Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays

Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays

Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays

Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays


Charles S. Peirce, William James, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead: each of these individuals is an original and historically important thinker; each is an essential contributor to the period, perspective, and tradition of classical American philosophy; and each speaks directly, imaginatively, critically, and wisely to our contemporary global society, its distant possibilities for improvement, and its massive, pressing problems. From the initiative of pragmatism in approximately 1870 to Dewey's final work after World War II, classical American philosophy has come to represent the critical articulation of attitudes, outlooks, and forms of life imbedded in the culture from which it arose. John Stuhr brings together the works of these foremost thinkers to present a comprehensive collection in American philosophy. Extensive introductory essays, written especially for this volume by leading scholars of the subject, provide not only the bibliographical and cultural contexts necessary to a full appreciation of each thinker, but also original critical and interpretive philosophical observations.


This book seeks to present the essential writings of the major figures of classical American philosophy, to provide introductory essays helpful to both beginning and more advanced readers, and to offer suggestions for further reading and study. Ultimately, it aims at contributing to our critical understanding of the American intellectual tradition and spirit, and to our ability to appropriate the insights and dominant commitments of this philosophy in dealing with contemporary issues and problems.

This volume is primarily the result of my experiences in teaching American philosophy and intellectual history to undergraduates. These experiences have yielded several principles that have guided this work. First, I have included significant portions of the work of all of the central classical American philosophers. Peirce, James, and Dewey are standard fare, of course, but Royce, Santayana, and Mead are generally slighted if not wholly omitted. (I have excluded the work of Chauncey Wright, Alfred North Whitehead, C. I. Lewis, and others for reasons of space, but also and mainly because their writings seem less intrinsically connected to and philosophically significant within the classical period and tradition; of course, their work is important and does contain many historical and philosophical points of connection to the major figures and essential writings presented here.)

Second, I have included not simply individually important pieces by these major philosophers, but selections which demonstrate in as much length as possible the range and depth of the authors' views. Obviously, it is difficult to represent the work even of any one of these authors in the relatively few pages of a single volume. Still, I believe that the substantial selections which follow do capture the essential thoughts, concerns, and spirit of each philosopher. (Those collections that seek to cover all philosophy in America -- early, classical, and more contemporary thought -- simply cannot include sufficient material by each philosopher unless one is preparing only for a cocktail party.)

Third, I have sought to include selections that are the result of the best editorial work to date. Accordingly, for example, the selections below from the writings of Dewey are reprinted from the definitive Southern Illinois University Press editions of John Dewey: The Early Works, 1882-1898; John Dewey: The Middle Works, 1899-1924; and John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925-1953. Similarly, the selections from the works of James are reprinted from the definitive Harvard University Press series of The Works of William James. The selections from Peirce are reprinted exclusively from Peirce's manuscripts, the Harvard Peirce papers; their presence here marks a great advance over the common Peirce texts, which suffer from editorial rearrangement and fragmentation.

Fourth, I have sought to minimize editorial interference in the selected writings.

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