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US Midcentury philosophy, Part I

Image result for Thomas Kuhn

I was dining in a restaurant recently that seemed to have a mid-century ambience. Abstract expressionism on the walls, reminding me of the pre-Warhol New York art scene, and '50s jazz coming from the speakers.

So through the forward chugging of my train of associations I ended up asking myself: who were the most prominent philosophers of the period?

For purposes of precision let's define the period at issue by pop-culture landmarks that themselves seem self-evident: Catcher in the Rye (1951) and the Beatles's first hit single, "Love me do" (1962).

The first names that occurred to me, while still eating that fine dinner, were: Skinner, Marcuse, Toynbee. But wasn't Skinner a psychologist? Well, I'm a Jamesian, so the distinction between psychology and philosophy isn't one I'm programmed to process. Was Toynbee a historian or a philosopher of history? Hmmm.

When I got home I asked for help at a couple of websites and I've expanded that list a bit. Also, just in order to create a specific timeline here, let's think of specific volumes by each thinker.

Some of the books below were not by US authors or initially published in the US. But they all were first published in the English language and those that were not US-born had a great impact on the US. In that broad sense, then, a decent list reflecting mid-century US philosophy would look something like this. As a purely arbitrary limit, I stuck to just one book per year.

Inclusion in this list by no means implies approval of any or all theses expounded in the listed books.

The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1951.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, 1952.
Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953.
The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley, 1954
Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse, 1955 
The White Negro, Norman Mailer, 1956
Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye, 1957
Verbal Behavior, BF Skinner, 1958
Some Notes on H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, 1959
The Lotus and the Robot, Arthur Koestler, 1960.
A Study of History, Arnold Toynbee; 1961; 
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962.
Since I'm ending with Kuhn, I'll put his image above.

I'll comment on this list tomorrow.


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