloysia Young (Fisk), a professor of literature at Transylvania University, a private liberal-arts institution also in Lexington.
He got his early education in Lexington, and then went to Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, the only Jesuit boarding school in the United States. From there, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Notre Dame (1953), and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale (1958). He returned to Notre Dame and then to Yale to teach for a while but was not happy at either place.
In 1966, Thomas Langan, then chair of our department, persuaded him to come to Indiana University as an associate professor. Langan had been appointed chair here for the academic years 1965–68, following the abrupt resignation of Alan Donagan, but had requested and was granted a leave of absence for 1967–68, to accept a visiting position at the University of Toronto. He never came back. This left the philosophy department in urgent need of a chair. Milton himself was appointed “acting chair” for the 1967–68 academic year, even though it was only his second year in Bloomington.
In that same year, Milton served with Paul D. Eisenberg, who had arrived with him in the fall of 1966, on a search committee charged with recommending an outside candidate to be hired as chair of the department. That committee ultimately recommended George Nakhnikian, who arrived in the fall of 1968.
Milton’s early writings focused on logic, metaphysics, and philosophy of science. In 1969, he went to England on what was apparently a pre-negotiated sabbatical. When he returned the following year, he had been “radicalized.” This was the heyday of the anti-Vietnam-war protests, and Milton agreed with them. He has said he was a “closet socialist” even before that time, but afterward he began to write more and more on social topics. He continued this to the end of his life, authoring his last book on the topic Ethics and Social Survival. For many years, Milton taught a popular course in Marxism in our department, eventually branching out to later European philosophers as well, such as Habermas. He once remarked that it was “about time” our department acknowledged that there was more to philosophy than early-twentieth century “analytic” figures.
Milton retired in 1997, but remained active in departmental events for many years. He was an “activist,” and frequently showed up at the Bloomington Farmers’ Market and other events, passing out literature and talking to the general public.
The department has prepared a memory book for Professor Fisk that records personal remembrances of Professor Fisk as a teacher, colleague, friend, administrator, etc. If you would like to contribute, please contact Kirk Ludwig at email@example.com.