The Axial Age and Its Consequences

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-10-31
  • Publisher: Belknap Pr
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The first classics in human history-the early works of literature, philosophy, and theology to which we have returned throughout the ages-appeared in the middle centuries of the first millennium bce. The canonical texts of the Hebrew scriptures, the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle, the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing, the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of the Buddha-all of these works came down to us from the compressed period of history that Karl Jaspers memorably named the Axial Age. In The Axial Age and Its Consequences, Robert Bellah and Hans Joas make the bold claim that intellectual sophistication itself was born worldwide during this critical time. Across Eurasia, a new self-reflective attitude toward human existence emerged, and with it an awakening to the concept of transcendence. From Axial Age thinkers we inherited a sense of the world as a place not just to experience but to investigate, envision, and alter through human thought and action. Bellah and Joas have assembled diverse scholars to guide us through this astonishing efflorescence of religious and philosophical creativity. As they explore the varieties of theorizing that arose during the period, they consider how these in turn led to utopian visions that brought with them the possibility of both societal reform and repression. The roots of our continuing discourse on religion, secularization, inequality, education, and the environment all lie in Axial Age developments. Understanding this transitional era, the authors contend, is not just an academic project but a humanistic endeavor.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Fundamental Questions
The Axial Age Debate as Religious Discoursep. 9
What Was the Axial Revolution?p. 30
An Evolutionary Approach to Culture: Implications for the Study of the Axial Agep. 47
Embodiment, Transcendence, and Contingency: Anthropological Features of the Axial Agep. 77
The Axial Age in Global History: Cultural Crystallizations and Societal Transformationsp. 102
The Buddha's Meditative Trance: Visionary Knowledge, Aphoristic Thinking, and Axial Age Rationality in Early Buddhismp. 126
The Idea of Transcendencep. 146
A Comparative Perspective
Religion, the Axial Age, and Secular Modernity in Bellah's Theory of Religious Evolutionp. 191
Where Do Axial Commitments Reside? Problems in Thinking about the African Casep. 222
The Axial Age Theory: A Challenge to Historism or an Explanatory Device of Civilization Analysis? With a Look at the Normative Discourse in Axial Age Chinap. 248
Destructive Possibilities?
The Axial Conundrum between Transcendental Visions and Vicissitudes of Their Institutionalizations: Constructive and Destructive Possibilitiesp. 277
Axial Religions and the Problem of Violencep. 294
Righteous Rebels: When, Where, and Why?p. 317
Rehistoricizing the Axial Agep. 337
Cultural Memory and the Myth of the Axial Agep. 366
Perspectives, on the Future
The Axial Invention of Education and Today's Global Knowledge Culturep. 411
The Future of Transcendence: A Sociological Agendap. 430
The Heritage of the Axial Age: Resource or Burden?p. 447
Bibliography: Works on the Axial Agep. 469
Contributorsp. 539
Indexp. 543
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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