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The Context of American Philosophy

  • Marcus G. Singer


I am, naturally, greatly honoured to have been invited by the Royal Institute of Philosophy to organize and conduct their lecture series on American Philosophy. It has been an interesting if trying experience, and I must say that the process of organizing it has given me a special respect for the patience and administrative capacities of those who have the task year in year out. Of course there were special difficulties in the way of importing so many people from the United States (especially since the Institute does not have the funds needed to bring them over), but if the series was to be on American Philosophy—whatever that is—it seemed especially appropriate that the lectures be given predominantly by Americans who have made a special study of the subject— again, whatever that is. We may, of course, end with the conclusion that there is no such distinctive subject, and that the name ‘American Philosophy’ is as nominal as a name can be, but that, we should note, is something to be found out, not a conclusion dictated in advance.



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1 Schneider, Herbert W., A History of American Philosophy, 2nd edn, 1963 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946), viiviii, x, xv.

2 This has been observed by Commager, Henry Steele, ‘The Revolution as a World Ideal’, Saturday Review, 13 12 1975, 14.

3 Royce, Josiah, ‘William James and the Philosophy of Life’, William James and other Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1911), 3ff.

4 Murdoch, Iris, The Sovereignty of Good, (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), Ch. 2, 46.

5 Science and the Modern World, 1932 edn (Cambridge: University Press, 1926), Ch. 3, 61. Cf. Ch. 5, 108.

6 Cohen, Morris, American Thought (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), 9. Cf. Cohen, , A Dreamer's Journey (Glencoe: The Free Press; Boston: The Beacon Press, 1949), 195 et seq.

7 Fodor's Jet Age Guide to Europe 1962 (New York: David McKay Company, 1962), 349, 707, 115, 429, 204.

8 The Times Tuesday 9 10 1984, 14, 17. On Tuesday 16 October 1984, 35, the reader is told that ‘Rowan and Martin present a peculiarly American humour show …’

9 Mill, J. S., A System of Logic, 1st edn, 1843; 8th ed, 1872 (London: Longmans, Green, 1949), Bk. VI, Ch. ix, Sec. 4, 590591.

10 Whitehead, A. N., Adventures of Ideas (Cambridge: University Press, 1933), Ch. 6, 125 (Penguin edn, 1942, 121).

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Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements
  • ISSN: 1358-2461
  • EISSN: 1755-3555
  • URL: /core/journals/royal-institute-of-philosophy-supplements
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