The Philosophers: America's philosophy, with Cornel West
Sean Illing talks with Cornel West about the American philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. They talk about what makes pragmatism so distinctly American, how pragmatists understand the connection between knowledge and action, and how the pragmatist mindset can invigorate our understanding of democratic life and communal action today. Cornel West also talks about the ways in which pragmatism has influenced his work and life, alongside the blues, Chekhov, and his Christian faith.
This is the third episode of The Philosophers, a new monthly series from Vox Conversations. Each episode will focus on a philosophical figure or school of thought from the past, and discuss how their ideas can help us make sense of our modern world and lives today.
Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), Interviews writer, Vox
References to works by American pragmatists:
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882): "Self-Reliance" (1841)
William James (1842–1910): Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907); The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902); "Is Life Worth Living?" (1895)
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914): "The Fixation of Belief" (1877)
John Dewey (1859–1952): The Quest for Certainty (1929); "Emerson—The Philosopher of Democracy" (1903); The Public and Its Problems (1927)
Richard Rorty (1931–2007): "Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationalism" (1979); "Solidarity or Objectivity?" (1989)
Cornel West Teaches Philosophy (MasterClass)
The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism by Cornel West (Univ. of Wisconsin Press; 1989)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
- Plato, Republic (refs. in particular to Book 1 and Book 8)
The Phantom Public by Walter Lippmann (1925)
Leopardi: Selected Poems of Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), tr. by Eamon Grennan (Princeton; 1997)
"The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus (1942; tr. 1955)
Democracy & Tradition by Jeffrey Stout (Princeton; 2003)
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This episode was made by:
Producer: Erikk Geannikis
Editor: Amy Drozdowska
Engineer: Patrick Boyd
Deputy Editorial Director, Vox Talk: Amber Hall
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