Golden Age of American Philosophy

Golden Age of American Philosophy

Golden Age of American Philosophy

Golden Age of American Philosophy

Excerpt

In this book, the reader will find a profile of American philosophy during the period in which it came to maturity. Between two great turning points in American history--the Civil War and the Great Depression--the men whose ideas are set forth in these pages, and others who were only a little less important, built a legacy of sophisticated philosophic discussion in the United States, and helped Western thought turn a corner in its history. In the ambitions they brought to philosophy, and in the freshness and energy of their ideas, they created what may be justly called a "golden age of American Philosophy."

It was an important episode in American history because it marked the appearance of American philosophers not as Americans but as philosophers, as full partners in an ancient enterprise of a larger civilization. It did not occur to these men that they were dealing with peculiarly American problems, or had a duty to speak as Americans in giving answers to the questions that interested them. The significant influences on them, the intimate intellectual company they kept, were not Puritan divines--not even Jonathan Edwards or Emerson--but Kant and John Stuart Mill, Darwin and Hegel, Bergson and Bertrand Russell. They responded to philosophers elsewhere as their compatriots, and philosophers elsewhere responded to them as equals. For they were concerned with the perennial issues of philosophy and with winds of doctrine that were blowing through the entire Western world.

And yet there was an air about them, a posture toward ideas, a view of themselves and of what they were doing, that was--or that seemed--new. They were philosophers living in a place, a time, and a moral climate not quite like that in which any philosophers had lived before, and underlying their arguments there were attitudes that were not argued and idioms they could not help but use. They spoke, not in the high official tones of so much nineteenth-century philosophy, but with the simplicity and directness of American manners at their best. Although they approached their sub-

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