restricted access 6. Philosophy and Inclusion in the United States, 1929–2001
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159 6 Philosophy and Inclusion in the United States, 1929–2001 Bruce Kuklick In writing about “philosophy in the United States,” I mean to write about an academic discipline whose substance spilled over into other academic disciplines in the second half of the twentieth century, but whose perennial concerns—fundamental questions about the human place in the universe—engaged thoughtful members of the culture long before departments of philosophy existed. Understanding philosophy’s recent history requires that we look at variables not usually treated in the history of ideas—demography, ideology, professionalization, and management, as well as what may be a unique factor, what I call the tension between vision and technique. Philosophy, moreover, has struggled with questions about diversity among practitioners in the discipline, and with its ability to reach out to other disciplines, to a wide variety of students, and to a public beyond the academy. All these factors, of course, play out in a realm of human endeavor that thrives on the intellectual quality of its attainments. This chapter focuses on two chronologically linked stories, the consolidation of analytic philosophy in the two decades after World War II and its decline in the era of Vietnam and after. I have also taken a running start in an earlier time to set the stage for the era after World War II; and I have surveyed developments up through the turn of the century.1 The Postwar System The system of higher education in which most philosophers operated in the mid-twentieth century had grown only slowly after the “founding” of 1870– 1910. Then, after World War II, there was a boom, in part to meet the needs of tens of thousands of returning servicemen, in part to respond to the federal government, which began to fund education deemed essential to the nation’s defense in the period of the cold war with the old Soviet Union. Despite this growth, the earlier structure of prestige, in the academic world in general and in philosophy in particular, remained intact and indeed became more rigid. As Bruce Kuklick 160 one historian has pointed out, the “Harvard model” became standard: even schools that served regional needs or catered to specialized groups of students downgraded service and teaching and hired and promoted faculty on the basis of credentials beginning with the doctoral degree and eventuating in productivity evidenced by writing.2 In philosophy Harvard itself maintained its distinctive, easily commanding rank, and leadership flowed to its fellow Ivy League universities; to other fortunate private institutions on the East Coast, such as Johns Hopkins; to the great public institutions of the Midwest and the University of Chicago; to select liberal arts colleges; and to a few large schools on the West Coast—Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA. Long before the postwar period, by the 1920s, a young man who realistically thought of himself as becoming a philosopher was not thinking about a life of contemplation in the cloister or in the ministry or as a sage; he was, rather, going to apply to graduate school in philosophy at one of these institutions. Harvard was the place to obtain advanced training. C. I. Lewis made his early mark as a logician, and Mind and the World-Order (1929) and The Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation (1946) established him as the most influential philosopher and a thinker of originality and merit. Lewis and the philosophers who followed him at Harvard underscored the role of human choice in the construction of knowledge. But Lewis concentrated on the hard sciences and mathematics as the model for knowledge, disregarded religion, and had a constrained view of the public role of philosophy. His “conceptual pragmatism” was a later version of John Dewey’s instrumentalism without passion or reformism. On the other hand, Alfred North Whitehead, who had come to Cambridge as a philosopher of science, proved to be an audacious metaphysician when he published Process and Reality (1929), and he popularized his ideas in books such as Science and the Modern World (1925) and Adventures of Ideas (1933). Harvard had philosophers of international stature, and students could choose between empirical , scientific emphases and a more speculative set of concerns. Although Berkeley in California was a clone of Harvard, several other institutions remained credibly independent in their approaches. At Columbia mediocre leadership had produced, after the retirement of Dewey in 1930, a nondescript department. Nonetheless, it purveyed a version of his ideas—“naturalism ”—that attracted students. On the basis of Dewey’s...


Subject Headings

  • Learned institutions and societies -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Learning and scholarship -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Multicultural education -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Demography -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
  • Education -- Demographic aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Humanities -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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