Lesson Plan The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand

The Metaphysical Club
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After Louis Agassiz came to the United States he also became a prolific writer in what has been later termed the genre of scientific racism. Agassiz was specifically a believer and advocate in polygenism, that races came from separate origins specifically separate creations , were endowed with unequal attributes, and could be classified into specific climatic zones, in the same way he felt other animals and plants could be classified. Agassiz was never a supporter of slavery, and claimed his views had nothing to do with politics. Agassiz was a creationist who believed nature had order because God has created it directly, and Agassiz viewed his career in science as a search for ideas in the mind of the creator expressed in creation.

This should give an insight in the scientific and social position of Louis Agassiz in the United States at the time. We then turn to a short excerpt of a text of Stephen Jay Gould , which is a scientific analysis and positioning of Louis Agassiz theory of races see text 2. We further use as part of text 2. Baker in the book From Savage to Negro, anthropology and the construction of race, positioning the theory of races of Louis Agassiz under the aspect of travels to other social sciences such as anthropology and law. We then use in text 2.

Louis Menand born January 21, is an American writer and academic, best known for his book The Metaphysical Club , an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America. Menand published his first book, Discovering Modernism: T. Eliot and His Context, in In , Menand published American Studies, a collection of essays on prominent figures in American culture.

Menand is the Robert M. His principal field of academic interest is 19th and 20th century American cultural history. The texts at hand are two excerpts dealing with Louis Agassiz, from the book of Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club — a story of ideas in America, which appeared after the turn of the millennium in But in almost every other respect, the United States became a different country.

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The war alone did not make America modern, but the war marks the birth of modern America. It took nearly half a century for the United States to develop a culture to replace it, to find a set of ideas, and a way of thinking, that would help people cope with the conditions of modern life. That struggle is the subject of this book. There are many paths through this story. The one that is followed here runs through the lives of four people:.

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Peirce, and John Dewey. These people had highly distinctive personalities, and they did not always agree with one another, but their careers intersected as many points, and together they were more responsible than any other group for moving American thought into the modern world. They not only had an unparalleled influence on other writers and thinkers; they had an enormous influence on American life.

Their ideas changed the way Americans thought — and continue to think — about education, democracy, liberty, justice, and tolerance.

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In that sense, the book at hand is a show piece of the nature of intellectual life after the Civil War. According to Louis Menand, what the four thinkers had in common was not a group of ideas, but a single idea. They believed, that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals — that ideas are social. They believed, that ideas do not develop, according to some inner logic of their own, but are entirely dependant, like germs, on their human careers and the environment.

They believe, that ideas should never become ideologies — either justifying the status quo or dictating some transcendent imperative for renouncing it — was according to Louis Menand the essence of what they taught. As Louis Menand writes, the book is an effort to write about these ideas in their own spirit, that is, to try to see ideas as always soaked trough by the personal and social situations in which we find them.

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The text vividly describes Agassiz life at Harvard, briefly touches upon his Swiss background and the methods of Agassiz developped in his natural science world, which made him become a towering figure of the time on a national as well as international level in natural science. According to Louis Menand, despite its obvious usefulness in defense of slavery, polygenysm was a controversial doctrine in the South because it contradicted the account in Genesis.

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Menand is someone who actually knows how to mold a good story out of abstract ideas, and who makes all these ancient, intractable debates seem important and worthwhile. View all 3 comments. Jan 28, Brad Lyerla rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Pragmatism is uniquely American. It is America's only home-grown school of philosophy.

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America Summary & Study Guide Description

The book's vehicle for describing the early decades of pragmatism is a discussion of a group of thinkers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who participated in a loosely organized club that, in fact, called itself "The Metaphysical Club". The participants developed the founding principles of Pragmatism is uniquely American. The participants developed the founding principles of pragmatism in the final decades of the 19th century, though they appear not to have been aware that they were inventing a new way of thinking until the very eve of the 20th century.

An important feature of pragmatism, not the only feature by any means, but the feature that I will focus on in this short review, is that it rejects absolutes. Menand traces this back to the horror of our Civil War and a perceived need for a philosophy that would accommodate multiple points of view in order to avoid conflict in the future. A difficulty with absolutes in government is that there may be no way to resolve conflicting points of view when they are based on absolutes, except though violence.

American scholars after the Civil War tried to solve the problem that Lincoln struggled with: how can a nation founded on the principle of self-government peacefully resolve an issue when its citizens are irreconcilably divided based on absolute positions for example, an inalienable right vs God's will?

The pragmatists' approach was to re-define truth for purposes of governing though this varies among pragmatists, some regard it a comprehensive theory of truth in order to tie truth to solving problems and no longer to inflexible Platonic ideals, which was the prevailing way of thinking about truth before the Civil War in the United States. Some thought that such an approach was more realistic for a dynamically pluralistic society like ours - where we are not going to agree on everything, even fundamental things.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He was also an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War and, astonishingly, sustained serious wounds in battle on six separate occasions. Holmes was on the Court when it decided the seminal legal case, Erie v. I mention Erie here because it illustrates what can happen when we abandon the habit of thinking about truth in terms of absolutes.

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

It is a book about the history of ideas which results in Pragmatism. A mental workout, and one I enjoyed. Schiller 's first book, Riddles of the Sphinx , was published before he became aware of the growing pragmatist movement taking place in America. Of the classical pragmatists, John Dewey wrote most extensively about morality and democracy. Aretaic Linguistic. The sweep of Menand's analysis is impressive, as he examines both the intellectual forces that contributed to pragmatism and the doctrines that it opposed.

For decades, our federal court system assumed that federal judges would look to something referred to as "federal common law" to decide legal claims that were based on state law, but were being litigated in federal court. The assumption was that common law was the same for all wise judges because law is based on principles that are unchanging in nature.

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Buy Lesson Plan The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand: Read Kindle Store Reviews - krisunaffiga.ga Pragmatism and Modern America. In The Metaphysical Club, Louis Menand offers a valuable and ambitious study of the development and significance of.

To understand this, imagine that the common law is written on golden tablets in the sky like Plato's famous theory of forms. The assumption is that if a judge is wise enough and free from distracting passions, he can discern what's written on those tablets without regard to whether he is a state or a federal judge. A federal judge need not read the decisions of the courts in the relevant state.

Instead, he can simply read the golden tablets. If you will forgive the over-simplification, that was how many people thought about truth before the pragmatists. After the war, as legal scholar and state court judge in Massachusetts, Holmes recognized that once we abandon a Platonic view of the law, and accept that the law is not based on absolute ideals, but on ever-changing human values, then we can understand that law will be different in different jurisdictions.

That understanding will lead us to the realization that the concept of a federal common law does not make sense. Different states have different values and can fashion different laws to reflect those values. And of course, values change and so law will change. Accordingly, once we abandon the Platonic ideal, federal judges adjudicating claims based on state law, must study the law of the state in question to discern the applicable rule of law to decide the case. The rule will not be the same from state to state.

Nor will the outcome be the same, even on similar facts. In Erie, the Court embraced this view and over-ruled an old case called Pennoyer v. Neff, in which Chief Justice Storey, who authored the opinion, had implicitly relied on the Platonic conception of law.

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America Summary & Study Guide

He might have. It nicely illustrates a point that he seems to want to make. The balance of the book focuses on the thinking of the great triumvirate of pragmatism: Charles Sanders Pierce, William James and John Dewey. These are fascinating men and uniquely American.