The Philosophy Scare: The Politics Of Reason In The Early Cold War

Hardcover | September 15, 2016

byJohn McCumber

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From the rise of formalist novels that championed the heroism of the individual to the proliferation of abstract art as a counter to socialist realism, the years of the Cold War had a profound impact on American intellectual life. As John McCumber shows in this fascinating account, philosophy, too, was hit hard by the Red Scare. Detailing the immense political pressures that reshaped philosophy departments in midcentury America, he shows just how radically politics can alter the course of intellectual history.  
           
McCumber begins with the story of Max Otto, whose appointment to the UCLA Philosophy Department in 1947 was met with widespread protest charging him as an atheist. Drawing on Otto’s case, McCumber details the hugely successful conservative efforts that, by 1960, had all but banished the existentialist and pragmatist paradigms—not to mention Marxism—from philosophy departments all across the country, replacing them with an approach that valorized scientific objectivity and free markets and which downplayed the anti-theistic implications of modern thought. As he shows, while there have since been many instances of definitive and even explosive rejection of this conservative trend, its effects can still be seen at American universities today.

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From the rise of formalist novels that championed the heroism of the individual to the proliferation of abstract art as a counter to socialist realism, the years of the Cold War had a profound impact on American intellectual life. As John McCumber shows in this fascinating account, philosophy, too, was hit hard by the Red Scare. Detail...

John McCumber is Distinguished Professor of Germanic Languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of many books, including On Philosophy: Notes from a Crisis and Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.  

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:September 15, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022639638X

ISBN - 13:9780226396385

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“The Philosophy Scare enlarges McCumber’s earlier treatment of an important but neglected story. His earlier Time in the Ditch rightly downplays the explicit theoretical flaws and scientistic intentions of midcentury American philosophy to show how its basic outlook formed a convenient response to Cold War politics but also survived to plague later philosophy. In The Philosophy Scare, McCumber identifies a broader ‘Cold War Philosophy’ that runs in the background of many disciplines, not just (albeit especially) philosophy, after World War II. He employs Kuhn and Foucault positively and Reichenbach negatively to show how American academies responded to anti-communist fearmongering by touting ‘objective science’ and ‘dispassionate’ rationality as the essential preferences of real educators. Armed with this pinched image of intellectual life, administrators projected a dissimulating portrait of the academy as respectful of politico-religious reactionaries and supportive of free market capitalism. I am especially impressed by McCumber’s extensive use of UCLA’s archives to demonstrate its key role in disseminating Cold War Philosophy by implementing the infamous, widely copied ‘California Plan’ for hiring new faculty and the pernicious ‘Allen Formula’ for rationalizing academic repression. He is right to worry that this story has not ended.”