David W. Agler

American Philosophy

American Philosophy (3). American philosophy refers to an assortment of philosophical topics investigated primarily (although not exclusively) in the United States beginning in the early part of the nineteenth century and extending to the present. The early part of the nineteenth century was dominated by American trancendentalism, the application of evolution to philosophical issues, social Darwianism, the abolition of slavery (Garrison, Douglass), and equality for women (e.g. Grimké, Stanton, Fuller). By far the most well-known philosophical movement in the latter part of the nineteenth century was pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey). While initially a maxim for making ideas clear in 1878, pragmatism as a tool of clarification was extended by figures both in the States and abroad into a constellation of theories that were used to tackle a variety of traditional philosophical problems, e.g. truth, reality, the self, substance, etc. While ``American philosophy'' is used narrowly to refer to pragmatism, it is also used more broadly to refer to a vast range of philosophical, political, and social topics of concern to intellectuals in the United States. Some of these include: the relation of theory to practice, the importance of history, the education of children (Dewey, Addams), metaphysical pluralism, anti-Cartesianism, fallibilism, constructive criticism of racial and gender inequalities (e.g. Du Bois, Addams, Ladd-Franklin), aesthetics, the reconciliation of faith with modern science, a rejection of intellectualistic approaches to science, morality, and society, and a commitment to a radical empiricism broad enough to embrace scientific observation, religious experience. By the twentieth century, the landscape of topics that constitute and continue to constitute American philosophy has expanded beyond description partly due to the immigration of European philosophers before and during the World Wars and partly due to continued ease of access to literature abroad.


The World and the Individual Vol. 1 - Lecture Notes