This anthology presents selections from American philosophy, 1720 to the present, and a critical narrative of important philosophers working during the same time period. The selected works represent some of the defining and persistent trends in the development of American thought—historically significant and important as they point to the development of ideals and expectations that characterize the American experience. In-depth coverage includes primary selections from Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), to very recent philosophers such as Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Virginia Held, and Richard Rorty. It also looks at important elements of the development in American women's rights, civil rights, and mainstream philosophy. MARKET For individuals interested in American philosophy and literature.
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Nancy A. Stanlick and Bruce S. Silver have put together an anthology that captures the principal figures in American philosophy from the Colonial era into the twenty-first century. The editors are committed to the principle that philosophy in America was vital before there was a United States, and that it remains vigorous into the present. This collection can be appropriately augmented by Philosophy in America: Critical and Interpretive Essays, Volume II, a collection of interpretive and critical chapters on individual philosophers, themes, and leading ideas in the development of American philosophy and speculative thought.Features of Philosophy in America: Primary Readings
Why assemble an anthology in American philosophy? The answer is straightforward: there is a need for one. Some of the fine earlier collections are out of print. Some of the anthologies that remain take as their emphasis middle nineteenth-century pragmatism and what comes in its wake. We think that there is a need for a collection, the one we have put together, that captures at least some of the principal figures, philosophers, and speculative thinkers who wrote before there was a United States and after the great pragmatists had come and gone. We believe, in short, that philosophy in America was alive well before the 1860s and that it continues to live into the very early years of the twentyfirst century. We hope that this anthology ratifies our beliefs.
Philosophy in America: Primary Readings is more a collection of spirited arguments and development of ideas than it is a focus on a single notion or project. From the Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards to the feminism of Marilyn Frye, from Thomas Paine's arguments against monarchy and John Adams's brief for a balance of powers to John Rawls's treatment of justice, and from Ralph Waldo Emerson's intuitionism to John Dewey's instrumentalism, we find that the history of American philosophy is too rich and varied to limit to immutable categories.
A dim measure of optimism lurks throughout the often grim writings of Jonathan Edwards, even with his pessimism about chances for salvation and God's often violent, always "incensed," wrath over the sins of humanity. Edwards develops a kind of theodicy, a view that everything must work out as God foresaw it and that divine justice is a manifestation of the beauty, bounty, and order of the universe. Even those who are damned to suffer the eternal and unspeakable torments of hell are all too briefly aware of the beauty and balance that surround them in the present life.
American thought takes a hard turn after the first Great Awakening, especially in the work of Paine, a staunch advocate of all that is good in the world and an equally vigorous opponent of what he saw as the hopelessly flawed and sinister nature of traditional Christianity. Paine looked to reason, observation, and the sciences as he indicted established religions as sources of hatred, cruelty, and fear.
The New England Transcendentalists and pragmatists go beyond Paine's impatience with conventional religion. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "to be great is to be misunderstood" and that intellectual and moral obligations reflect one's place in the universe as a "part and particle of God." In the reflections of Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, a preoccupation with human depravity and sinfulness lost out to more generous sentiments. Threats of eternal damnation were replaced by melioristic philosophies and by exhortations to recognize the potential for human progress here and now. Human dignity, not depravity, was often the assumption of philosophers at home in this young nation that experimented and succeeded with its unprecedented formulas for justice and a republican political order.
William James is among the philosophical activists at work during America's Gilded Age. His position in "What Makes a Life Significant" embodies a promising philosophy that celebrates the value of human life. Living has a purpose whether the scope of our interests is getting by day to day or recognizing that life can be meaningful and heroic beyond our most extravagant expectations. Whether optimism is expressed in the claims of C. S. Peirce, as he defends the scientific method of inquiry, or in Rawls's conviction that human beings can agree to live by principles of justice and fairness, American philosophy frequently celebrates progress, good character, productive knowledge, and noble values. Optimism is at work and at home in the writings, ideas, and actions of the American civil rights and women's rights movements. From Frederick Douglass's impassioned speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Emersonian attitude of self-sovereignty in "Solitude of Self," we find—even among the problems of oppression and unfairness that characterize the lives of marginalized peoples—an undying spirit of hope.
Individualism, not so much the kind that we acquire from dime novel versions of the Wild West but the kind that sees the individual as an important member of the human community, persists as an element of American philosophy. Paine and Jefferson develop their versions of praise for individualism in a kind of populist confidence that human beings, using their own intellect and power, can find their way to truth and happiness. Paine raises his own position to its zenith by proclaiming that "my mind is my church" and by his steadfast determination to demonstrate the goodness of God and the ability of reflective people to make a difference in their own lives. Emerson's exhortation in "Self-Reliance" to trust oneself and to act autonomously is another, much more metaphysical and broader rendering of what Paine so vigorously defends in rational religion and benign government.
Thoreau makes his version of individualism come alive in both Walden and Civil Disobedience, especially when he asserts his wish to be as much a good neighbor as a bad subject. He understands the place of the individual in the community and yet insists that there must also be a private sphere for contemplation, creativity, and quietly reveling in life itself. He finds or demands the right, perhaps even the obligation, to live by convictions that no one else can rightfully threaten. John Dewey, like his contemporary Josiah Royce, raises the place of the individual in society to a different kind of height. He maintains, in something like the spirit of Jefferson, that the Great Society can become the Great Community only where the freedom to acquire and disseminate information is understood and exercised, and where a citizen's influence in a democratic society is manifest in informed opinion and legitimate influence on the community of which he is inseparably a part.
The ability of individual human beings to make a difference in combating the evils of racism and sexism is represented in the works of civil rights and women's rights activists such as Angelina Grimke in her "Appeal to the Christian Women of the South." Grimke expresses the conviction that although it is a difficult road to travel, the individual has an obligation to work toward reform of official policies and customs regarding the enslavement and treatment of African Americans. She argues that this difficult task is to begin with individuals taking care to be mindful of the plight of slaves and to act individually to help realize their emancipation. Such individualism, again in the form of understanding the place of the individual in the community, is present in the work of E. C. Stanton, echoing the Constitution, but adding significant resonance to the words when, in the Seneca Falls "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," she expresses the revolutionary idea that all men and women are created equal. Those two words ("and women") are an exhortation to recognize the value of human beings, not simply of idealized men, living and working together in the moral and political world. The notion that women are important and significant players in the ethical and political thought of any society, that to ignore their contributions, abilities, and viewpoints is a travesty to be rectified, is also a major component of the work of contemporary American feminist philosophers.
That reform also has a place among the ideas and ideals of American philosophers is undeniable. Reform and optimism are reciprocally related since belief in the power of the individual and society to achieve reform is a necessary prerequisite for reform itself. But occasional reform is not the goal. Reform for the purpose of inspiring further progress, which leads to even more enduring reform, is the end in view. Whether we address religion, epistemological theory, metaphysical speculation, moral concepts, or political ideals, there is nothing so sacred in the American philosophical landscape that it is off limits to change, reformulation, and novel applications. Even the Constitution, one of the most remarkable documents in world history, was approved with the understanding that laws and political institutions change. What, after all, are constitutional amendments if not mutations in the law that match changing times and needs? This hallowed guarantee of individual rights and protections, as well as its implicit statements of the possibility for unimpeded social progress and individual opportunity, is itself subject to criticism and reform, but all the while it is an eternal light through which American thought, expectations, and progress find their embodiment.
Perhaps Dewey's conception of the true nature of democracy, informed by scientific method and the idea of progress, is one of the clearest and most complete expressions of the American conception of reform. This conception, which had currency before Dewey, is one in which a vision of absolute truth is set aside insofar as a "quest for certainty" ends in failure, and a metaphysically minded search for absolutes of any kind does nothing for us in the present or the future. We are far wiser, as American pragmatists see matters, to look toward the future, toward goals and productive ambitions, toward theories that "will do," toward action and the "cash value" of our ideas. Lamenting or venerating the past, like looking toward an otherworldly eternity, amounts to squandering the present and the future that are filled with opportunities for anyone who is prepared to act today and to take risks for a better tomorrow.
The women's rights and civil rights movements in the United States are perhaps the crowning achievements of the American spirit of reform and its realization in action, not simply in theory. Martin Luther King, Jr., points out in "The Letter from the Birmingham Jail" that too many people have advised the African-American community to wait, to let time take its course and to believe that change will occur. Dr. King knew all too well that time does nothing of the sort. Change must be caused and the action to take is the kind that is decisive and revolutionary. American feminists see action combined with reasoned, but impassioned, argumentation and appeal to the dignity of men and women as the means by which social change may be effected. Again, optimism regarding the place of the individual, and the individual's ability to make a difference in society, must not be underrated or understated.
The American philosophers included in this anthology do not, on the whole, believe that problems will be solved by simple faith in the possibility of progress, but by faith joined with determinate action. Happiness, much less greatness, does not come to those who passively await it. Here at least Transcendentalists, proto-pragmatists, pragmatists, and idealists meet at a common center. Chauncey Wright, Peirce, James, and Dewey, Royce and Stanton, like Benjamin Franklin before them and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Marilyn Frye after them, ask what we can become and what we should do. These philosophers refuse to surrender to despair by contriving doctrines about what lies outside our knowledge and power. Mythic realms that in principle exceed our reach rarely find a place anywhere within the scope of American philosophy. What we are and what we can do, the people we can become, the knowledge we have and continue to gain, the self-reliance that independent thought and autonomous activity beget, are the benchmarks of America's philosophers and sages.
We do not pretend that the selections in this volume are a comprehensive look at the entire history of American philosophy. We have selected works that represent some of the persistent trends in the development of American thought. These trends are historically significant and important as they point to the development of ideals and expectations that characterize the American experience. There are, of course, unavoidable omissions, and for some readers these omissions might represent gaps in any effort to capture the marrow of American philosophy. Because we stress assorted themes, we believe that our choices lead to an enriched, not an antecedently defined, understanding of American philosophy. We concede that our selections will not satisfy every reader, and we grant that our task is incomplete. We have omitted some philosophers and readings to make room for others. That our effort is incomplete reflects the American experience as incomplete. In a real sense, completeness would undermine the nature of what we wish to present in this work. There is, to borrow liberally from William James, no final truth in American philosophy, nor will there be until the last Americans have lived and have had their say. We earnestly hope that there will be no last Americans and that there will be no end, no final theory, that constitutes the whole of American philosophy.
We have arranged this anthology both historically and thematically. Part I covers some major works in American epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. Part II covers works in American ethics, social and political philosophy. In each part, we have tried in almost every case to arrange writings chronologically. The division of this work into two parts reflects partially our different specialties in the history of American philosophy.
At the beginning of each chapter, we provide a brief introductory essay. Chapters include relevant works from a particular period or style of American philosophy. A short section of review questions and a modest list of suggested readings close each chapter. We have intentionally avoided long, critical introductions so that individual instructors may use this text in a way most consistent with their own pedagogical styles and preferences, and so that this collection can be appropriately augmented by Philosophy in America: Interpretative Essays, Volume II, a collection of our interpretive chapters on individual philosophers, themes, and leading ideas in the development of American philosophy.
No book of this sort is the creation of only one or two authors. Thank you to the following reviewers: John R. Shook, Oklahoma State University; Scott Bartlett, Southern Methodist University; Jacquelyn A. Kegley, California State University-Bakersfield; and Kenneth Stikkers, Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondale. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Ross Miller, Wendy Yurash, Harriet Tellem, and Carla Worner, all with Prentice Hall. Their warm and detailed responses to our many questions throughout this project have been invaluable. For the many conversations about American philosophy and the development of ideas and themes in this book, we thank our colleagues and students. Their lively discussions and searching comments helped to shape the final published work. For support and patience, we thank our families, who perhaps have wondered at times exactly what it is we have been doing and whether our project would ever end.
We are grateful to Prentice Hall for a grant to aid in acquiring materials for this book. To Shelley Park of the University of Central Florida we extend our thanks for making helpful comments on some of our introductory essays; and to Stephen Turner from the University of South Florida we extend appreciation for his comments about John Dewey and contemporary communitarianism. We also express our thanks to Jennifer Pumo, ou...
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