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Faculty Book: Louis Menand

Louis Menand 

The Metaphysical Club (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001, 560pp.) 

book cover image Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History, this book begins with the Civil War and ends in 1919 with the Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Abrams, the basis for the modern law of free speech. Menand tells the story of the creation of ideas and values that changed the way Americans think and the way they live by tracing the lives of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Civil War hero who became the dominant legal thinker of his time; his best friend as a young man, William James, son of an eccentric moral philosopher, brother of a great novelist, and the father of modern psychology in America; and the brilliant and troubled logician, scientist, and founder of semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce. All three belonged to an informal short-lived discussion group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, that called itself the Metaphysical Club. Menand shows how they, together with John Dewey—student of Peirce, friend and ally of James, admirer of Holmes—were responsible for the birth of a new American pragmatism, which grew out of the intellectual climate after the Civil War. Louis Menand is distinguished professor of English at The Graduate Center.

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Submitted on: APR 10, 2002

Category: English, Faculty Books