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Sidney Hook

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Sidney Hook (1902-1989), American philosopher, did his undergraduate studies at City College in New York City, studying under Morris Raphael Cohen, and his graduate work at Columbia University, where he studied under John Dewey and Frederick Woodbrige. He wrote his thesis The Metaphysics of Pragmatism under Dewey's direction. After receiving his doctorate, he pursued further studies in Berlin and Munich and at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. In 1933 he returned to the U. S. to teach philosophy at New York University as one of the first Marxist professors in the U. S. During the 1930's he attempted to synthesize Marxism with Dewey's pragmatism. He treated philosophy as the development of a critical and scientific intelligence to the clarification of human values and concrete social problems - a view he retained all his life. In the late 1920's, he prepared an English translation of Lenin's Materialism and Empiro-criticism, Vladimir Lenin's polemic agaist Ernst Mach. In the 1930's he wrote Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx and he wrote From Hegel to Marx, which even today still stand as the most significant pieces of Marxist scholarship produced in America. In the early 1930's he was very close to the Communist Party but later in the decade he took a strong anti-Stalinist position. He was a founder of the American Worker's Party and later of the Socialist Worker's Party. By the 1940's his political views began moving somewhat to the right. He supported Norman Thomas' Socialist Party. By the 1950's, he had become a staunch anticommunist and argued for the expulsion of Communist professors and students from the universities. As a member of the "New York Intellectuals" his political and philosophical views carried considerable weight among academics.

Regardless of what one might think of Hook's political views it seems he was regarded as a great teacher and many of his students rose to prominence in philosophy and other fields. Among his most well known students rank Delmore Schwartz, who was a poet and critic, union leader Albert Shanker, who was president of the American Federation of Teachers, and philosopher Paul Kurtz.

Sidney Hook was an outspoken humanist and atheist. He was active in such humanist organizations as the AHA and CODESH (now the Council for Secular Humanism), which his former student Paul Kurtz founded. Hook also wrote for the magazines, The Humanist and Free Inquiry.


Wikipedia article on Hook