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A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000 [Hardcover]

By Bruce Kuklick (Author)
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Item description for A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000 by Bruce Kuklick...

Ranging from Joseph Bellamy to Hilary Putnam, and from early New England Divinity Schools to contemporary university philosophy departments, historian Bruce Kuklick recounts the story of the growth of philosophical thinking in the United States.
Readers will explore the thought of early American philosophers such as Jonathan Edwards and John Witherspoon and will see how the political ideas of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson influenced philosophy in colonial America. Kuklick discusses The Transcendental Club (members Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson) and describes the rise of pragmatism centered on Metaphysical Club of Cambridge (and members William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Charles Peirce). He examines the profound impact Darwinism had on American philosophy and looks at Idealists such as the Kantian Josiah Royce and the Hegelian John Dewey. The book shows how, in the twentieth century, the Nazi conquest of Europe unleashed a flood of European intellectuals onto these shores, including such major thinkers as Theodore Adorno, Erich Fromm, Rudolph Carnap, and Alfred Tarski. Finally, Kuklick examines the contributions of such contemporary philosophers as Sidney Hook and Willard Quine and such books as John Rawl's A Theory of Justice and Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. Kuklick pulls no punches in portraying the state of American philosophy today and its contested role in the intellectual life of the nation and the world.
The range of philosophical thought in our nation's history has been great, from Edwards's Religious Affections to Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Bruce Kuklick has captured it all in a book that blends intricate details with sweeping vision.

Citations And Professional Reviews
A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000 by Bruce Kuklick has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Publishers Weekly - 04/08/2002 page 222

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   346
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.48" Width: 6.48" Height: 0.92"
Weight:   1.37 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 25, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0198250312  
ISBN13  9780198250319  

Availability  0 units.

More About Bruce Kuklick

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Bruce Kuklick is Nichols Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

Bruce Kuklick currently resides in the state of Pennsylvania. Bruce Kuklick was born in 1941 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Pennsylvania.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > History & Surveys
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Modern

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Reviews - What do customers think about A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000?

An Overview of American Philosophy  Sep 7, 2006
Bruce Kuklick, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania has written extensively about American philosophy and theology as well as about American social thought While his most recent book, "Intellectuals at War" deals with the impact of ideas on officials in high places, Professor Kuklick's "A History of Philosophy in America 1720 -- 2000" tells the story of American philosophy from the colonial era to the present. The book draws upon Professor Kuklick's earlier study of philosophy at Harvard, "The Rise of American Philosophy" and upon his study of American theology "Churchmen and Philosophers".

In his Introduction, Professor Kuklick defines the philosophical endeavor as a "more or less systematic writing about the point of our existence." Professor Kuklick finds that American thought remained under the sway of theology for a longer period than was the case in Europe. Again in his Introduction, Professor Kuklick locates the general direction of American thought in the "long circuitious march from a religious to a secular vision of the universe." He describes the long influence of idealism in America, followed by a closely-related pragmatism, to the current uneasily-prevailing materialistic and scientific philosophy.

Throughout the book, Professor Kuklick admirably draws parallels between American approaches to philosophy at different times. Thus, the book opens with a lengthy consideration of Puritan thought beginning with Jonathan Edwards and proceeding about through the time of the Civil War. For Professor Kuklick, this thought was dominated by the theology of Calvinism and focused on the individual and his relationship to God. The pragmatic thought which succeeded theologically-based philosophy tended, with exceptions, to be idealistic in character and viewed idealism as a means of reconciling Darwinism with a sense of human meaning. Peirce and James developed their distinctive pragmatisms while John Dewey developed his different, experimentally based form of instrumentalism. The pragmatic school represented the high-water mark of philsophy in the United States, and it was followed by an era of professionilization and fragmentation, under the influence of the growth of science and a variety of European thinkers, including Wittgenstein, the Frankfurt school, and existentialism. In the final portion of his book, Professor Kuklick gives substantial attention to the work of Quine, Kuhn, and Richard Rorty.

Professor Kuklick is critical of American philosophy for its relative neglect of social and political issues. He attributes this neglect to the initial questions posed by philosophers concerning the relationship of the individual to the Divine, with social philosophy relegated to an afterthought. He fears, as have many before him, that with its focus on analysis, professional philosophy has lost the ability to engage people's minds and hearts that it possessed during the time of James, Royce, and Dewey. A related theme of this book involves the various ways different universities pursued philosophy and the influence they exercised. Broadly speaking, Harvard and the philosophy departments under its orbit became predominant in the age of pragmatism and expanded this dominance as philosophy grew closer to the sciences in outlook. Yale was more heavily influenced by theology and struggled for many years to find an identity for its practice of philosophy different from the scientifically-oriented thinking of Harvard. These alternatives would include, among other things, traditional metaphysical idealism and phenomenology and existentialism. I found this discussion struck a personal note as it reminded me of the time, many years ago, when I applied for and was accepted into the graduate philosophy program at Yale, a course I did not pursue.

While philosophy remains a troubled endeavor, Professor Kuklick believes that "reflective people throughout American history have needed something like philosophy. They have wanted its synthesis of instruction and argumentation, and in all likelihood they will find a way of extracting this mix from the cultural vision in which they find themselves." (p.285)

Professor Kuklick has written a learned history which itself is a work of philosophy in that it shows deep insight into the nature of the discipline and into the thought of the many thinkers it considers. These thinkers include, besides those I have mentioned earlier, Ralph Barton Perry, Roy and Wilfred Sellars, C.I. Lewis, Arthur Lovejoy, Paul Weiss, Nelson Goodman, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, and many others. It is a study that has remained fascinating to me over many years. Readers interested in philosophical thought and its development will benefit from this book.

Robin Friedman
Fine Survey  Mar 5, 2003
I'm the only human (or animal of any species) in a room, and I'm looking at a candle as it burns. It's a 9 inch tall candle. I leave the room to go about some business and, when I return, I see that the candle is still burning. It's now 7" tall. Few people outside of philosophy seminars have any difficulty with my inference that at some point there was an unobserved 8" candle in that room.

Indeed, I think that few philosophers have trouble with that, either. What they do argue about, though, is what it means to say that. What are we saying about ourselves and our relations to the rest of the world when we say we are sure there was an unobserved 8" candle (or one observed only by God, to include the Berkeleyans)?

The most interesting portion of this book traces the fate of that question in American philosophic history, subsequent to the death of William James in 1910. The problems break down, roughly, this way. Is one's initial perception of the 9" candle direct or mediated? If one perceives candles directly, how are illusions or possible? If one's perception is mediated, how is knowledge possible? On a related point, are we to think of the common-sense candle, with its definite color and odor, as primary? Or is the candle of a scientist, composed of electrons, protons, and a lot of empty space, more truly real? Can we say that the common-sense candle exists when we're in the room but only the scientist's candle continues when we aren't there?


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