America the Philosophical

America the Philosophical

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by Carlin Romano

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   A bold, insightful book that rejects the myth of America the Unphilosophical, arguing that America today towers as the most philosophical culture in the history of the world, an unprecedented marketplace of truth and argument that far surpasses ancient Greece or any other place one can name.
   With verve and keen intelligence,


   A bold, insightful book that rejects the myth of America the Unphilosophical, arguing that America today towers as the most philosophical culture in the history of the world, an unprecedented marketplace of truth and argument that far surpasses ancient Greece or any other place one can name.
   With verve and keen intelligence, Carlin Romano—Pulitzer Prize finalist, award-winning book critic, and professor of philosophy—takes on the widely held belief that ours is an anti–intellectual society. Instead, while providing a richly reported overview of American thought, Romano argues that ordinary Americans see through phony philosophical justifications faster than anyone else, and that the best of our thinkers abandon artificial academic debates for fresh intellectual enterprises, such as cyberphilosophy. Along the way, Romano seeks to topple philosophy’s most fiercely admired hero, Socrates, asserting that it is Isocrates, the nearly forgotten Greek philosopher who rejected certainty, whom Americans should honor as their intellectual ancestor. 
   America the Philosophical introduces readers to a nation whose existence most still doubt: a dynamic, deeply stimulating network of people and places drawn together by shared excitement about ideas. From the annual conference of the American Philosophical Association, where scholars tack wiseguy notes addressed to Spinoza on a public bulletin board, to the eruption of philosophy blogs where participants discuss everything from pedagogy to the philosophy of science to the nature of agency and free will, Romano reveals a world where public debate and intellectual engagement never stop. And readers meet the men and women whose ideas have helped shape American life over the previous few centuries, from well-known historical figures like William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to modern cultural critics who deserve to be seen as thinkers (Kenneth Burke, Edward Said), to the iconoclastic African American, women, Native American, and gay mavericks (Cornel West, Susan Sontag, Anne Waters, Richard Mohr) who have broadened the boundaries of American philosophy. 
   Smart and provocative, America the Philosophical is a rebellious tour de force that both celebrates our country’s unparalleled intellectual energy and promises to bury some of our most hidebound cultural clichés.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though de Tocqueville argued that “in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States,” award-winning book critic and Ursinus College philosophy professor Romano sets out to prove, in this engaging tome, that America is the “most philosophical culture in the history of the world.” America’s philosophy is a pragmatic one, Romano argues, aimed not at locating absolute truth in the ether, but instead confronting real world problems and finding real world solutions. Romano begins with the philosophical roots of American pragmatism in the 19th century and outlines the 20th-century contributions of Willard Van Orman Quine, John Rawls, and Richard Rorty. In addition, Romano analyzes the philosophy of intellectuals like Harold Bloom or Edward Said, and highlights the oft overlooked contributions of African-Americans, women, and gays before tackling contemporary realms of cybertechnology and popular culture. At its core, the work seeks to shift our definition of philosophy from an emphasis on reason and truth-finding to philosophy as a form of persuasion that aims to find better solutions to problems. With illuminating anecdotes and an addictive prose style, Romano renders complex ideas lucid without sacrificing depth of understanding or his splendid sense of humor. His breathtaking intellectual range and passion will make every reader want to be a philosopher. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (May)
Library Journal
Though Romano (philosophy, Ursinus Coll.) received his doctorate from Princeton, which has one of the country's foremost analytic philosophy departments, his primary aim here is to combat what he sees as the unduly narrow scope of much academic philosophy. For Romano, philosophy is a broad cultural affair rather than a technical discipline, and he argues that America is not such an unphilosophical country as is commonly believed. On the contrary, he writes, philosophy is everywhere in this country. Romano deplores the usual emphasis on a few major figures and brings to the fore individuals not usually considered philosophers such as child psychiatrist Robert Coles and literary theorist Kenneth Burke. He covers a great number of people, including many women and minority writers as well as those prominent in new fields like cyberphilosophy. His hero is not Socrates, who sought solutions to deep questions, but rather a less well-known Greek thinker, Isocrates. For Isocrates, and for Romano as well, philosophy is a conversation that has no fixed goal or outcome and that serves to bring various outlooks to public attention. VERDICT This wide-ranging survey is likely to be of interest to all readers interested in philosophy and American thought in the 20th and 21st centuries. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/29/11.]—David Gordon, Bowling Green State Coll., OH
Kirkus Reviews
Chronicle of Higher Education critic-at-large Romano (Philosophy and Humanities/Ursinus Coll.) debuts with a comprehensive and certain-to-be controversial diagnosis of the condition of philosophical thinking in America today. The author sees philosophers everywhere today (whether they call themselves such or no), not just lounging in the groves of academe, and this will surely annoy some fellow academics. He realizes that philosophy has traditionally been the ballpark for white men to play in, so he makes a thorough effort to add to the team some prominent women, African Americans, Native Americans, gays and others. But he begins with the famous white men (William James, George Santayana, John Dewey et al.) and looks at key figures later on--John Rawls and Richard Rorty among them. Romano then begins his explorations of byways rather than highways, seeing the philosophical bent of thinkers who didn't necessarily define themselves as philosophers--e.g., psychologists B. F. Skinner, Abraham Maslow and Howard Gardner. Then it's on to literary critics Kenneth Burke, Harold Bloom and Edward Said. Political theorists are next, and the author also gives a serious look at Robert Fulghum and Hugh Hefner. He examines journalists as well, including I.F. Stone, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Moyers. Near the end, Romano makes a strong case for Isocrates, a rival of Plato whose thought, writes the author, was more pragmatic--as we are. Romano's grip on his subject is fierce, and his tone, though critical throughout (he does not just summarize; he assesses), is occasionally light (he alludes to Buster Keaton, Bigfoot and the TV show Justified). In the final chapter, he praises the philosophical talents of President Obama, a discussion sure to displease Republicans. A tour de force--encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening.
From the Publisher
Praise for Carlin Romano's America the Philosophical:

“Ambitious. . . . Convincing. . . . An encyclopedic survey of the life of the mind in the United States. . . . Romano is enlightening when he analyzes American intellectual life and illustrates its liveliness.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Is the title a joke? . . . [Romano] argues, brilliantly and at length, that it is not.”
Harvard Magazine
“A high-speed tour of America’s big thinkers . . . Romano is a cheerful and exuberant guide.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Genuinely exciting and provocative . . . If Romano wanted to discombobulate the traditional landscape of American philosophy, he achieved his goal."
—Umberto Eco

“Admirable . . . Romano writes with the snap of a journalist.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A comprehensive intellectual history from Emerson to Rawls.”
The New Yorker

Broad Street Review

“Romano’s remarkable book stands out in terms of ambition, breadth, provocativeness, and, when needed, a delicate touch.”
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University, author of Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed

“Stimulating . . . graceful . . . exuberant . . . succeeds in filling one’s mind with the excitement of ideas duking it out.”
Seattle Times

“Both scholarly and entertaining—learned and stimulating—to an equal and extraordinary degree. America the Philosophical is one of the books of the year . . . A hugely enlightening compendium of intellectual heresy.”
The Buffalo News

“In an age when many debates are high-pitched screeds, how counterintuitive it is to argue that American philosophical thought is booming. But that’s trademark Romano . . . Romano turns his subject into a narrative of people brought together by their love of ideas.”
Chicago Tribune

“Romano’s grip on his subject is fierce. . . . A tour de force—encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“With illuminating anecdotes and an addictive prose style, Romano renders complex ideas lucid without sacrificing depth of understanding or his splendid sense of humor . . . breathtaking intellectual range and passion.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Part love letter, part hand grenade, Romano’s commentary is sure to delight and infuriate in a way that will underscore its thesis.”

“Romano writes so well and unrolls his knowledge in such an unthreatening way that before you know it, you will be thinking philosophically yourself.”
—Philip Seib, Director of the Center for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

“Romano offers a smart, sophisticated and counter-intuitive comparison of European and American culture. His language is rich and textured, but also contemporary and wry.”
Dallas Morning News

“Romano’s voracious intellectual curiosity is impressive—America the Philosophical is dense with amusing anecdotes.”
The Daily

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.64(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.64(d)

Meet the Author

Carlin Romano, Critic-at-Large of The Chronicle of Higher Education and literary critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty-five years (1984-2009), is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Ursinus College. His criticism has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Harper’s, The American Scholar, Salon, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other publications. A former president of the National Book Critics Circle, he was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, cited for “bringing new vitality to the classic essay across a formidable array of topics.” He lives in Philadelphia.

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America the Philosophical 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SFTurtleMind More than 1 year ago
C. Romano's book is essential reading for professional, academic, and academically trained philosophers who are working as mid-level administrators in the corporate world. This book does require some knowledge of the "big picture" of philosophy, but can be enjoyed on its own merits. Romano with humor, good documentation, satirical wisdom and insights, provides a supportable understanding and analysis of how philosophy is practiced and viewed in the United States. Romano's thesis is deftly developed and supported; and his writing style is lucid, coherent, and a pleasure to read. I highly recommend this book as an important perspective on the professional, academic, and non-academic philosophical practices in the United States.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess I say C) transformation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A sniper rifle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
D) other. Definately Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.