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Puritans and Pragmatists
Eight Eminent American Thinkers

By Paul Conkin

Puritans and Pragmatists
Paperback, 505 pages $34.95
Published: 1st June 2006
ISBN: 9781932792553
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All History, All Political Science, American History, Political Philosophy

Eight brilliant and original American thinkers – Edwards, Franklin, John Adams, Emerson, Peirce, William James, Dewey, and Santayana – are the subject of this widely admired book by one of America's foremost writers of intellectual history. In this study, the author finds a degree of continuity and some elements of underlying unity in the varied and idiosyncratic thoughts of these men. Instead of superficial similarities, he emphasizes a common moral tenor, an instrumental conception of knowledge, and a broad, ethical conception of art.

Preface to the New Edition

Chapter I

  • The Puritan Prelude
  • God and Man
  • Morals and Society
  • Spirit and Matter

Part One: Diverse Puritans

Chapter II

  • Jonathan Edwards: Theology
  • Ultimate Concerns
  • The Great Awakening and Affectionate Religion
  • The Battle against Arminianism

Chapter III

  • Benjamin Franklin: Science and Morals
  • Career and Character
  • Natural Science
  • Moral Science

Chapter IV

  • John Adams: Politics
  • Portrait of an Enlightened Puritan
  • In Defense of Liberty
  • The Republican Idea

Part Two: In Transition

Chapter V

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: Poet-Priest
  • The Early Pilgrimage
  • Self-Reliance
  • Philosophy
  • Intellect and Art

Chapter VI

  • Charles S. Peirce
  • Life
  • Signs and Relations
  • Inquiry and the Pragmatic Test
  • The categories and Realism
  • Scientific Metaphysics
  • Axiology and Religion

Chapter VII

  • William James
  • The Courageous Pilgrimage
  • Psychology
  • Voluntarism
  • In Pursuit of an Ontology
  • Pragmatism
  • Practical Concerns

Chapter VIII

  • John Dewey
  • The Long Pathway to Naturalism
  • The Metaphysical Framework
  • Epistemology
  • Value
  • Philosophy in Action

Part Four: In Retreat

Chapter IX

  • George Santayana
  • Life
  • The Metaphysical Foundation
  • Epistemology
  • Axiology
  • Politics and Art
  • Religion

A Reading Guide

"[Conkin's] book is a remarkable effort at synthesis and elucidation. The perennial nature of philosophy—nature, mind, reality, values, consciousness, and so forth—reappear in this impressive study of major American thinkers."

--John P. Diggins, University of California, Irvine


"One can immediately grant the honesty and conviction [of this work], but the third quality that impresses the reader is a highly impressionistic style."

--A. Owen Alderidge, University of Illinois, Urbana



"Paul Conkin's [volume] is a most extraordinary piece of work.The explication of each individual is first of all a rigorous philosophical analysis, grounded in epistemology and metaphysics and unflinching in its treatment of what historians tend to consider 'technical' problems. But Conkin also discusses well the less precise features of a man's outlook, including his social and moral attitudes; a concise but often illuminating sketch of his life and personality is supplied, and the whole is infused with a fine feeling for the beauty and adventures of human thought."

--John Higham, Johns Hopkins University



Paul K. Conkin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt University.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 505 pages
 9in x 6in

 Baylor University Press

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