Morton White, Philosopher and Historian, Dies at 99

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Morton White



Morton White, a philosopher and historian of ideas whose innovative theory of “holistic pragmatism” showed the way toward a more socially engaged, interdisciplinary role for philosophy, died on May 27 in Skillman, N.J. He was 99.

His death was announced by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where he had taught from 1970 until his retirement in 1987.

Mr. White was best known to generations of history and philosophy undergraduates as the editor of two standard classroom texts. The first was “The Age of Analysis” (1955), an anthology of writings from key 20th-century philosophers, for which he supplied an introduction and commentary.

The second, edited with his wife, the sociologist Lucia White, was “The Intellectual Versus the City: From Thomas Jefferson to Frank Lloyd Wright” (1962). It surveyed the conflicted American attitudes about the merits of rural and urban life.

As a philosopher, Professor White was identified with holistic pragmatism, an effort to rescue philosophy from what he saw as the narrow preoccupations of the dominant analytic movement, with its parsings of statements and the constituent parts of complex notions. “There are many signs that the sleeping giant of philosophy is arousing itself out of its mathematical slumbers,” he wrote in “Religion, Politics and the Higher Learning” (1959). ...




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