Kallen, Horace Meyer

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KALLEN, HORACE MEYER (1882–1974), U.S. philosopher and educator. Kallen was born in Berenstadt, Silesia, Germany, the son of a rabbi, and was taken to the United States in 1887. Early in his career he taught at Harvard University (1908–11), Clark College (1910), and the University of Wisconsin (1911–18). He was one of the founders of the New School for Social Research in New York City and taught there 1919–52, serving as dean of the graduate faculty of political and social science, 1944–46. From 1952 to 1965 he was research professor there, and in 1965 he began teaching at Long Island University. Kallen was an active member of the Jewish community, working at such organizations as the American Jewish Congress, the American Association for Jewish education, of which he was vice president, and *yivo. He served on many government committees, e.g., the Presidential Commission on Higher Education and the New York City Commission on Intergroup Relations (1961), and was active in such organizations as the International League for the Rights of Man and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Kallen's philosophy has been characterized as Hebraism, aesthetic pragmatism, humanism, cultural pluralism, and cooperative individualism. Among its distinctive features is the stress on the variety of men and things in nature and society. Chance and individuality are primary in nature; law and group characteristics are secondary. Against the ancient Greek stress on fixity and eternity, Kallen's philosophy affirms the importance of time, change, becoming, and futurity. As a Hebraist he rejected predestination in any form. He believed in freedom of the will and in each individual's responsibility for his actions. Kallen's cultural pluralism affirms that each ethnic and cultural group in the United States has a special contribution to make to the variety and richness of American culture and, thus, provided a rationale for those Jews who wish to preserve their Jewish cultural identity in the American melting pot. He argued strongly for 60 years that the Jewish people need a homeland in Palestine to protect them against persecution and to enhance their Jewish cultural heritage. He also championed the ideal of a world in which all varieties of peoples and cultures will be able to live together, each one the equal of the others in its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to Kallen, the goal of modern education and society is the creation of free men in an expanding free society. He warned that such a free society can be preserved only if moral conviction is accompanied by military strength. In the economic sphere he urged consumers' cooperatives as a protection against business exploitation. Kallen's aesthetics were concerned with the relations between beauty, use, and freedom in the context of each individual's experience. All ideas, values, deeds, tools, and methods are to be tested by their contribution to the satisfactions of human beings.

Although Kallen's philosophy was addressed to all mankind, he always affirmed his debt to the positive values of his Jewish inheritance. By affirming his integrity as a Jew he vindicated the integrity of the Jew as a man and thinker. His insistence on the link between thought and action led him into active participation in the extension of democracy at home and abroad, especially in relation to civil liberties and minority rights. Kallen's writings include, among many others, The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (1918); Zionism and World Politics (1921); Judaism at Bay (1932); Individualism: An American Way of Life (1933); The Decline and Rise of the Consumer (1936); Art and Freedom (2 vols., 1942); The Education of Free Men (1949); Of Them Which Say They Are Jews (1954), edited by J. Pilch, a collection of Kallen's essays on the Jewish struggle for survival; Utopians at Bay (1958) on his impressions of Israel; and Liberty, Laughter and Tears (1968).


S. Hook and M.R. Konvitz (eds.), Freedom and Experience; Essays Presented to Horace M. Kallen (1947), includes bibliography; S. Ratner (ed.), Vision and Action; Essays in Honor of Horace M. Kallen (1953), includes bibliography; A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea (1960), 524–33.

[Sidney Ratner]