New book: America the Philosophical, by Carlin Romano ’76 (Knopf)
The author: Romano, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in criticism, writes for The Chronicle of Higher Education as a critic-at-large and teaches philosophy at Ursinus College. He served as a literary critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years and edited the 2010 fiction collection Philadelphia Noir.
The book: Americans may joke about philosophy or simply ignore it, but Romano rejects the notion that the nation is anti-intellectual and “unphilosophical.” Instead, he sees a lively intellectual culture with pragmatic philosophers in realms as diverse as talk shows and the sciences. Several Princetonians play a role Romano’s wide-ranging story, including John Rawls ’43 *50, Edward Said ’57, Cornel West *80, and Michael Eric Dyson *93.
Opening lines: “The moment wiseguy journalists heard about Lou Marinoff’s professional bent – lobbying for philosophers to practice as therapists, to go head-to-head with psychologists and psychiatrists – the jokes and headlines flew fast and funny: ‘I Shrink, Therefore I Am’; ‘An Aphorism a Day Keeps the Doctor Away’; ‘The Uncompensated Life Is Not Worth Living’; ‘How Many Philosophers Can You Fit on the Head of a Couch?’
“Marinoff knew how reporters mock everything, and he had the clips to prove it, but the middle-aged CCNY philosophy professor also understood the importance of the counter-jab. …”
Reviews: Anthony Gottleib of The New York Times noted that America the Philosophical counters the viewpoint of popular books such as Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. “The fallacy of such books, as Romano argues, is that they take some rotten parts for the largely nutritious whole,” Gottleib wrote. … Publishers Weekly said the book “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.”