America the Philosophical at breakfast

What a sumptuous feast President Saatkamp put out for us at his home last night. In fact, the food at this conference has been a highlight. Will it continue to surpass at tonight’s banquet? Will it be as good as the perfectly-timed $1 hot dog I devoured in the middle of my snowy lunchtime stroll down the famed Atlantic City boardwalk yesterday? The questions just never stop, do they?

I concluded my contribution at our “New Dawnings”  session yesterday morning with a bunch of them, and then with an assertion:

Should it trouble us that we cannot easily or entirely reconcile our respective personal subjectivities (Rorty’s “wild orchids”) with the collective spirit of social reform and progress?
For myself: I am not troubled. I drove past Walt Whitman’s Camden yesterday, on the road to Galloway NJ, and cannot resist closing with a paraphrase of his famously audacious, charmingly impudent locution: Our tradition is large, it contains multitudes (of ideas). This is good. But greater multitudes of philosophically reflective Americans?  That is still the great undiscovered country we must achieve.
But it’s almost time for the breakfast session with Carlin Romano, who’ll talk between bites about America the PhilosophicalHe has a different idea from mine and de Tocquevillle’s (“in no country in the world is less attention paid to philosophy”). Carlin asks and answers,
Does America take philosophy seriously? One might as well ask whether America takes monarchy seriously.
Guess that answers that. I think we’re going to have to try and come up with a better question.
==
Postscript. Breakfast was good, Carlin was too. We swapped cards, I (tentatively) invited him to come meet our philosophical students at Middle Tennessee, we agreed America’s big & plural enough to be the most and least philosophical of civilizations. If that sounds impossible, re-read your Whitman (“Do I contradict myself?” etc.)… Next stop: the William James Society’s session featuring my old friend Micah Hester’s bioethics book on the end of life
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