Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 1

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 1

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 1

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Before the close of the eighteenth century, Americans had already displayed that talent for self-government which is the hallmark of a civilized society. And during the nineteenth, imaginative literature in America achieved a depth and a varied power of expression that testify emphatically to the growth of a distinctive cultural life, no longer dependent upon Europe either for models or for stimulus. Now, indeed, begins that vital interaction of thought and feeling between Europe and America which may in the end produce a genuinely transatlantic civilization, more complex and more adequate to the spiritual needs of men than either Europeans or Americans could produce alone. As is usually the case, however, philosophical mastery in America has come more slowly. In fact, with the impressive exception of the eighteenth- century New England theologian, Jonathan Edwards (who for that very reason may have been somewhat oversold by recent writers on American intellectual history), the entire history of philosophy in America before the penultimate decade of the nineteenth century is hardly more than a series of muffled echoes of dominant philosophical movements abroad. This judgment of course does not deny a place of honor to such figures as Jefferson and Emerson in the intellectual as well as in the political or literary history of this country. But Jefferson . . .

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