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Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan Hardcover – October 25, 2016
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"An extraordinary work of scholarship. There is no comparable work of such universal ambition and theological depth."—José Casanova, Georgetown University
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Combining, not chronologically but thoughtfully and gracefully, reviews of ancient, medieval and modern philosophies, Einstein's science, quantum mechanics, Freud, dying, sexual intimacy (oh how I wish I could sense long ago what I can dimly sense now), romantic love, patriotism and, in short, what it's all about, this is a book I will treasure some passages from as long as I live.
"Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan" has already been reviewed by the usual people--New York Times, LA Times, Publishers Weekly, etc. It has not yet been reviewed (as of January 2018) by any scholarly philosophical journals. Scholarly journals are far slower getting reviews into the pipeline than newspapers or magazines. But the reviews are coming. When that happens, this book will be "discovered" by the scholarly world and it will get its due praise, I believe. I imagine this book to be a text for upper division courses in the history of philosophy. It will take its place beside Russell and Copleston as general resources for both students and scholars of philosophy.
Kronman (and many others) judges our present human situation as "disenchanted," meaning in part that the theological underpinnings of our present age have derived from centuries of philosophical speculation that have emphasized the perfection of God and the imperfection of the world. Kronman's aim is to show how this disenchantment came about. (Aristotle got it right; Plato got it wrong.) As a consequence, we now are less capable of feeling and expressing gratitude for the world in which we live. (Walt Whitman, Spinoza and Nietzsche are part of the cure.) Although I think Kronman would refer to himself as religious, he is not a Christian in any orthodox sense. In fact, I am a little puzzled by the dust jacket that features a born-again fish with little feet and a halo. The little feet are more relevant than the fish or halo. Kronman's feet are firmly planted in the appreciation of daily life and not at all in some expectations of a next life.
As I said, this is a big book. If you are interested in something equally erudite but half the size, try Crispin Sartwell's "Entanglements". It is an overview of philosophical areas of specialization (ethics, epistemology, aesthetics, etc.) rather than a history, but for those who already have some acquaintance with the history of philosophy, this is an alternative read. For those interested in an even smaller and even more readable history, please take a look at Luc Ferry's "A Brief History of Thought." At 267 pages it is not so overwhelming, but it, too, is beautifully written. And I think Ferry comes to conclusions regarding our present human situation that are compatible with Kronman.
I have profited greatly from Kronman's work. I really do not feel qualified to write the kind of review this book deserves, but I give it my strongest recommendation.