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All Things Shining : Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age,9781416596158

All Things Shining : Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age

by ;
ISBN13:

9781416596158

ISBN10:
1416596151
Format:
Hardcover
Pub. Date:
1/4/2011
Publisher(s):
Free Press
List Price: $26.00
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Summary

In unrelenting flow of choices confronts us at nearly every moment of our lives, and yet our culture offers us no clear way to choose. This predicament seems inevitable, but in fact it's quite new. In medieval Europe, God's calling was a grounding force. In ancient Greece, a whole pantheon of shining gods stood ready to draw an appropriate action out of you. Like an athlete in "the zone," you were called to a harmonious attunement with the world, so absorbed in it that you couldn't make a "wrong" choice. If our culture no longer takes for granted a belief in God, can we nevertheless get in touch with the Homeric moods of wonder and gratitude, and be guided by the meanings they reveal?All Things Shiningsays we can.Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly illuminate some of the greatest works of the West to reveal how we have lost our passionate engagement with and responsiveness to the world. Their journey takes us from the wonder and openness of Homer's polytheism to the monotheism of Dante; from the autonomy of Kant to the multiple worlds of Melville; and, finally, to the spiritual difficulties evoked by modern authors such as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Gilbert.Dreyfus, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, for forty years, is an original thinker who finds in the classic texts of our culture a new relevance for people's everyday lives. His lively, thought-provoking lectures have earned him a podcast audience that often reaches the iTunesU Top 40. Kelly, chair of the philosophy department at Harvard University, is an eloquent new voice whose sensitivity to the sadness of the cultureand to what remains of the wonder and gratitude that could chase it awaycaptures a generation adrift.Re-envisioning modern spiritual life through their examination of literature, philosophy, and religious testimony, Dreyfus and Kelly unearth ancient sources of meaning, and teach us how to rediscover the sacred, shining things that surround us every day. This book will change the way we understand our culture, our history, our sacred practices, and ourselves. It offers a newand very oldway to celebrate and be grateful for our existence in the modern world.

Table of Contents

A Note to the Readerp. xi
Our Contemporary Nihilismp. 1
David Foster Wallace's Nihilismp. 22
Homer's Polytheismp. 58
From Aeschylus to Augustine: Monotheism on the Risep. 88
From Dante to Kant: The Attractions and Dangers of Autonomyp. 118
Fanaticism, Polytheism, and Melville's "Evil Art"p. 143
Conclusion: Lives Worth Living in a Secular Agep. 190
Epiloguep. 224
Acknowledgmentsp. 225
Notesp. 227
Indexp. 245
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpts

A NOTE TO THE READER

THE WORLD DOESN’T MATTER to us the way it used to. The intense and meaningful lives of Homer’s Greeks, and the grand hierarchy of meaning that structured Dante’s medieval Christian world, both stand in stark contrast to our secular age. The world used to be, in its various forms, a world of sacred, shining things. The shining things now seem far away. This book is intended to bring them close once more.

The issues motivating our story are philosophical and literary, and we come at them from our professional background in these disciplines. But All Things Shining is intended for a nonspecialist audience, and we hope it will speak to a wide range of people. Anyone who lives in the contemporary world has the background to read it, and anyone who hopes to enrich his or her life by experiencing it in the light of classic philosophical and literary works can hope to find something here. Anyone who wants to lure back the shining things, to uncover the wonder we were once capable of experiencing and to reveal a world that sometimes calls forth such a mood; anyone who is done with indecision and waiting, with expressionlessness and lostness and sadness and angst, and who is ready for whatever it is that comes next; anyone with hope instead of despair, or anyone with despair that they would like to leave behind, can find something worthwhile in the pages ahead. Or at least that is what we intend.

© 2011 Hubert Dreyfus



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