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The Closing of the American Mind –…

The Closing of the American Mind (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 1987; vuoden 1988 painos)

– tekijä: Allan Bloom

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
3,776252,467 (3.6)35
In this book, the author (a distinguished political philosopher) argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis marked by obvious declines in appreciation of humanities, a drop in the qualitative output of our university systems, and a disquieting disconnect between today's students and the spiritual and cultural traditions of their heritage.… (lisätietoja)
Teoksen nimi:The Closing of the American Mind
Kirjailijat:Allan Bloom
Info:Simon & Schuster (1988), Edition: 1st Touchstone Ed, Paperback, 392 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):**

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The Closing of the American Mind (tekijä: Allan Bloom) (1987)


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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 25) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
In this book, Allan Bloom argues that the university has been compromised by the fractured thinking that characterizes our society at large. The university is in danger of losing its true purpose, to the ultimate detriment of all society. He traces the origins of this moment back to Enlightenment philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, who radically reformed the idea of what it is to be a human being, and what the human being's relationship to the state is. According to his analysis, these developments culminated in a subjective turn with Nietzsche and Heidegger, which disembedded morality from any rational basis and gave birth to modern individualism. This, in turn, got watered down into our contemporary American values culture and its individualistic ideals of "fulfillment" and "lifestyle." He concludes that, since contemporary culture sees mankind as reducible to these impulses, the humanities have lost the authority and relevance they once had -- and this is the beginning of the end for the traditional role and authority of the university.

Style-wise, this book is a disaster. Bloom goes on and on and on with ramblings so prolix and convoluted that I had a hard time keeping track whether he was summarizing the position of some past philosopher or advancing his own argument, and sometimes even what his argument was. At several points, I thought I was following his train of thought only to be surprised by where he went in the next sentence. He name-drops constantly as though he expects his readers to know what it is he has in mind -- and when he does explain, he offers broad summaries of a thinker's entire body of thought with little to no elaboration -- so either way, we must take him at his word when he eventually reaches a conclusion (which sometimes never happens). It's also terribly disorganized. Despite being divided into sections, the book repeats arguments and doubles back constantly, an aspect which I found maddening. (For example, on p. 208 he makes the point that Nietzsche was the first anti-Socratic philosopher, and then makes the same point again a hundred pages later, on p. 307.)

It is beyond me how this book became a best-seller. For stylistic reasons alone I would not recommend this to anyone. I only finished this book because I was using it for a class. There are a number of other books that make similar points much better, and in less space - The Abolition of Man, After Virtue, and John Taylor Gatto come to mind. Bloom also has something in common with Charles Taylor in his analysis of the Enlightenment as a turning point. (If I remember correctly, in his Massey lectures, Taylor responds directly to Bloom by defending aspects of modern individualism against Bloom's unilateral attack.)

Content-wise, I agree for the most part with Bloom's criticism of modern relativistic values culture. As a public school teacher, I see propaganda for this ideology all the time, and am well familiar with both its vacuity and its lack of effectiveness among the students for actually shaping their lives in any meaningful way. I am also witness to the fallout of how our culture as a whole tends to devalue the pursuit of knowledge as part of the good life, let alone philosophy as the highest of all pursuits. His insight that values culture merely rephrases existential questions rather than actually answering them is a good one. And he makes a strong case that, in order for our culture to find its way out of its contradictions, we must return to philosophy. (It was my own experience a number of years ago reading After Virtue and realizing that the emperor had no clothes -- that modern moral discourse serves only to mask its own baselessness -- that started me down the path of philosophy.)

His insights into the state of education, especially in the final section, are even more incisive. He was clearly traumatized by the Cornell takeover in 1969, and looks on that event as a paradigm case of how academia concedes to popular demands, rather than standing as a bulwark resistant to popular opinion and pushing back in an enriching, constructive way. In this, he sounds very conservative -- the activists had charged the university with systemic racism, and his critique could be seen as insensitive to race issues. But his point isn't so much about the activists' claims, as with their closed-minded attitude. He sees antiracism as part of the pseudo-fascism of new liberalism, an intolerant ideological package that proceeds by force rather than argument and makes a point of censoring opposition. (Again, all this is a result of developments in Enlightenment and existentialist philosophy, and a necessary consequence of democracy.) You've probably heard something like this before -- so, take it as you will. His ultimate concern is the fallout, that the humanities are separated from the other disciplines, cordoned off and relativized. As part of this closed-minded package, there isn't anything to learn from philosophy or the tradition except what can be practically applied to the here and now. E.g., Plato, Shakespeare, etc. were all sexists/racists/etc., so we approach these authors from a position of superiority and utility, which makes authentic engagement with them, and therefore true enrichment, impossible. And in cutting ourselves off from these authors, we are cutting ourselves off from ourselves. I.e., we are unable to engage critically with the philosophical heritage we borrow from unknowingly every day (Enlightenment and existentialism), which stunts our growth and our functioning as a society. Most of those points I think are fair, and to a large extent still relevant. And many of them resonate personally.

On the other hand, he does go on more than one caustic rant about young people and their rock music, casual sex, "liberal values," etc., clearly giving vent to some deep bitterness. Although he makes some valid observations here, it's hard not to read these in the voice of an old fuddy-duddy armchair-would-be-philosopher railing against the damn youngsters. These sections of the book are horribly dated and call into question his own credibility.

Also, he fails to truly reckon with some of the figures he brings up. Although he does offer a pretty good summary of Nietzsche's philosophy, I think he either misunderstands what subjectivity really means for Nietzsche and Heidegger (and their followers) or is too quick to dismiss them because of their scorn for (and his love of) Socrates and the Socratic tradition. He doesn't come to grips with what their insights really mean for his stake in the preservation of the university. So in the end, he could come off almost naïve.

So kind of a mixed bag overall. It did raise some important questions, and I think I learned something about Rousseau and the history of the Enlightenment. But again, it was terribly written, rambly, and poorly organized, and I'm pretty sure that if I didn't have a background in philosophy and didn't already know basically what he was talking about, I would have been totally lost. Perhaps that's why a lot of people just ended up reading this as sort of a conservative clarion call in the culture wars. Closing of the American mind indeed. ( )
1 ääni exhypothesi | Mar 7, 2021 |
I think the diversity of these reviews and comments is a testament to the quality of Bloom’s work. Something that, had the book been emphasizing a bunch of thoughtless relativism (as opposed to thoughtful relativism), would have garnered a whole bunch of flat and homogenous reviews. The book had a section on race, yes. It also had a section on gender, students, the university, the crises of philosophy, and several others, all of which were critical and none of which were central to Bloom’s argument. In fact, the sole object of Bloom’s criticism was ultimately the tattered state of modern thought and the mockery it makes of our collective reality, Life.

The point of this book isn’t to tell you or anyone else what to think. The point of this book is to make you think.

In all honesty, I did debate giving this book less than 5 stars due to Bloom’s section on race and the surprising attention it seems to elicit from readers. However, beyond the section being one of the shortest, nowhere within it does Bloom allude to or even insinuate racist sentiment. Most of the focus appears to be a misinterpretation of Bloom’s addressing the use and abuse of statistical data that, despite being completely devoid of any cultural sensitivity or insight, was used to uproot existing communities (no doubt underserved communities, but Bloom’s concern is the university) on the expectation of immediate cultural assimilation and absolute conformism. Something that, had there been any serious thought to actual human beings – the culture of the black communities – may have elicited more insightful and impactful outcomes (insofar as Bloom saw it).

The book makes a plea for the revitalization of philosophy and a renewed meaning of human nature. All of this is under the expectation that the author should be taken seriously, but not absolutely. ( )
  mitchanderson | Jan 17, 2021 |
Worth reading in 2020 in Australia, as this has been the year that our federal government has stopped funding history and philosophy degrees in favour of more technical degrees it thinks will stimulate a post-covid economy. Bloom is sometimes errant in his attack on music and sex, but I feel reassured reading a man who sees reading great works of literature, history, and philosophy as integral to being properly educated. A quote from the book: "The professors of humanities are in an impossible situation and do
not believe in themselves or what they do. Like it or not, they are essentially involved with interpreting and transmitting old books, preserving
what we call tradition, in a democratic order where tradition is not
privileged. They are partisans of the leisured and beautiful in a place
where evident utility is the only passport. Their realm is the always and
the contemplative, in a setting that demands only the here and now and
the active. The justice in which they believe is egalitarian, and they are
the agents of the rare, the refined and the superior. By definition they are
out of it, and their democratic inclinations and guilt push them to be with
it. After all, what do Shakespeare and Milton have to do with solving our
problems? "

Allan Bloom has often been derided by those on the postmodern left, but this book is even more relevant in 2020 than it was when published in 1987.
  Tom.Wilson | Oct 21, 2020 |
Recommended by Victor L. Brown.
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
Bloom's observations, published in the late '80s, throw a light on the 21st century. Quoting Rousseau, who noted the complementarity of the sexes, which "mesh and set the machine of life in motion," Bloom builds a passionate case for liberal arts education. Throughout the book, he fights for the soul of America's youth, claiming "some men and women at the age of sixteen have nothing more to learn about the erotic. They are adult in the sense that they will no longer change very much. They may be competent specialists, but they are flat-souled." ( )
  DellaWanna | Apr 28, 2018 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 25) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
ALLAN BLOOM, a professor of philosophy and political science at the University of Chicago, is perhaps best known as a translator and interpreter of Jean Jacques Rousseau's ''Emile'' and Plato's ''Republic,'' two classic texts that ponder the relationship between education and society. In ''The Closing of the American Mind,'' Mr. Bloom has drawn both on his deep acquaintance with philosophical thinking about education and on a long career as a teacher to give us an extraordinary meditation on the fate of liberal education in this country - a meditation, as he puts it in his opening pages, ''on the state of our souls.''

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Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Bloom, Allanensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Bellow, SaulEsipuhemuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
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To my students
Ensimmäiset sanat
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I used to think that young Americans began whatever education they were to get at the age of eighteen, that their early lives were spiritually empty and that they arrived at the university clean slates unaware of their deeper selves and the world beyond their superficial experience.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

In this book, the author (a distinguished political philosopher) argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis marked by obvious declines in appreciation of humanities, a drop in the qualitative output of our university systems, and a disquieting disconnect between today's students and the spiritual and cultural traditions of their heritage.

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