Is “American Philosophy” an Endangered Area of Specialization?


Is American Philosophy in jeopardy as an area of study in the profession of philosophy today? Gregory Pappas, professor of philosophy at Texas A & M and president of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP) is concerned that it is.

Worrying that American Philosophy is an “endangered species,” he writes (in a comment he sent in):

Recent deaths and upcoming retirements of full professors in American philosophers, and lack of job openings in the area, have left me wondering if we are headed to a crisis of American philosophy in the USA.

He notes that despite expanding the canon of American Philosophy—the SAAP description of it includes not just American pragmatism, American idealism, American naturalism, American transcendentalism, and process philosophy, but also “collaborative transactions between these strains of American thought with feminism, indigenous philosophies, African American philosophy, Latin American and Latinx philosophies, post-colonialism, and race theories, to name just a few”—that it continues to be the case that “America does not care much about ‘American’ philosophy.”

He adds:

I used to be able to recommend students to departments that had 2,3, or 4 professors in the area, but does it look like every year there will be less departments fitting that description? This could affect the area (teaching and research) at all levels. It means less courses. Moreover, less full professors also means less professors that can write letters of promotion for associate level ones.

Discussion on the various issues here—what counts as American Philosophy, what its prospects in the profession are, whether it is a useful categorization, and so on–is welcome.

Jasper Johns, “Flag 1”

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