America's Forgotten Poet-Philosopher

The Thought of John Elof Boodin in His Time and Ours

By Michael A. Flannery

Subjects: Pragmatism, American History, Religion, Spirituality
Series: SUNY series in American Philosophy and Cultural Thought
Hardcover : 9781438495712, 317 pages, December 2023
Paperback : 9781438495729, 317 pages, June 2024

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Table of contents

Prologue: Who Was John Elof Boodin?
Introduction: Science and Its “Mad Clockwork of Epicycles”: The Key to Understanding Boodin

1. Boodin’s Time

2. Pragmatic Realism: Boodin’s Metaphysics

3. Evolution, 1925

4. A Theological Trilogy

5. The Social Mind: Boodin’s Sociology of Spirit

6. Boodin in a Hostile World

Glossary of Important Terms

Illuminating study of the ideas and influences of a near-forgotten American philosopher.


This book examines the ideas and influences of a nearly forgotten Swedish-American philosopher, John Elof Boodin (1869–1950). A friend and student of William James and protégé of Josiah Royce at Harvard, Boodin combined Jamesian pragmatism and Roycean idealism in developing original scholarship (nearly sixty articles and eight books) from 1900 to 1947, in addition to a volume of posthumous papers published in 1957. Although he is seldom remembered today, the enduring importance of pragmatism and the rising influence of process theology today suggests that his close reading of early to mid-twentieth-century science and vast grasp of philosophical issues warrants a renewed interest in his work that can be a valuable antidote to the sterile and constricting effects of reductionism and dogmatic materialism prevalent today in both those fields.

Michael A. Flannery is Professor Emeritus of UAB Libraries at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of Nature's Prophet: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology, among other books.


"This is a superbly written, quite concise account of a lesser-known, but clearly important American philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century. Boodin's work clearly deserves to be better known, and Flannery does an excellent job in providing a very well-written account of this interesting individual’s contribution." — Patrick H. Armstrong, author of All Things Darwin