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Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism Paperback – September, 1981

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 427 pages
  • Publisher: Definition Pr (September 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091049228X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0910492287
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,299,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have never read a book that was so clear and so kind about so many subjects--love, children, economics, and just plain life! I can't imagine a person reading this book and not having dust cleared out of their brain--Eli Siegel makes so much sense. When he describes how art has the answers for life, he describes it in a way that is so down-to-earth, and practical. After reading dozens of other books on psychology, this one stands out as plainly the best. It is profound, but never murky; and it is hopeful, but always solid--nothing "trendy" or "new age"--just good, surprising, plain insight. Now that I've written this review, I'm going to sit down and read the book again--I got so much pleasure the first time through!
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Format: Paperback
This is a book, as other reviewers have stated, that is unique and great. The author states on the first page of his Preface: "The large difference between Aesthetic Realism and other ways of seeing an individual is that Aesthetic Realism makes the attitude of an individual to the whole world the most critical thing in his life." And to learn how this is true is to understand oneself better--to an exponential degree.

As an anthropologist who has studied many cultures, the explanation given in this book of the many ways an individual can see the world falsely or accurately, egoistically or with respect, illuminates--as no other explanation has done--the inner lives of men and women from southern Africa to the Arctic, from New York City to Beijing, Sydney, Bagdhad.

You see, in Self and World, for example, such sentences as: "The basic conflict in the human mind--present, I believe, in all particular conflicts--is that between a person warmly existing to his fingertips, and that person as related to indefinite outsideness....In every person there is a drive towards the caring for and pleasing of self; in every person there is a drive towards other things, a desire to meet and know these. Often this drive towards self as an exclusive thing collides painfully with the drive to widen the self" (p. 93). Here is the beginning point for the particular conflicts we all have, in every culture. It is the conflict present in the particular conflicts documented by Ruth Benedict in her always-important Patterns of Culture; by David Friend Aberle in his analysis of a Hopi life history (the life of Don Talayesva, titled Sun Chief); by Margaret Mead in her large anthology, Cooperation and Competition; and many more worldwide. Eli Siegel, in Self and World, explains the cause of these conflicts.
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Format: Paperback
Self and World by Eli Siegel is a grand book, from beginning to end. In particular, the chapter, "Psychiatry, Economics, Aesthetics," is a must for every person interested in the study of politics and government as I was, majoring in political science and international affairs in college, and now, as I work as an urban planner for New York City. Studying, for example, George F. Kennan's American Diplomacy 1900-1950, and Theories of the Political System, Classics of Political Thought and Modern Political Analysis by William T. Bluhm, I was learning why and how man has wanted to organize into a fair and just state of government. And I worked for candidates I felt could further this. Then I could feel, I just want to be by myself. Could sense be made of these two different and strong feelings? Yes. Eli Siegel explains as he writes about a young woman he called Stella Winn: "The profound trouble with Stella Winn is that she has become altruistic, collective, not as a completion of egoism or narrow individualism, but as a set-off to these, an atonement for these. Collectivism and altruism are not atonements for individuality, they are completions of it."

This is one example of the comprehension that fills this book, that has one say to oneself, over and over, yes, now I understand. Every chapter of Mr. Siegel's prose delights and educates in so many fields, including love, the family, the understanding of dreams, children and what they're hoping for from themselves and their parents, anger, and so much more.
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When I began studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford, in the late 1970's, I was hoping to understand the world, other people, myself. There I studied the works of John Locke, David Hume, Rene Descartes, Bertrand Russell and many other great philosophers, and I was amazed by their ideas. But even when I graduated three years later I still didn't feel the philosophy I read and cared for had anything to do with my own personal thoughts and feelings. It was not until I read Eli Siegel's "Self and World" that I met a fully coherent, intellectually-satisfying explanation of reality and the purpose of our lives.

Eli Siegel explains the human self, what has interfered with -- ruined -- lives over the years; and he has enabled things that have tormented people--the hitherto intractable, incomprehensible things--to change, bringing sunlight where there was darkness. As he does, he brings together subjects that have been seen as essentially unrelated, such as individual psychology and economics, mental health and beauty, and shows how aesthetics relates and explains them all--that this is one coherent world, and that it is the other half of ourselves. As well as explaining in detail some of the biggest things such as insanity, happiness, what will make for truly successful economics, the meaning of beauty for our lives, guilt, how a child comes to have an attitude to the world and what interferes, love, dreams, and more--he also explains in a few paragraphs, sometimes less, such things as bed-wetting, the heredity-environment debate, trauma, and so much more, All this in words that are beautiful, with the most clear, accessible logic, kindness, passionate good will, and with tremendous humour.
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