October 20 - November 6, 2016

Concord, Massachusetts

Two weeks of talks, readings, and discussions celebrating the written and the spoken word.
  • Larry Tye
    Larry Tye
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan
    Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Christopher Castellani
    Christopher Castellani
  • Jane Kamensky
    Jane Kamensky

John Kaag

Events: Wisdom from a Lost Library

Book: American Philosophy: A Love Story

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of Idealism, Pragmatism, and Feminism and Thinking Through the Imagination: Aesthetics in Human Cognition. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other publications.

In American Philosophy, Kaag is a disillusioned philosopher, at sea in his marriage and career, when he stumbles upon a treasure trove or rare books on an old estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that once belonged to the Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. The library includes notes from Whitman, inscriptions from Frost, and first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As he begins to catalog and preserve these priceless books, Kaag rediscovers the very tenets of American philosophy—self-reliance, pragmatism, the transcendent—and sees them in a twenty-first century context.

“Is life worth living? This is the age-old but forever timely question at the center of this remarkable and daring memoir. Part history of American philosophy, part personal narrative, American Philosophy takes us deeply into that ‘epic love affair with wisdom’ that is philosophy, but it does so through the wonderfully intimate lens of the author himself, a young and accomplished philosopher who has summoned the nerve to expose his flaws, his failures, his deepest doubts about it all, a rare act of creative courage and generosity that leads us to where the heart of true philosophy lies: to a deep and abiding sense of wonder.” —Andre Dubus III