Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students / Edition 1by Allan Bloom
Pub. Date: 05/15/1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
The Closing of the American Mind, a publishing phenomenon in hardcover, is now a paperback literary event. In this acclaimed number one national best-seller, one of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is essential to understanding America today. It has fired the imagination of a public ripe for change.
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Table of Contents
|Introduction: Our Virtue||25|
|The Clean Slate||47|
|Part 2||Nihilism, American Style|
|The German Connection||141|
|Two Revolutions and Two States of Nature||157|
|The Nietzscheanization of the Left or Vice Versa||217|
|Part 3||The University|
|From Socrates' Apology to Heidegger's Rektoratsrede||243|
|Tocqueville on Democratic Intellectual Life||246|
|The Relation Between Thought and Civil Society||256|
|The Philosophic Experience||268|
|The Enlightenment Transformation||284|
|Rousseau's Radicalization and the German University||298|
|The Student and the University||336|
|The Decomposition of the University||347|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I would have to disagree with some of the previous reviewers. I found the book quite difficult to understand. You need a degree in philosophy, or you need to be a well-read autodidact to figure out what Bloom is writing about sometimes. His convoluted style doesn't help, either. I lost track of how many times I had to re-read sentences half a page long (or so it seemed) for meaning. Bloom does make interesting reading every so often though, and he is right about a narrowing of the mind in American higher education. He is wrong to blame this primarily on social-science liberals. Economics plays its part - an arts degree is worth less and less - and it is hardly surprising that many of the most intelligent students choose business degrees now. One part of the book that is disappointing is that which deals with music. Bloom's musical development seems to have ended with jazz and his misconceptions about anything post 1960 led me to wonder about his wisdom in other areas. Nevertheless, the book is still worth a read, but be prepared for a challenging experience.
This is a book that can change a person's life. It's the type of book where one realizes that the point of reading is not to read the opinions one already has and to pat oneself on the back and parade with all manners of celebration, but to challenge them, as Socrates tries to show Meno. I have no idea what type of math problem '52 year old mathematician' was doing when he wrote his review labeling the book (with a lot of sweeping generalizations backed by his major thesis 'the book is to hard for me') as a 'trashball,' but it must have been of the third grader variety. This book is like fresh air, it will make you feel good and it will enliven your mind. I agree that Socrates should be brought back into schools, but not at the third grade level as the '52 year old mathematician' has had him. Everyone should know Greek. No one can appreciate the craftsmanship of Pato ('A philosopher who practices music' as Nietzsche called himself) or the absolute irony of Socrates without knowing the Greek. Why is it that people read the Apology, and leave Plato thereafter? Who has even read the Laws, Sophist, etc? How many people really know Plato's philosophy? How can we let ourselves not completely grasp something? This book of Bloom's is nothing compared to the Republic, but it is still better than most anything one can read to develop the soul. It is criticized vaguely by relativists as being 'elitist,' 'conservative,' surely 'sexist' even 'rascist.' These people equate standards and truth with opinions and fleeting desires. - Anyone who attempts to find a right way to live must be one of those damn crazy republicans. - (that is of course a vulgar charicature drawn as simple as can be, but as far as their argument goes, or lack thereof, I don't think if fails the mark to refute it) Read the Harold Bloom interview on bn.com - he defends himself nicely in his choice of Faulkner over Morrison.
A remarkable book. Written from the perspective of the late 1980's, Bloom's analysis of the debasement of higher education and American culture in general is even more valid today. The most remarkable chapter is 'The German Connection', which vividly shows how value relativism, so beloved by modern liberals, was first described by Nietzsche, not as a cause for celebration, but as the malady that afflicts us and which has to be overcome. I somehow doubt that the left will enjoy this book - it strikes too close to home - but for the rest of us it is something worth returning to over and over for its insights and wisdom.
In reading this text it becomes cleal that Bloom is an advocate of keeping a closed canon within this country. He argues for the great books and against everything else, no good education ever came solely from the great books. Bloom seems in his undertones to advocate something far worse that keeping a closed canon, he advocates closedmindedness, a sin above all others. I reccoment that anyone who reads this also read 'The Liberal Arts, The Campus, and the Biosphere: An Alternative to Bloom's Vision of Education' by David W. Orr, Published in the Harvard Educational Review 60 (2): 205-216. Blooms sentiment is truely the exact opposite of what should be happening in this country.