Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

non-white, non-male philosophers?

Yes, a lot of them actually. But if you take a philosophy course, or read an introductory book, you learn about the "great white men and the ivy league cavalcade" (as Romano calls them). The point of the book is not to downplay these great white men (he devotes a long chapter on them), but to bring us up to speed, to survey all the great philosophers in America: African Americans, women, Native Americans, critics, psychologists, gay people, journalists, etc (he expands the term "philosopher" to include Hugh Hefner, which is a bit of a stretch).

For a small sampling: African American philosophers: Alaine Locke, Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson, Kwame Anthony Appiah. Women philosophers: Margaret Fuller (1800's transcendentalist), Gerda Lerner, Ayn Rand, Hannah Arendt, Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag, Martha Nussbaum.

Romano also has a bone to pick with so called "philosophy" departments, which have been reduced to analyzing language and splitting hairs instead of talking about issues that really matter to people (as a philosophy student I can attest to that a little bit). The author shows his true colors; he likes the pragmatic tradition (a very American tradition), and especially Richard Rorty.

I forgot who it was, but someone in 1800's America predicted that soon we all would be philosophers. Were they right? This book reads like a very long series of book reviews, which is fine if you want a survey of intellectualism in America. It can be long winded and too wity. Certainly it is not a good or "philosophical" argument that America is the most philosophical place in the history of the world. Not even close. He simply says "hey, look at all these smart people I'm talking about; therefore, we must be philosophical!" Still, if you want to know the inside story of philosophy in America, it's a good read.


America the Philosophical
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