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The Discovery of the Mind Paperback – October 20, 2011

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Text: English, German (translation)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (November 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486242641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486242644
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Dale on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
To paraphrase an observation Whitehead made over and over, something wonderful happened between the 8th and 5th century BCE in Greece. Why the circumstances came together in such a way as to produce what we glibly know as "classical Greece" no one may adequately explain, but Snell's book makes the quest for understanding pleasant reading and interesting (if dated, in places) intellectual fare.

This side of modernity, it is easy to pan this book (written in the war years early in the 20th century) as antiquated modern humanism, and indeed it does tend to go on and on about the "individual" (often in isolation from the community) and the genius of the Greek mind, perhaps ignoring that there were other cultures before and after 5th century Greece. But precisely these throwbacks are the book's greatest strengths, when the context of its writng is taken into consideration. In pre- and wartime-Germany, an unfortunate interpretation of Hegel's dialectical phenomenology allowed an entire intellectual culture a collective amnesia about the worth and power of the individual, in favor of the State as fulfillment of the "outworking of Spirit." For Hegel, this State was Prussia; post-Weimar Germany, however, interpreted it differently. But Snell does not use his book as an anachronistic justification for German superiority as heir to the best of classical Europe, as so many authors of his time certainly did. Rather, he points out that the "discovery" of the individual mind, acting in concert with others and pointed towards "the good" as benevolently seen by Socrates, was the greatest achievement of classical Greece bequeathed not only to Europe but to all the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jordan Bell on February 5, 2015
Format: Paperback
This is a magnificent book. The writing is honest and clear and it talks about great ideas. Although the author shows massive learning, the book is understandable by those who are not scholars of classics or philosophy. It is worth reading by people who care about the history of ideas in ethics, religion, psychology, art, literature, epistemology, metaphysics (causality), ontology, and natural sciences.

Snell's book is the most solid presentation I have found of early Greek intellectual history before the natural philosophers. Before we can develop techniques for studying systems and substances, we have to pick out what systems and substances we are going to talk about. The words we use make it more natural to talk about some things than other things. One of the big points of the first chapter is that Homer does not have a word for the human body. Homer speaks about a sword piercing one's skin or about limbs becoming feeble. "Of course the Homeric man had a body exactly like the later Greeks, but he did not know it qua body, but merely as the sum total of the limbs." After talking about the body, Snell tells us that Homer does not have words for the soul or the mind. The words closest in meaning to soul and mind are psyche, thymos, and noos. This does not mean that it would be impossible to explain our idea of a soul to Homer, but it does mean that we would not be able to explain it using a single word. And if it is cumbersome to say something, we may think about it less than if it is easy to say it. This chapter is a brilliant example of a contribution from classical philology to the history of ideas.

There are statements from early poets that seem to belong to the same stream of ideas as early philosophers like Heraclitus.
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19 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
The postmodern reader will judge whether this collection of essays, originally published between 1929 and 1947 in German Classics journals, adequately addresses the horrors of the time during which it was written. The conclusion of one of the later essays: '...there is one respect in which we too must abide by the principle of humanitas...That is the esteem in which we must hold the dignity of man: a modicum of humanitas for which no particular talent is needed. The eternal absolutes which rule over us, especially justice and truth, unhappily often make us forget that the absolute which accedes to our understanding is not entirely absolute after all...[W]hen it is agreed that certain institutions have come to represent the absolute, the catastrophe becomes inevitable. Then is the time to remind oneself that each and every human being has his own share of dignity and of freedom...'
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