The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

by Louis Menand
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Overview

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand

The Metaphysical Club is the winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History.

A riveting, original book about the creation of modern American thought.

The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Well Holmes, Jr., future associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea -- an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea. Holmes, James, and Peirce all believed that ideas are not things "out there" waiting to be discovered but are tools people invent -- like knives and forks and microchips -- to make their way in the world. They thought that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- that ideas are social. They do not develop according to some inner logic of their own but are entirely depent -- like germs -- on their human carriers and environment. And they thought that the survival of any idea deps not on its immutability but on its adaptability. The Metaphysical Club is written in the spirit of this idea about ideas. It is not a history of philosophy but an absorbing narrative about personalities and social history, a story about America. It begins with the Civil War and s in 1919 with Justice Holmes's dissenting opinion in the case of U.S. v. Abrams-the basis for the constitutional law of free speech. The first four sections of the book focus on Holmes, James, Peirce, and their intellectual heir, John Dewey. The last section discusses some of the fundamental twentieth-century ideas they are associated with. This is a book about a way of thinking that changed American life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374706388
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/10/2002
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 402,787
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Louis Menand is a professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a staff writer at The New Yorker, and has been a contributing editor of The New York Review of Books since 1994. He is the author of Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and His Context and the editor of The Future of Academic Freedom and Pragmatism: A Reader.


Louis Menand is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Metaphysical Club and American Studies. He is the Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

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The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book does for pragmatism what The Irrational Man did for existentialism; and Menand is another William Barrett. But why wasn't Sidney Hook even mentioned, let alone profiled? Hook embodies what, in my mind, is best about pragmatism- a secular courage and dogged pursuit of justice, without resort to empty ideals. He was active and affective, while fully aware of the open ended, pluralist nature of the world. In spite if this ommission this was a joy to read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
With a BA in Philosophy and MA in Experimental Psychology and a fascination for historical persepectives on issues, i found this book to be engagingly interesting with intimate perspectives on the figures of the time in the two disaplines and other notables in the academic culture and overlapping areas. i have read this book (on tape, i am now blind), many times. i find it fascinating. if i were teaching again, i would surely hold a seminar for granduate students in both philosophy and psychology...and education as well.