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The Metaphysical Club

by Menand, Louis, III A

  • ISBN: 9780374199630
  • ISBN10: 0374199639

The Metaphysical Club

by Menand, Louis, III A

  • List Price: $30.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publish date: 05/01/2001
  • ISBN: 9780374199630
  • ISBN10: 0374199639
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Description: The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., future associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea -- an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea.

The "idea about ideas" is that ideas are not things "out there" somewhere waiting to be discovered, but are instruments people invent and use, such as knives and forks and microchips, to make their way in the world. They are not produced by individuals; they are produced by groups of individuals. They do not develop according to some inner logic of their own, but are entirely dependent -- like germs -- on their human carriers and environment. They are provisional responses to circumstances, and their survival depends not on their immutability, but on their adaptability.

The Metaphysical Club is written in this idea's spirit and is an utterly absorbing narrative of personality and social history -- as Alan Ryan wrote in The New York Review of Books, The Metaphysical Club is "something very like a history of the American mind at work."

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