Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture

Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture

Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture

Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture

Synopsis

n this engaging book, Douglas Anderson begins with the assumption that philosophy the Greek love of wisdom is alive and well in American culture. At the same time, professional philosophy remains relatively invisible. Anderson traverses American life to find places in the wider culture where professional philosophy in the distinctively American tradition can strike up a conversation. How might American philosophers talk to us about our religious experience, or political engagement, or literature or even, popular music? Anderson's second aim is to find places where philosophy happens in nonprofessional guises cultural places such as country music, rock'n roll, and Beat literature. He not only enlarges the tradition of American philosophers such as John Dewey and William James by examining lesser-known figures such as Henry Bugbee and Thomas Davidson, but finds the theme and ideas of American philosophy in some unexpected places, such as the music of Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, and Bruce Springsteen, and the writings of Jack Kerouac. The idea of "philosophy Americana" trades on the emergent genre of "music Americana," rooted in traditional themes and styles yet engaging our present experiences. The music is "popular" but not thoroughly driven by economic considerations, and Anderson seeks out an analogous role for philosophical practice, where philosophy and popular culture are co-adventurers in the life of ideas. Philosophy Americanatakes seriously Emerson's quest for the extraordinary in the ordinary and James's belief that popular philosophy can still be philosophy.

Excerpt

Although the classical American philosophers published books, the great majority of these were collections of essays. Indeed, with the exception of Royce, who worked in a variety of ways, the American philosophical tradition is a tradition of essays, talks, and lectures collected into single volumes. Philosophy Americana is written with this tradition in mind. Nevertheless, a book of essays has its own kind of economy. Though I hope that each essay can stand alone, I also hope that they work together to provide a landscape or at least a horizon of my own philosophical outlook. the one generic theme I might venture as unifying the essays is the relationship between American philosophy and other features of American culture. I am interested in how philosophers work in this culture. I employ the term “Americana” to draw a rough analogy to the musical genre of the same name. Americana music is twice “American.” It is rooted in the traditional musical practices of the immigrants to the United States: blues, gospel, Celtic, folk, country, Tex-Mex, swing, bluegrass, old-time, rock and roll, reggae, and, I would add, more recently, rap and hip-hop. No doubt there are some category mistakes in this list, but part of the import of “Americana music” is precisely its indeterminateness, and thus its openness to new and innovative musical styles. At the same time, Americana music, especially in its lyrical content, tells us much about our American culture—about ourselves. in Philosophy Americana I aim at doing something similar, drawing on the philosophical practices of American thinkers and addressing issues that arise in popular culture.

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