The Metaphysical Club is a Pulitzer Prize winning intellectual history of American thought. This book follows the development of the intellectual thinkers: Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey. According to Menand, these men were at the forefront of the intellectual movement in America following the Civil War right up to the Cold War era. Menand writes they were more responsible than any other group for moving American thought into the modern world. The movement of intellectual thought these four men developed is called pragmatism .

The Metaphysical Club itself was an informal gathering of some of the leading intellectuals, but it was a fairly short lived club. It serves, rather, as an identification for these shapers of Intellectual thought. Holmes, James, and Peirce were contemporaries who knew each other and at times worked together. Dewey was much younger and seems to be the heir to the Club that helped move their ideas forward into the 20th Century. As such, it felt as if Dewey had the greatest importance, at least as it was presented in the book. Holmes may have been the most prominent member, being a Supreme Court Justice. Even though this book purports to be an examination of these four men, it also weaves in the stories of other leading intellectual figures of the age, including Emerson and Darwin. This is a much bigger book than being just about four men. It is about an era of American Thought.

This was an excellent book, very well written. It was also challenging. While I understood the concepts presented as I was reading them, I found it difficult to retain my grasp of the information when I had moved on to the next section and the next chapter. This is a different sort of American history, being an intellectual history, but I m sure that anyone who has any interest in that sort of thing will find this book fascinating. It isn t a dry academic tome, by any means.