BUGBEE, Henry  (1915-1999)                                                                                            Return to Symposium Page

Best known for The Inward Morning:  A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form, Henry Bugbee was born
19 February 1915, in New York City.  He received a B.A. in philosophy from Princeton in 1936, submitting “In Demonstration of the Spirit” as an honors thesis in which we find lifelong philosophical concerns already in focus. Science and technology threaten to suppress a proper view of the distinctively human. A kind of aesthetic appreciation, rather than technical cognitive grip, is the key to meaningful moral or religious life. The Spanish existentialist Unamuno is exemplary here.  Bugbee’s graduate study at Berkeley was interrupted by naval service in the Pacific.  In 1948 he received his Ph.D., writing on aesthetics under Jacob LOEWENBERG.  After teaching at Stanford, he was invited to Harvard  (1948-1954), and then to the University of Montana (1957-1977), where he was twice department chair  He died in Missoula, 18 December 1999.  W. V. O. QUINE remembered him as "the ultimate exemplar of the examined life."

Huston SMITH commends The Inward Morning (1958) as “the most Daoist western book I know.” Others call it “a uniquely American existentialism,” a  “lyrical philosophy,” or a “philosophy of place.”  In journal format, Bugbee explores wilderness, art, philosophy, and responsive receptivity in human thought and action.  Shakespeare and Melville as well as Plato, Eckhart and Spinoza appear in a sweep of philosophical interest reminiscent of his student, Stanley CAVELL. In the 50s, Bugbee traveled with D. T.  Suzuki and joined Marcel in discussions with Heidegger.  He participated in colloquia with Gadamer at
Syracuse in the 70s. The Inward Morning was followed by essays on the Book of Job, wilderness, Marcel, the sublime, love, and education. Albert Borgmann, the philosophical environmentalist critic of technology, recalls his colleague as “a humanist par excellence” devoted to “the great literature of the West and the East” who “lived with and out of those texts.”

The lasting contribution of The Inward Morning is its moving evocations of wonder and attentive immersion in one’s place, of action and its precedents in responsiveness to a claim or call, of one’s personal “intuitive condition” so often abandoned for abstraction and theory, and of mystery underlying meaningful life.  These evocations exemplify a unique sense of philosophy and of writing philosophy. Bugbee confides that for him, philosophy is “an approximation to a poem,” wedded to the local and individual, a walking “meditation of the place.” The place evoked might be a gentle stream or deadly wartime battle; it might be a passage from Melville or Spinoza, or a discussion with C.I. LEWIS.  These “experiential reflections” are ineluctably first person.  The detached “reportorial” or “spectator’s” third-person stance toward the world and others, so characteristic of British empiricism and logical positivism, necessarily derails the quest for meaning that is the calling of philosophy and, in a wider sense, of human life. 

In his 1948 Dissertation, Bugbee traces a conception of being through Aristotle and evokes a sense of being peculiar to one’s place. In an American idiom, Heideggerian themes are pursued a full decade before Bugbee encountered Heidegger’s work. We learn that expressiveness of place is expressiveness of being, focused in a moment of recognition, Augenblick, in which both viewer and viewed, actor and ambiance, are transformed.  These themes are amplified in The Inward Morning.  Persons rely on mutual recognition for a sense of being and of their being. Such transformative moments can instill an inescapable sense of affirmative mutuality, an attunement to the eloquent reality of others and of place that blocks, for the moment, the shadow of skepticism, indifference, or despair. 

The Inward Morning, A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form, foreword, Gabriel
Marcel, Bald Eagle Press, 1958, University of Georgia Press, 1999, Intro.,  Edward F. Mooney
“The Moment of Obligation in Experience,” Journal of Religion, Vol. XXXIII, 1, Jan. 1953
“ Thoughts on Creation,” Essays in Philosophy, ed. Penn State University Philosophy Department, Penn State University Press, 1962
“On Starting with Love,” Humanitas, 2, no 2 (1966)
“The Philosophical Significance of the Sublime,” Philosophy Today 11, no 1/4, 1967
L’Exigence Ontologique,” The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, ed. Paul A. Schlipp, Open Court 1968
“Loneliness, Solitude, and the Twofold way in which Concern may be Claimed” Humanitas, Nov. 1974
“Le Recueillement et L’Accueil,” Les Etudes Philosophiques, 1975
“Wilderness in America,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 42, no 4, December 1974

Further reading
Wilderness and the Heart:  Henry Bugbee's  Philosophy of Place, Presence, and Memory
, ed.
Edward F. Mooney, Foreword by Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Georgia Press, 1999
Bruce Wilshire: “Henry Bugbee,” Chapt 9, The Primal Roots of American Philosophy,
Penn State University Press, 2000
Edward F. Mooney, “Two Testimonies in American Philosophy: Stanley Cavell, Henry Bugbee,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 17, 2, 2003    
Anthony Rudd, Expressing the World, Skepticism, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, Open Court 2003

Edward F. Mooney
Departments of Religion and
Syracuse University