"American Philosophy: A Love Story" book signing and talk at Walden Pond

Sunday, March 5, 2017 - 12:00pm to 2:00pm
Walden Pond State Reservation

Walden Pond State Reservation and The Thoreau Society proudly present... a book signing and talk with Dr. John Kaag on his new book, "American Philosophy: A Love Story". 

This is a Walden Pond State Reservation special event. Sunday, March 5, 2017, 12:00pm - 2:00pm, at the new Walden Pond Visitors Center.

This event is free and open to the public, HOWEVER, there is a day use fee to visit Walden Pond. For more information, please visit http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-north/walden-pond-state-reservation.html

John will talk about his new book, "American Philosophy: A Love Story". There will be a lively discussion, books will be available for purchase through the Shop at Walden Pond, and John will be around to sign books. Light refreshments will be served.

John Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendent of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, with whom Kaag feels a deep kinship. It is James’s question “Is life worth living?” that guides this remarkable book.

The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But he resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a thrilling journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy—self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence—and to a brilliant young Kantian who joins him in the restoration of the Hocking books. 

Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one’s life around.

“American Philosophy: A Love Story” has been awarded a New York Times Editor’s Choice, 2016 and a National Public Radio Best Book of 2016.

“American Philosophy: A Love Story is one of the most entertaining guides to philosophical inquiry to come along in decades. Stumbling on the abandoned library of a long-forgotten Harvard professor, John Kaag examines the trove and finds himself communing with the likes of William James, Josiah Royce, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ideas may be Kaag’s first love, but they bring him a flesh-and-blood Beatrice in this openhearted account of a young man’s second chance at a sentimental education.” —Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Margaret Fuller: A New American Life"

“There is a strange daylight magic in this book. It is part memoir and part flyover of American Philosophy, which, says Kaag, “from Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century to Cornel West in this one, is about the possibilities of rebirth and renewal.” The book is also clearly and beautifully written. I picked it up for a quick look and couldn’t put it down. Not since Pirsig’s "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" have I read such a mesmerizing confluence of personal experience and formal thought.” —Robert Richardson, Author of "Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind"

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the author of "Idealism, Pragmatism, and Feminism: The Philosophy of Ella Lyman" and "Thinking Through the Imagination: Aesthetics in Human Cognition". His writing has appeared in "The New York Times", "Harper’s Magazine", "The Christian Science Monitor", "The Chronicle of Higher Education", and many other publications. He lives outside Boston with his wife and daughter.