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The Metaphysical Club | [Louis Menand]

The Metaphysical Club

Hardly a club in the conventional sense, the organization referred to in the title of this superb literary hybrid (part history, part biography, part philosophy) consisted of four members and probably existed for less than nine months.
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Publisher's Summary

Hardly a club in the conventional sense, the organization referred to in the title of this superb literary hybrid (part history, part biography, part philosophy) consisted of four members and probably existed for less than nine months. Yet its impact upon American intellectual life remains incalculable. Louis Menand masterfully weaves pivotal late 19th- and early 20th-century events, colorful biographical anecdotes, and abstract ideas into a narrative whole that both enthralls and enlightens.

©2001 Louis Menand; (P) 2001 Highbridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Pulitzer Prize winner, History, 2002

"The Metaphysical Club is a compellingly vital account of how the cluster of ideas that came to be called pragmatism was forged from the searing experiences of its progenitors' lives." (Daniel Kevles, Yale University)
"The Metaphysical Club is a brilliant reanimation of American pragmatism." (Richard Poirier)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (126 )
5 star
 (28)
4 star
 (45)
3 star
 (25)
2 star
 (22)
1 star
 (6)
Overall
3.8 (26 )
5 star
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4 star
 (10)
3 star
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1 star
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Story
3.4 (27 )
5 star
 (5)
4 star
 (9)
3 star
 (5)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Victoria Los Angeles, CA, USA 12-08-03
    Victoria Los Angeles, CA, USA 12-08-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
    34
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    "The Great American Experiment"

    Menand brilliantly weaves from the strands of late nineteenth century scientific and philosophical thought, the entire tapestry of America's secular theology -- democracy, free speech, enlightened self-interest, pragmatism, public schools and individual rights. Less than half way through this engaging discussion on the origins of the great American Experiment, I regained a small part of the national pride of which the sixties and seventies deprived us all. I also realized, to my great surprise, that the values I most dearly hold today were taught to me by the California public school system in the 1950's and 1960's -- that an eager, open-minded inquiry into the natural, social and political world is the best road toward wisdom, peace and prosperity for the greatest number; that diversity of opinion (like the diversity of the species) is the most important source of a society's health and longevity, and, that, as Oliver Wendell Holmes opined, it is certitude itself that inevitably leads to violence. Fascinating, stirring and entertaining. One of my new top ten books to take to a desert island.

    35 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James P. Oliver Nashville, TN USA 08-11-04
    James P. Oliver Nashville, TN USA 08-11-04 Member Since 2004

    http://osopher.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/celebrate/

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    "a wonderful book, but..."

    Charles Sanders Peirce's name rhymes with "purse," not "fierce." The consistent mispronunciation on this recording is unfortunate, because Menand's book redresses a gaping hole in Americans' consciousness of their own philosophical heritage. Imagine Greeks ignorant of Plato or French of Descartes: such is the state of popular awareness regarding our own Big Thinkers Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and others. So: 5 stars for the book, 3 for the recording (which will put off those who've heard of CSP, and misinform the rest).

    18 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Houlding 11-07-04
    J. Houlding 11-07-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    8
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    "Very interesting listen"

    I really liked this book! Menand provides a compelling narrative that connects history, philosophy and notions of culture and society together in a way that I found fascinating. I was particularly interested in his treatment of Wendel Holmes; his ability to weave together biography and history create a picture of the profound effect this dynamic figure had on American culture. My only criticism of this book is the choice of narrator Henry Leyva. He is the worst narrator of any book i have ever listened to. His bizarre inflections make me cringe. I would give the book 6 stars and his narration one star, but if this is a period of time that you are interested in, the book is a must read (or listen?).

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodrigues SAINT GEORGE, UT, United States 09-12-11
    Rodrigues SAINT GEORGE, UT, United States 09-12-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "frustrating"

    The narrator has a fine voice. The problem is that not all content is in the audible. I followed using the book and many parts of the book are skipped over or left out completly. Also, there is no way to choose by chapter or search by chapter and listen to specific selections. It seems it is seperated by parts rather than chapters which makes it hard if you are studying the book by specific chapters. When you try to forward to get to another chapter it jumps so far into the book that you cant keep track of where the narrator is or left off. I found this audible very frustrating and ended up having to start from the begining and waste a lot of time on listening to things I didn't need.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chadborne NISSWA, MN, United States 01-20-11
    Chadborne NISSWA, MN, United States 01-20-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Like a schizoid trying to herd cats"

    In order to be prepared to read this book with engagement, you need to read this book first.

    If you do not know anything about these men before you start, then you will not retain much of the information given to you. There is a wealth of useful historic perspective, and the ideas are fairly well-represented.

    My recommendation is to get a corkboard and tack up pictures of the main guys, how they connect, and use a whiteboard to diagram the important tenets of their beliefs. Then you MIGHT have a chance at keeping track of everything. Had I done that, I would rate this 4 stars.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MrGee Vancouver, BC 08-28-05
    MrGee Vancouver, BC 08-28-05 Member Since 2005

    a book, music and film lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining overview"

    OK, "entertaining" is relative for any history of philosophy, but this book does a decent job of weaving together the lives and ideas of American thinkers at a critical period of American philosophy. The narrative flowed well (most of the time), and shed some light on both the personalities and ideas of these philosophers. I hadn't known much about Oliver Wendell Holme's life, and I found that section particularly interesting.

    A good selection if you're looking for an enjoyable overview. Not so good if you're looking for in-depth understanding of these men's ideas (but in that case, you probably wouldn't go to a audio book summary anyway).

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Uri San Diego, CA, USA 08-21-05
    Uri San Diego, CA, USA 08-21-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A dissenter"

    Most people loved this book. I did not. Here is why:

    1) You need a ton of background knowledge
    I was born outside america so most names did not mean much to me when I started the book. The book is clearly intended for somebody already familiar with the characters.

    2) Narrator gets annoying
    The tone of the narrator gets old. Repeats inflictions way too often, I would say every 4 sentences or so. I never finshed the book, when by error my MUVO would start playing it, I would get this very quick negative reaction, almost a pavlovian response to this guy's tone!

    3) It is hard to follow
    Within each chapter, it is never clear exactly where the author is going. That may work better on the print version, but when you have only partial attention dedicated to the book (i.e. commuting) it is just not good enough.

    In sum, if you think you will enjoy this book, I would suggest you read it, the audio vesion has an annoying narrator and it is hard to follow.


    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Oshawa, ON, Canada 05-26-06
    John Oshawa, ON, Canada 05-26-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Good"

    Great listen, logical and easy to follow. Still excellent relevance to today. Very interesting people.
    Good reader.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas QUINCY, MA, United States 01-08-13
    Douglas QUINCY, MA, United States 01-08-13 Member Since 2011
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    4
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mispronunciation"
    How could the performance have been better?

    The reader consistently mispronounces the name of one of the main historical characters. Charles Peirce is pronounced /ˈpɜrs/ like "purse"; Can't a paid reader take the time to look something like that up?


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J Berea, KY, United States 12-29-11
    J Berea, KY, United States 12-29-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Fascinating subject"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Metaphysical Club to be better than the print version?

    While the performance was quite good, Menand's text is what really makes this book worth listening to.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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