The Highroad Around Modernism

By Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791411520, 339 pages, September 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411513, 339 pages, September 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Introduction: Why Speculative Philosophy Should Not Shut Down


I. The Postmodernist Debate
II. Modernity and Modernism
III. The End of Philosophy
IV. Ways around Modernism



One. Charles S. Peirce as a Non-Modernist Thinker


I. Peirce's Rejection of Foundations: Hypothesis, Habits, and Signs
II. Reality: Generality and the Habits of Nature
III. Speculative Metaphysics
IV. Religion
Peircean Postscript: Postmodernism Again


Two. Alfred North Whitehead and Romanticism


I. Nature: Mechanism and Freedom
II. Modernism and Fragmentation
III. Modernism: A Non-Postmodernist Critique
IV. System's Way around Modernism


Three. Metaphysics in the Twentieth Century


I. Whitehead and the Basic Ideas
II. Weiss and the Problematic of Metaphysics
III. Metaphysics as Philosophy
IV. The American Highroad of Metaphysics


Four. Contributions and Limits of Process Philosophy


I. Speculative Philosophy and the Ontological Question
II. Whitehead's Model of Nature
III. Enduring Personal Identity and the Texture of Life
IV. Value


Five. Hegel and Whitehead on Totality


I. Hegel: Finite and Infinite
II. Negative Dialectic: The Trick of the Modernist and Postmodernist
III. Whitehead: Totality in Experience
IV. World and System


Six. On Systems as Speculative Hypotheses


I. Philosophy as System
II. System as Fallible
III. System as Tolerant
IV. System as Engaged


Seven. Reflections on American Philosophy


I. Emerson on the Range of American Philosophic Practice
II. Nature, Books, and Action
III. American Philosophy as World Philsophy
IV. A Role for the Professional Philosopher



Eight. Power, Revolution, and Religion


I. Power and Narrative
II. The End of Narrative and Power
III. The Road of Covenant Theology
IV. Covenant as Revolution


Nine. Beyond Capitalist and Class Analysis


I. The Need for New Theory in the Social Sciences
II. Liberal Capitalism and Marxism: Rejection of Market and Class
III. Metaphysics of Social Analysis
IV. On the Structure of Social Theory


Ten. Freedom, Tolerance, and the Puritan Ethic


I. The Principle of Universal Public Responsibility
II. Puritan Commitment
III. Tolerance
IV. Freedom


Eleven. Leadership, Responsibility, and Value


I. Value
II. Courage
III. Leadership
IV. A Confession, a Caveat, and a Homily


Twelve. Technology and the Richness of the World


I. Natural Richness Denied
II. Infinite Denisty: An Ontological Vision
III. Infinite Density: A Cosmological Vision
IV. Richness as the Infinite in the Finite






Discussions of modernism and postmodernism in philosophy and the arts are usually based on a narrow reading of the Western tradition and are not conscious of the narrowness. The modern period, beginning with the European Renaissance, spawned many developments, not just the modernist one in terms of which the tradition has been read. From the standpoint of the highroad around modernism, both modernism and post-modernism look like nothing more than two late modern movements, perhaps too preoccupied with themselves and their historical place to engage a swiftly changing world containing more than the Western tradition. The Highroad Around Modernism develops and defends an explicitly non-modernist and non-postmodernist extension of modernity applicable to the problems of world-wide cultural interactions.

Robert Cummings Neville is Professor of Philosophy and Religion, and Dean of the School of Theology at Boston University. He is the author of Reconstruction of Thinking; Recovery of the Measure: Interpretation and Nature; New Essays in Metaphysics; The Puritan Smile: A Look Toward Moral Reflection; The Tao and the Daimon; Behind the Masks of God: An Essay Toward Comparative Theology; God the Creator: On the Transcendence and the Presence of God; and A Theology Primer, all published by SUNY Press.


"Robert Neville's book is most welcome and most timely. It introduces a neglected but important voice to the debate on postmodernism — the voice of 'speculative pragmatism.' Neville shows convincingly that certain distinctively non-modernist forms of philosophy — from Peirce and Whitehead to Weiss and his own writing — do not fall under the scythe of postmodernist critique. Having never been modernist, they cannot rightly be rejected or dismissed in the company of views which they had themselves effectively criticized. In arguing for an extended (and renewed) hearing for a vital strand of philosophical thought, the author offers telling judgments of contemporary philosophers such as Derrida and Rorty — and behind them, Heidegger and Nietzsche. A forceful and engaging book." — Edward S. Casey

"I think this is in all respects an exceptionally good book. Few authors are able to use tradition originally as has been done here. Moreover, the book has the potential to mark an important historical turn in late twentieth century thinking." — Douglas R. Anderson

"It's hard to put down! Neville's style is elegant; his gentle wit interposes a chuckle in the midst of metaphysical profundities; his command of the philosophical, historical, and political literature is amazing and adds an unexpected richness to the text. The quagmire of post-modernism has reduced twenty-three centuries of Western metaphysical thought to the level of the silly. Others have attempted a rescue, but none so brilliantly as Neville." — Elizabeth M. Kraus