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If past is prologue, then The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand may suggest an intellectual course for the United States in the 21st century. At least Menand, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, thinks so. This enthralling study of Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey shows how these four men developed a philosophy of pragmatism following the Civil War, a period Menand likens to post-cold-war times. Together, "they were more responsible than any other group for moving American thought into the modern world."
Despite this potentially forbidding theme, The Metaphysical Club is not a dry tome for academics. Instead, it is a quadruple biography, a wonderfully told story of ideas that advances by turning these thinkers into characters and bringing them to life. Menand links them through the Metaphysical Club, a conversational club formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872. It lasted but a few months, and references to it appear only in Peirce's writings (its real significance seems rather limited), though Holmes and James were both members. (Dewey was much younger than these three, and more an heir than a contemporary.) It is difficult to describe in a sentence or two what they accomplished, though Menand takes a stab at it: "They helped put an end to the idea that the universe is an idea, that beyond the mundane business of making our way as best we can in a world shot through with contingency, there exists some order, invisible to us, whose logic we transgress at our peril." Academic freedom and cultural pluralism are just two of their legacies, and they are linchpins of democracy in a nonideological age, says Menand.
A book like this is necessarily idiosyncratic, yet at the same time this one is sweeping. It presents an accessible survey of intellectual life from roughly the end of the Civil War to the start of the cold war. Dozens of figures receive fascinating thumbnail sketches, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Darwin to Jane Addams and Eugene Debs. The result is a grand portrait of an age that will appeal to anyone with even a modest interest in the history of philosophy and ideas. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Metaphysical Club was an informal intellectual gathering of philosophers and academics that met in Cambridge, Mass., for only nine months in 1872. Menand, known for his contributions to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, follows the evolution of pragmatism as it emerged from the minds of four of the club's "members": Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey. The Metaphysical Club describes how the lives of these great thinkers interconnect in an enjoyable, though sometimes complex, narrative. Leyva's reading is fluid and clean. His delivery, that of an enthusiastic yet slightly removed academic, transports the listener to a classroom seat, alert and ready to take notes. Unlike those audiobooks in which the enthralled listener cannot wait to listen to each subsequent tape in order to see what happens next, listeners may find themselves rewinding the tape to repeat bits here and there, or just turning it off from time to time to digest the thoughts introduced. This audiobook is stimulating for our nation today, as Menand stresses the important role of intellectuals in times of chaos (in this case, after the Civil War), when people's beliefs are put to the test. Based on the Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 12, 2001). (Sept.)n
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Editorial Reviews
Very thought provoking in its similarities and difference from today. Let the experiment continue! Compare to The Philosophical Breakfast Club re similar time period in Europe and... Read morePublished 6 hours ago by Gilbert V Herman
Intellectual history are very difficult to follow, and The Metaphysical Club is no exception. There is lengthy quotes from 18th century writers whose style is difficult to... Read morePublished 15 days ago by MDCRABGUY
This book changed my life! I was a science geek and what could be called a "logical positivist." This book helped me accept others' viewpoints (pluralism, pragmatism). Read morePublished 19 days ago by David A. Vaccari
The breadth, depth, critical analysis covering history, sociology, ideology is unparalled. For an English professor do this is beyond words. Read morePublished 4 months ago by pep
I loved this book but kept falling asleep while reading. Maybe I needed to reread passages in the light of day instead of the middle of the night. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Roberta S. Bloom
I enjoyed learning how this period of philosophy developed especially the influences of its key figures. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Paul in Denver
It's hard to break down why this book works so well. I started it already knowing a fair amount of US political history, but nothing much on the intellectual side, in spite of... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jeffrey W. Skinner