Victor Nuovo: William James thought about thinking

30th in a seriesWilliam James (1842–1910) is surely the most celebrated of American philosophers, and, in the light of his achievement, he is justly celebrated. He is the quintessential American thinker. Although his mind may not have been as acute and as penetrating as that of his friend Charles Sanders Peirce, it was more open and receptive, broader, and more humane. It was a channel through which flowed a vast network of intellectual currents that deposited their riches, which he took up with interest, r … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Peirce the Pragmatist

29th in a seriesPragmatism is a philosophical movement that originated in America shortly after the Civil War, and it is commonly supposed to be a uniquely American philosophy. Scholars describe the time of its founding as the Classical age of American ph … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: A great legal philosopher

28th in a seriesIn 1859 Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” and in 1860 the American Civil War began. These two events had a profound effect on the life and mind of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935). An ardent Abolitionist deeply committe … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: A little-known transcendentalist

27th essay in a seriesI suspect that almost everyone who reads this essay will be unfamiliar with Margaret Fuller (1810–50). Her name does not ring a bell in our minds as do the names of Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau, her contemporaries, or F … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Thoreau, a true American freethinker

Editor’s note: After a short pause, this series picks up today with the 26th essay.Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) was a poet, a naturalist, and a philosopher endowed with an acute moral sensibility. He was familiar with the Socratic dictum, “The unexamined … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Emerson wrestled with identity, self

25th in a series “The Universe is alive. All things are moral. The soul, which within us is a sentiment, outside us is a law. We feel its inspiration. Out there in history we see its fatal strength.” This was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s firm belief, his creed, … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Transcendentalism

23rd in a series During the middle of the third decade of the 19th century, there occurred in New England a third great awakening. It did not pertain only to religious sentiment; rather it involved a renewal of the human mind, a renaissance, even a revolu … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: American individualism

22nd in a series “Everything is what it is, and not another thing,” or, to put it briefly, “a thing is itself and not another.” This is a statement attributed to the British philosopher Joseph Butler (1692–1752), who was also an Anglican bishop. But it is … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: History gives moral direction

21st in a series The Second Great Awakening denotes a period of religious revival that lasted over 40 years, roughly from 1795 until 1835. It left an indelible mark on the American mind. Its effects are manifold, sometimes contradictory, or at least appar … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Tocqueville and governance

20th in a series “Democracy in America” is the title of a book that has become an American Classic. Its author was not an American, but a French aristocrat, Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (1805–59), Tocqueville for short (pronounced tok … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: America’s failed moral purist

19th in a series To begin with, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was a hypocrite. Although he could speak and write eloquently in favor of human liberty and equality from what were evidently well considered principles, nevertheless he enslaved 600 African-Ame … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Rule by the People comes from Locke

18th in a series John Locke (1632–1704) was not an American, nor did he ever set foot on the American continent — although for a short time he owned property here and perhaps slaves. Yet there is wide agreement among historians that he was America’s philo … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: Rule of law is a living tradition

17th in a series The Constitution of the United States is not engraved in stone. It can be changed by adding, deleting and revising. Article VI of the Constitution describes the process. The 27 amendments appended to the main text along with internal addi … (read more)

Letter to the editor: Washington was not disparaged

In his letter to the Addison Independent (March 12) Tom Hughes accuses me of writing disparagingly of George Washington. This was not my intention. Indeed, I meant just opposite. Therefore, either I miswrote or Mr. Hughes mistook my point. Probably both a … (read more)

Victor Nuovo: America’s unique republic

16th in a series The United States of America is not a Democracy, it is a Democratic Republic, or simply, “a Republic.” On this point, all the founders of this nation were agreed: Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, notwithstanding their part … (read more)