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The American Mind

Explore the immensely stimulating conversation that made the United States what it is today.
The American Mind is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 105.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title in my opinion is consistent I have yet to complete the entire course, however the lectures I have completed have been well presented, information packed, with many leads that have peaked my interest in continuing an attempt to discern, Just what “The American Mind/(s) ” really consist of.
Date published: 2024-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It Made My American Mind Think This is a chronological overview of American social philosophy, i.e., how “the American mind” thinks. The framework of this course is that as America grew, it faces new challenges and needed to develop new ways of thinking and acting in answer to those challenges. Thus, “the American mind” evolved over time. The course traces the chronological development of American social values. The course starts in the colonial era with an emphasis on religious thinking, particularly that of Jonathan Edwards. It passes through the horrors of slavery and the Civil War, leading American to look beyond religion. It grapples with the Gilded age, the Great Depression, and materialism. It finally arrives at the tumultuous 1960’s and the Conservative resurgence under President Ronald Reagan. Although Dr. Guelzo does not state so explicitly, it seemed to me to show a gradual shift from religious thinking to philosophical thinking to political thinking. Dr. Guelzo is equally adept and even-handed in each of these disciplines. Dr. Guelzo’s lecture style impresses me more as a dramatic reading than as a conversation with the student. However, he paces the course well, and does manage to convey an interest in his subject. His specialties are religious history and the American Civil War but he is quite comfortable in the wider range of this course. The course guide is well below average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. It is in outline format as opposed to paragraph format, which limits its usefulness as a reference should one want to look up something after having taken the course. It averages only about three pages per lecture, which is about half of TGC standard. It has no visual graphics. It does have a timeline, a glossary, biographical notes, and a bibliography with internet resources. I used the video version. However, there are few useful graphics and the course would work just as well in audio mode as when commuting or exercising. The course was published in 2005.
Date published: 2023-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PLEASE - Create 'The American Mind CONTINUED' Having watched +200 courses, this one of the few I watched twice in full. It is full of valuable insights, and (as always) Guelzo is a mesmerizing speaker (and certainly one of the very best on Wondrium)! Please Wondrium--as mentioned by the prof at the very end of Lecture 36--invite him back to deliver a "CONTINUED" version of this course. I would love to hear his take, from an 'American Mind' perspective, on the events, movements and personalities/leaders that have occurred/risen since this course was made (Trump, Woke, BLM, 1619 Project, social media, etc.). Finally, while some may reasonably quibble about Guelzo's views and/or background with regard to this course, he makes persuasive arguments for those in most, if not all, cases IMHO. While you don't have to agree with some, or any, of his points/themes, I believe you will learn A LOT (as I did). Likewise, at the end of lecture 36, he freely admits that various themes/minds were left out of the course bc it was limited to 36 lectures--which seems more like a reason to create a 'Continued' course with another 18 to 36 lectures, rather than a justified critique of this one IMHO.
Date published: 2023-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Course I loved this course! It provides an over view of the major intellectual forces that shaped the United States and helped me put American history into an intellectual context. Specifically, it showed me how Americans continue to grapple with the same questions over time, particularly individual versus collective rights. In addtiion, the professor is engaging and makes the material very accessible. I highly recommend the course.
Date published: 2023-07-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Massive Disappointment Of the 46 Teaching Company courses I have purchased, this is the only one that thoroughly disappointed me. The period between 1680 CE and 1730 CE was the greatest revolution in human thought in history. It was a time in which Stone Age beliefs represented by received authority were being rejected in favor experimentation and observation of the natural world. Yet the presenter would have one conclude (erroneously) that while this was occurring in Europe, it bypassed the USA entirely. The 18th century in particular in the USA was a time in which a continual dialog occurred over the nature of science, political theory, and individual rights. The entire nation was abuzz with the writings of the pamphleteers such as Paine, robust debates in every tavern and way station, and the papers written by educated men such as the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers. But we get none of that in this course. The lecturer instead wastes the entire course covering the quibbling between obscure preachers. If one wants to know the mind of 17th and 18th century American minds, pick up Alan Charles Kors courses and extrapolate to the Americas. But if you are driven to know the middle names of 300 of the most obscure people in American religious history and their wives, then this is the course for you
Date published: 2023-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yes - please do offer more of his courses here. I would love to learn more from this eloquent, organized and great speaking Professor as he delves in to various inspired aspects of American history and how we can learn by it, to better improve the history which we leave to future generations.
Date published: 2023-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from History as a thought process. This is not a "who did what, when and how" history course but, rather, an attempt to examine the thought processes and insights of "Americans" from the early settlement years onward. It is also not a course of study for everyone. Discussions of the thought abstractions encountered and embraced (or rejected) over the years can get tedious at times, notwithstanding the excellent presentation skills of the lecturer. Much history is learned from this course of study; how is can be applied to the daily here and now will vary greatly from student to student.
Date published: 2023-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive! As a man of science nearing retirement, I am now taking the opportunity to pursue other interests. Thanks to Professor Guelzo, I am now a serious student of history. I've read the reviews mentioning some bias, but that's why we should learn history from a variety of sources. It is obvious to me that Prof. Guelzo has an impressive encyclopedic command of U.S. history and the cultural context which provides a proper framework for understanding the big picture Having previously viewed his shorter contribution in another Great Course, History of the United States, I at first thought he was excessively theatrical in his presentation in an effort to excite interest in his audience. My opinion changed after viewing this course. Prof. Guelzo seems to be genuinely excited about the story he is telling...and it is quite a story! He really knows how to move around that podium in a natural way to emphasize different emotional aspects of his storytelling. Several times, it doesn't even look like he is using a teleprompter, so powerful is he in command of his subject. After setting the stage of understanding with several facts, he sometimes leans in a bit to establish an effective "Entre nous ..." to prompt us into accepting a possible speculation or outcome. Prof. Guelzo is a master of presentation dynamics and vocal range. That he is also such a brilliant man with academic gravitas motivated me to buy some of his books. They are well-written and captivating, as I imagine his oration while reading. I am thankful to The Great Courses for providing the opportunity for me to take a course I would have otherwise completely missed.
Date published: 2022-12-03
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America's distinct philosophy stems from a powerful body of thought that extends back to the first European settlers and that was enriched by later generations of American thinkers including Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, William James, and Martin Luther King Jr. Explore the immensely stimulating conversation that made the United States what it is today with The American Mind, 36 lectures that provide you with a broad survey of American intellectual history. In this course, delve into the philosophical underpinnings of our nation and trace ideas in politics, religion, education, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, literature, social theory, and science as they helped build the elaborate structure that became modern America. Taught by distinguished historian and award-winning Professor Allen C. Guelzo, this course takes you to the heart of what it means to think like-and be-an American.


Allen C. Guelzo

For Lincoln, no matter what our political persuasions, moral principle in the end is all that unites us and all that ensures that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.


Gettysburg College

Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Professor Guelzo is the author of numerous books on American intellectual history, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War era. His publication awards include the Lincoln Prize as well as the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for two of his books-Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America–making him the first double Lincoln laureate in the history of both prizes. His critically acclaimed book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. Professor Guelzo has written for The American Historical Review, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, C-SPAN's Booknotes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

By This Professor

America's Founding Fathers
The Intellectual Geography of America

01: The Intellectual Geography of America

Is there an American mind? The view of Americans as doers rather than thinkers has been reinforced by the way American intellectual history is traditionally taught. However, this approach is suspect because it ignores large parts of the national debate over ideas.

34 min
The Technology of Puritan Thinking

02: The Technology of Puritan Thinking

As colonizers, the Puritans brought with them a vibrant intellectual life, born partly of the Calvinist Reformation and partly of medieval scholasticism. But they also brought with them unresolved problems over the intellect and the will.

35 min
The Enlightenment in America

03: The Enlightenment in America

The Enlightenment made its first beachheads in America in the colonial colleges, beginning at Harvard and including the College of William and Mary, the Academy of Philadelphia, and Yale. The attraction of Enlightenment thinking was both intellectual and cultural.

30 min
Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening

04: Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening

Jonathan Edwards was influenced by the immaterialism of British philosopher Bishop George Berkeley, using that philosophical base to criticize compromisers among the ranks of New England Puritanism. Ultimately, immaterialism became linked to Edwards's role in the spiritual revival known as the Great Awakening.

30 min
The Colonial Colleges

05: The Colonial Colleges

The Great Awakening was a major force in establishing new colleges in colonial America, as angry Awakeners turned their backs on institutions such as Yale and Harvard and founded alternative colleges. But these colleges were quickly absorbed into the intellectual life of the Enlightenment.

30 min
Republican Fundamentals

06: Republican Fundamentals

As the American colonies prospered, the British government took steps to regulate that prosperity. The colonies resented this intrusion and found in the classical liberalism of English Whig political theorists a ready explanation for the legitimacy of their own governments.

30 min
Nature’s God and the American Revolution

07: Nature’s God and the American Revolution

Long in gestation, the ideas that made the American Revolution trace back to the Enlightenment resistance to authority, the colonists' religious radicalism, and the example of the English Whigs. All that was needed to set off revolt was the British government's attempt to override the colonies' own assemblies.

30 min
Deism, Science, and Revolution

08: Deism, Science, and Revolution

If America was the darling of the Enlightenment, then the Enlightenment's favorite location in America was Philadelphia, thanks to its extraordinary collection of thinkers and institutions, and to its commitment to reconciling science and religion in the spirit of Scottish "common sense" philosophy.

30 min
Hamilton and His Money

09: Hamilton and His Money

Only when America's Whigs had a republic on their hands did they realize that there was no agreement on what shape a republic should take—whether it should follow the example of Jefferson and classical republicanism or the commercial liberal republicanism of Alexander Hamilton.

31 min
Jefferson and His Debts

10: Jefferson and His Debts

Jefferson is revered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and a paragon of reason. However, his experience of debt drove him to romanticize the glories of independent farming and promote policies that broke the old revolutionary coalition into Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties.

29 min
The Edwardseans—From Hopkins to Finney

11: The Edwardseans—From Hopkins to Finney

The Revolution was a disappointment to religious leaders who hoped to ride its victories to new levels of moral and cultural authority. But the disciples of Jonathan Edwards soon learned how to restart the energies of revival and reverse the fall of the republic into Enlightenment secularism.

32 min
The Moral Philosophers

12: The Moral Philosophers

Scottish "common sense" philosophy became a vehicle by which religious thinkers reintroduced religious morality into public life by cloaking it in "natural law." These moral philosophers would have enjoyed even greater influence had they not failed to solve the knottiest of American problems in public ethics: slavery.

31 min
Whigs and Democrats

13: Whigs and Democrats

Although Republican political theory deplored political parties, both Jefferson and Hamilton emerged as the heads of parties in the 1790s. Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans dominated Hamilton's Federalists, but the Jeffersonians themselves split in the 1830s, spawning the Whigs, led by Henry Clay.

31 min
American Romanticism

14: American Romanticism

The Enlightenment's glorification of reason eventually fostered a backlash in the form of Romanticism. The influence of religious revivalism and the distaste for democratic politics combined to breed an American Romanticism, with New England Transcendentalism as its most talented manifestation.

31 min
Faith and Reason at Princeton

15: Faith and Reason at Princeton

The challenge offered to religion by Enlightenment reason was never as stark as it seemed. Many Enlightenment figures continued to experiment in religion, and many religious thinkers assimilated the principles of reason into more persuasive forms of belief, notably at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

30 min
Romanticism in Mercersburg

16: Romanticism in Mercersburg

American Romanticism often manifested itself as a rebellion against past authority. However, some conservative forms of Romanticism embraced the past and glorified tradition and history as a different way of questioning the supremacy of reason.

32 min
Slaveholders and Abolitionists

17: Slaveholders and Abolitionists

The use of slave labor was the one blot on the record of American liberty, made all the more disgraceful by the way it defined slaves as chattel property. Most embarrassing of all, slavery was attacked not on the basis of Enlightenment reason but by radical religious Romantics.

32 min
Lincoln and Liberal Democracy

18: Lincoln and Liberal Democracy

Lincoln's election as president finally delivered the nation's political initiative into the hands of an opponent of slavery. The ensuing Civil War allowed him both to destroy slavery and to install the Whig economic and political agenda as the reigning American ideology.

31 min
The Failure of the Genteel Elite

19: The Failure of the Genteel Elite

Despite its success at preserving the Union, the Civil War and the corruption that followed in its wake disillusioned many American thinkers with religious orthodoxy and democratic society. The postwar decades became the "Gilded Age," dominated by corporate models of organization and cynical social critics.

32 min
Darwin in America

20: Darwin in America

Published in 1859, Darwin's Origin of Species had a delayed impact in America because of the Civil War. But in the postwar decades, Darwin's ideas undermined support of a public role for religion and spawned social philosophies that lauded unrestrained economic competition.

31 min
Liberalism and the Social Gospel

21: Liberalism and the Social Gospel

Evolution posed a moral problem to thinkers who embraced a Darwinian account of human origins but shrank from applying the logic of natural selection to human society. The result was a struggle to accommodate religion to Darwinism, which flowered into religious liberalism and the Social Gospel.

32 min
The Agony of William James

22: The Agony of William James

No family in America followed an intellectual path as tortured as that of William James, whose own life was a struggle to reconcile Darwin, materialism, and science with religion. It was only in pragmatism that James found room for hope and peace of mind.

33 min
Josiah Royce—The Idealist Dissenter

23: Josiah Royce—The Idealist Dissenter

If pragmatism suited James as a replacement for absolutes, it left Josiah Royce unsatisfied. Royce represents both the last serious effort by an American philosopher to build a workable notion of idealism, as well as the last American philosopher to command an important public audience for philosophy.

36 min
John Dewey and Social Pragmatism

24: John Dewey and Social Pragmatism

Influenced by the postwar battles of capital and labor, John Dewey translated James's pragmatism into an optimistic but morally relativistic social policy, in which social democracy rather than the assuagement of personal doubt was the ultimate objective.

31 min
Socialism in America

25: Socialism in America

The postwar wave of corporate industrial organization was met by an opposing wave of working-class resistance, and that resistance was frequently attracted by the promise of socialism. Socialism as an ideology, however, had few takers in America.

30 min
Populists, Progressives, and War

26: Populists, Progressives, and War

In the 1880s, widespread grievances of farmers crystallized in the Populist Movement, while the most important reform ideology among the middle class was Progressivism, where the main concern was not about redistribution or revolution but about efficiency.

31 min
Decade of the Disenchanted

27: Decade of the Disenchanted

The idealism with which Woodrow Wilson led America into World War I and the disappointments that followed produced a deeply jaded rejection of all idealisms, moral and political. The great voices of the 1920s were its skeptics, cynics, and mockers.

30 min
The Social Science Revolution

28: The Social Science Revolution

The idea that human societies could be reduced to scientific analysis was another byproduct of the Enlightenment, which saw no reason why the discovery of physical law should not be matched by the discovery of social law.

29 min
The New South versus the New Negro

29: The New South versus the New Negro

The post-Civil War South was torn between a romantic attachment to the "Lost Cause" myth and submission to the industrial system of the victorious North. Two backward-looking trends that emerged were the New Agrarians of the 1930s and the Jim Crow legislation imposed on American blacks.

30 min
FDR and the Intellectuals

30: FDR and the Intellectuals

The Great Depression traumatized the American psyche and, with the election of Franklin Roosevelt, brought about a dramatic realignment of American political life. The Depression also turned American intellectuals decisively against industrial capitalism and even drove many to embrace Communism.

30 min
Science under the Cloud

31: Science under the Cloud

The development of the atomic bomb was both a tremendous public achievement for American scientists and the origin of a serious moral dilemma—all the more so since the culture of American science was built around the conviction that moral dilemmas were unscientific.

28 min
Ironic Judgments

32: Ironic Judgments

Considered the greatest American theologian of his day, Reinhold Niebuhr exposed the facile underpinnings of liberal optimism. His skepticism came mixed with an urgency to separate ethics from perfectionism so that it could function in the real-world struggle against totalitarianism.

30 min
Mass Culture and Mass Consumption

33: Mass Culture and Mass Consumption

The rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe in the 1930s propelled a wave of intellectual immigration to America. But many émigrés were shocked by the grip of commercial culture on American thinking. The American response in the 1950s was to glorify mass culture and turn it into an art form, pop art.

31 min
Integration and Separation

34: Integration and Separation

The persistence of segregation left black intellectuals looking for radical solutions. It was a mainstream religious figure, Martin Luther King, Jr., who guided the black struggle for civil rights back onto the path of integration into American society and culture.

27 min
The Rebellion of the Privileged

35: The Rebellion of the Privileged

World War II was a triumph over fascism, but not necessarily in favor of liberal democracy. The Vietnam War radicalized both American intellectuals and a new generation of college students into a New Left—a movement that eventually wilted in the face of government hostility and public indifference.

31 min
The Neo-Conservatives

36: The Neo-Conservatives

Erected by émigré intellectuals after World War II, American conservatism was a composite movement, combining elements of religious dissent and secular liberalism. It also offered a viable intellectual alternative for Americans who remained fundamentally loyal to the liberalism of the Founders.

34 min