History Matters Series - American Philosophy: A Love Story

John Kaag
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Speaker: John Kaag

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harper's, Aeon Magazine, among many other publications. His latest book, American Philosophy: A Love Story, part intellectual history, part memoir is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one's life around.

John Kaag is at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in rural New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking, one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendant of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology. It is James's question, "Is life worth living?" that guides this remarkable book.

The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But Kaag resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman, and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy — self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence.

Wednesday, October 19th
noon - 1:00 pm

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