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America the Philosophical Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 22, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In an age when many debates are high-pitched screeds, how counterintuitive it is to argue that American philosophical thought is booming. But that’s trademark Romano . . . Romano turns this subject into a narrative of people brought together through their love of ideas.”
            -Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
“Both scholarly and entertaining—learned and stimulating—to an equal and extraordinary degree. America the Philosophical is one of the books of the year . . . A hugely enlightening compendium of intellectual heresy.”
            -Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
“A comprehensive intellectual history from Emerson to Rawls.”
            -The New Yorker
“Ambitious . . . Romano is enlightening when he analyzes American intellectual life and illustrates its liveliness.”
            -Anthony Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review (cover)
“A high-speed tour of America’s big thinkers . . . Romano is a cheerful and exuberant guide.”
            -Jonathan Rée, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Admirable . . . Romano writes with the snap of a journalist.”
            -Thomas Meaney, The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating portraits of unjustly obscure intellectual figures, curated by a writer with a talent for the telling example.”
            -John Kappes, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Stimulating . . . Graceful . . . This exuberant book succeeds in filling one’s mind with the excitement of ideas duking it out.”
            -Drew DeSilver, The Seattle Times
“Genuinely exciting and provocative . . . If Romano wanted to discombobulate the traditional landscape of American philosophy, he achieved his goal.”
            -Umberto Eco 
“Romano’s remarkable book stands out in terms of ambition, breadth, provocativeness, and, when needed, a delicate touch.”
            -Howard Gardner, author of Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed
“Comprehensive and certain to be controversial . . . Romano’s grip on his subject is fierce, and his tone, though critical throughout (he does not just summarize; he assesses), is occasionally light . . . A tour de force—encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening.”
            -Starred review, Kirkus
“Engaging . . . With illuminating anecdotes and an addictive prose style, Romano renders complex ideas lucid without sacrificing depth of understanding or his splendid sense of humor. His breathtaking intellectual range and passion will make every reader want to be a philosopher.”
            -Starred review, Publishers Weekly
“Part love letter, part hand grenade, Romano’s commentary is sure to delight and infuriate in a way that will underscore its thesis.”
“This wide-ranging survey is likely to be of interest to all readers interested in philosophy and American thought in the 20th and 21st centuries.”
            -Library Journal

About the Author

Carlin Romano, Critic-at-Large of The Chronicle of Higher Education and literary critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty-five years, is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Ursinus College. His criticism has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Harper’s, The American Scholar, Salon, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other publications. A former president of the National Book Critics Circle, he was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, cited for “bringing new vitality to the classic essay across a formidable array of topics.” He lives in Philadelphia.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679434704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679434702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,350,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By George Cotkin on June 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writing with zest and a fine eye for telling anecdotes, Carlin Romano argues that philosophy is not only alive in America, but doing quite well. After the Second World War, American academic philosophy boomed and in the last thirty years, thanks to Richard Rorty and others, its reign has continued. But what interests Romano is how philosophy plays itself out in the public sphere; he disdains philosophical discourse when it is narrowly gauged, uber-professional. Romano identifies himself most fully with the open-ended experimentalism of American pragmatism.

Romano is a genial and smart tour guide for the American philosophical landscape. Readers will find discussions of thinkers as diverse as Cornel West, Bill Moyers, Richard Posner, Alain Locke, Martha Nussbaum, John Rawls, Jaron Lanier, and many others. The obvious protest is that Romano has built a mansion too capacious, housing many thinkers that would not normally be joined together under the rubric of philosopher. The delights of wandering around this house, however, offset any zoning violations. The spirit, breadth, and narrative excitement, not to mention jauntiness, make this book an engaging read. Scholars may find much that is familiar although they should appreciate the quick sketches of public intellectuals at work. Philosophical neophytes will be enthused by the rapid-fire commentaries and introductions on various philosophers and will probably push them towards reading more on the subject. Quite an accomplishment.

So, ditch your highfaluting language and narrow concerns and enjoy Romano's ride into the world of American public philosophy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In a 1908 essay, "On Certain Limitations of the Thoughtful Public in America" the American philosopher Josiah Royce took issue with those who denied the thoughtful character of much of the American public. Royce said: "when foreigners accuse us of extraordinary love for gain, and of practical materialism, they fail to see how largely we are a nation of idealists." Royce proceeded to explain that by "idealist" he did not mean a commitment to a philosophical doctrine but rather "a man or woman who is consciously and predominantly guided, in the purposes and in the great choices of life, by large ideals, such as admit of no merely material embodiment, and such as contemplate no merely private and personal satisfaction as their goal". In this sense, Royce found considerable idealism in the Puritans, the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, and in the America of his day.

Carlin Romano's book, "America the Philosophical" (2012) carries out at length some of the ideas Royce briefly sketched in his essay. Romano is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Ursinus College, and served for many years as literary critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Among other things, Romano has edited a book of noir literature centered on his native Philadelphia, Philadelphia Noir (Akashic Noir), thus maintaining strong ties to both popular and intellectual culture. In fact, one of the goals of Romano's book is to soften the claimed distinctions among "high", "middle", and "low" cultures.

Romano sets forth the major theme of the book in his title.
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Format: Hardcover
Book Review:
Carlin Romano. America The Philosophical New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Matt Stolick, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, University of Findlay (OH)
I am a generalist philosophy professor of 14 years at a small university. I find Romano's book worth commenting on because it has made such a positive impression on me. I think this work is a great accomplishment reminiscent of Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy (1926) and one that should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand philosophy as both a discipline and as a way of life. Romano is aware of this work and seems to implicitly tell his own story of philosophy in this dense work of over 600 readable pages. I say "dense" instead of merely informative, because there is so much information here, on each page. This dense book is also very comprehensive, concise and direct. Romano captures in an engaging and very readable way a multitude of different philosophers each in roughly five pages or so, and shares many fascinating facts about the personal lives of the philosophers. Many times students ask me who the major philosophers of today are. I can direct them to Romano's book now, as he summarizes 20th and 21st century philosophers of renown and of lesser renown. One of the major points Romano proposes is that we tell the history of philosophy more through people of lesser renown. Why do we teach the philosophers we do and not others, not women, black, Native American, representatives of socially oppressed groups? Romano shows that it is not because of ability to philosophize or for having lacked works of philosophy produced. My main criticism of this work is that of the six parts the fourth seems forced, covering "cyberpolitics, cybereligion, cyberliterature, and cybercynics.
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