Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 190s

191: The Philosophy of Santayana by George Santayana


191: Santayana, George. The Philosophy of Santayana: Selections from the Works of George Santayana. US: Modern Library, 1936. 595 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Philosophy
  • 191: Modern Western philosophy of the United States and Canada

Let’s start with the basics: George Santayana was born in Madrid in 1863, but was reared in the United States. He was educated at Harvard and eventually taught there. Among his students were the writers T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Gertrude Stein. The great American poet Wallace Stevens counted Santayana among his friends. Much of Santayana’s philosophy pervades modern culture in the form of aphorisms and quick bon-mots. The Philosophy of George Santayana is a dense book filled to the brim with the life’s work of one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious thinkers.

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196: Three Spanish Philosophers by Jose Ferrater Mora


196.1: Ferrater Mora, Jose. Three Spanish Philosophers: Unamuno, Ortega, Ferrater Mora. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2003. 252 pp. ISBN 0-7914-5713-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Western and other non-Eastern philosophy
  • 196: Modern Spanish and Portuguese philosophy
  • 196.1: Modern Spanish philosophy

Jose Ferrater Mora’s Three Spanish Philosophers is a look into the current philosophical work being done by Spanish thinkers. Mora, a philosopher in his own right, tries to interpret, blend, and comment on the works of Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) and Josa Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). These two analyses form a sort of prelude to his own work, which is presented as the third part of the book. It’s a rather odd situation for this work. Mora died in 1991, and this edition came out in 2003. His widow Priscilla Cohn and fellow philosopher Prof. Josep-Maria Terricabras have curated and updated this edition. Each chapter is from a separate work he wrote, but here they are combined to show a progression in Spanish thought from the beginning of the 20th century to the end.

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199: The Invention of Africa by V.Y. Mudimbe


199.6: Mudimbe, V. Y. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988. 216 pp. ISBN 0-253-33126-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Western and other non-Eastern philosophy
  • 199: Modern Western philosophy in other geographic areas
  • 199.6: Africa

V. Y. Mudimbe’s The Invention of Africa is an exploration in the philosophical landscape of the Africa continent through centuries of colonization. At least, that’s what I hoped it would be. Instead, it’s two hundred pages of name-dropping, Foucault-quoting, Levi-Strauss-loving madness. It’s a mish-mash of contemporary thinkers quoted in context with figures from Africa’s past. This book is dense and wholly un-fun. He spends way too much time criticizing Eurocentric portrayals of African thinking and not enough time actually writing about African thinkers. There is far too much academic jargon as well. It seems that the only intended audience for this book is the author himself. I would have rather read a book with chapters for the dominant cultures in Africa and how they envisioned thought, knowledge, and the universe. There is little bit of that here, but Mudimbe can’t seem to get out of his own head sometimes. To be fair, though, the bibliography is chock full of diverse sources if you want to dig deeper into the subject. Unfortunately, the only reason I can see to read this is if you are in an African philosophy course or writing a dissertation. Other than that, you’re on your own.

194: The First and Second Discourses by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

194: Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The First and Second Discourses. Translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964. 228 pp. ISBN 0-312-69440-7.

The 100s are a mish-mash of philosophy and psychology. Back when Dewey was devised the system, the two fields had a lot of overlap. Psychology had a lot to do with our philosophical conception of the universe and how that affected an individual’s mind. Our current understanding of psychology is a lot more research- and observation-based than those days, but the 100s still stand. And before you can get to modern philosophy, you have to slog through each basic concept, each of which have their own section. Space is 114, time is 115, and causation is 122. Odd psychologies occupy the 130s (dream psychology, handwriting analysis, phrenology, etc.). Regular books on modern philosophy get pushed all the way to the 190s. Today’s book on modern French philosophy falls into 194.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) may not be all that modern by our scale, but he helped Enlightenment France sort out many of the new ways of thinking that came about before the French Revolution. The First and Second Discourses is actually a joining of separately published works. The First Discourse (otherwise known as the “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”) was published in 1750, while the Second (“Discourse on Inequality”) came out in 1754. Both were submissions to competitions sponsored by the Academy of Dijon.

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