The Philosophy of Alain Locke

Harlem Renaissance and Beyond

Leonard Harris
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-829-5
Publication: Feb 91

HC: $34.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-584-3
Publication: Mar 89

Ebook: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0436-7

344 pages

8 halftones

Important writings on cultural pluralism, value relativism, and critical relativism


This collection of essays by American philosopher Alain Locke (1885-1954) makes readily available for the first time his important writings on cultural pluralism, value relativism, and critical relativism. As a black philosopher early in this century, Locke was a pioneer: having earned both undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Harvard, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, studied at the University of Berlin, and chaired the Philosophy Department at Howard University for almost four decades. He was perhaps best known as a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Locke’s works in philosophy—many previously unpublished—conceptually frame the Harlem Renaissance and New Negro movement and provide an Afro-American critique of pragmatism and value absolutism, and also offer a view of identity, communicative competency, and contextualism. In addition, his major works on the nature of race, race relations, and the role of race-conscious literature are presented to demonstrate the application of his philosophy. Locke’s commentaries on the major philosophers of his day, including James, Royce, Santayana, Perry, and Ehrenfels help tell the story of his relationship to his former teachers and his theoretical affinities.

In his substantial Introduction and interpretive concluding chapter, Leonard Harris describes Locke’s life, evaluates his role as an American philosopher and theoretician of the Harlem Renaissance, situates him in the pragmatist tradition, and outlines his affinities with modern deconstructionist ideas. A chronology of the philosopher’s life and bibliography of his works are also provided. Although much has been written about Alain Locke, this is the first book to focus on his philosophical contributions.


"An especially timely book in its constant emphasis on the deep connection between the ethical/political and the metaphysical/epistemological spheres of philosophy and indeed 'real life.'" Radical Philosophy Review of Books

"There is absolutely no doubt that this book is a very useful addition to the corpus of work in Afro American—indeed, in American—philosophy. Locke's unpublished work on the question of value reveals a good deal about the ways in which American philosophers approached questions of value in the mid-century, before logical positivism had had its major impact on American thought; and his contributions to the issue of cultural pluralism are historically important and still influential." Anthony Appiah, Cornell University

"A challenging book. It forces the reader to cross interdisciplinary boundaries that are not often transgressed." Ethics

"It is the first volume to anthologize the specifically philosophical writings of an Afro-American savant who is virtually unknown as a philosopher. It thereby introduces us to a new Alain Locke. And this occurs at a time when a number of younger Afro-American philosophers have become increasingly curious about their ancient sage." Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy

Table of Contents

Rendering the Text – Leonard Harris

Part I: Epistemological Foundations
1. Values and Imperatives
2. Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy
3. Cultural Relativism and Ideological Peace
4. A Functional View of Value Ultimates
5. Pluralism and Ideological Peace
6. Good Reading
7. Value

Part II: Valuation: Commentaries and Reviews
8. The Orientation of Hope
9. Unity through Diversity
10. Santayana
11. Moral Imperatives for World Order
12. Philosophy Alive
13. Values That Matter

Part III: Identity and Plurality
14. The Problem of Race Classification
5. The Ethics of Culture
16. The Concept of Race as Applied to Social Culture
17. The Contribution of Race to Culture
18. Who and What Is "Negro"?
19. Frontiers of Culture

Part IV: Identity and Education
20. Negro Education Bids for Par
21. Negro Needs as Adult Education Opportunities
22. The Need for a New Organon in Education

An Interpretation
Rendering the Subtext: Subterranean Deconstructive Project – Leonard Harris


About the Author(s)

Leonard Harris is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University.