Menand's study looks at the lives and thought of four representative American thinkers who variously ascribed to a philosophy known as pragamatism: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William James, Charles Sanders Pierce, and Thomas Dewey. The first three met briefly in 1872 as the "Metaphysical Club," but their respect for and effects upon one another went much further than that. Menand concludes they were largely responsible for laying the foundations for free speech and thought in the U.S. today. Holmes was wounded three separate times in the Civil War, and concluded that certainty leads to violence, and no idea is worth dying for. Amazingly, he became a Supreme Court justice and lived into his 90s. James, psychologist brother of the novelist, was an intuitive, emotional thinker, who said: "Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true...." Other fascinating characters slip through the pages of this book: Jane Addams, Louis Agassiz, Emerson, and Darwin. Though philosophy is the subject, the book reads remarkably smoothly.
This report prepared by David Loftus