John Kaag

discusses

American Philosophy:
A Love Story

This event includes a book signing

Date

Oct
14
Friday
October 14, 2016
7:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome philosophy professor JOHN KAAG for a discussion of his latest book, American Philosophy: A Love Story—a memoir that considers the question “Is life worth living?”

About American Philosophy

In American Philosophy, John Kaag—a disillusioned philosopher at sea in his marriage and career-—stumbles upon a treasure trove of rare books on an old estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that once belonged to the Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. The library includes notes from Whitman, inscriptions from Frost, and first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As he begins to catalog and preserve these priceless books, Kaag rediscovers the very tenets of American philosophy—self-reliance, pragmatism, the transcendent—and sees them in a twenty-first-century context.

Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy. After studying under Harvard's Philosophical Four—William James, George Santayana, Josiah Royce, and George Herbert Palmer—he held the most prestigious chair at the university for the first three decades of the twentieth century. And when his teachers eventually died, he collected the great books from their libraries (filled with marginalia) and combined them with his own rare volumes at his family's estate. And there they remained for nearly eighty years, a time capsule of American thought.

Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is an invigorating investigation of American pragmatism and the wisdom that underlies a meaningful life.

Praise

"John Kaag’s American Philosophy: A Love Story is one of the most entertaining guides to philosophical inquiry to come along in decades. Stumbling on the library of a long-forgotten Harvard professor abandoned on the great man’s country estate, John Kaag examines the trove and finds himself communing with the likes of William James, Josiah Royce, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ideas may be Kaag’s first love, but they bring him a flesh-and-blood Beatrice in this open-hearted account of a young man’s second chance at a sentimental education." —Megan Marshall Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Update

Andre Dubus III, originally scheduled to join this event in conversation, is no longer able to attend.

John Kaag
John Kaag

John Kaag

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was an NPR Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He lives near Boston with his wife and daughter.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

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Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

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