[lit-ideas] Another Book Worth Reading

  • From: John McCreery <mccreery@xxxxxxx>
  • To: democratsabroadjapan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx,Anthro-L <ANTHRO-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 31 May 2004 22:07:26 +0900

If you are interested in intellectual history or history of philosophy 
and want to read something fascinating, stimulating, and also deeply 
disturbing, allow me to recommend Louis Menand (2001) The Metaphysical 
Club: A Story of Ideas in America.

In the Preface (p. x) we find the following description,

> For the generation that lived through it, the Civil War was a terrible 
> and traumatic experience. It tore a hole in their lives. To some of 
> them, the war seemed not just a failure of democracy, but a failure of 
> culture, a failure of ideas. As traumatic wars do--as the First World 
> War would do for many Europeans sixty years later, and as the Vietnam 
> War would do for many Americans a hundred years later--the Civil War 
> discredited the beliefs and assumptions of the era that preceded it. 
> These beliefs had not prevented the country from going to war; they 
> had not prepared it for the astonishing violence the war unleashed; 
> they seemed absurdly obsolete in the new, postwar world. The Civil War 
> swept away the slave civilization of the South, but it swept away 
> almost the whole intellectual culture of the North along with it. It 
> took nearly half a century for the United States to develop a culture 
> to replace it, to find a set of ideas, and a way of thinking that 
> would help people cope with the conditions of modern life. That 
> struggle is the subject of this book.
> There are many paths through this story. The one that is followed here 
> runs through the lives of four people: Oliver Wendell Holmes, William 
> James, Charles S. Pierce, and John Dewey.....

I am now about half way through the book, moving slowly since I find 
myself going back to re-read earlier bits. For this is no mere history 
of ideas, in which a sequence of ideas is discussed abstractly with 
only broad allusions to the contexts in which they emerged. It is a 
study of distinct personalities, shaped by time, place, family and 
their relationships to the war which tore their childhood worlds apart 
and why, to borrow William James' useful labels, some ideas became live 
to them.... while others died.

John L. McCreery
International Vice Chair, Democrats Abroad

Tel 81-45-314-9324
Email mccreery@xxxxxxx

 >>Life isn't fair. Democracy should be. <<

To learn more about Democrats Abroad, see these websites

        In Japan: http://www.demsjapan.jp
        Worldwide: http://www.democratsabroad.org

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Another Book Worth Reading