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All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age Paperback – August 9, 2011
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"Fascinating. Even if you don’t agree that we are caught in an age of nihilistic indecision, if you attune yourself to the authors’ energetic intelligence and deep engagement with key texts in the West, you will have much to be grateful for."-- Michael Roth, The New York Times
"An inspirational book but a highly intelligent and impassioned one. The authors set out to analyze our contemporary nihilism the better to remedy it. "All Things Shining" provides a concise history of Western thought, beginning with Homer and concluding with Descartes and Kant. But there are extended discussions as well of such contemporary authors as the late David Foster Wallace and, even more startling, of "chick lit" novelist Elizabeth Gilbert.The authors' general theme, and lament, is that we are no longer "open to the world." We fall prey either to "manufactured confidence" that sweeps aside all obstacles or to a kind of addictive passivity, typified by "blogs and social networking sites." Both are equally unperceptive. What makes their case finally compelling is their insistence on the importance of openness, on attentiveness to the given moment, on what they call "a fully embodied, this-worldly kind of sacred." If, as they claim, "the story of how we lost touch with these sacred practices is the hidden history of the West," they have offered some small but shining hints on how we might hope to recover them." --Eric Ormsby, The Wall Street Journal
"Fascinating insights about the search for meaning in our time, and the threat of nihilism. All Things Shining raises fundamental questions about the religious and ethical developments of humanity since the Axial Age. This book tackles big issues, ones that really matter in our lives today."
--Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age
“In All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, two distinguished philosophers, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, have written an extraordinary, ambitious, and provocative tour de force that frames one of the central questions of our age: how we have passed “from the intense and meaningful lives of Homer’s world to the indecision and sadness” that too often characterizes modern times. This is compelling reading because in examining the great literary works produced in the history of the West, the authors find new ways of configuring issues of choice, autonomy, fanaticism, solace, and most importantly, the ties that bind us to the past. The book is both brief and yet remarkably comprehensive as it delves into the transcendent values of the classic works that have helped to advance modern thought and inform the development of the Western world. I found myself particularly fascinated by Chapter 5, ‘The Attractions and Dangers of Autonomy.’ As with the rest of the book, reading this chapter, I could hardly put it down”
—Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
"Dreyfus and Kelly would initiate us into a this-worldly piety of wonder and gratitude; of attunement to moments when something transcendentally excellent shines forth in the mundane. The new age that Dreyfus and Kelly hope for is a polytheistic and basically aristocratic corrective to the leveling of modern culture, which they attribute to the mindsets of monotheism and technology. You will be arrested by their reading of the tradition, and of our current situation. If you find yourself high-fiving strangers when Tom Brady connects with Randy Moss in the end zone from downtown, or would like to, this book is for you. "
-Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft
“There is a world out there that is as concealed as it is crucial to the good life. Dreyfus and Kelly have lifted the veil with pedagogical skill and striking insights. It's a world of things shining that can lend grace and depth to our lives. The book is itself a shining thing.”
—Albert Borgmann, author of Real American Ethics
“Stunning! This is one of the most surprising, demanding, and beautiful books I have ever read. My compliments gentleman, and I hope thousands of others share my admiration—and awe.”
--Charles Van Doren, author of A History of Knowledge --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
But something about King Menelaus's admiration for his wife Helen has always intrigued me. At a feast in honor of Telemachus, Odysseus's son, Menelaus listens with rapt appreciation as his wife, Helen, the very Helen of Troy, recounts her passionate embrace of Paris, and her flight to Troy; she left Menelaus and their young child for this most famous of affairs. A decade-long war was fought to get her back. Now she is sitting beside Menelaus later in life recounting those days devoted to her passion? And he sits by admiring?
I've read the Odyssey many times, and I have always stubbed my toe on this scene. Shouldn't Menelaus react in rage? And why no shame from Helen? The two of them seem to exult in the memory of this costly betrayal. I have shaken my head at this passage, regarding it is a bizarre prelude to the main event, Odysseus's struggle to return home.
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, opened my eyes. I was using the wrong standard to evaluate Helen's conduct: she swooned for Paris not as an act of betrayal to Menelaus, but because she had responded to Aphrodites's mood, eros. Paris shone, in her eyes, and those eyes were not beclouded with wayward lust, a Christian gloss. She responded to something stirring within and accessible to all, if they would but listen: even in our time we celebrate the sweetest passion.Read more ›
"The world used to be in its various forms, a world of sacred, shining things. The shining things now seem far away. This book is intended to bring them close once more. [. . .] Anyone who wants to lure back the shining things, to uncover the wonder we were once capable of experiencing, and to reveal a world that sometimes calls forth such a mood; anyone who is done with indecision and waiting, with expressionlessness and lostness and sadnes and angst, and who is ready for whatever it is that comes next; anyone with hope instead of despair, or anyone with despair that they would like to leave behind, can find something worthwhile in the pages ahead. Or at least that is what we intend.
The authors goal, in short, is to clear a path by which people can lure back the "merry May-day gods of old"--the sacred shining things--in order that they may thereby lead intense and meaningful lives, as the ancient Greeks once did. However, they are not interested in trying to recover anything supernatural; they are not, for example, interested in bringing back belief in a literally existing, supernatural Greek Goddess named "Aphrodite". They are instead interested in something that might be called a mood, or an attunement, that opens one to the world, and to a sacred dimension that once may have been understood as, and represented by a god or goddess: the erotic dimension and that which attunes one to it, being that which was once called "Aphrodite"; the aggressive, war-like dimension "Ares"; and so on.Read more ›
This book is one that I'll use as a touchstone for the rest of my personal, professional and scholarly life. I feel delighted to have ha the chance to devour it. It is, in itself, one of the shining things that the authors describe. But like all shining (and shiny) things, it has a few flaws, but really they make it all the more beautiful. Because, as the authors refer to Melville's manuscript, a document is a living thing and flaws are the best reason to make additions and edits.
At the end of book, many lay readers will be scratching their heads. Should they achieve the New Polytheism through watching Roger Federer play tennis or by making a cup of coffee the best way day after day? The authors leave you there on purpose, I think, because its your job to create, discover, and nourish your own gods. That's a remarkable philosophy!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Buy it for my school reading. A lot of new big ideas (which are wonderful to know).Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
This book has three parts, a beginning, a middle and an end--so far, so good and conventional. The middle part offers a (quick and dirty) philosophical view on select works of... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Matthias Goertz
Packaged as an inspirational self-help book for highbrows, a survey of Western literature that reveals lost touchstones on how to live, this is hard not to simply label a fraud,... Read morePublished 5 months ago by William Adams
At the 50,000 foot level Sartre is right in that the question we all need to ask is--why not suicide. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jay Faulkner
Perhaps I fit perfectly into the intended audience for this book - a wandering, oft-confused college student with no sense of what is sacred and meaningful in modern day culture -... Read morePublished 8 months ago by SailsClark
Doesn't have an anti tip turn off in this device so unless you are going to turn it on and turn it off while always in the room the sense of unknown will be there. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Zack P.
Terrible book, bought it for a philosophy class at the University of Chicago but the book itself reveals nothing insightful and rambles on and on.Published 11 months ago by Liyuan Chen
On the one hand, this is an interesting book. Hubert Dreyfuss and Sean Dorrance Kelly begin with a very interesting take on the Homeric gods, have a long analysis of "Moby... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Clay Kallam