Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

by Marilynne Robinson
     
 

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In this ambitious book, acclaimed writer Marilynne Robinson applies her astute intellect to some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought—science, religion, and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels, Absence of Mind challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner

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Overview

In this ambitious book, acclaimed writer Marilynne Robinson applies her astute intellect to some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought—science, religion, and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels, Absence of Mind challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science. In Robinson’s view, scientific reasoning does not denote a sense of logical infallibility, as thinkers like Richard Dawkins might suggest. Instead, in its purest form, science represents a search for answers. It engages the problem of knowledge, an aspect of the mystery of consciousness, rather than providing a simple and final model of reality.

By defending the importance of individual reflection, Robinson celebrates the power and variety of human consciousness in the tradition of William James. She explores the nature of subjectivity and considers the culture in which Sigmund Freud was situated and its influence on his model of self and civilization. Through keen interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry, Absence of Mind restores human consciousness to its central place in the religion-science debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
…these impassioned pages require and reward very close attention.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Robinson's new nonfiction work is drawn from her 2009 Terry lectures at Yale. More precisely, they are "lectures on religion in the light of science and philosophy." The charge is ambitious, and Robinson brings to the task a suitably wide-ranging perspective. She takes aim at the modern scholarly propensity to debunk, a practice she calls "flawed learnedness." It pitches out the babies of human insight with the bathwater of the past, preferring what she calls "parascience," a kind of pseudoscience that prizes certainty. This "parascience" is a latecomer in human thought, the product of only the last 150 years or so. Because it closes off questions, it's not even scientific. Nor does it allow space for the human mind and all the mind has produced in history and civilization. This is heady stuff that will particularly appeal to those familiar with the history of ideas and the many thinkers she cites, and to anyone willing to ponder broadly and humanistically about imponderable matters. Those who savor Robinson's clear prose will also be gratified; her mind, in thought, is elegant.
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Los Angeles Times

“Robinson''s arguments [are] so much more interesting, capacious, and informed than most. . . . Robinson makes a strong, unapologetic case, not for mystery but for self-respect.”—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

— Susan Salter Reynolds

Boston Globe
"There is much to admire, and even to agree with, in Robinson''s humanist passion. Her defense of the insights to be gained from religion and literature is as convincing as her attacks on the facile generalizations of parascience."--Adam Kirsch, Boston Globe
— Adam Kirsch
Globe & Mail

Named a Best Book of 2010--Globe & Mail, "2010 Globe 100"
Maclean's

“[Robinson] is one of the best thinkers in American letters. Her new (nonfiction) work is a slashing attack on scientific fundamentalism, not on behalf of religion but of human consciousness and our traditional concept of mind.”--Maclean’s

Daily Telegraph

"[Robinson] makes the case with exceptional elegance and authority--the authority not only of one of the unmistakably great novelists of the age but of a clear and logical mind that is wholly intolerant of intellectual cliché. . . . This book has a greater density (and sophistication) of argument than many three times its length; but it is one of the most significant contributions yet to the current quarrels about faith, science and rationality."—Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Daily Telegraph

— Rowan Williams

Catholic Herald

"Robinson is one of the greatest Christian thinkers alive today. She is also one of the world''s best novelists. . . . Absence of Mind is a slim but compelling volume."—Luke Coppen, Catholic Herald

— Luke Coppen

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Marilynne Robinson asks hard questions. She challenges readers with a severe, sophisticated and spellbinding style and a determination to change the conversation about contemporary American culture. . . . Absence of Mind is important not so much as a brief for religion but as a tenacious and often trenchant critique of modern Western thought.”—Glenn Altschuler, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

— Glenn Altschuler

The Revealer

“What Robinson has over both the parascientific writers whose work she rejects and the religion writers with whom she finds common ground is a long career (though few books) as a fiction writer, where she has demonstrated—and in her way, provided evidence of—the very contemplative, subjective lives of the faithful she defends in her new book.”—Scott Korb, The Revealer

— Scott Korb

Washington Post

"These impassioned pages require and reward very close attention."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

— Michael Dirda

American Scholar

"[Robinson reveals] how deep a debt both science and religion owe to art. . . . It is a rare treat to have a novelist express herself so forcefully, and so eloquently, in another medium."—Ingrid Rowland, American Scholar

— Ingrid Rowland

Books & Culture

"The scope of Robinson''s erudition is stunning, and she shares it with generosity and no dissembling."—Linda McCullough Moore, Books & Culture

— Linda McCullough Moore

Big Questions Online

"Marked by a luminous intelligence and a rather attractive intellectual severity. . . . One really must read it to appreciate how powerful a counterinsurgency it mounts against many of the peculiar superstitions of our age."—David B. Hart, Big Questions Online

— David B. Hart

Washington Times

"Robinson applies her astute intellect to . . . science, religion and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels, the book challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science."—Washington Times
The National

"Following the inward-looking path of her award-winning fiction, Marilynne Robinson''s Absence of Mind is a finely wrought treatise in favour of religious belief."—Chris Lehmann, The National

— Chris Lehmann

IrishTimes

"This is a wonderful little book, full of wisdom, warmth and wit. . . . [Robinson] is able to apply her astute intellect, delicious sense of humour, incisive insight into human nature and down-to-earth philosophy of life."—Mark Patrick Hederman, Irish Times

— Mark Patrick Hederman

The Observer

"I''m enjoying arguing and agreeing with Marilynne Robinson''s Absence of Mind."— Zadie Smith, The Observer


— Zadie Smith

The Guardian

"Robinson''s argument is prophetic, profound, eloquent, succinct, powerful and timely." — Karen Armstrong, The Guardian

— Karen Armstrong

Literary Review

"I have barely scratched the surface of this dense and yet endlessly entertaining little book. Marilynne Robinson is herself the best evidence of her own thesis--the exceptional mystery of the human mind." — Bryan Appleyard, Literary Review

— Bryan Appleyard

Financial Times

"I enjoyed reading Absence of Mind. The reason: it is always a pleasure to keep company with a person who takes ideas seriously." — Siri Hustvedt, Financial Times

— Siri Hustvedt

The Australian

"It is worth admiring Robinson''s bravery and intellectual independence, and noting the sheer force and capacity of language like hers to persuade." — Geordie Williamson, The Australian

— Geordie Williamson

Christian Week

"A book of dense philosophy from a brilliant novelist with a poet''s ear. It is stunning. It places Robinson among the very brightest of Christian history''s thinkers and writers. . . . I cannot praise it too highly."—Kurt Armstrong, Christian Week

— Kurt Armstrong

San Francisco Chronicle

“This deeply informed essay affirms mystery, imagination and wonder against the 19th-century remnants of positivism still delimiting the human in the name of a reduced and reductive science.”San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds

“Robinson's arguments [are] so much more interesting, capacious, and informed than most. . . . Robinson makes a strong, unapologetic case, not for mystery but for self-respect.”—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

Boston Globe - Adam Kirsch
"There is much to admire, and even to agree with, in Robinson's humanist passion. Her defense of the insights to be gained from religion and literature is as convincing as her attacks on the facile generalizations of parascience."--Adam Kirsch, Boston Globe
Daily Telegraph - Rowan Williams

"[Robinson] makes the case with exceptional elegance and authority--the authority not only of one of the unmistakably great novelists of the age but of a clear and logical mind that is wholly intolerant of intellectual cliché. . . . This book has a greater density (and sophistication) of argument than many three times its length; but it is one of the most significant contributions yet to the current quarrels about faith, science and rationality."—Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Daily Telegraph

Catholic Herald - Luke Coppen

"Robinson is one of the greatest Christian thinkers alive today. She is also one of the world's best novelists. . . . Absence of Mind is a slim but compelling volume."—Luke Coppen, Catholic Herald

Minneapolis Star-Tribune - Glenn Altschuler

“Marilynne Robinson asks hard questions. She challenges readers with a severe, sophisticated and spellbinding style and a determination to change the conversation about contemporary American culture. . . . Absence of Mind is important not so much as a brief for religion but as a tenacious and often trenchant critique of modern Western thought.”—Glenn Altschuler, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Revealer - Scott Korb

“What Robinson has over both the parascientific writers whose work she rejects and the religion writers with whom she finds common ground is a long career (though few books) as a fiction writer, where she has demonstrated—and in her way, provided evidence of—the very contemplative, subjective lives of the faithful she defends in her new book.”—Scott Korb, The Revealer

Washington Post - Michael Dirda

"These impassioned pages require and reward very close attention."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
American Scholar - Ingrid Rowland

"[Robinson reveals] how deep a debt both science and religion owe to art. . . . It is a rare treat to have a novelist express herself so forcefully, and so eloquently, in another medium."—Ingrid Rowland, American Scholar
Books & Culture - Linda McCullough Moore

"The scope of Robinson's erudition is stunning, and she shares it with generosity and no dissembling."—Linda McCullough Moore, Books & Culture
Big Questions Online - David B. Hart

"Marked by a luminous intelligence and a rather attractive intellectual severity. . . . One really must read it to appreciate how powerful a counterinsurgency it mounts against many of the peculiar superstitions of our age."—David B. Hart, Big Questions Online
The National - Chris Lehmann

"Following the inward-looking path of her award-winning fiction, Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind is a finely wrought treatise in favour of religious belief."—Chris Lehmann, The National
IrishTimes - Mark Patrick Hederman

"This is a wonderful little book, full of wisdom, warmth and wit. . . . [Robinson] is able to apply her astute intellect, delicious sense of humour, incisive insight into human nature and down-to-earth philosophy of life."—Mark Patrick Hederman, Irish Times
The Observer - Zadie Smith

"I'm enjoying arguing and agreeing with Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind."— Zadie Smith, The Observer

The Guardian - Karen Armstrong

"Robinson's argument is prophetic, profound, eloquent, succinct, powerful and timely." — Karen Armstrong, The Guardian
Literary Review - Bryan Appleyard

"I have barely scratched the surface of this dense and yet endlessly entertaining little book. Marilynne Robinson is herself the best evidence of her own thesis--the exceptional mystery of the human mind." — Bryan Appleyard, Literary Review
Financial Times - Siri Hustvedt

"I enjoyed reading Absence of Mind. The reason: it is always a pleasure to keep company with a person who takes ideas seriously." — Siri Hustvedt, Financial Times
The Australian - Geordie Williamson

"It is worth admiring Robinson's bravery and intellectual independence, and noting the sheer force and capacity of language like hers to persuade." — Geordie Williamson, The Australian
Christian Week - Kurt Armstrong

"A book of dense philosophy from a brilliant novelist with a poet's ear. It is stunning. It places Robinson among the very brightest of Christian history's thinkers and writers. . . . I cannot praise it too highly."—Kurt Armstrong, Christian Week
CHOICE - S. C. Pearson

"Readers interested in seriously thinking about science, culture, and religion, and their interrelationships, will find this book rewarding."—S. C. Pearson, CHOICE
The Weekly Standard - Barton Swaim

"One of the best things about the literature of the New Atheists is that, for all the supercilious question-begging, it has provoked a number of highly literate and memorable responses. This is one of them."—Barton Swaim, The Weekly Standard
The Living Church - Jean McCurdy Meade

"Absense of Mind is a succinct and carefully reasoned challenge to those who would say that all our thoughts, beliefs, aspirations, and intimations of immortality are only a combination of wishful thinking and outdated primitive beliefs."—Dr. Jean McCurdy Meade, The Living Church
The New Criterion - Stefan Beck

"Marilynne Robinson is one of those rare novelists whose work, though galvanized by a theological impulse, is adored by believers and atheists in equal measure. . . . We experience [her characters'] interiority almost as naturally as our own, and respond to it emotionally, intellectually, even spiritually. Robinson's latest collection, Absence of Mind, gets to the hear of that creative force, while reminding us what little heed she pays intellectual fashion."—Stefan Beck, The New Criterion
Maclean’s

“[Robinson] is one of the best thinkers in American letters. Her new (nonfiction) work is a slashing attack on scientific fundamentalism, not on behalf of religion but of human consciousness and our traditional concept of mind.”--Maclean’s

CHOICE

"Readers interested in seriously thinking about science, culture, and religion, and their interrelationships, will find this book rewarding."—S. C. Pearson, CHOICE

— S. C. Pearson

The Weekly Standard

"One of the best things about the literature of the New Atheists is that, for all the supercilious question-begging, it has provoked a number of highly literate and memorable responses. This is one of them."—Barton Swaim, The Weekly Standard

— Barton Swaim

The Living Church

"Absense of Mind is a succinct and carefully reasoned challenge to those who would say that all our thoughts, beliefs, aspirations, and intimations of immortality are only a combination of wishful thinking and outdated primitive beliefs."—Dr. Jean McCurdy Meade, The Living Church

— Jean McCurdy Meade

The New Criterion

"Marilynne Robinson is one of those rare novelists whose work, though galvanized by a theological impulse, is adored by believers and atheists in equal measure. . . . We experience [her characters''] interiority almost as naturally as our own, and respond to it emotionally, intellectually, even spiritually. Robinson''s latest collection, Absence of Mind, gets to the hear of that creative force, while reminding us what little heed she pays intellectual fashion."—Stefan Beck, The New Criterion

— Stefan Beck

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300171471
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
06/28/2011
Series:
Terry Lectures Series
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
223,682
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)

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