John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. American Philosophy: A Love Story (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016) won...

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. American Philosophy: A Love Story (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016) won the John Dewey Prize from the Society for U.S. Intellectual History. Kaag offers a rich history, philosophical inquiry and a memoir of an existential crisis that takes us to the heart of American philosophy. He embarks on an unexpected journey of discover in the abandoned library at West Wind, the estate of the early twentieth-century philosopher William Ernest Hocking, an intellectual descendent of William James. At West Wind, Kaag finds an invaluable repository of Hocking’s thinking, evidence of many significant friendships, and the remains of fundamental questions of American philosophy. Like his philosophical forbearers he ponders essential questions: Is life worth living? What is the meaning of life? How are we both free and obligated to others? Seeking answers, Kaag engages with the thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Sanders Peirce and Josiah Royce, who drew on a wealth of classical and continental philosophy to create an American philosophical tradition. Kaag has produced a personal and intellectual creative work sure to inspire all who ask the same questions.

This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.


Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018).

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