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A retrieval of the neglected part of the religious and intellectual history of the United States, Varieties of Transcendental Experience: A Study in Constructive Postmodernism, throws light on the debate over postmodernism.
Varieties of Transcendental Experience traces the critique of Enlightenment modernism which began with Ralph Waldo Emerson and culminated in the thought of Charles Sanders Peirce and the mature Josiah Royce. Donald L. Gelpi, S.J., argues that these thinkers provide a constructive alternative to deconstructionist post-modernism that is compatible with Christian faith.
In each chapter Gelpi analyzes various thinkers and their frames of reference developed for dealing with life and reality. While taking into account what historians of the American intellectual tradition have to say about each of the figures studied, Gelpi uses primarily a dialectic approach, looking for areas of agreement and disagreement and assessing the interpretative adequacy of one frame of reference in comparison with another.
Each dialectical analysis is prefaced with basic biographical information about the thinker or thinkers studied in any given chapter. The biographical material is not integrated into the dialectical analysis which follows to allow each frame of reference to stand on its own and to facilitate the kind of comparison which dialectical thinking seeks to advance.
Varieties of Transcendental Experience is divided into three parts. Part one describes the emergence of Enlightenment religion in the United States during the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Part two describes the critique of Enlightenment modernity mounted by the first generation oftranscendental thinkers: Emerson, Parker, and Brownson. Part three describes the completion of the transcendental project of moving beyond the presuppositions of Enlightenment modernism accomplished in the work of Abbot, Peirce, and the mature Josiah Royce.
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