America the Philosophical by Carlin Romano

53%

15 Critic Reviews

Puzzled by Romano’s high estimation of the relevance of Isocrates, even to the broadest conception of philosophy, I reread some of his discourses and emerged none the wiser...
-NY Times

Synopsis

   A bold, insightful book that rejects the myth of America the Unphilosophical, arguing that America today towers as the most philosophical culture in the history of the world, an unprecedented marketplace of truth and argument that far surpasses ancient Greece or any other place one can name.
   With verve and keen intelligence, Carlin Romano—Pulitzer Prize finalist, award-winning book critic, and professor of philosophy—takes on the widely held belief that ours is an anti–intellectual society. Instead, while providing a richly reported overview of American thought, Romano argues that ordinary Americans see through phony philosophical justifications faster than anyone else, and that the best of our thinkers abandon artificial academic debates for fresh intellectual enterprises, such as cyberphilosophy. Along the way, Romano seeks to topple philosophy’s most fiercely admired hero, Socrates, asserting that it is Isocrates, the nearly forgotten Greek philosopher who rejected certainty, whom Americans should honor as their intellectual ancestor. 
   America the Philosophical introduces readers to a nation whose existence most still doubt: a dynamic, deeply stimulating network of people and places drawn together by shared excitement about ideas. From the annual conference of the American Philosophical Association, where scholars tack wiseguy notes addressed to Spinoza on a public bulletin board, to the eruption of philosophy blogs where participants discuss everything from pedagogy to the philosophy of science to the nature of agency and free will, Romano reveals a world where public debate and intellectual engagement never stop. And readers meet the men and women whose ideas have helped shape American life over the previous few centuries, from well-known historical figures like William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to modern cultural critics who deserve to be seen as thinkers (Kenneth Burke, Edward Said), to the iconoclastic African American, women, Native American, and gay mavericks (Cornel West, Susan Sontag, Anne Waters, Richard Mohr) who have broadened the boundaries of American philosophy. 
   Smart and provocative, America the Philosophical is a rebellious tour de force that both celebrates our country’s unparalleled intellectual energy and promises to bury some of our most hidebound cultural clichés.
 

About Carlin Romano

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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.
 
Published May 22, 2012 by Vintage. 688 pages
Genres: History, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for America the Philosophical
All: 15 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 9

Kirkus

Excellent
Apr 01 2012

A tour de force—encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Anthony Gottlieb on Jun 28 2012

Puzzled by Romano’s high estimation of the relevance of Isocrates, even to the broadest conception of philosophy, I reread some of his discourses and emerged none the wiser...

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Mar 26 2012

With illuminating anecdotes and an addictive prose style, Romano renders complex ideas lucid without sacrificing depth of understanding or his splendid sense of humor.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Thomas Meaney on Jun 01 2012

...Mr. Romano seems to have missed a crucial point: The greatest pragmatists in this country have always appealed to the people's taste for principle.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Roth on Jul 21 2012

Many readers will learn many things from this big, messy book, despite the fact that it does not have much in the way of coherent argument or compelling narrative...That doesn’t make his work or our country philosophical...

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Dallas News

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Seib on Jun 01 2012

This is most definitely a book about philosophy. But don’t be scared. Cultural critic Carlin Romano writes so well and unrolls his knowledge in such an unthreatening way that before you know it you will be thinking philosophically yourself.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Washburn on Jul 05 2012

An efficient discussion of America, Isocrates and Rorty would have been an engaging polemic, a book posing questions that can't help but antagonize prevailing habits of thought. But Romano didn't write that book.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Glenn Altschuler on Jun 03 2012

Mr. Romano seems content to call just about any public person a philosopher. And, it seems to me, "America The Philosophical" often appears to contain a thesis in search of corroborating evidence.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Drew DeSilver on Jun 10 2012

... this weighty yet exuberant book succeeds in filling one's mind with the excitement of ideas duking it out, and — against expectations — makes a plausible case for America as a place where philosophy is so woven into everyday life that it's all but invisible.

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The Columbus Dispatch

Excellent
Reviewed by Margaret Quamme on May 27 2012

...he makes a persuasive argument that the United States has a philosophical side — scrappy and pragmatic rather than academic and aloof.

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PopMatters

Below average
Reviewed by James Williams on Sep 06 2012

Romano’s spry prose sometimes makes the travelling a bit easier but more often than not it’s swamped by a compulsion to include the most mundane and wholly irrelevant details about its subjects (the ethnicity of this or that person’s spouse or partner, for example), odd anecdotes, page-long tangents, and so on.

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Cleveland.com

Excellent
Reviewed by John Kappes on Jun 22 2012

Agree with him or not, we all could do worse than pour a strong coffee and settle in to listen.

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Philly.com

Below average
Reviewed by Jonathan Ree on May 20 2012

...Romano is angry and he is spoiling for a fight.As far as Romano is concerned, the professional philosophical establishment is...no more than a conspiracy to strangle intellectual joy and creativity. America the Philosophical is a likable book, but some people are going to hate it.

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The Daily

Below average
Reviewed by Will Wilkinson on May 13 2012

It might make a good bathroom book. But it’s good neither as a book of philosophy or about philosophy.

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The Fortnightly Review

Below average
Reviewed by Anthony O'Hear on Jul 23 2012

CALLING THIS LAMENTABLE TOME ‘America the Philosophical’ would be a bit like me calling a similar potpourri ‘Wimbledon, the Home of Golf’, and explaining that this is all right because by ‘golf’ I’m going to mean tennis, and in any case golf is in the same general line of business as tennis.

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Abigail Chambers 4 Mar 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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