Wilderness in America: Philosophical Writings, by Henry Bugbee. Edited by David W. Rodick. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017. 224 pp. Cloth $110. Paperback $32.
Henry G. Bugbee, Jr., is best known for his remarkable work The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form, first published in 1958 and reissued twice since then. In the collection of writings published under the title Wilderness in America, David Rodick shows the larger context for the journal entries of The Inward Morning and goes a long way toward filling out the arc of Bugbee's life and career.
The arc that Rodick presents includes selections from Bugbee's student writings, three of his mature published essays, four unpublished essays, an in-depth interview conducted in the waning years of Bugbee's life, and finally a set of appendices, which includes insightful commentary, reflection, and testimony from friends and colleagues who knew Bugbee well. "The end in view throughout," says Rodick, "has been to allow Bugbee the opportunity to speak in his own words and, when appropriate, through the words of others: those both familiar with the man as well as with his philosophy" (2).
The selections from Bugbee's student days come from his bachelor's thesis, "In Demonstration of the Spirit" (Princeton University, 1936), and his Ph.D. dissertation "The Sense and Conception of Being" (University of California, Berkeley, 1947). Not surprisingly, the Ph.D. dissertation is the more mature of the two documents. This is so not simply because it reflects the intellectual growth one would naturally expect of someone who has completed a rigorous doctoral program, but also because it reflects the maturity borne of four years of service in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific theatre, some of it as the commanding officer of a minesweeper. Still, it is important to note that Bugbee would undoubtedly have been uncomfortable seeing either of these documents published. For him, publishing the undergraduate thesis was never a consideration. He briefly entertained the thought of publishing his Ph.D. dissertation (his principal advisor recommended that he do so), but finally rejected the idea because he concluded that in his attempt to develop an "experiential" metaphysics he had failed to offer an adequate philosophical anthropology. The Sense and Conception of Being, Bugbee observed, "left man out of the account, and, in so doing, [fell] short of a philosophy of...