A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000 / Edition 1

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Here at last is an American counterpart to Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. The eminent historian Bruce Kuklick tells the fascinating story of the growth of philosophyical thinking in the USA, in the context of the intellectual and social changes of the times. Kuklick sketches the genesis of these intellectual practices in New England Calvinism and the writing of Jonathan Edwards. He discusses theology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the origins of collegiate philosophy in the early part of the nineteenth century. We see the development of secular preconceptions and the emergence, after Darwin's writings of the mid-late nineteenth century, of forms of thought hostile to religion. Philosophy is situated in a variety of cultural contexts -- the ministry, the growing system of higher learning, the conflict between philosophers and theologians and between amateur and professional thinkers, the suspicion of European ideas, and worries about the relevance of philosophy to public and political life.

Kuklick's narrative portrays such great thinkers as Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey, C. I. Lewis, Wilfrid Sellars, W. V. Quine, and Richard Rorty, and assesses their contributions to philosophy. He brings us right up to date with the first historical treatment of the period after pragmatism, and the fragmentation of philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century. Kuklick steers a controversial course between the divergent views that historians and philosophers take of the significance of philosophy in recent years. Anyone interested in American intellectual history, or in how philosophy got where it is today, will enjoy this book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Offering a thoughtful, inclusive overview of American philosophical activity from colonial divines to present-day academics, Kuklick, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, defines philosophy expansively as "more or less systematic writing about the point of our existence, and our ability to understand the world of which we are a part." This broad definition allows him to include the philosophical aspects of writers often neglected in philosophy surveys, including Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Dense but clear, the book grounds its panoply of thinkers in their social context, particularly that of an evolving academic establishment for which Kuklick has some choice words ("constipated arrogance," in one case). The history is broken into three overlapping periods: a religiously inspired era (1720-1868), in which ministers, theologians and other amateurs shared equal status with professional philosophers; the "Age of Pragmatism" (1859-1934), dominated by Peirce, James and Dewey; and the contemporary "professional" period (1912-2000), in which American philosophy became more refined and internationally prestigious, but also more fragmented and remote from the public. Running themes include the "long circuitous march from a religious to a secular vision of the universe," the long-running match between idealism and materialism; and the frequent inattention of American philosophy to political and social concerns. Admittedly selective, the book becomes too much so at the end: the last 40 years are largely reduced to Kuhn and Rorty, skimming over almost everything else. Yet the book generally succeeds in identifying broad trends while spotlighting curious and significant points. Readers looking for a grounded narrative of American thought's development and contexts will find this book an accurate and compelling guide. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A sustained work of synthesis and primary scholarship...an exemplary encounter between intellectual history and philosophical thought."—Jonathan Ree, Times Literary Supplement

"Readers looking for a grounded narrative of American thought's development and contexts will find this book an accurate and compelling guide."—Publishers Weekly

"A well-researched introduction for the reader interested in an overview of American philosophy."—Weekly Standard

"This history of American philosophy from 1720 through 2000 displays the erudition, philosophical sensitivity, and boldness that we have come to associate with the work of Bruce Kuklick, the premier historian of American philosophy . . . an invaluable reference source."—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198250319
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 346
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Kuklick is Nichols Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Speculative Thought in America, 1720-1868 1
1 Calvinism and Jonathan Edwards 5
2 Philosophy and Politics 26
3 Theological Dispute: From Joseph Bellamy, True Religion Delineated (1750) to Nathaniel William Taylor, Moral Government of God (1858) 38
4 Collegiate Philosophy: From John Witherspoon, Lectures on Moral Philosophy (1800) to Noah Porter, The Human Intellect (1868) 58
5 Innovative Amateurs: From James Marsh's Edition of Coleridge's Aids to Reflection (1829) to the Journal of Speculative Philosophy (1867) 75
Pt. II The Age of Pragmatism, 1859-1934 95
6 The Shape of Revolution: The Impact in America of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), J. S. Mill's Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865), and German higher criticism 97
7 The Consensus on Idealism, 1870-1900 111
8 Pragmatism in Cambridge: From Charles Peirce 'On a New List of Categories' (1867) to Morris Cohen (ed.), Chance, Love, and Logic: Philosophical Essays by the Late Charles S. Peirce, the Founder of Pragmatism (1923) 129
9 Pragmatism at Harvard: From William James, 'Spencer's Definition of Mind' (1878) to Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity (1913) 150
10 Instrumentalism in Chicago and New York: From John Dewey (ed.), Studies in Logical Theory (1903) to John Dewey, A Common Faith (1934) 179
Pt. III Professional Philosophy, 1912-2000 199
11 Professional Realism: From The New Realism (1912) to Wilfrid Sellars, 'Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind' (1956) 201
12 Europe's Impact on the United States: From Rudolph Carnap, Logische Aufbau der Welt (1928) to Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (1964) 225
13 Harvard and Oxford: From Nelson Goodman, 'The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals' (1946) to W. V. O. Quine, 'Empirically Equivalent Systems of the World' (1975) 243
14 The Tribulations of Professional Philosophy: From Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) to Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (1999) 259
Conclusion 282
Methods, Sources, Notes 286
Acknowledgements 310
Index 311
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