Sidney Hook

On this date in 1902, Sidney Hook was born in New York, N.Y. He graduated from the City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in 1923, and earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1927, where he studied under philosopher John Dewey. After graduation, Hook became a professor of philosophy at New York University (1927–1969) and served as head of the department of philosophy (1948–1969). He was a senior research fellow for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University (1973–1989). Hook was a philosopher known for being a Marxist who later became an anti-communist. He wrote many philosophical books, including The Metaphysics of Pragmatism (1927), Toward the Understanding of Karl Marx (1933) and Pragmatism and the Tragic Sense of Life (1974). He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Hook was married to Carrie Katz from 1924-1933 and they have a son, John Bertrand. He married Ann Zinkin in 1935 and they have two children: Ernest Benjamin Hook and Susan Ann Goulian. 

Hook was a self-described secular humanist, secularist and rationalist who “could not accept the validity of any of the traditional arguments for the existence of God” (Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century, Sidney Hook, 1987). In his 1987 autobiography Out of Step, Hook wrote: “Where religion acquires institutional stability and authority, it is relatively indifferent to political freedom. . . . The religious view of the world becomes sensitive to human freedom only when it is being persecuted.” D. 1989

“As a set of cognitive beliefs, religious doctrines constitute a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.” 

—Sidney Hook, The Partisan Review, March 1950.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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