History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000

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Here at last is the only up-to-date history of American philosophy, an American counterpart to Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. In this fascinating volume, the eminent historian Bruce Kuklick tells the story of the growth of philosophical thinking in the United States, in the context of intellectual and social change. He 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. All of the great American thinkers are portrayed and their contributions to philosophy assessed—from Charles Peirce to William James, John Dewey to C. I. Lewis, and Wilfrid Sellars to W. V. Quine. The work 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. The author steers a controversial course between the divergent views that historians and philosophers take of the significance of philosophy in recent years.

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Editorial Reviews

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

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199260164
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,542,879
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

Speculative Thought in America, 1720-1868
1. Calvinism and Jonathan Edwards
2. Philosophy and Politics
3. Theological Disputes
4. Collegiate Philosophy
5. Innovative Amateurs
The Age of Pragmatism, 1859-1934
6. The Shape of Revolution
7. The Consensus on Idealism, 1870-1900
8. Pragmatism in Cambridge
9. Pragmatism at Harvard
10. Instrumentalism in Chicago and New York
Professional Philosophy 1912-2000
11. Professional Realism
12. Europe's Impact on the United States
13. Harvard and Oxford
14. The Tribulations of Professional Philosophy
Methods, Sources, Notes; Acknowledgements; Index

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