To the Great Plains and Illinois I Go, in Search of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Abraham Lincoln, and Other American Histories

Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Photo: January 2017 by Amy Cools

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the example they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my seventh philosophical-historical adventure: an almost three-week road trip through the Great Plains and on to Illinois. I’ll fly from Chicago to Scotland on August 9th: I’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in the history of ideas at the University of Edinburgh starting this fall. In the meantime, I’m overjoyed to have this window of time to explore parts of my country which I’ve never seen, and to learn as much as I can along the way.

During this journey, I’ll explore Yellowstone and the history of National Parks in America (it’s been a great NP year for me!); I’ll travel throughout the Great Plains following the history of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, the Lakota and their and other Native Americans’ encounters with white invaders in the 1800’s and beyond; I’ll visit Springfield, Peoria, and Chicago following Abraham Lincoln, Robert Ingersoll, uniquely American forms of art and architecture, and other topics. I’ll also make many more stops and detours along the way.

Patrons of this series: Liz and Russ Eagle, Tracy Runyon, and the Cools-Ramsden family ~ With warmest gratitude, thank you!

Road Trip Through Indian Country to Chicago, En Route to Edinburgh
The Love of Possession Is a Disease With Them
Bitterroot Mountains and the Lewis and Clark Wendover Ridge Hike
Lewis & Clark Caverns, Yellowstone National Park, and Our Public Lands

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Review: The Great Agnostic, by Susan Jacoby

Just read Susan Jacoby’s biography of Robert Ingersoll: America’s eloquent and passionate mid-19th century orator who was a popularizer of science, an early champion of full equal rights for women, an abolitionist, a booster of Thomas Paine, a critic of anti-immigrant policies and religion… a man who was obsessed with justice, a believer in the intrinsic goodness of human nature, and promoter of universal human rights. It’s relatively brief, but if you’d like a quality introduction to one of America’s greatest, I highly recommend this book!

What’s especially impressive about Ingersoll was that his views on immigration, women’s and immigrant’s rights, and religious liberty (both from and of) were nearly wholly untarnished by the prejudices of his time, unlike many of his contemporaries. For example, even the great Elizabeth Cady Stanton used racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in her advocacy for women’s rights, and Herbert Spencer used his interpretation of Darwinism to promote eugenicist policies. In contrast, Ingersoll’s commitment to justice ran so deep that he rejected such bigoted ideas, instead promoting Darwin’s own view that human beings, in a state of civilization, thrive precisely because we are cooperative, altruistic, and empathetic, and that the theory of evolution reveals that the human race is one big family.

Jacoby, Susan. The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought. New Naven: Yale University Press, 2013.