Volume 6, 2021
Alexander V. Stehn
American Philosophy as a Way of Life: A Course in Self-Culture
This essay fills in some historical, conceptual, and pedagogical gaps that appear in the most visible and recent professional efforts to “revive” Philosophy as a Way of Life (PWOL). I present “American Philosophy and Self-Culture” as an advanced undergraduate seminar that broadens who counts in and what counts as philosophy by immersing us in the lives, writings, and practices of seven representative U.S.-American philosophers of self-culture, community-building, and world-changing: Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), Henry Bugbee (1915–1999), and Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004). Students enter the class with preconceptions about who philosophers are, what they do, how they write, and the languages in which they write. Students walk out with new senses of self, place, and language that emerge through new ways of seeing, doing, and writing philosophy.