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Philosophical Pragmatist in Chief?

Volume , Issue 4. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username.

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Volume , Issue 4 Winter Pages Related Information. Kloppenberg said.

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What he did not do was speak to President Obama. Kloppenberg said with a smile.

The reason, he explained, is his conclusion that President Obama is a true intellectual — a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites. Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history. To Mr.

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Kloppenberg the philosophy that has guided President Obama most consistently is pragmatism, a uniquely American system of thought developed at the end of the 19th century by William James, John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce. It is a philosophy that grew up after Darwin published his theory of evolution and the Civil War reached its bloody end. More and more people were coming to believe that chance rather than providence guided human affairs, and that dogged certainty led to violence.

Pragmatism maintains that people are constantly devising and updating ideas to navigate the world in which they live; it embraces open-minded experimentation and continuing debate. Those who heard Mr. He spent , the election year, at the University of Cambridge in England and found himself in lecture halls and at dinner tables trying to explain who this man was.

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition

He mentions, for example, that Mr. Obama was ultimately drawn to a cluster of ideas known as civic republicanism or deliberative democracy, Mr. Kloppenberg argues in the book, which Princeton University Press will publish on Sunday. In this view the founding fathers cared as much about continuing a discussion over how to advance the common good as they did about ensuring freedom.

Taking his cue from Madison, Mr. Kloppenberg compiled a long list of people who he said helped shape Mr. View all New York Times newsletters. Despite the detailed examination, Mr.

Kloppenberg concedes that President Obama remains something of a mystery. He finds both assessments flawed.