All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age

All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age

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Overview

All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert Dreyfus, Sean Dorrance Kelly

In unrelenting flow of choices confronts us at nearly every moment of our lives, and yet our culture offers us no clear way to choose. This predicament seems inevitable, but in fact it’s quite new. In medieval Europe, God’s calling was a grounding force. In ancient Greece, a whole pantheon of shining gods stood ready to draw an appropriate action out of you. Like an athlete in “the zone,” you were called to a harmonious attunement with the world, so absorbed in it that you couldn’t make a “wrong” choice. If our culture no longer takes for granted a belief in God, can we nevertheless get in touch with the Homeric moods of wonder and gratitude, and be guided by the meanings they reveal? All Things Shining says we can.

Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly illuminate some of the greatest works of the West to reveal how we have lost our passionate engagement with and responsiveness to the world. Their journey takes us from the wonder and openness of Homer’s polytheism to the monotheism of Dante; from the autonomy of Kant to the multiple worlds of Melville; and, finally, to the spiritual difficulties evoked by modern authors such as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Dreyfus, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, for forty years, is an original thinker who finds in the classic texts of our culture a new relevance for people’s everyday lives. His lively, thought-provoking lectures have earned him a podcast audience that often reaches the iTunesU Top 40. Kelly, chair of the philosophy department at Harvard University, is an eloquent new voice whose sensitivity to the sadness of the culture—and to what remains of the wonder and gratitude that could chase it away—captures a generation adrift.

Re-envisioning modern spiritual life through their examination of literature, philosophy, and religious testimony, Dreyfus and Kelly unearth ancient sources of meaning, and teach us how to rediscover the sacred, shining things that surround us every day. This book will change the way we understand our culture, our history, our sacred practices, and ourselves. It offers a new—and very old—way to celebrate and be grateful for our existence in the modern world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416596158
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 01/04/2011
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.75(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Hubert Dreyfus is a leading interpreter of existential philosophy. He has taught at UC Berkeley for more than 40 years.

Sean Dorrance Kelly is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also Co-Chair of Harvard’s interdisciplinary committee for the study of Mind, Brain, and Behavior. Before arriving at Harvard, Kelly taught at Stanford and Princeton, and he was a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. He is considered a leading interpreter of the French and German tradition in phenomenology, as well as a prominent philosopher of mind. Kelly has published articles in numerous journals and anthologies and has received fellowships or awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEH, the NSF and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, among others.

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All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A thought provoking and well articulated historical anthology of the godlessness associated with our nihilistic society. The literary references and their analyses speaks to the breadth of knowledge of these two authors. Rarely can a book appeal to such a wide cross-section of readership. Congratulations on this masterful work!
Lord_Kinbote More than 1 year ago
I am a sucker for self-help books written by noted philosophers or serious academics. My virtual library is filled with titles like "How to Live," "Where is Wisdom to be Found" and "Shop class as Soul Craft" so when I saw this title co-written by philosopher Hubert Dreyfus I went for it like paparazzi at a Brangelina sighting. I don't think that philosophers and literary critics necessarily have any more wisdom than, say, someone like Mitch Albom or Deepak Chopra, it's just that the scholars usually write better and refer to more interesting/obscure sources. So that where Albom might view a dying social psychology prof as a fount of wisdom, someone like James Miller (author of "Examined Lives") will quote Aristotle, Seneca and Nietzsche. That being said, I found this volume a bit disappointing. It is well-written and well-researched but it works better on the level of literary analysis than on the level of imparting wise thoughts. Not that there is not some wisdom to be found within its pages. I just thought it dwelt overmuch on Herman Melville and "Moby Dick." I don't have anything against "Moby Dick" but it felt out of place in this work, which in earlier chapters focuses on Homer, Dante, Augustine and Kant. I found those chapters to be more illuminating than the one on Melville (this is ironic because Melville is one of my favorite writers). The authors rail against contemporary nihilism, which is a worthy effort. However, they offer nothing much more than the notion that sports provide modern society with "sacred moments," and we need those. The authors refer to such experiences as recognizing the need for practices to propitiate the divine. Okay, so what they are saying is that sports are contemporary society's new religions. I do not consider myself to be religious but I beg to differ with them. Religious practices, whether they are mainstream or counter-cultural, are still the most authentic means to achieve communion with the divine. True, being swept up by the emotions of the crowd at a sporting event is transcendental in its own way but to what ultimate effect? You experience going beyond the self to experience oneness with the crowd but there is no true transcendence in the sense that you experience the divine. Overall, while I disagree strongly with the book's conclusion, I do find it's premise to be thought-provoking, and we need more of that in books these days.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Fascinating read. Insightful. Soulful. Opens up a while new way of thinking yet reached back more than 2000 years for clarity.
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Philobabal