2014–2015

The Quest for Wisdom in 20th-Century US History

History/Philosophy

I am writing a history of “philosophy” (the love of wisdom) in 20th-century American life. My book project explores how this longing for wisdom took shape in a variety of ways—as thought, both academic and popular; as embodied in the figures of the humanistic thinker and spiritual searcher; and as a cultural practice. It offers a more expansive view of the intellectual and cultural role of philosophy by tracing this yearning as it moved beyond disciplinary philosophy to other academic fields, from the academy to popular culture (and back), and from mainline religious seminaries and congregations to newfound spiritual centers.

The ideal collaborator would be a student majoring in the humanities with an interest in US history, philosophy, literature, religion, and/or cultural studies. She or he would be curious to learn more about the history of American thought as well as the relationship between humanistic inquiry in the academy and popular culture.

The student’s responsibilities would include researching primary and secondary material, gathering bibliographies, doing a little historical detective work on one of the many figures and institutions involved in this history, and light editing. Our aim would be to work out specific tasks that are of intellectual interest to the student and would help refine her or his research, analytic, and editorial skills.