John Jacob Kaag

John Jacob Kaag is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He holds an MA in philosophy from Penn State, an M.Phil. in international relations from Cambridge University, and received his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Humanities Center and the American Academy of Arts and Science and is the author of two academic works on American Philosophy (IDEALISM, PRAGMATISM AND FEMINISM (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011) and THINKING THROUGH THE IMAGINATION: AESTHETICS IN HUMAN COGNITION (Fordham University Press, 2014)). His journalistic and essayistic work has been published in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Shambhala Sun, among others. His first book for a general readership, AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in October 2016.


American Philosophy: A Love Story

"John Kaag hits the sweet spot between intellectual history and personal memoir in this transcendently wonderful love song to philosophy and its ability 'to help individuals work through the trials of experience'...With its lucid, winning blend of autobiography, biography, and serious philosophical reflection, AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY provides a magnificently accessible introduction to fundamental ideas about freedom and what makes life significant. It's an exhilarating read." - NPR

"In its celebration of romantic love (in an egalitarian, improved family) as the apex of American philosophical commitments, Kaag's book is extremely contemporary..."American Philosophy" succeeds, not as a textbook or survey, but a spirited lover's quarrel with the individualism and solipsism in our national thought." - New York Times Book Review

"Mr. Kaag to take us on a brisk tour from Hobbes and Locke to Kant and Coleridge and, most important, to rediscover the pragmatist work of American thinkers intent on mitigating the force of modern alienation." - Wall Street Journal

"A compelling hybrid combining memoir, a dramatic narrative about saving an endangered rare book collection, and the intellectual history of philosophy...Throughout the book, the author deftly intertwines the narrative threads in a story perfect for book lovers and soul searchers alike. Kaag's lively prose, acute self-examination, unfolding romance, and instructive history of philosophy as a discipline make for a surprisingly absorbing book." - Kirkus (starred review)

"John Kaag's AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY is one of the most entertaining guides to philosophical inquiry to come along in decades. Stumbling on the library of a long-forgotten Harvard professor abandoned on the great man's country estate, John Kaag examines the trove and finds himself communing with the likes of William James, Josiah Royce, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ideas may be Kaag's first love, but they bring him a flesh-and-blood Beatrice in this open-hearted account of a young man's sentimental education." - Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of MARGARET FULLER: A NEW AMERICAN LIFE