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The Ideal in the West [Kindle Edition]

David A. Beardsley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The influ­ence of “Ide­al­ism” has so pen­e­trated our lan­guage and our think­ing that we don’t rec­og­nize it as per­haps the old­est continuously-operating philo­soph­i­cal sys­tem in the West. Although its influ­ence rises and falls, its con­cep­tion and artic­u­la­tion of “the Good” con­tin­ues to shape our beliefs and aspi­ra­tions. This is not good as opposed to evil, but the absolute source of all benef­i­cence, beauty, and justice. This book traces its history and influence through some of the most fascinating people and periods in history--Plato in Classical Athens, Plotinus in Imperial Rome, Marsilio Ficino in the Florentine Renaissance, and Ralph Waldo Emerson in 19th century America.

Editorial Reviews


"bracing, challenging, wholly accessible"
David A. Beardsley's The Ideal in the West is a bracing, challenging, wholly accessible philosophical offering by a man who is not a pre-certified academic professional but a smart active individual engaged in thinking his own way through the world. Not a mere thinker, Beardsley is man thinking; this is who Emerson called for in "The American Scholar." This is a deeply personal and deeply exciting book.

Robert D. Richardson Jr.
, Bancroft Prize-winning author of William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism.

"highly recommended"

The Ideal in the West is a philosophical exploration of the principle of "the Ideal" in Western culture. Here, "the Ideal" refers to the concept of that which is fundamentally Good, not as defined by opposition to Evil, but rather as a universal font of benevolence, beauty, and justice. The Ideal in the West explores how the concept of the Ideal influenced Western culture from classical Greece to Imperial Rome, the Florentine Renaissance, and America in the 19th century. The Ideal as a way of life is also contemplated, with regard to the natural history of the ego, the concept of the Hero's Quest, and even the art of dying.
Written to be thoroughly accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds, The Ideal in the West is highly recommended especially for philosophy shelves.
The Midwest Book Review, July 2013
Paul T. Vogel

About the Author

David A. Beardsley is the author of "The Ideal of Beauty and Other Essays," and writer/director of the video "Emerson: The Ideal in America." He also maintains a blog at

Product Details

  • File Size: 585 KB
  • Print Length: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Ideograph Media LLC (June 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008B0ECUK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,420,819 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sheds light on difficult subject May 2, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am extremely interested in the writings of Emerson, Plato, and the Neoplatonists. I have been reading and re-reading Thomas Taylor translations of Plato to better understand the deeper meaning behind the words. The Ideal in the West is an extremely interesting book that helps me to put some of the puzzle pieces together. Between this book and Pierre Grimes videos on You Tube I am becoming better acquainted with the underlying meanings.
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David Beardsley finally writes about the history of the Ideal in the west. There has always been a notion that the ideal is an eastern concept and can only be understood by study of the eastern philosophers or mystics. The Ideal in the West not only shows that the same development was taking place in the west but defines the ideal in a readily accessible manner. We also get to witness the development of the ideal from the Pre Socrates up to the American Transcendentalists. Once we go through this historical journey we then get to focus in on themes that are related to the ideal for further depth.
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4.0 out of 5 stars IndieReader Review July 12, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Does a notion of idealism in Western thought run from Socrates to Thoreau? If so, what does this mean for the way that we think? What about the way that we live?

In answer to these and similar questions comes this exploration of great thinkers ranging from the Cynics of ancient Greece to the transcendentalists of 19th century New England. It is a journey that takes the reader through a wide range of work with the underlying idea that yes, there is a distinct link amongst many famous philosophers and artists. It is a link that is not only persistent, it can help even busy, modern individuals lead less complicated lives.

Beginning with a rundown of ancient Greece and its philosophical tradition, this journey through many major points of Western thought is indeed a dense one. Covering works as far ranging as Raphael's School of Athens and Shakespeare's sonnets in one book is no easy task, but, as the author argues, there is reason to look at these works in close proximity. This reason is namely that these masters worked in pursuit of a one-ness or ideal that can be seen in a range of genius. It is an ideal that the author states in his introduction "is the source of all we can see or know, but without the anthropomorphic limitations we place on it."

Relying most heavily on Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Joseph Cambell, topics of myth, history, and philosophy are interwoven throughout the book in digestible fragments. What may seem like an impossible task of moving between centuries and schools of thought manages, due to the author's relaxed and concise writing style, to be an easy glide. Utilizing frequent passages from the thinkers being discussed, a mixture of analysis and original source material is nicely maintained.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading January 9, 2013
I am really glad to have had the opportunity to read Beardsley's book for several reasons. Although I do not necessarily agree entirely with all of his philosophic conclusions, the book is full of accurate, well researched historical information that filled in many gaps in my knowledge, beginning with the ancients and ending with the current era. It was also culturally broad in that it was not only based on Western thinking. I recommend the book if only for these reasons. As to the philosophical aspects, again, it was very informative and well worth reading, whether or not one agrees with his conclusions, which are not a major part of the book. Although his information is deep, the book also reads easily. It does not read like a boring text, nor is it superficial. One need not be a scholar, but I would expect scholars would also find it worth reading.
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More About the Author

David A. Beardsley is the author of "The Ideal in the West," and writer/director of the video biography "Emerson: The Ideal in America." "Beardsley is 'Man Thinking...'" Robert D. Richardson Jr., Bancroft Prize winner, biographer of Emerson.


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