The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound

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Overview

In what kind of world and for what kind of thought is time real, history open, and novelty possible? In what kind of world and for what kind of thought does it make sense for a human being to look for trouble rather than to stay out of trouble?

In this long-awaited work of general philosophy, Roberto Mangabeira Unger proposes a radical reorientation of established ideas about nature, mind, society, politics, and religion. He shows how we have to change our beliefs if we are to succeed in doing justice to our most distinctive contemporary experiences, discoveries, and ideals.

The Self Awakened mobilizes the resources of several philosophical traditions, and develops the unrecognized revolutionary implications of the most influential of these traditions today--pragmatism. Avoiding technical jargon and needless complication, this book makes a case for philosophy as the supreme activity of the intellect at war, insisting on its power to deal with what matters most.

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Editorial Reviews

Metapsychology Online

Unger writes broadly for an educated audience, but most specifically for philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and legal theorists. His style is inviting and non-technical, almost sermonic in certain passages. His capacious and ambitious mind yields a challenge, though, of holding together and keeping in view the multiple facets of his philosophical vision. His penchant for apt and memorable metaphors, however, assists readers in this task.
— Brad Frazier

Times Higher Education Supplement

The Self Awakened shows [Roberto Mangabeira Unger] to be one of the few living philosophers whose thinking has the range of the great philosophers of the past...Unger has a restless and unruly mind, and is, I can report from several personal encounters, one of the most articulate and penetratingly original thinkers one is likely to meet...His thinking and writing have always ranged beyond the boundaries of legal and social theory, to psychology, psychoanalysis, and architecture. In this book, he takes on the task and direction of philosophy itself and draws out implications ranging from the theory and practice of politics, to psychology, to the most fundamental questions about space, time, cosmology, physics, and mathematics...[The Self Awakened] is written in a vivid prose style that mixes precise lawyerly argument with poetic and metaphorical passages of astounding vividness. It is a polemic and a call to action, but what it challenges us to do most of all is to experiment with how we live and think. It is many years since I found myself as inspired and provoked by a book of non-fiction. Unger aims at nothing less than to invent a new kind of politics, which is evolutionary in style but revolutionary in outcome...This is a philosophy as ambitious as any being written now.
— Lee Smolin

Choice

This book reads like something from a bygone age. Unger has given readers a humanist manifesto, a text more at home in the 1930s than in the postmodern age. It is that rarest of things: an earnest book...Unger contests the claims of academic philosophy to naturalize all aspects of human existence in the name of science. Instead, he offers readers the hope that human beings will be able to transcend their limitations through imagination, and thereby become authentically futural beings. In order to accomplish this, a renewal of philosophy must take place: a radicalized pragmatism whose practitioners truly realize that they control their own fates.
— C. R. McCall

Bruce Ackerman
Roberto Unger is one of the very few creative political philosophers of our time. The brief and broadly accessible The Self Awakened, which takes a distinctive position on one of the great questions of political philosophy and develops its implications for the political predicaments of our time, will serve as the best introduction to his complex work. For the brave band of secular humanists who do not wish to turn back the clock, this book represents an important contribution to an important conversation.
Metapsychology Online - Brad Frazier
Unger writes broadly for an educated audience, but most specifically for philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and legal theorists. His style is inviting and non-technical, almost sermonic in certain passages. His capacious and ambitious mind yields a challenge, though, of holding together and keeping in view the multiple facets of his philosophical vision. His penchant for apt and memorable metaphors, however, assists readers in this task.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Lee Smolin
The Self Awakened shows [Roberto Mangabeira Unger] to be one of the few living philosophers whose thinking has the range of the great philosophers of the past...Unger has a restless and unruly mind, and is, I can report from several personal encounters, one of the most articulate and penetratingly original thinkers one is likely to meet...His thinking and writing have always ranged beyond the boundaries of legal and social theory, to psychology, psychoanalysis, and architecture. In this book, he takes on the task and direction of philosophy itself and draws out implications ranging from the theory and practice of politics, to psychology, to the most fundamental questions about space, time, cosmology, physics, and mathematics...[The Self Awakened] is written in a vivid prose style that mixes precise lawyerly argument with poetic and metaphorical passages of astounding vividness. It is a polemic and a call to action, but what it challenges us to do most of all is to experiment with how we live and think. It is many years since I found myself as inspired and provoked by a book of non-fiction. Unger aims at nothing less than to invent a new kind of politics, which is evolutionary in style but revolutionary in outcome...This is a philosophy as ambitious as any being written now.
Choice - C. R. McCall
This book reads like something from a bygone age. Unger has given readers a humanist manifesto, a text more at home in the 1930s than in the postmodern age. It is that rarest of things: an earnest book...Unger contests the claims of academic philosophy to naturalize all aspects of human existence in the name of science. Instead, he offers readers the hope that human beings will be able to transcend their limitations through imagination, and thereby become authentically futural beings. In order to accomplish this, a renewal of philosophy must take place: a radicalized pragmatism whose practitioners truly realize that they control their own fates.
Choice
This book reads like something from a bygone age. Unger has given readers a humanist manifesto, a text more at home in the 1930s than in the postmodern age. It is that rarest of things: an earnest book...Unger contests the claims of academic philosophy to naturalize all aspects of human existence in the name of science. Instead, he offers readers the hope that human beings will be able to transcend their limitations through imagination, and thereby become authentically futural beings. In order to accomplish this, a renewal of philosophy must take place: a radicalized pragmatism whose practitioners truly realize that they control their own fates.
— C. R. McCall
Times Higher Education Supplement
The Self Awakened shows [Roberto Mangabeira Unger] to be one of the few living philosophers whose thinking has the range of the great philosophers of the past...Unger has a restless and unruly mind, and is, I can report from several personal encounters, one of the most articulate and penetratingly original thinkers one is likely to meet...His thinking and writing have always ranged beyond the boundaries of legal and social theory, to psychology, psychoanalysis, and architecture. In this book, he takes on the task and direction of philosophy itself and draws out implications ranging from the theory and practice of politics, to psychology, to the most fundamental questions about space, time, cosmology, physics, and mathematics...[The Self Awakened] is written in a vivid prose style that mixes precise lawyerly argument with poetic and metaphorical passages of astounding vividness. It is a polemic and a call to action, but what it challenges us to do most of all is to experiment with how we live and think. It is many years since I found myself as inspired and provoked by a book of non-fiction. Unger aims at nothing less than to invent a new kind of politics, which is evolutionary in style but revolutionary in outcome...This is a philosophy as ambitious as any being written now.
— Lee Smolin
Metapsychology Online
Unger writes broadly for an educated audience, but most specifically for philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and legal theorists. His style is inviting and non-technical, almost sermonic in certain passages. His capacious and ambitious mind yields a challenge, though, of holding together and keeping in view the multiple facets of his philosophical vision. His penchant for apt and memorable metaphors, however, assists readers in this task.
— Brad Frazier
Library Journal

In this difficult work, Unger (law, Harvard Univ.) develops "a conception of humanity and of its place in the world" and calls for "a world revolution that is spiritual as well as political." He believes that to bring this about, we need an alternative to the "perennial philosophy" that sees change and time as illusions and ultimate reality as an unchanging "unity prior to all difference." This thinking, which traces its roots back to ancient Greek metaphysics, is, he argues, exactly the opposite of what is needed today; what is needed now is action—engagement—a refined pragmatism that goes out into the world and brings about transformative projects "in politics, religion and speculative thought." He outlines these projects in detail, touching on myriad central issues in philosophy, law, and politics. This is not an easy book: Unger's interests are wide-ranging, highly informed, insightful, and demanding. His writing is graceful, with poetic overtones. Highly recommended for advanced studies in philosophy, law, and political theory.
—Leon H. Brody

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674034969
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 795,657
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Roberto Mangabeira Unger is widely regarded as one of the leading social thinkers of the present. Called by the New York Times "a restless visionary," he has been described by Perry Anderson as "a philosophical mind out of the Third World turning the tables to become a synoptist and seer of the First."
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Table of Contents

The Philosophy of the Age

Rejected Options

The Perennial Philosophy and Its Enemy

Pragmatism Reclaimed

Pragmatism As a Starting Point

Three Ideas of the Pragmatists

Central Themes: Agency, Contingency, Futurity, Experimentalism

Two Misreadings of Pragmatism

Pragmatist Insights and American Mistakes

The Core Conception: Constraint, Incompleteness, Resistance, Reinvention

A Conception of Humanity

Four Elements of the Conception

Philosophical Attitudes Associated With These Ideas

Time and Experience: Antinomies of the Impersonal

The Source of the Antinomies

The Antinomy of Time

The Antinomy of Objectivity

The Reality of Time: the Transformation of Transformation

The Reality of Time

The Thesis That Time Is the Transformation of Transformation

The Thesis That Time Holds Sway Over Everything

The Thesis That There Is No Closed Horizon of Possible Worlds

The Thesis That Mathematics Is a Trojan Horse Within the Mind Against the Recognition of Time

The Thesis That Human Experience Has an Inescapable Temporal Structure

Self-Consciousness: Humanity Imagined

The Imagination Disarmed in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Rationalization, Humanization, and Escapism

Self-Consciousness Redirected

An Initial View of the Mind

The Initial View Developed By Contrast

The Two Sides of the Mind

From the Conception of the Mind to the Marking of a Direction

What Then Should We Do?

Conception and Orientation

The Indifference of Nature: False Escape

Will and Imagination

The Manifest World and Hidden Reality

The Conflict Between the Enabling Requirements of Self-Possession

Self and Character

Historical and Biographical Time

The Prophecies of Art

Society: the Perpetual Invention of the Future

Politics: Democracy As Anti-Fate

A Moment of Reform: the Reinvention of Social Democracy

Religion: the Self Awakened

The Problems of Connection and Transcendence Restated

How We Encounter These Problems in the Course of a Life

Existential Options

The Two Awakenings of the Self

Demands of the Second Awakening

Philosophy: Beyond Super-Science and Self-Help

First Digression: Nature in Its Place

Second Digression: the Universal Grid of Philosophy

Proper Name Index

Thematic Index

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