Kenneth M. Sayre
Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame recounts the fascinating history of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Philosophy, chronicling the challenges, difficulties, and tensions that accompanied its transition from an obscure outpost of scholasticism in the 1940s into one of the more distinguished philosophy departments in the world today. Its author, Kenneth Sayre, who has been a faculty member for over five decades, focuses on the people of the department, describing what they were like, how they got along with each other, and how their personal predilections and ambitions affected the affairs of the department overall.
The book follows the department’s transition from its early Thomism to the philosophical pluralism of the 1970s, then traces its drift from pluralism to what Sayre terms "professionalism,” resulting in what some perceive as a severance from its Catholic roots by the turn of the century. Each chapter includes an extensive biography of an especially prominent department member, along with biographical sketches of other philosophers arriving during the period it covers. Central to the story overall are the charismatic Irishmen Ernan McMullin and Ralph McInerny, whose interaction dominated affairs in the department in the 1960s and 1970s, and who continued to play major roles in the following decades. Philosophers throughout the English-speaking world will find Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame essential reading. The book will also appeal to readers interested in the history of the University of Notre Dame and of American higher education generally.
“Kenneth Sayre tells the story of the transition of the philosophy department at Notre Dame with a keen eye for how these transitions illumine transitions in the developments in philosophy, broadly speaking. I think the great achievement of this book is not only its well-crafted history of the Notre Dame philosophy department, but its reminder to us that philosophers are human beings. By bringing to life the extraordinary people who have been associated with the Notre Dame philosophy department, Sayre has written a book that is deeply humane and uplifting.” — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School
“Kenneth Sayre has a splendid cast of characters and stories. In recounting the history of a single department over the last seventy years, he also tells the story of the development of academic philosophy. Along the way he shows how the notion that a university should be run as a business gradually took hold and transformed, not only his university, but U.S. academic culture.” — Patricia Curd, Purdue University
“This is a valuable account of the transition of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame from one in the 1930s when it served the founding purpose of the university to its heterogenous present.” — The Catholic Historical Review
“Ken Sayre’s Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame, a narrative history of nearly eighty years, divides the decades into three distinct periods: textbook Thomism, pluralism, and professionalism. Sayre, who came to Notre Dame in 1958 with a PhD. from Harvard, has witnessed them all.” — NDWorks
“This detailed account offers an inside view of Notre Dame’s Department of Philosophy and the challenges, difficulties and tensions that accompanied its development into one of the most distinguished philosophy departments in the world today. The author, who has been on the Notre Dame faculty for more than 50 years, focuses on the people of the department, describing their relationships and personalities, and how their ambitions affected department affairs overall.” — Notre Dame Magazine Online
Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year, Bronze, Philosophy