cover image America the Philosophical

America the Philosophical

Carlin Romano. Knopf, $35 (672p) ISBN 978-0-679-43470-2

Though de Tocqueville argued that “in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States,” award-winning book critic and Ursinus College philosophy professor Romano sets out to prove, in this engaging tome, that America is the “most philosophical culture in the history of the world.” America’s philosophy is a pragmatic one, Romano argues, aimed not at locating absolute truth in the ether, but instead confronting real world problems and finding real world solutions. Romano begins with the philosophical roots of American pragmatism in the 19th century and outlines the 20th-century contributions of Willard Van Orman Quine, John Rawls, and Richard Rorty. In addition, Romano analyzes the philosophy of intellectuals like Harold Bloom or Edward Said, and highlights the oft overlooked contributions of African-Americans, women, and gays before tackling contemporary realms of cybertechnology and popular culture. At its core, the work seeks to shift our definition of philosophy from an emphasis on reason and truth-finding to philosophy as a form of persuasion that aims to find better solutions to problems. With illuminating anecdotes and an addictive prose style, Romano renders complex ideas lucid without sacrificing depth of understanding or his splendid sense of humor. His breathtaking intellectual range and passion will make every reader want to be a philosopher. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (May)