Words, Works, and Ways of KnowingThe Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New England before the Civil War

Words, Works, and Ways of KnowingThe Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New England before the Civil War

Sara Paretsky

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226337746

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

The author, a crime writer, is known the world over for her acclaimed series of mysteries starring Chicago private investigator V. I. Warshawski. Before she started a writing career, the author earned a PhD in history from the University of Chicago with a dissertation on moral philosophy and religion in New England in the early and mid-nineteenth century. Now, for the first time, fans of the author can read that earliest work. The book analyzes attempts by theologians at Andover Seminary to square and secure Calvinist religious beliefs with emerging knowledge from history and the sciences. It carefully shows how the open-minded scholasticism of these theologians paradoxically led to the weakening of their intellectual credibility as conventional religious belief structures became discredited, and how this failure then incited reactionary forces within Calvinism. That conflict between science and religion in the American past is of interest on its face, but it also sheds light on contemporary intellectual battles. An afterword discusses where this work fits into the contemporary study of religion. And in a sobering—sometimes shocking—preface, the author paints a picture of what it was like to be a female graduate student at the University of Chicago in the 1970s. A treat for the author's many fans, this book offers a glimpse of the development of the mind behind the mysteries.