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Paul Croce

Teacher and Culture Watcher

I stopped taking American culture for granted when I left the country as an undergraduate exchange student in England. I now research and teach American cultural and intellectual history in the History Department at Stetson University, DeLand, Florida, where I also direct the American Studies Program and the Student Research in Science and Religion (2SR) Program. My prime academic research deals with science, religion, and William James, the founder of American psychology, popularizer and refiner of pragmatic philosophizing, keen observer and theorist of religious experiences, and advocate for social justice. William James offers continuing wisdom for our time in moving beyond both the pessimism suggested by many empirical facts and the optimism of much idealism in favor of what he called meliorism, “The world…is what we make of it.” In other words, improvements will only come through our efforts. I am particularly dedicated to learning from contrasting opinions, ideologies, and philosophies, and that is where I am putting my efforts. James supports this enterprise. His writings offer examples for building bridges in our time between academia and the public, and across numerous divides. Having served as President of the William James Society and written Science and Religion in the Era of William James: Eclipse of Certainty (University of North Carolina Press, 1995, Young William James Thinking (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017, https://www.amazon.com/Young-William-James-Thinking-Croce/dp/1421423650/), and many shorter pieces (http://www.stetson.edu/artsci/american-studies/pcresearch.php), I have uncovered the ways that James’s youthful troubles shaped his creative and influential thinking about many cultural and intellectual puzzles ranging from body-mind relations to values polarization. Inspired by James’s commitment to public intellectual work, I teach courses in American history and contemporary culture related to major values questions (issues many grandparents urge not to bring up at the dinner table), including Darwinism and the Divine, War and Peace, Nature and the American Marketplace, USA: The Natural Experiment, History of American Health Care, Political Campaigns and Cultural Ideologies, and The 1950s and 1960s: First Years of Our Own Time. Before arriving at Stetson in 1988, I earned a B.A. (cum laude), from Georgetown and a Ph.D. from Brown University. Dozens of my articles for newspapers and magazines on politics, culture, and values questions have served as a public classroom; and my blog, The Public Classroom, is designed to make scholarly insights more available for public discussion. The opening essay, “Dreaming in Translation” (https://pubclassroom.com/category/why-pubclassroom/), expresses my dream to translate between these worlds that generally have little to do with each other but would benefit from more connection. Please join me. Read on, and listen to different voices.

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