The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in AmericaLouis Menand
Pulitzer Prize in History (2002).
Can skepticism be inspiring? Absolutely. Louis Menand's lucid account of American intellectual life in the latter half of the nineteenth century focuses on three American giants in jurisprudence (Oliver Wendell Holmes), psychology (William James), and philosophy (C.S. Peirce), whose paths memorably crossed in 1872. For anyone with an interest in law or constitutional studies, the connection between Holmes's horrific experiences in the Civil War and his later distaste for legal dogma is especially valuable. Bonus points for Menand's deft portraits of other nineteenth century luminaries, for example biologist, celebrity, and odious racial theorist Louis Agassiz.