A World of Ideas; Essential Readings for College Writers

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  • Edition: 6th
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2001-07-13
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
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The most successful reader of its kind, "A World of Ideas" is ideal for composition instructors who want to introduce their students to some of the world's most important thinkers and their ideas: for example, Niccolo Machiavelli on government, Sigmund Freud on the mind, and Virginia Woolf on feminism. Because students perceive writers such as these as serious and important, they take the writing course more seriously: they learn to read more attentively, think more critically, and write more effectively. But more important, this may be a student's only opportunity to encounter these thinkers. No other composition reader offers a comparable collection of important readings along with the supportive apparatus students need to understand, analyze, and respond to them.

Table of Contents

Preface v
Evaluating Ideas: An Introduction to Critical Reading 1(12)
Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching
In recommending that a ruler practice judicious inactivity rather than wasteful busyness, the ancient Chinese philosopher minimizes the power of the state over the individual
The Qualities of the Prince
Niccolo Machiavelli
In this excerpt from the most notorious political treatise of all time, Machiavelli, a veteran of intrigue at Florence's Medici court, recommends unscrupulous tactics for the ruler who wishes to secure power for himself and stability in his domain
The Origin of Civil Society
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The French philosopher Rousseau speculates that members of a society forfeit individual freedoms for the greater good of all and stresses a revolutionary view--equality before the law
The Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson
In this primary document of modern democratic government, Jefferson justifies the right of the American colonies to dissolve their Bonds with a tyrannical monarchy and to construct a free nation of independent souls in its stead
Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government
Hannah Arendt
Arendt sees the misapplication of the principles of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin in the ideologies of terror-dominated governments in Communist Russia and fascit Germany in the mid-twentieth century
A Definition of Justice
In his Politics, Aristotle meditates on the nature of justice and how it is perceived, especially in a democracy. For him, the concept of equality is the key to understanding justice in society
From Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Frederick Douglass
Douglass, one of the most influential nineteenth-century African Americans, reveals how an indomitable human spirit reacts to a government-sanctioned system that treats some people as chattel and denies them justice
Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau
A man who lived by his ideals of justice, Thoreau explains how and why it is not only reasonable but also sometimes essential to disobey unjust laws imposed by the state
Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Stanton draws on her experience as a feminist and on Thomas Jefferson's format to show that, one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, half of America still waited to be freed from tyranny
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King Jr.
King, a minister and civil rights leader, advocates nonviolent action as a means of changing the unconscionable practices of racial segregation and of achieving justice for all
Of the Natural Progress of Opulence
Adam Smith
This except from the classic work on modern capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, explores the economic relationship between rural areas and cities in an attempt to understand the ``natural'' steps to wealth
The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx
Marx, the chief critic of laissez-faire capitalism, traces the de-humanizing progress of the nineteenth-century bourgeois economic structure and heralds its downfall at the hands of a united international proletariat
The Position of Poverty
John Kenneth Galbraith
Improving the plight of society's poorest members is a central responsibility for today's wealthy nations, says Gulbraith, the most widely read economist of the past four decades
Created Equal
Rose Friedman
Noted conservative economists consider the Declaration of Independence's insistence that ``all men are created equal.'' Their view is that equality of opportunity is essential in a democracy, but that equality of outcome is a denial of personal freedom
Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer
Robert B. Reich
The former secretary of labor talks about major categories of workers in contemporary U.S. society and the inevitable and essential changes occurring as the economy is altered by globalization
The Allegory of the Cave
Plato, the founder of Western philosophy, talks about the nature of perception and the limits of the human mind, emphasizing the difficulties everyone encounters in discovering the truth about appearances
From The Interpretation of Dreams
Sigmund Freud
As the founder of modern psychiatry, Freud developed extensive theories about the importance of dreams for the healthy mind and in this essay examines how dreams fulfill our unspoken waking wishes
The Personal and the Collective Unconscious
Carl Jung
Whereas Freud examines the individual unconscious in dreams, Jung proposes that as a cultural group we have a collective unconscious--unconscious awarenesses and needs that transcend the individual and represent the needs of the group to which we belong
The Distrust between the Sexes
Karen Horney
Horney, the first major female psychoanalyst, examines Freud's theories and other cultures to establish a theory of development that accounts for the tangled relations between the sexes
A Rounded Version: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Howard Gardner
Gardner, a contemporary psychologist, has a novel view of the mind that proposes seven distinct forms of human intelligence--linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal
The General Nature of Consciousness
Francis Crick
The discoverer of the structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) discusses the mystery of consciousness. Crick's approach is strictly scientific, establishing the nature of the problem and focusing on memory and attention
The Four Idols
Francis Bacon
A prominent figure in philosophy and politics during the reign of Elizabeth I, Bacon describes the obstacles that hinder human beings efforts to understand the world around them and the mysteries of nature
Natural Selection
Charles Darwin
The scrupulous habits of observation that culminated in the landmark theory of evolution are everywhere evident in Darwin's analysis of the ways species adapt to their environments in nature
Nature Fights Back
Rachel Carson
In a pioneering essay, Carson calls attention to the devastation of our environment by the indiscriminate long-term use of insecticides. In addition to other unexpected results, the very pests the chemicals were designed to kill have come back to haunt us
Nonmoral Nature
Stephen Jay Gould
Gould, a scientist of diverse experience, warns against assuming that the natural world mirrors our own ideas of good and evil
The Mystery of Dark Matter
Michio Kaku
To understand why galaxies do not fly apart, physicists postulate the existence of a form of matter that makes up 90 percent of the universe but that cannot be seen or touched: dark matter. Eminent physicist Kaku explains the history of the theory of dark matter and reveals the difficulties modern physicists face in describing how the universe works
The Relation of Science and Religion
Richard P. Feynman
One of the nation's foremost nuclear physicists, Feynman considers the philosophical problem of how science and religion interact. In this inquiry over whether belief in both science and God is possible, he examines two ways in which the mind searches for truth: in terms of doubt and in terms of faith
From La Relacion
Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca
A secretary in the company of the conquistadores who landed in Florida in 1528, Cabeza de Vaca became a legendary healer. Here he describes his life in the Americas and the culture of the Avavares Indians with whom he stayed
What Is an American?
J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur
Crevecoeur became famous for writing Letters from an American Farmer, a depiction of eighteenth-century colonial life. In the letter included here, he attempted one of the first definitions of the American, an individual that Crevecoeur saw as transformed from the European immigrant by independence and opportunity
Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society
Alexis de Tocqueville
Tocqueville visited America in the early nineteenth century and found its expression of democracy so extraordinary that he wrote Democracy in America, a classic treatise on Americans and their political institutions. In this excerpt, he considers the importance of equality in a democratic society
Free at Last
Harriet Jacobs
Although her freedom was purchased by a kindly employer, Harriet Jacobs despised the fact that as a nineteenth-century American slave she was essentially a commodity. This excerpt from her autobiography depicts painful and intolerable experiences under slavery and recounts Jacobs's difficult path to freedom
From The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Frederick Jackson Turner
In his landmark Turner Thesis, this renowned historian explores how the continually shifting frontier made new demands on Americans by placing them in close contact with Native Americans and be testing their sense of adventure and independence. For Turner, the frontier shaped the American character and our democracy
The American Dream and the American Negro
James Baldwin
One of our most distinguished modern writers, Baldwin sounds a prescient note of warning in this 1965 essay. The prosperity of white America, Baldwin cautions, is not shared equally by African Americans. He predicts that until the American dream is in reach of all, we can expect social unrest and individual bitterness
Meditation: The Path to Enlightenment
Siddhartha Gautama
Buddhist monks, continuing in the tradition of the Buddha, who revealed the eightfold path of right living and self-control, describe the path to enlightenment through meditation--the technique of clearing one's mind through zazen
The Bible From The Book of Job
In one of the most beautifully written books of the Hebrew Bible, Job, a good man, suffers terrible torments because of a challenge to God. The narrative imparts the wisdom of accepting how little one ultimately knows
The Sermon on the Mount
St. Matthew
Matthew, the tax gatherer who walked with Jesus, recorded Jesus' sermon on the mount, in which he gave his disciples the Lord's prayer and guidelines for a way of life that expressed faith in God
The Bhagavad Gita Meditation and Knowledge
In this Hindu poem, faith is implicit as the Lord Krishna speaks to his disciple Arjuna, explaining that the way to knowledge is through discipline and that discipline is developed through meditation
The Prophet Muhammad From the Koran
In this surah, or chapter, from the Koran, Allah tells Muhammad about the harsh fate of those who have no faith and are unbelievers and the bliss and reassurance of the believer whose faith carries him to the truth
Apollonianism and Dionysianism
Friedrich Nietzsche
The nineteenth-century philosopher Nietzsche examines two opposing psychological capacities that exist in us all--divine forces that we must learn to balance in order to live well and fully
Spiritual Autobiography
Simone Weil
Written during World War II by social philosopher Simone Weil, this letter to her spiritual adviser reveals the depth of Well's thinking about Christianity and the intensity of her commitment to her own ethical principles
Pernicious Effects Which Arise from the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society
Mary Wollstonecraft
In this excerpt from one of the first great works of, feminism, Woll-stonecraft argues that the laws, property rights, and class distinctions of her day are mechanisms of control that deny women their liberty and demean their lives
Shakespeare's Sister
Virginia Woolf
In this excerpt from her book-length essay on the, role of women in history and society, A Room of One's Own, Woolf imaginatively reconstructs the environment of Shakespeare's hypothetical sister and demonstrates how little opportunity she would have had in the sixteenth century
Woman: Myth and Reality
Simone De Beauvoir
Beauvoir was a French philosopher who meditated on feminism and many other aspects of modern life. In this essay, she explains how the persistent myths about women as ``the Eternal Feminine'' distort reality and harm real women in society
Woman's Place in Man's Life Cycle
Carol Gilligan
In this excerpt from her ground-breaking book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, Gilligan shows how historically men have made woman the deviant in society, such as Eve in the Garden of Eden. Men often fashion women, she suggests, out of ``a masculine cloth.''
Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory
bell hooks
In this stinging rebuke, bell hooks surveys the standard canon of feminist literature only to find that it presupposes a white, middle-class feminist. She sets the record straight by clarifying the needs and contributions of black women to the movement
Writing About Ideas: An Introduction to Rhetoric 879(24)
Index of Rhetorical Terms 903

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