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The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World Knowledge Trilogy (3) Paperback – October 26, 1999

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The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World Knowledge Trilogy (3) + The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination + The Discoverers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375704752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375704758
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Renowned historian Daniel J. Boorstin completes the trilogy he began with The Discoverers and The Creators. The first volume covered explorers, scientists, and historians in their quest for raw knowledge, while the second book describes writers, painters, and composers in their pursuit of inspiring art; The Seekers describes people searching for an understanding of human existence--"Man is the asking animal," notes Boorstin. It's a big, bold theme, and although The Seekers is the shortest work in the trilogy, it's still vintage Boorstin: incredibly learned, richly anecdotal, and casually profound. It begins with the prophets of the Holy Land and the philosophers of ancient Greece, continues through the Renaissance, and concludes with the modern era of the social sciences. "In this long quest [for understanding], Western culture has turned from seeking the end or purpose to seeking causes--from the Why to the How," writes Boorstin. That's a neat summary of Western intellectual development over several thousand years. What other author could put it so succinctly? Boorstin is generally stronger with material that is more recent and more secular, but this is an accomplished book and a worthy capstone to an outstanding three-volume effort. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In The Discoverers (1983), Boorstin introduced readers to scientists, explorers, historians and other pursuers of knowledge. Ten years later, The Creators did the same for innovators in art. "We glory in their discoveries and creations," he writes in the introduction to his latest, "But we are all Seekers. We all want to know why." Starting from that perhaps overbroad premise, Boorstin begins with an examination of Hebrew prophets and Greek philosophers?those who seek from a higher authority and those who seek from within. From this point on there are rather few religious seekers; instead most are philosophers of systems, of systems for discovering truth (the reason of Descartes, the empiricism of Locke, the individual experience of Kierkegaard) or for describing it (the encyclopedia of Diderot, the cultural cycles of Spengler, Hegel's World-Spirit). Certain subjects seem rather out of place, and chapters like that on H.G. Wells and John Reed, another on Oliver Wendell Holmes and E.O. Wilson; and individual chapters on Samuel Beckett, Lord Acton and Andre Malraux, have the feel of an insatiable polymath's chapbook. There are many movements, many people and many big ideas here, all expounded with Boorstin's characteristic enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge. It's perhaps inevitable that in such a broad survey some simplification would slip in?e.g., identifying 13th-century universities as centers for training gentlemen, rather than for offering professional training in theology, law and medicine. But what Boorstin does so well is bring together many ideas that fertilize and cross-fertilize the reader's imagination and curiosity. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I actually purchased these volumes for a friend, having read them some time ago.
Donald J. Weinshank
The tone is certainly approachable, and a lack of technical or academic language makes the contents easily graspable.
Darren White
This books completes the excellent trilogy by Boorstin on the adventure of knowledge.
Guillermo Maynez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read (all of) "The Americans", "The Discoverers", and (part of) "The Creators", I picked up "The Seekers" when and where I first saw it (which happened to be at the Library of Congress, which doesn't seem inappropriate). On a subsequent trip, I took it and several other books to pass the airplane hours. I didn't open the other books, and I finished "The Seekers". Having enjoyed it immensely, I logged on to to see what other readers had thought (reading is a social habit, like drinking, and not to be done alone). I was quite surprised to find that not every reader had enjoyed it as much as I. I would agree that its sparse style is different from his longer books, and I would admit that it is Euro-centeric (as advertised). That having been said, I would also say that the careful selection of and brief presentation of the material was masterful. This "brief history of western seeking" will, I believe, provide me with a roadmap that will inform my reading selections for years to come.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mark Mills on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Boorstin is a master story teller. I felt like I was sitting with a friend by a comfortable fire, being challenged to think, but regularly regaled with irony, satire and laughter. The motto of the book might be "The road is always better than the end." Another theme is that seeking brings us together, that fulfills us. The people who think they have found the final answer are the menace to our humanity, because there is no answer to find. Of course, this is the puzzle. How can one maintain their interest in 'seeking' if they realize the danger of 'finding'? Boorstin doesn't provide simple answers.
Boorstin starts with the Biblical conversations with God recorded by the Jewish tradition. To summarize these discussion, Boorstin spends a fair amount of time with the story of Job and the omnipresent fact that bad things happen to innocent people. He concludes that the ancient Hebrews taught their children that no one knows what God knows, so the innocent must push on, must keep the faith.
With this said, he poses the same question (do you know what God knows?) to the Greek tradition, starting with Socrates. Socrates became famous for demonstrating much the same point, interviewing those who claim to know truth, then proving their knowledge was an illusion. Plato, Socrates admirer and evangelist, tried to answer Socrates with his utopian Republic. In Plato's view, no one but philosophers knew the 'truth.' Showing no respect for his elders, Aristotle, a student of Socrates and Plato, chose something of a middle road: scientists know a few things that are true. In this triad of forceful personalities, the rest of the book finds it's structure.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Book Mark on January 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Boorstin's third book of his trilogy follows a chronological format on man's search for the reasons of life. "We are all seekers," he writes. "We all want to know why."
The book follows three grand epics of seeking. The first begins with Hebrew prophets and Greek philosophers. The former seeking from a higher authority, and the latter seeking from within. He moves on to the formation of communal experiences of the early church and the Reformation. The last epic is the age of the social sciences. Many stories of many exceptional men are told: their complexities, their understanding of past seekers, and their mistakes made mostly due to being ruled by history.
From the prophets and matchless Grecian trilogy seeking understanding of man's place; to Thomas Moore and Machiavelli pursuing the civil, liberal spirit; to Marx, Spengler, Emerson and Einstein who hone in on their own specialized areas of seeking, The Seekers captures the meaning of its namesake: the ever-elusive definition of life.
If the book has a short-coming, it would be Boorstin's inability to retrieve and contain the many more Seekers of modern thought. However, to include modern-day theorists, philosophers and other seekers would add chapters, getting us nowhere closer to our most coveted definition.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the final book in the "trilogy" of Boorstin's that started with The Discoverers and continued with The Creators. It is easily the shortest of the three, which is perhaps good, because it also easily the weakest.
Like the other two books, this volume is essentially a collection of short biographies. This time, the people being written about are primarily philosophers. The problem is that the common theme that ties all these people together is elusive; at the end of the book, I was still unclear what the whole book was about; in parts, it is okay, but as a whole, it is not. It is like connecting the dots when the dots are misnumbered or some are missing: either way, you aren't going to get the right picture.
The other problem is that some portions of the book are tedious to read. I think this ties into my first problem; since I had only vague hints at Boorstin's intention with this book, I found it harder to get through. This isn't a mystery novel; the meaning should not be something that is guessed at.
For those who have read the other books in this trilogy, this book will come as a disappointment. I do give it a weak three stars, however, as there are some chapters that are at least interesting and informative. Overall, however, this book is below average.
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