In the tradition of grand sweeping histories such as From Dawn To Decadence, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and A History of God, Hecht champions doubt and questioning as one of the great and noble, if unheralded, intellectual traditions that distinguish the Western mind especially-from Socrates to Galileo and Darwin to Wittgenstein and Hawking. This is an account of the world's greatest 'intellectual virtuosos, ' who are also humanity's greatest doubters and disbelievers, from the ancient Greek philosophers, Jesus, and the Eastern religions, to modern secular equivalents Marx, Freud and Darwin--and their attempts to reconcile the seeming meaninglessness of the universe with the human need for meaning,
This remarkable book ranges from the early Greeks, Hebrew figures such as Job and Ecclesiastes, Eastern critical wisdom, Roman stoicism, Jesus as a man of doubt, Gnosticism and Christian mystics, medieval Islamic, Jewish and Christian skeptics, secularism, the rise of science, modern and contemporary critical thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, the existentialists.
A great read.--Whoopi Goldberg, The ViewHow the clash between the civil rights firebrand and the father of modern conservatism continues to illuminate America's racial divide On February 18, 1965, an overflowing crowd packed the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England, to witness a historic televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley Jr., a fierce critic of the movement and America's most influential conservative intellectual. The topic was the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro, and no one who has seen the debate can soon forget it. Nicholas Buccola's The Fire Is upon Us is the first book to tell the full story of the event, the radically different paths that led Baldwin and Buckley to it, the controversies that followed, and how the debate and the decades-long clash between the men continues to illuminate America's racial divide today. Born in New York City only fifteen months apart, the Harlem-raised Baldwin and the privileged Buckley could not have been more different, but they both rose to the height of American intellectual life during the civil rights movement. By the time they met in Cambridge, Buckley was determined to sound the alarm about a man he considered an eloquent menace. For his part, Baldwin viewed Buckley as a deluded reactionary whose popularity revealed the sickness of the American soul. The stage was set for an epic confrontation that pitted Baldwin's call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley's unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy. A remarkable story of race and the American dream, The Fire Is upon Us reveals the deep roots and lasting legacy of a conflict that continues to haunt our politics.
Paul Hazard's magisterial, widely influential, and beloved intellectual history offers an unforgettable account of the birth of the modern European mind in all its dynamic, inquiring, and uncertain glory. Beginning his story in the latter half of the seventeenth century, while also looking back to the Renaissance and forward to the future, Hazard traces the process by which new developments
in the sciences, arts, philosophy, and philology came to undermine the stable foundations of the classical world, with its commitment to tradition, stability, proportion, and settled usage. Hazard shows how travelers' tales and archaeological investigation widened European awareness and acceptance of cultural difference; how the radical rationalism of Spinoza and Richard Simon's new historical exegesis of the Bible called into question the revealed truths of religion; how the Huguenot Pierre Bayle's critical dictionary of ideas paved the way for Voltaire and the Enlightenment, even as the empiricism of Locke encouraged a new attention to sensory experience that led to Rousseau and romanticism. Hazard's range of knowledge is vast, and whether the subject is operas, excavations, or scientific experiments his brilliant style and powers of description bring to life the thinkers who thought up the modern world.
European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and scholars who supported or excused the worst tyrannies of the age. How was this possible? How could intellectuals whose work depends on freedom defend those who would deny it?In profiles of six leading twentieth-century thinkers--Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Koj ve, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida--Mark Lilla explores the psychology of political commitment. As continental Europe gave birth to two great ideological systems in the twentieth century, communism and fascism, it also gave birth to a new social type, the philotyrannical intellectual. Lilla shows how these thinkers were not only grappling with enduring philosophical questions, they were also writing out of their own experiences and passions. These profiles demonstrate how intellectuals can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results. In a new afterword, Lilla traces how the intellectual world has changed since the end of the cold war. The ideological passions of the past have been replaced in the West, he argues, by a dogma of individual autonomy and freedom that both obscures the historical forces at work in the present and sanctions ignorance about them, leaving us ill-equipped to understand those who are inflamed by the new global ideologies of our time.
A compelling intellectual and literary history of midcentury AmericaIn a midcentury American cultural episode forgotten today, intellectuals of all schools shared a belief that human nature was under threat. The immediate result was a glut of dense, abstract books on the nature of man. But the dawning age of the crisis of man, as Mark Greif calls it, was far more than a historical curiosity. In this ambitious intellectual and literary history, Greif recovers this lost line of thought to show how it influenced society, politics, and culture before, during, and long after World War II. During the 1930s and 1940s, fears of the barbarization of humanity energized New York intellectuals, Chicago protoconservatives, European Jewish migr s, and native-born bohemians to seek re-enlightenment, a new philosophical account of human nature and history. After the war this effort diffused, leading to a rebirth of modern human rights and a new power for the literary arts. Critics' predictions of a death of the novel challenged writers to invest bloodless questions of human nature with flesh and detail. Hemingway, Faulkner, and Richard Wright wrote flawed novels of abstract man. Succeeding them, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Flannery O'Connor, and Thomas Pynchon constituted a new guard who tested philosophical questions against social realities--race, religious faith, and the rise of technology--that kept difference and diversity alive. By the 1960s, the idea of universal man gave way to moral antihumanism, as new sensibilities and social movements transformed what had come before. Greif's reframing of a foundational debate takes us beyond old antagonisms into a new future, and gives a prehistory to the fractures of our own era.
Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign--Desforges Pianos--he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop's imperious owner. Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier's master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them, from amateur pianists to the craftsmen who make the mechanism sing. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is at once a beguiling portrait of a Paris not found on any map and a tender account of the awakening of a lost childhood passion.
Praise for The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
-San Francisco Chronicle "Captivating . . . Carhart] joins the tiny company of foreigners who have written of the French as verbs. . . . What he tries to capture is not the sight of them, but what they see."
-The New York Times "Thoroughly engaging . . . In part it is a book about that most unpredictable and pleasurable of human experiences, serendipity. . . . The book is also about something more difficult to pin down, friendship and community."
-The Washington Post "Carhart writes with a sensuousness enhanced by patience and grounded by the humble acquisition of new insight into music, his childhood, and his relationship to the city of Paris."
-The New Yorker NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
Once seen as a dark and sinister force, the domain of monsters, the sea was associated with catastrophe and fear by many Europeans prior to the eighteenth century. Alain Corbin's engaging book reveals how attitudes toward the ocean gradually began to shift from the negative to the positive, so that by the mid-1800s our present-day salubrious notion of the seashore had come into being.Going back to ancient times, Corbin describes conceptions of the sea in relationship to how people thought and felt about their place in the world. He then shows how the Enlightenment and changing attitudes in science, literature, and art affected notions of the sea. Ocean bathing came to be seen as therapeutic, the sea was linked with the creation of life, and the shore became a locale for self-exploration and reverie. Discovery of the seaside had political, economic, and social effects, too. The shore as a place of pleasure led to the rapid growth of British coastal towns such as Brighton, followed by other resorts in Europe. All of this Corbin lays out in wonderful detail, blending history, theory, and anecdote into an absorbing whole. The Lure of the Sea suggests the fashioning of a modern sensibility in the West's discovery of the shore--one that is health-conscious and intent on regeneration through vigorous contact with nature. Written by one of today's most literate and imaginative historians, it offers an inviting cultural excursion for scholars and general readers alike.