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Plagues of the Mind: The New Epidemic of False Knowledge Paperback – April, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
The author spends a lot of time praising and applying the powers of human reason while criticizing the proliferation of "false knowledge" and most significantly, telling us where reason simply can't go. All of psychology and social sciences in particular are on the bad list.
The "false knowledge" the author attacks isn't limited to the usual suspects parodied by the skeptics; alien abductions, recovered memories, pseudoscience and popular baseless myth of various sorts. It also includes any attempts to probe human nature using science and unravel the "fundamental mystery" of the human heart.
As a scholar of classical studies, the author represents the received Christian wisdom of sacred mysterianism, or mystery regarding the human soul, and plays it off against the hubris of modern science in daring to try to understand human nature. He illustrates all sorts of foolish trends of thinking in modern culture that ignore the received wisdom a classicist is expected to respect. People instead rely on fads in poorly based scientific research and nonsense dressed in scientific garb.Read more ›
In the Preface, Thornton explains that his aim "is not so much to assert a positive, true doctrine that should replace the false one, but rather to incite the reader's own critical eye to examine more carefully the many received truths and elements of public wisdom circulating in our collective mind. If this means that my own ideas are subjected to the same scrutiny, then this book has achieved its aim."
Following a brilliant Introduction, Thornton carefully organizes his material within Two Parts: Of the Causes of Error and Of Three Popular and Received Ideas.Read more ›
Unfortunately agreeing with most of his conclusions does not mean that I agree with his methods:
1) His three myths are highly selective and he argues in a reductionist style: the Noble Savage Myth IS responsible for racical environmentalism and almost any other form of environmentalism from common sense saving energy to saving the Spotted Owl. He uses the myth to explain everything, and in the end undermines his own argument. Shades of Freud...? .... Marx..?
2) Moreover he could analyse all sorts of other "myths" as well: distrust of big government (a very American myth), say or, the "halcyon days myth" -- the myth that America (or any other country in the world) was once a peaceful, non-violent state of bliss that has been corrupted by modern man. These are certainly as responsible for as much false knowledge as anything Thornton cites.
3) Thornton has an annoying habit of drawing completely linear relationships of cause and effect from myths and the way people act or think today. So for example, he says that teenage pregnancy and reluctance of people to take sexual responsibility is a DIRECT result of the liberal democratic myth that knowledge will always ameliorate the condition of mankind. The sexual revolution of the 60s and the idea of knowledge liberating one from sexual mores is a common phenomomen.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
American politics and culture is in deep trouble, Bruce S. Thornton believes, and much of this trouble can blamed on the American penchant for believing and disseminating... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jonathan
This book is a powerful antidote to the irrationality, hyper-emotionalism, and infantilism that has gripped our society over the last 50 years or so. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Marvelous Mal
I think Plagues of the Mind forces us to confront many of our cherished and stubborn assumptions about the human condition and our place in the scheme of things. Read morePublished on January 19, 2014 by Anthony
This is one of the most important books of this century. The author joins Alan Bloom
who wrote one of the most important books of the last century.
I tend to agree with Bruce Thornton's criticisms of the three ideologies he examines: Romantic environmentalism, naive Indianism and puerile mother goddess-based feminism. Read morePublished on November 28, 2010 by Observer
Only 10 years old and it already seems outdated, this sort of peevish crankiness from spoiled academics complaining about the idiot conversations going on in their subsidized ivory... Read morePublished on May 13, 2010 by BG from TN
There are certain myths that people have believed in since ancient times such as the myth of the Noble Savage. In Greek times, the noble savages were Scythians. Read morePublished on September 2, 2008 by Amazon Customer
The author skillfully analyses commomly held opinions and builds ultimately convincing opposing arguments to them. This book does what it intends to do in a superb manner.Published on January 2, 2008 by R. A. Carlson
Very interesting book. It exposes several modern day myths for what they are--myths, and provides the scholarship and research to demonstrate the shaky foundations on which they... Read morePublished on January 26, 2007 by B. L. Lindley-anderson