Category Archives: American History

The “M” Word….by comedian Jeff Foxworthy. ~ what’s the ”M” Word

The “M” Word….by comedian Jeff Foxworthy

Have you ever wondered why it’s OK to make jokes about Catholics, Jews, Christians, the Pope, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Hungarians, the Chinese, the French (including French Canadians), the elderly, bad golfers, men/women, blacks/whites, red necks, etc., but its insensitive to make jokes about the Muslims?

Well, it’s time to level the playing field and be politically incorrect, by including our friends, the Muslims, on this grandiose list.

So Jeff Foxworthy did his part to include the Muslims on his list …

If you grow and refine heroin for a living, but morally object to the use of liquor, You may be a Muslim.

If you own a $3,000 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher, but can’t afford shoes, You may be a Muslim.

If you have more wives than teeth, You may be a Muslim.

If you wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon to be unclean, You may be a Muslim.

If you think vests come in two styles, Bullet-proof and suicide, You may be a Muslim.

If you can’t think of anyone that you haven’t declared jihad against, You may be a Muslim.

If you consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing, You may be a Muslim.

If you were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses, other than setting off roadside bombs, You may be a Muslim.

If you have nothing against women and think every man should own at least four, then you, too, may be a Muslim.

If you find this offensive and do not forward it, you are part of the problem here in America …but if you delete this, you are most likely a Muslim.


Who says building a border wall won’t work…The Chinese built one over 2,000 years ago and they still don’t have any Mexicans!

  • Travel diaries: S1E1: Falling In Love With Buddhism
  • Lori Lakin Hutcherson wrote this article for Good Black News. Lori is the editor-in-chief at GBN. ~ Humanity

    My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest
    He wanted to know how institutional racism has made an impact on my life. I’m glad he asked, because I was ready to answer.

    Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured Photo by T Y L E R G E B H A R T/Unsplash.

    Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query, but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a few folks on Facebook.

    Here’s his post:

    To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).

    So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.

    Here’s my response:

    Hi, Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime—in fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday—because I realized many of my friends—especially the white ones—have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened. There are two reasons for this: 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ’70s and ’80s—it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does); 2) fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.

    So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first: 1) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherry-picking because none of us have all day; 2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured; 3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today, regardless of wealth or opportunity; 4) Some of what I share covers sexism, too—intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:

    1. When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big backyard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that. Then mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.

    1. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant—that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement. If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.
    2. Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some time within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester. The point here is, if you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation, you have white privilege.
    3. When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off. The point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,” you have white privilege.
    4. When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow AP student, you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:

    Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”

    Doctor: “Where are you going?”

    Me: “Harvard.”

    Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

    The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.

    Store employee: “Where are you going?”

    Me: “Harvard.”

    Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

    The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.

    Woman to the boy: “What college are you going to?” Boy: “Princeton.”

    Woman: “Congratulations!”

    Woman to me: “Where are you sending your boxes?” Me: “Harvard.”

    Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

    I think: “No, bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.”

    Then she says congratulations, but it’s too fucking late. The point here is, if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have white privilege.

    1. In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4–5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t relate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I said, but I still remember the feeling—I think it’s what doctors refer to as chandelier pain—as soon as a sensitive area on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof—that’s what I felt. I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t have anything to do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what learning is about—trying to understand other people’s perspectives. The point here is—the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or achievements of white men. So, if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media, you have white privilege.
    • All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dorm masters. (Yes, they were called “masters” up until this February, when they changed it to “faculty deans,” but that’s just a tasty little side dish to the main course of this remembrance). While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria staff—the black ladies from Haiti and Boston who ran the line daily (I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day)—Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be serving the nation’s best and brightest. I don’t know if they heard her, but I did, and it made me uncomfortable and sick. The point here is, if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence, you have white privilege.
    • While I was writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss—who had only known me for a few days—had unbeknownst to me told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a potholder on the stove, burning down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer. When what he said about me was revealed months later (by then he’d come to respect and rely on me), he apologized for prejudging me because I was a black woman. I told him he was ignorant and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. But the point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.
    • On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger-side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seatbelt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed that either it was stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, Warren was told to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man and he was much less likely to be stopped. The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.
    • Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. (And let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is in case you don’t already have a clue—as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen- or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story! I also have to alter headlines constantly to 1) include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets 1st Black Board Member,” or 2) rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP. The point here is, if you’ve never had to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice, you have white privilege.

    OK, Jason, there’s more, but I’m exhausted. And my kids need dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these moments has been a strain and a drain (and, again, this ain’t even the half or the worst of it). But I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind. I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers, but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you have not to be judged, questioned, or assaulted in any way because of your race.

    As to you “being part of the problem,” trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever. But what IS being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege DOES exist and not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor,” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, not to let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by friends, co-workers, or family slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.

    With much love and respect,


    This article was originally published by Good Black News. It has been edited for YES! Magazine.

    Lori Lakin Hutcherson wrote this article for Good Black News. Lori is the editor-in-chief at GBN.

  • KINDNESS ~ Humanity


    Long ago, there lived a little boy named Sammy. He was a good boy. He was good in his studies, obedient to his parents, more intelligent than many other boys in his class and kind to everyone. Grown-ups as well as those junior to Sammy loved him very much. But that aroused jealousy in many other boys who longed to be as loved as Sammy.

    Now there was another boy named Timmy who studied in the same class as Sammy. Unlike Sammy, he was not good at studies and always liked to play during school hours. He misbehaved with his parents, bullied his classmates and even ill-treated Sammy. He always tried to put Sammy down and belittled him before other kids in the class. But no matter what he did, Sammy’s grades kept getting better and better. Whether in studies or in sports or from his classmates, Sammy kept getting accolades from everywhere.

    On his eighth birthday, Sammy got a nice pen as a gift from his parents. He brought it to school so that he could use it to take down the notes of the lectures that the teachers gave in class. This was a very beautiful pen and it could help one write very fast. When Timmy saw it, he was very jealous of Sammy. He asked Sammy,

    “Hey, where did you get that? Did you buy it?”

    “My parents gave it as a birthday gift to me.” replied Sammy.

    Timmy was overwhelmed with anger and jealousy. The bad boy that he was, he rarely got any present from his parents. He decided to steal Sammy’s pen. During recess, when everyone had gone out from the class, Timmy opened Sammy’s bag and took out his pen. Then he hid it inside his bag and went out to have his tiffin.

    When Sammy came back and could not find his pen, he informed his class teacher about it. There was a hunt for the missing pen and the class teacher ordered the class monitor to search the bag of every children inside the class. The missing pen was soon found out of Timmy’s bag and the furious teacher asked the errant boy,

    “Now Timmy, what do you have to say about it?”

    Timmy was in tears. He had nothing to say.

    When Sammy saw Timmy cry, he took pity on the boy. The kind boy that he was, he had no ill-feeling against his classmate. He requested his class teacher not to take any action against Timmy, now that his stolen pen was found.

    This opened Timmy’s eyes. He could now see what a good boy Sammy was. He asked for forgiveness from his teacher and Sammy. From that day, he became friends with Sammy and gradually changed himself to be as good as Sammy. Everyone began to love Timmy and Sammy was proud of his new friend.

    Despite being hurt by Timmy, Sammy gave him back only love in return. This is how we should also treat our enemies. Who knows? One day, our behaviour may just change themselves for the better.

    Moral: Do not harm someone even if he harms you. Be good to all.


    Once upon a time, there lived a farmer who had a little land. His name was Tuan and he was a very kind and good-natured person. He lived in a hut on his land with his wife and children and earned by selling whatever crops he could produce on his small land.

    Tuan loved to help others. Whenever someone fell ill or needed something badly, Tuan was there to help that person. If someone died in the village, Tuan assisted the family members of the deceased person in whichever way he could. If anyone fell ill at night, Tuan was right beside the village doctor to help him prepare the medicines and tend to the sick. There seemed to be none who hated this man. He appeared to be loved by one and all.

    But there was one person who hated Tuan with all his heart. He was Juan, a neighbour of Tuan, who lived in the land next to him. A lazy person by nature, Juan hardly put in as much effort to cultivate his land as Tuan did to produce crops in his own. So when the harvest season arrived every year, Juan found that he had very few crops to sell. Tuan on the other hand, earned a handsome profit through the selling of his produces.

    One year, Juan could no longer contain his jealousy. Just days before Tuan was to reap his harvest, Juan set fire to his crops at night. Tuan was asleep at this time and it was only the alertness of one of his other neighbours that saved much of his crops from being perished in the deadly flames of the fire that Juan had lighted.

    When the flames were doused, Tuan saw which direction the fire had started from. Juan’s animosity towards him was unknown to Tuan. But he let the matters rest and decided to take action only if he saw Juan repeating his dastardly act once again.

    That year, Tuan managed to sell the rest of his crops at a good price but he could not make much profit for a good part of his produces had been burnt. He had a heavy heart but he did not like to tell anyone about it.

    Only days later, Tuan was awakened by the sound of lamentations. He went out to find a crowd beside Juan’s hut. He rushed to find that Juan’s son had fallen ill. He found that the village doctor was unable to provide a cure to his illness. Tuan knew what he had to do. He untied his own horse and rode it. Then he rushed to the town that was ten miles away and fetched a more experienced doctor who lived there.

    This doctor was able to guess the disease correctly and provided an exact cure for it. Within hours, the boy was found to sleep soundly and Tuan went with the doctor to take him back to the town.

    A day later, Juan went to Tuan’s hut and began to weep bitterly. He confessed to his sins but was surprised when Tuan told him that he knew about it all.

    “You knew that I had set fire to your crops? And still you fetched the doctor for my son?” asked the astonished Juan.

    Tuan nodded and said, “I did what I knew was right. Could I do wrong just because you had done so?”

    Juan stood up and embraced Tuan. Both men were in tears and so were the others who stood by them.

    From that day, Juan changed himself. Within a year, he could produce much crops in his land through his hard work. When the others asked him how he had changed so much, he only replied,

    “It was the goodness and love of Tuan that transformed me.”

    Moral: Be nice to your friends. Be nicer to your enemies.


    Many many years ago, there lived a dog named Tom. Tom was adopted as a pet in a wealthy household and he was daily showered with nice foods and affections by her mistress Mrs Havisham. All day, Tom lived in a kennel within the compound of the house and he tried his best to guard the home of his mistress. Whenever a thief or a burgler came within the vicinity, Tom would bark as loudly as he could to scare the living daylights out of the culprit. He was the favourite of his mistress. When night fell, he slept on a nice blanket inside his kennel and when day broke he had his food served before him in no time.

    But the neighbourhood dogs were not so lucky and they were jealous of Tom’s fortune. Now and then, they would bark from outside the gates of Tom’s house and utter curses at him. All this disturbed Tom a little, but he would only say,

    “Poor fellows, they have to struggle so much for their food while I am so lucky. I must not shout at them and add to their misery.”

    So he kept quiet and went about his business, turning a deaf ear to their insults.

    One day, as he was taking a walk with his mistress, Tom found that some young boys were throwing stones at those same dogs who insulted him. The dogs were cornered and they had nowhere to go. They could in no way avoid being hit by the stones thrown at them. Many of them were bleeding and barking feebly in protest. But the boys were not in a mood to let go of them so lightly. They picked up bigger stones and rocks to have more fun at the expense of the weak, helpless dogs.

    Tom could not hold himself back. He was of a strong build and had a very deep voice. He knew that he could scare the boys. He managed to wrench his leash free out of his mistress’ hands and he ran towards the boys.

    The boys were startled at the terrible barking that Tom directed at them. Their blood froze at the sight of the huge Tom baring his fangs and running towards them. They dropped their rocks and ran away as fast as their legs could carry them.

    “Go home” Tom said to his bloodied abusers “no one will disturb you anymore.”

    He ran back to his mistress who had seen all that Tom did. She patted Tom and praised him for his courage.

    That night, Tom’s mistress saw a strange sight. The dogs whom Tom had saved in the morning had gathered near the gates of her house. It seemed to her as if they were telling something to her pet.

    “Maybe they are thanking Tom for his brave gesture.” she thought.

    And right she was! From that day, Tom and his abusers had become friends. Tom’s kindness had won over his abusers’ hatred and he had earned their love, respect and admiration that nothing on earth could buy.

    Moral: Be good to all, even if they happen to be your enemies.


    Where have all the flowers gone
    Long time passing
    Where have all the flowers gone
    Long time ago
    Where have all the flowers gone
    Young girls picked them, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the young girls gone
    Long time passing
    Where have all the young girls gone
    Long time ago
    Where have all the young girls gone
    Gone to young men, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the young men gone
    Long time passing
    Where have all the young men gone
    Long time ago
    Where have all the young men gone
    Gone to soldiers, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the soldiers gone
    Long time passing
    Where have all the soldiers gone
    A long, long time ago
    Where have all the soldiers gone
    Gone to graveyards, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the graveyards gone
    Long time passing
    Where have all the graveyards gone
    Long time ago
    Where have all the graveyards gone
    Covered with flowers, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?
  • Peacekeepers International  – humanIty


    When I was a child in school as I sang the song “Let there be peace on earth” it always made me cry. Not in the “Miss America – I Want World Peace” kind of way but true deep tears. I’m not sure why this song hit me so hard as a young child but I still can’t hear it or sing it without the tears flowing.

    Now as an adult I know where those tears come from. As a woman who saw more than her share of violence I think I had a justice calling from a young age, always wanting peace. So today we celebrate International Day of Peace September 21st each year.

    As I think about world peace and peace issues, I am more aware than ever, peace does begin with me just like the song says. We have an obligation first in our homes to take the necessary steps of peace, reducing violence, anger and having no tolerance for abuse, then in our communities and then our state, our country and then in our world. When we work globally our statistics say the peace and a lack of terrorism is more likely where women are gainfully employed and educated.

    Peace is possible but let it begin with us.



American Philosophy 💥💥

American Philosophy

The term “American Philosophy,” perhaps surprisingly, has been somewhat vague. While it has tended to primarily include philosophical work done by Americans within the geographical confines of the United States, this has not been exclusively the case. For example, Alfred North Whitehead came to the United States relatively late in life. On the other hand, George Santayana spent much of his life outside of the United States. Until only recently, the term was used to refer to philosophers of European descent. Another focus for defining, or at least characterizing, American Philosophy has been on the types of philosophical concerns and problems addressed. While American philosophers have worked on traditional areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, this is not unique to American Philosophy. Many scholars have highlighted American philosophers’ focus on the interconnections of theory and practice, on experience and community, though these, too, are not unique to American Philosophy. The people, movements, schools of thought and philosophical traditions that have constituted American Philosophy have been varied and often at odds with each other. Different concerns and themes have waxed or waned at different times. For instance, the analysis of language was important throughout much of the twentieth century, but of very little concern before then, while the relation between philosophy and religion, of great significance early in American Philosophy, paled in importance during much of the twentieth century. Despite having no core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and shaping collective American identity over the history of the nation.

Table of Contents

  1. 17th Century
  2. 18th Century
  3. 19th Century
  4. 20th Century and Recent

1. 17th Century

Though many people, communities and nations populated the area that is now the United States long before the U.S.A. became a nation-state, and they all wrestled with universal philosophical questions such as the nature of the self, the relationships between persons, their origins and destiny, most histories of American Philosophy begin with European colonization, especially from the time of the Puritans in New England. From the “Mayflower Compact,” penned in 1620 as the early English settlers arrived in the New World, basic socio-political positions were made explicit and fundamental to newly established communities. Speaking of forming a covenant to “combine ourselves into a civil Body Politic,” those arriving on the Mayflower immediately identified a close and ineliminable connection between individuals and their community. This sentiment was echoed in founding documents of other colonies, such as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639) and the Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641). Likewise, the writings of prominent early colonial leaders, such as John Winthrop (1588-1649) emphasized “the care of the public must oversway all private respects…for it is a true rule that particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.” Although highly influential, such views were not universal, as the Maryland Toleration Act (1649) and the writings of other influential leaders, e.g., Roger Williams (1603-1683) stressed religious tolerance over commitment to the religious covenant of a community. From the earliest concerns, then, even prior to the establishment of the United States, the social and political issues of the relation of individuals to their communities as well as the nature of the communities themselves (that is, as secular or religious) were paramount.

2. 18th Century

Broadly speaking, American Philosophy in the eighteenth century can be divided into two halves, the first still heavily influenced by the Calvinism of the Puritans and the second more directly along the lines of the European Enlightenment and associated with the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers (e.g., Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin).

Far and away the most significant thinker of the first half of the 18th century for American Philosophy was Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Often associated primarily with the fiery oratory of sermons such as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and the religious revivalist “Great Awakening” of the 1740s, Edwards both distilled and assimilated Calvinist theological thought and the emergent Newtonian scientific worldview. Frequently characterized as trying to synthesize a Christian Platonism, with an emphasis on the reality of a spiritual world, with an empiricist epistemology, an emphasis on Lockean sensation and Newtonian corpuscular physics, Edwards drew directly from the thought of Bishop George Berkeley, who stressed the necessity of mind (or non-material reality) to make sense of human experience. This non-material mind, for Edwards, consists of understanding and will, both of which are passive at root. It is understanding that, along lines of the successes of Newtonian physics, leads to the fundamental metaphysical category of Resistance, which Edwards characterizes as “the primary quality of objects.” That is, whatever features objects might have, what is fundamental to something qua object is that is resists. This power of resistance is “the actual exertion of God’s power” and is demonstrated by Newton’s basic laws of motion, in which objects at rest or in motion will remain undeterred until and unless acted on by some other force (that is, resisted). Understanding, though, is different than will. Edwards is perhaps best known for his rejection of free will. As he remarked, “we can do as we please, but we cannot please as we please.” Just as there is natural necessity and natural inability, for Edwards, there is moral necessity and moral inability. Every act of will is connected to understanding, and thus determined. Echoing the views of John Calvin, Edwards saw not (good) works, but the grace of God as the determiner of human fortune.

While couched primarily in a religious context for Edwards but less so for others, the acceptance and adaptation of a Newtonian worldview was something shared by most American philosophers in the latter half of the 18th century. These later thinkers, however, abandoned to a great extent the religious context and focused rather on social-political issues. Sharing many commitments of European philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment (such as a reliance on reason and science, a broad faith in scientific and social progress along with a belief in the perfectibility of humans, a strong advocacy of political democracy and laissez-faire economics), many of the famous names of American history identified themselves with this enlightenment thought. While they attended very little to basic issues of metaphysics or epistemology, the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), and James Madison (1751-1836), wrote voluminously on social and political philosophy. The American Declaration of Independence as well as the United States Constitution, with its initial amendments, better known as the Bill of Rights, was drafted at this time, with their emphasis on religious toleration. Though including explicit references to God, these thinkers tended to commit themselves in their writings less to Christianity per se and more to deism, the view of God as creator of a world governed by natural laws (which they believed were explicated for the most part by Newton) but not directly involved with human action. For example, as early as 1730 and as late as 1790 Franklin spoke of God as world-creator and Jesus as providing a system of morality but with no direct commitment to the divinity of Jesus or to any organized church. Instead, a major focus of concern was the appropriate nature of the State and its relation to individuals. While the thought of Thomas Jefferson, exemplified in the language of the Declaration of Independence, emphasized natural, inalienable rights of individuals against the tyranny of the State – with the legitimacy of the State only in securing the rights of individuals – federalists such as James Madison highlighted dangers of factional democracy, with his view of protecting both individual rights and the public good.

3. 19th Century

In a letter to John Adams written in 1814, Thomas Jefferson complained that, while the post-revolutionary American youth lived in happier times than their parents, this younger generation held “all knowledge which is not innate, [to be] in contempt, or neglect at least.” Their “folly” included endorsing “self-learning and self-sufficiency; of rejecting the knowledge acquired in past ages, and starting on the new ground of intuition.” These complaints reflected Jefferson’s concerns about the rise of romanticism in early nineteenth century America. Transcendentalism, or American Romanticism, was the first of several major traditions to characterize philosophical thought in America’s first full century as a nation, with Transcendentalism succeeded by the impact of Darwinian evolutionary thought and finally developing into America’s most renowned school of thought, Pragmatism. A Hegelian movement, centered in St. Louis and identified largely with its chief proponent, George Holmes Howison (1834-1916), occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, but was overshadowed by the rise of Pragmatism. Even the journal founded in 1867 by the St. Louis Hegelians, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, became best known later on because of its publication of essays by the pragmatist Charles Peirce (1839-1914).

Where the thinkers of the American enlightenment stressed social and political concerns, based on a Newtonian mechanistic view of the world, the thinkers of American Transcendentalism took the emphasis on individuals and their relation to the community in a different direction. This direction was based not on a mechanistic view of the world, but on an organic metaphor that stressed the subjective nature of human experience and existence. Highlighting personal experience and often even a fairly mystical holism, writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1872), and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) argued for the priority of personal non-cognitive, emotional connections to nature and to the world as a whole. Human are agents in the world more fundamentally than they are knowers of the world. “Real” knowledge is intuitive and personal; it transcends scientific understanding that is based on empirical sense experience. Because of this, those things that constrain or restrict free personal thought, such as conventional morality and political institutions, need to be transcended as well. This spirit is captured in the poetry of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” in which he claims, “I celebrate myself…Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! I speak the past-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy….” This sentiment is echoed in the works of Emerson and Thoreau, both of whom argue for the importance of self-reliance, intuition, and a return to nature, i.e., an embracing of what is non-civilized and non-industrial. In his 1836 paper, “Nature,” Emerson states, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith…I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God…In the wilderness I find something more dear and connate than in streets and villages.” Emerson’s “The Transcendentalist” (1842) stands as a manifesto of this philosophical movement, in which he explicitly identifies Transcendentalism as a form of philosophical Idealism. Emerson wrote:

As thinkers, mankind have ever been divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say, The senses give us representations of things, but what are the things themselves, they cannot tell…Society is good when it does not violate me, but best when it is likest to solitude. Everything real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self-existence of Deity…[Kant showed] there was a very important class of ideas or imperative forms, which did not come by way of experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental forms.

At the same time, during the 1830s and 1840s, there were other thinkers who stressed greater social and political equality, particularly several important women writers and activists, such as Sarah Grimké (1792-1873) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902). The call for social and political emancipation, in many ways a call to fulfill the promise of the American enlightenment, came not just from women such as Grimké and Stanton, but also from those demanding the abolition of slavery, notably William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) and Frederick Douglass (1817-1895).

Just as much of American philosophical thought was influenced by the success of Newton’s scientific worldview throughout the eighteenth century, the publication of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory in 1859 had a great impact on subsequent American philosophy. Though not known widely outside of academic circles, two thinkers in particular wrote passionately for re-conceiving philosophical concerns and positions along Darwinian lines, John Fiske (1842-1901) and Chauncey Wright (1830-1875). Both stressed the need to understand consciousness and morality in terms of their evolutionary development. Such a naturalistic, evolutionary approach became even more pronounced at the end of the twentieth century. It was outside of academia, however, often under the label of “Social Darwinism” that this view had even greater impact and influence, especially via the writings of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and William Graham Sumner (1840-1910). Both Spencer and Sumner likened societies to organisms, in a struggle for survival. Indeed, it was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the term “survival of the fittest” to capture what he (and many others) took to be the significance of evolutionary theory. If groups within a society, and even societies themselves, are – like biological organisms – in a constant competition for survival, then a sign of their fitness is the fact that the do in fact survive, for Spencer. Such competition, indeed, is useful and good, for in the long run those that survive will have competed and won, a clear statement of their superiority. Spencer, Sumner and others, such as the industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), argued that the social implication of the fact of such struggle for survival is that free-market capitalism is the natural economic system and the one that will ensure the greatest success for a society’s economic well-being. In Sumner’s essay, “The Man of Virtue,” he remarks that, “Every man and woman in society has one big duty. That is, to take care of his or her own self…Society, therefore, does not need any care or supervision.” Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” echoes this view: “[The law of competition] is here, we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department…the law of competition [is] not only beneficial, but essential to the future progress of the race.” The emphasis on competition as the key to evolutionary thought was not shared by everyone, however. One prominent advocate of Darwin, who nevertheless argued that cooperation rather than competition was the message of evolutionary thought, was Lester Ward (1841-1913). Not only are those groups that cooperate and function together as a group more likely to survive than those that don’t, he claimed, but human history has shown that government is a natural, emergent feature of human societies, rather than, contra Sumner, a hindrance and impediment to progress.

After Transcendentalism and evolutionary philosophy, the third and by far most renowned philosophical movement in nineteenth century America was Pragmatism. Informally christened as “pragmatism” in the 1870s by one of its most famous proponents, Charles Sanders Peirce, Pragmatism is seen by most philosophers today as the classic American philosophical tradition. Not easily definable, Pragmatism is a constellation of principles, stances, and philosophical commitments, some of which are more or less salient for particular pragmatism philosophers (as will be noted below). Nevertheless, there are threads that run across and through most pragmatists. There is a strong naturalistic bent, meaning that they look for an understanding of phenomena and concepts in terms of how they arose and how they play a part in our engagement with the world. Peirce’s “pragmatic maxim” captures this stance as follows: “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” There is a rejection of a foundationalist view of knowledge. All knowledge claims are fallible and revisable. The flip side of such fallibility and revisibility is that no inquiry is disinterested. Beliefs are fundamentally instruments for us to cope with the contingencies of the world. In addition, there is an enunciated commitment to intersubjectivity and community. So, while rejecting the notion of any pure “givens,” of experience, pragmatists also reject any pure subjectivism or abandonment of standards or criteria of adjudication beyond the individual. Unlike the American philosophical movements that preceded Pragmatism, pragmatists wrestled with issues and concerns across the philosophical spectrum, from basic metaphysics to epistemology to all forms of axiology (ethical, political, and even aesthetic).

4. 20th Century and Recent

Much of the philosophical work of the classic pragmatists, as well as that of Royce and others, though begun in the latter half of the nineteenth century, carried over into the early decades of the twentieth century. While pragmatism continued to be a dominant movement in American philosophy in these early decades, other movements and schools of thought emerged. In the first several decades, there was a revival of common sense realism and naturalism (or, put another way, an explicit rejection of what was seen as the idealism of Royce and some aspects of pragmatism) as well as the emergence of Process Philosophy, which was directly influenced by contemporary science, especially Einsteinian relativity theory. Mid-twentieth century philosophy was heavily dominated in America by empiricism and analytic philosophy, with a strong focus on language. Finally, in the latter couple of decades there was a re-discovery and revival of pragmatism as well as the emergence of feminist and “minority” issues and concerns, of people and groups who had been marginalized and under-represented throughout the nation’s history. Some movements and schools of thought that had been prominent in Europe, such as existentialism and phenomenology, though having advocates in America, never gained significant widespread attention in American philosophy.

One of the earliest movements in twentieth century American thought was a rejection of idealism, spearheaded in large part by Royce’s own student, George Santayana (1863-1952), who saw philosophy as having unfortunately abandoned, and in the case of idealism contradicted, common sense. If we push the concept of knowledge to the point of requiring indubitability, then skepticism is the result, since nothing will satisfy this requirement. On the other hand, if knowledge is a kind of faith, much as common sense rests on untested assumptions, then we are led to a view of “animal faith,” which Santayana endorses. This return to common sense, or at least to a naturalist, realist stance was echoed by many philosophers at this time. In 1910 an essay in the Journal of Philosophy (then called the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods), entitled, “The Program and First Platform of Six Realists,” announced a strong reaction against idealism and what were seen idealist elements in pragmatism. Among the platform planks of this program were statements that objects exist independently of mind, that ontology is logically independent of epistemology, that epistemology is not logically fundamental (that is, that things are known directly to us), that the degree of unity, consistency, or connection subsisting among entities is a matter to be empirically ascertained, etc. Given this realist stance, these philosophers then proceeded to try to produce naturalistic accounts of philosophical matters, for example, Ralph Barton Perry’s (1876-1957) General Theory of Value.

A second school of thought early in the century was known as “Process Philosophy.” Identified largely with the work of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), though having other notable proponents such as Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000), process philosophy proceeded from an ontology that took events or processes as primary. Change and becoming were emphasized over permanence and being. Drawing on contemporary scientific advances, in particular the new Einsteinian worldview, Whitehead highlighted this “event ontology.” In his well-known work, The Concept of Nature, he insisted that “nature is a structure of events,” and taking the new Einsteinian four-dimensional understanding of the world, things (what he called “concresences”) are merely those streams of events “which maintain permanence of character.” This embracing of contemporary science did not entail a materialist stance for Whitehead any more than Jonathan Edwards’s embracing of the Newtonian worldview entailed materialism on his part. Rather, Whitehead distinguished between the notion of “Nature lifeless” and “Nature alive,” with the latter an acknowledgement of value and purpose being just as basic to experience as an external world of events.

Despite the presence of these two movements and the still-present influence of pragmatism, the middle half of the twentieth century was dominated in America by empiricism and analytic philosophy, with a pronounced turn toward linguistic analysis. Beginning with the powerful influence of the Logical Positivists (or Logical Empiricists), most notably Rudolf Carnap (1891-1969), academic philosophy turned in a decided way away from social and political concerns to conceptual analysis and self-reflection (that is, to the question of just what the proper role of philosophy is). Without a doubt, the most influential American philosopher during this time was Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000). Though Quine was critical of many aspects of Logical Positivism, indeed, one of his most renowned essays was “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” he nevertheless shared their view that the role of philosophy was not to enlighten persons or serve social and political concerns. Saying that philosophers in the professional sense have no particular fitness for inspiration or “helping to get society on an even keel,” he argued instead that philosophy’s job is to clear away conceptual muddles and mistakes. Seeing philosophy as in large part continuous with science in the sense of trying to understand what there is and how we can then flourish in the world, he claimed that philosophy is on the abstract, theoretical end of scientific pursuits. Advocating a physicalist ontology, Quine was openly behaviorist about understanding human agency and knowledge. Criticizing the analytic/synthetic distinction and the view that there are truths independent of facts about the world, Quine strongly advocated a naturalized epistemology and naturalized ethics. Openly acknowledging an affinity with some aspects of pragmatism, Quine claimed a holistic approach to knowledge, insisting that no particular experiences occur in isolation; rather we experience a “web of belief,” with every belief or statement or experience affecting “the field as a whole,” and hence “our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body.” Reminiscent of Dewey, Quine asserted that while there is no fact/value dichotomy, the sciences, with their system of checks and balances, do provide the best theories and models of what there is. Besides his commitment to materialism, behaviorism, and holism, Quine urged what he called “semantic ascent,” that is, that philosophy should proceed by focusing on an analysis of language. By looking at the language we use and by framing philosophical concerns in terms of language, we can avoid fruitless philosophical disputes and faulty ontological commitments. Within academic philosophy, Quine is perhaps best known for his work in formal, mathematical logic and with his doctrine of “the indeterminacy of translation.” In his highly influential book, Word and Object, he introduced the term “gavagai.” “Gavagai” is a term uttered by a native while pointing at something in the immediate environment, something that appears to us as a rabbit. However, from that utterance, we don’t know if “gavagai” should be translated into English as “rabbit” or “undetached rabbit parts” or “rabbit time-slice” or something else. The point is that there is no givenness to the situation, no determinateness of translation. Nor is this a simple matter, as this lack of givenness and determinacy holds in all situations. There are other, pragmatic, factors that allow communication and understanding to be possible.

With this formal, often extremely technical, conceptual analysis dominating mid-century American philosophy, a return to social and political concerns did not become mainstream again until the 1970s. Such a return is often credited to the publication of John Rawls’s (1921-2002) A Theory of Justice. While other philosophers had, of course, written on these issues, it was Rawls’s book that brought these topics back into mainstream consideration among professional philosophers. Rawls argued for a position of political liberalism based on a system of procedural justice. Though his work was widely influential, it was critiqued by philosophers identified as libertarian, such as Robert Nozick (1938-2002), who saw it as too restrictive of individual liberties, as well as by communitarians, such as Alasdair MacIntyre (1929- ) who saw it as focusing too much on procedural justice and not enough on what is good for persons, who are also citizens situated in communities. Still, the revival of substantive social and political philosophy was effected. Outside of academic philosophy, these concerns had not been absent, however, but were present in the writings of social and political leaders, and in popular political philosophy, such as the writings of Ayn Rand (1905-1982) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968).

As the century ended, there was a renewal of interest in pragmatism as a philosophical movement, with two important philosophers in particular adopting the label of pragmatist, Hilary Putnam (1926- ) and Richard Rorty (1931- ). Known throughout the philosophical world, they brought the writings and stance of classical pragmatists back into the forefront of professional philosophy, often with their critiques of each other’s works. This renewal of pragmatism, along with the revival of social and political philosophy, came at the same time, the final quarter of the century, as feminist philosophy emerged, though there had been prominent feminist thinkers in American philosophy prior to this time, e.g., Grimké and Stanton, noted earlier, as well as others, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) or even Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643). Outside of academic philosophy, the publication, in the 1960s, of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, struck a popular nerve about the marginalization of women. Inside academic philosophy, feminist philosophers, such as Adrienne Rich (1929- ) and many others, began critiques of traditional philosophical concerns and stances. These critiques were leveled at the very roots of philosophical issues and across the board. For example, there were critiques of epistemic values such as objectivity (that is, detached, disembodied inquiry), as well as what were taken as masculine approaches to ethics and political philosophy, such as procedural over substantive justice or rights-based ethical theories. Insisting that there was not a public/private dichotomy and no value-neutral inquiry, feminists reformulated philosophical issues and concerns and redirected philosophical attention to issues of power and the social dimensions (and construction) of those very issues and concerns. This demand for pluralism in content was expanded to philosophical methods and goals, generally, and was expanded to other traditionally marginalized perspectives. By century’s end, traditional philosophical work continued in full force, for example, with a strong surge of interest in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, etc., but was accompanied at the same time by a sharp increase in these newly-demanded foci, such as philosophy of race, philosophy of law, philosophy of power, etc.

One final note. This survey of American Philosophy clearly is all-too-brief. One difficulty with summarizing American Philosophy is what has counted as philosophy over time. Unlike European cultures, there has tended to be less of an academic class in America, hence less of a sense of professional philosophy, until, that is, the twentieth century. Even then, much of what has been taken as philosophy by most Americans has been distant from what most professional philosophers have taken as philosophy. The kind of public awareness in France and indeed Europe as a whole of, say, the death of Jean-Paul Sartre, was nowhere near matched in America by the death of Quine, though for professional philosophers the latter was at least of equal stature. Few American philosophers have had the social impact outside of academia as John Dewey. A second difficulty here is that many thinkers in American intellectual history lie outside what is today considered philosophy. Because of his intellectual lineage, Jonathan Edwards is still studied within American Philosophy, but other important American thinkers, such as Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) are not. Much as other academic disciplines, philosophy in America has become professionalized. Nevertheless, professional philosophers, for example in their analysis of rights and the question of the meaningfulness of animal rights, or in their application of philosophical ethics to health care contexts, have both reflected and shaped the face of American culture.