Sidney Hook

Sidney Hook (December 20 1902–July 12 1989) was a prominent New York intellectual and philosopher who championed pragmatism.


Born in Brooklyn to Jennie and Isaac Hook, who were Austrian-Jewish immigrants, Hook was a Socialist Party supporter during the Debs era when he was in high school. He earned his Bachelor's degree at the City College of New York in 1923, then his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1927, where he was a student of the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey. Upon finishing his studies, Hook was hired by New York University, which employed him until his retirement in 1972. From 1948 to 1969 he was head of the department of philosophy.

At the beginning of his career, Hook achieved prominence as an expert on Karl Marx's philosophy and was himself a Marxist. He visited Moscow in 1929 and wrote enthusiastically about the Soviet Union. In 1932 he supported the Communist Party's William Z. Foster when he ran for President of the United States. However, Hook broke completely with the international Communist movement in 1933, holding its policies responsible for the triumph of Nazism in Germany. He accused Stalin of putting "the needs of the Russian state" over the needs of the international revolution. []

Hook remained, however, active on the left during the Great Depression. He was a leading member of the American Workers Party headed by A. J. Muste. In the late 1930s, Hook assisted Leon Trotsky's efforts to clear his name in a special Commission of Inquiry headed by Dewey, which investigated Stalinist charges made against Trotsky during the Moscow Trials.

The Great Purge prompted in Hook an increasing ambivalence toward Marxism. In 1939, Hook formed the Committee for Cultural Freedom, a shortlived organization that set the stage for his postwar politics by opposing "totalitarianism" on the left and right. By the time of the Cold War Hook was a prominent anti-Communist, although he continued to consider himself a democratic socialist throughout his life.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hook helped found Americans for Intellectual Freedom, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. These bodies—the CCF was most central—were funded by the CIA through a variety of fronts, and sought to dissuade American liberals or leftists from continuing to advocate cooperation with the Soviet Union. []

In the 1960s, Hook was a frequent critic of the New Left. He ended his career in the 1970s and 1980s as a fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution in Stanford, California.

On May 23 1985 Hook was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

Books by Hook

*"The Metaphysics of Pragmatism" (1927)
*"Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation" (1933)
*"The Meaning of Marx" (edited collection, 1934)
*"From Hegel to Marx" (1936)
*"John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait" (1939)
*"Reason, Social Myths, and Democracy" (1940)
*"The Hero in History" (1943)
*"Education for Modern Man" (1946)
*"John Dewey: Philosopher of Science and Freedom" (editor, 1950)
*"Heresy, Yes; Conspiracy, No" (1953)
*"Marx and the Marxists: The Ambiguous Legacy" (1955)
*"Common Sense and the Fifth Amendment" (1957)
*"Political Power and Personal Freedom" (1959)
*"The Quest for Being, and Other Studies in Naturalism and Humanism" (1961)
*"The Paradoxes of Freedom" (1963)
*"The Place of Religion in a Free Society" (1968)
*"Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy" (1970)
*"Pragmatism and the Tragic Sense of Life" (1974)
*"Marxism and Beyond" (1983)
*"Out of Step" (1987)
*"Convictions" (1990)

Articles by Hook Available Online

* [ "Karl Marx and Moses Hess," 1934]
* [ "Marx's Criticism of 'True Socialism,'" 1935]
* [ "Marx and Feuerbach," 1936]
* [ "Heresy, Yes—But Conspiracy, No," "New York Times", 1950]

Books on Hook

*"Sidney Hook: A Checklist of Writings", ed. Barbara Levine, Southern Illinois University, 1989.
*"Sidney Hook: Philosopher of Democracy and Humanism", ed. Paul Kurtz, Prometheus, 1983.
*"Sidney Hook Reconsidered", ed. Matthew J. Cotter, Prometheus, 2004.
* [ "Young Sidney Hook: Marxist and Pragmatist",] by Christopher Phelps, Cornell University, 1997 (2d ed., University of Michigan, 2005).

External links

* [ Book review of new edition of "Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx" (1933)]
* [ Paul Mattick pamphlet in opposition to Hook (1936)]
* [ Meyer Shapiro's polemic against Hook, published in "Fourth International" under the pseudonym "Morrison" (1943)]
* [ Julius Jacobson on Hook and Cold War liberalism]
* [ CIA study of Hook's role in Congress for Cultural Freedom]
* [ "Chronicle of Higher Education" article on legacy of Sidney Hook]
* [ "New Yorker" reflection on controversy over Hook's centennial]
* [ "Left Hook, Right Hook: The Rules of Engagement," by Christopher Phelps]
* [ "Fearless Sidney Hook," by Thomas Main]
* [ "Sidney Hook Reconsidered," by Robert Talisse]
* [ Review] of the 1995 "Letters of Sidney Hook" - by David Gordon (Fall 1998)
* [ Warning against Menachem Begin.]

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