St. Joseph High School junior Kaitlyn Herman knew an afternoon philosophy discussion was something she didn’t want to miss.
“Oh my goodness,” said Herman, 17, describing the interest she had felt about Carlin Romano, a professor of philosophy and humanities at Ursinus College.
Romano was the 106th speaker at the University of Houston-Victoria’s American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday.
Romano, who lives in Philadelphia, is critic-at-large for The Chronicle of Higher Education and was the literary critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years.
A former president of the National Book Critics Circle, he was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His criticism has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Harper’s, The American Scholar, Salon, The Times Literary Supplement and many other publications.
His book, “America the Philosophical,” published in 2012, is an overview of various aspects of philosophical culture in the United States.
During the presentation, Romano gave the audience a taste of the flavor of the language in the introduction and a walk-through of the rest of the book.
The introduction is argument after argument about why the United States is not philosophical, he said, while the rest of the book answers these arguments.
The book is a combination of reporting and philosophical argument, Romano said.
He said he wanted the book to appeal to any reader, not just philosophy professors and heavy thinkers, so he adds jokes and wordplay.
“No footnotes,” he said is one element designed to appeal to the regular reader. This also contrasts his personal writing style to give information.
It took 10 years for him to write the book from original conception to publishing, he said.
One of Romano’s sections in the book discusses a conventional history of people who have been considered philosophers, including John Dewey, and present them as people.
“Their personal lives often made a difference in the way they thought,” he said.
In another section, Romano interviewed Hugh Hefner, who people argue objectified women, while others saw his contribution to liberating women.
The section, which also includes other literary critics, theorists and linguists, is designed to push the envelope of who is a philosopher, he said.
Romano said he encourages everyone to delve into philosophy.
“I love the Philosophy for Children movement,” he said. “It’s not organic chemistry, but it’s very challenging, and everyone profits from having a philosophy course.”