on 5 October 2013
This is a very detailed book surveying the philosophical landscape in the USA. This is largely done through a series of studies of the ideas, character and biography of a wide selection of philosophers, thinkers and vaguely intellectual commentators. These are grouped under various heading such as 'Broadcasters', 'Women', 'Cybercynics' and so on and while the emphasis is on the twentieth century, there is enough historical figures to keep history buffs happy. There is also a lot of commentary on philosophy as a business/way of life - just what exactly does being a professional philosopher in America involve anyway? Interesting to anyone into modern America and/or philosophy, it would make a very useful volume for people to read prior to studying philosophy (Masters in particular) in the UK as it makes sense of a lot of the background as to why certain concepts and people seem, to the uninitiated, to get a disproportionate amount of focus. It turns out there is politics in the world of philosophy too (surprise, surprise).
And while this is a book primarily about philosophy, there is some actual philosophy in it as well. The discussion on Rawls is kept towards the end and this would make useful reading for anyone about to tackle this particular thinker. Perceptive comments on other thinkers are scattered throughout the studies. Underpinning this is Romano's belief that the American philosophical tradition taps into a parallel tradition to the Socratic - the Isocratic. Rather than being obsessed with ultimate answers and lasting definitions, the emphasis is more on pragmatically effective solutions. What is interesting is the gap between the perception of US philosophy as wedded to the analytic tradition but that perceptions are misleading. It is also interesting to note how often Habermas gets referenced, suggesting there might be more similarities and connections with continental philosophy than your average British or American 'intro to philosophy' textbooks would lead you to think.