The context of American philosophy has been one where, by and large, until recently, philosophical thinking and philosophical thinkers were put to work in the service of causes and for the achievement of objectives not determined by or intrinsic to philosophy itself. Thus, in the Colonial period, philosophical thinking was dominated by the interests of religion and religious leaders, such as the attempt on the part of Puritan divines to establish a theocracy. Later, philosophical thinking was put to work in the service of first, revolution, and then making a constitution and a government and a nation.

There was the academic philosophy of the schools and colleges, and also Transcendentalism, which was a rebellion against the prior. In the Transcendentalist period there was a turning inward, to the improvement of the soul and the spirit. But philosophy was still conceived of as having an essentially practical character and as being the most important thing in the world, since it related to the care of one's soul, a task promoted by the Transcendentalists.

Now the reason philosophy of culture is so important in the American philosophical tradition is that there was, in most of the significant Americn thinkers, a conviction that philosophy can and must relate to life and the interests of life, as theses are defined outside of philosophical concerns, and for the most of them their philosophies were responses to or reflections on the problems of life This in American philosophy, philosophy of culture and philosophy of education assumed a prominent role, because American thinkers thought that philosophy should have such relations.

There is also a rival of the ancient idea that philosophy is something to live by, and that it is not in accordance with the dignity of human beings not to have a philosophy to live by. So the main stream of the American philosophical tradition has been concerned with the philosophy of life and of society, and technical matters were regarded as of secondary importance. Although Charles S. Peirce, a prominent thinker in his time, is a pronounced exception, even for Peirce the end was the development of concrete reasonableness, and this also was a practical goal. It is especially because American philosophy had this character and developed in this context that we consider it in relation to American culture.

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