The Rise of American Philosophy


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Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860-1930

Bruce Kuklick

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The seventy years between the Civil War and the Depression mark the most significant epoch of American philosophy.  In this period American pragmatism emerged, and men such as Charles Peirce, William James, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Alfred North Whitehead, and C. I. Lewis made their enduring contributions to Western thought.  This book offers a reinterpretation of American intellectual history of the period, using the relation of philosophers to the primary academic institution – Harvard – as an organizing theme.  Bruce Kuklick argues that Harvard established an intellectual community that helped to define the thought of these men, and that the changing character of American philosophy must be related to the emergence of the modern university. 
Beginning with what he calls the Cambridge amateurs, Harvard-trained philosophers who were unable to find university teaching positions, Kuklick goes on to examine the thought of the “Golden Age” of American philosophy.  He shows how it centered on the dialogue between James and Royce and their peers and demonstrates how it contributed to its own transformation: the thinkers of this period were the first generation of professional philosophers.  They were pivotal in establishing graduate training programs and the doctoral apprenticeship system.  They created the very academic framework in which philosophy would narrow from its role as the integrator of human intellectual concerns to a technical, scholarly discipline of interest only to a small group of professors. 
This is intellectual history at its best, or what Kuklick calls “the history of difficult ideas.”  The author, historian and philosopher, tells a fascinating story of the men, the ideas, and the institutions that formed American philosophy.  He has made a successful attempt to bridge the gap between social history and the history of ideas. 

"On one level this is a lucid tracing of the birth of idealistic pragmatism as a distinctly American response to the challenge of Darwinism, and on another level it is a superbly told chronicle of a great university's historic contribution to the world's body of thought. Rare photos enhance the book's collectibility."—Publishers Weekly

"Absolutely first class—a study of academic philosophy at Harvard from 1860 to 1930 and an essay in 'the history of difficult ideas.' It is a fascinating book, for the ideas themselves, for its extraordinary figures (Peirce, James, Royce, Whitehead, C.I. Lewis), but most of all for the story it tells of the movement 'from Scottish realism and Aristotelian logic' in the 19th century to pragmatism and symbolic logic in the 20th. Kuklick also tells another tale, about how philosophy became a profession. The result was a new level of technical sophistication, but also a new scholasticism."—The New Republic

"American scholarship will always be grateful to Bruce Kuklick for The Rise of American Philosophy, his fine, painstaking history of the department of philosophy at Harvard University from 1860 to 1930. . . . [It] will have its authoritative place in American learning."—Lewis S. Feuer, The Chronicle of Higher Education

"[This book] is a scholarly work that can be of service on many levels—theorist concerned with the cross-fertilization of psychologist who is fascinated by the movements of profound minds. . . . Kuklick's masterful study is an indespensable resource in every philosophy professor's library."—T.A. Wassmer, Best Seller

"This is a brilliant book, one of the half-dozen most important and useful works ever written in the history of American philosophy."—William R. Hutchison, The Virginia Seminary Quarterly

"A lucid and illuminating history of a major intellectual enterprise. . . . The book carefully and cogently examines a major chapter in the development of American philosophy and speeds the process of integrating a sophisticated analysis of philosophical change into the broader history of American thought. It will become a standard source and, for many years, the measure of work done in the history of American philosophy."—Edward A. Purcell, Jr., Reviews in American History

"Bruce Kuklick's new book, The Rise of American Philosophy, is a rara avis: it combines philosophy and intellectual history. It also concerns itself with the bearing of the ideas developed during America's Golden Age of Philosophy on perennial human concerns. . . . Kuklick's book is superb. It is a splendid contribution to the field of American intellectual hsitory."—Paul F. Boller, Southwest Review

"This is an impressive book: Kuklick shows himself equally at home in philosophy and in using the tools of the trained historian. Unlike the conventional history of philosophy, it is not simply a series of disconnected sketches of a number of the philosophies, but also relates them to the social background and the personality of the thinker. The book is extremely well documented and illustrated."—Wolfe Mays

"This splendid book analyzes, in a clear and graceful manner, the changing conceptions of American philosophy during a period in which academic philosophy in the United States came almost to be equated with Harvard. The title of this book is fully justified by the prominence and pervasive impact of philosophy at Harvard. It is, first and foremost, a superb piece of intellectual history in which basic philosophic ideas are spelled out and analyzed. Furthermore, the book goes beyond a concern with ideas to an inquiry into the societal, and particularly the academic, context from which they emerged. Thus, the book contains a penetrating examination of the rise of mentalization,k bureaucratization, acadeemic entrepreneurship, and a decline of the public, almost ministerial, role of the philosopher. In this illuminating chapter in the history of American higher education, Kuklick sensitively examines a wide range of societal issues, such as the role of academic nativism and anti-Semitism, the mystique of the Harvard gentleman-scholar, the abhorrence of political 'radicalism,' and, tragically for the department, the impact of World War I. In making judgments about the quality of the persons about whom he writes, Kuklick has fulfilled his obligations as a critical scholar, and in doing so has produced a most distinguished and humane piece of scholarship."—Citation from the 1978 Phi Beta Kappa: Ralph Waldo Emerson Award

"[A] magnificent study of the influential philosophers who taught at Harvard between the Civil War and the Depresssion."—Thomas Wortham, American Literary Scholarship

"Whiteside's writing is impeccable; direct and clear, in the classic style of reportage."—The Chronicle Review

"This is a powerful readable book about a complex subject that relates to the physical health of everybody in this country."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"[This book] is an example of Whiteside at his best. He mixes first hand reporting with a careful review of recorded evidence to tell his story clearly and concisely."—Environmental Action

"This book is a consummate work of investigative reporting. It should be on the required reading list of every concerned citizen."—Garden

"Whiteside's detailed accounts of laboratory research on the herbicide, his step-by-step reconstruction of the Seveso, Italy, explosion of a chemical plant (which manufactured dioxin) and the disaster's after-effects, and his recitation of countless other episodes involving 2,3,5-T and dioxin, are as convincing an indictment as possible of chemical overuse in our society today."—Seattle Times Magazine
ISBN: 9780300024135
Publication Date: August 1, 1979
720 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4