“Offers a meditation on the meaning of life, in a sharp, engaging style …” New York Times Book Review
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Ageby Hubert Dreyfus, Sean Dorrance Kelly
“What constitutes human excellence?” and “What is the best way to live a life?” These are questions that human beings have been asking since the beginning of time. In their critically acclaimed book, All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly argue that our search for meaning was once fulfilled by our responsiveness to/i>… See more details below
“What constitutes human excellence?” and “What is the best way to live a life?” These are questions that human beings have been asking since the beginning of time. In their critically acclaimed book, All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly argue that our search for meaning was once fulfilled by our responsiveness to forces greater than ourselves, whether one God or many. These forces drew us in and imbued the ordinary moments of life with wonder and gratitude. Dreyfus and Kelly argue in this thought-provoking work that as we began to rely on the power of our own independent will we lost our skill for encountering the sacred.
Through their original and transformative discussion of some of the greatest works of Western literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to Melville’s Moby Dick, Dreyfus and Kelly reveal how we have lost our passionate engagement with the things that gave our lives purpose, and show how, by reading our culture’s classics anew, we can once again be drawn into intense involvement with the wonder and beauty of the world.
Well on its way to becoming a classic itself, this inspirational book will change the way we understand our culture, our history, our sacred practices, and ourselves.
The New York Times
The New York Times Book Review
Two distinguished professors seek mankind's salvation in the ancient Greek gods.
At first glance, this book would seem to be a rebuttal of the spate of arguments for atheism, and a ringing defense of polytheism, or an academic version of a self-help book, showing how to live a richer, more meaningful life by returning to precepts that preceded individual autonomy. In fact, Dreyfus (Philosophy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; On the Internet, 2001, etc.) and Kelly (Philosophy/Harvard Univ.) audaciously promise "nothing less than a philosophical and literary history of the West" in little more than 200 pages, aimed at the "nonspecialist audience" and "general reader." The authors successfully leapfrog through literary-philosophical history to suggest how we can reclaim redemptive qualities sacrificed to modernity. "When we develop in ourselves the ability for this kind of wonder and gratitude then we become a standing invitation to the gods," they write, asserting that one need not believe in those gods to recognize that one's feelings and fate are often shaped by forces outside the self and that there are limits to individual freedom and responsibility. In response to a metaphysical debate framed by Pulp Fiction, the authors write that "[t]he question that really matters...is not whether God was the causal agent but whether gratitude was an appropriate response." In other examples, Dreyfus and Kelly explore meaning (or the nihilism of meaninglessness) in the suicide of David Foster Wallace, the throwing problems of former baseball star Chuck Knoblauch and the rejection by Martin Luther of Aristotle. The book's wide scope is occasionally exasperating in its concision—"But before we move on to Descartes and Kant we will have to make a detour by way of St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante, who draw on Aristotle rather than Plato to make Christianity intelligible in Greek terms"—but the end result, detours and all, suggests a road map to the divine.
A provocative, illuminating and inspirational exhortation to "Ask not why the gods have abandoned you, but why you have abandoned the gods."
- Free Press
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A NOTE TO THE READER
THE WORLD DOESN’T MATTER to us the way it used to. The intense and meaningful lives of Homer’s Greeks, and the grand hierarchy of meaning that structured Dante’s medieval Christian world, both stand in stark contrast to our secular age. The world used to be, in its various forms, a world of sacred, shining things. The shining things now seem far away. This book is intended to bring them close once more.
The issues motivating our story are philosophical and literary, and we come at them from our professional background in these disciplines. But All Things Shining is intended for a nonspecialist audience, and we hope it will speak to a wide range of people. Anyone who lives in the contemporary world has the background to read it, and anyone who hopes to enrich his or her life by experiencing it in the light of classic philosophical and literary works can hope to find something here. Anyone who wants to lure back the shining things, to uncover the wonder we were once capable of experiencing and to reveal a world that sometimes calls forth such a mood; anyone who is done with indecision and waiting, with expressionlessness and lostness and sadness and angst, and who is ready for whatever it is that comes next; anyone with hope instead of despair, or anyone with despair that they would like to leave behind, can find something worthwhile in the pages ahead. Or at least that is what we intend.
© 2011 Hubert Dreyfus
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