2016 NPR Best Book of the Year
NYT Editor Choice
John Kaag is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of American Philosophy: A Love Story. It is a story of lost library, a lost American intellectual tradition and a lost person--and their simultaneous recovery.
Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendent of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, with whom Kaag feels a deep kinship. It is James’s question “Is life worth living?” that guides this remarkable book.
The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But he resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a thrilling journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy―self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence―and to a brilliant young Kantian who joins him in the restoration of the Hocking books.
Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one’s life around.
John lives with his daughter, Becca, and partner, Carol, outside of Boston. He is currently working on Hiking with Nietzsche, scheduled with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for 2018 and Think Again: An Introduction to Philosophy for Norton.
Winner of the 2013 APA Prize in Public Philosophy
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
To Lean In, Find Someone Who'll Lean Out (with Carol Hay)
The Snow Effect (with Carol Hay)
Drones and the Conscientious Objector
A Study in Inequality (with Clancy Martin)
The Sound of Maybe
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Times Higher Education
Interviews about American Philosophy: A Love Story
LA Review of Books with Skye Cleary
"Pragmatism and the Lessons of Experience" (Daedalus: The Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Pragmatism and Aesthetic Ideals (British Journal for the History of Philosophy)
Josiah Royce's Philosophy of Loyalty (History of Philosophy Quarterly
"Paddling in the Stream of Consciousness" (Journal of Speculative Philosophy)
Drones and the Paradox of Choice (with Jamie Ashton in Harvard Review of Philosophy)
the Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Asymmetric Conflict (with Sarah Kreps in Polity)
Military Frameworks: Technological Know-How and the Legitimation of War (with Whit Kaufman in Cambridge Review of International Affairs)
The Neurological Dynamics of the Imagination (Phenomenology and Cognitive Science)
Getting Under My Skin: William James on the Emotions, Sociality, and Transcendence (Zygon)
Fallibility and Insight in Moral Judgement (Human Studies)
Andre Dubus III (Author of the House of Sand and Fog) on American Philosophy: A Love Story
NYU Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference. Kaag's demand that the audience and moral agents look each other in the face. Covered by the NYT.