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Closing of the American Mind, The Hardcover – 1 Jun 1987

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (1 Jun. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671479903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671479909
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Rich and absorbing. . . . A grand tour of the American mind."

--"The Washington Post Book World" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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I used to think that young Americans began whatever education they were to get at the age of eighteen, that their early lives were spiritually empty and that they arrived at the university clean slates unaware of their deeper selves and the world beyond their superficial experience. Read the first page
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3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 April 1999
Format: Paperback
Bloom begins with the problem of liberal education at the end of the 20th century - in a world where students are taught from childhood that "values" are relative and that tolerance is the first virtue, too many students arrive at college without knowing what it means to really believe in anything. They think they are open-minded but their minds are closed to the one thing that really matters: the possibility of absolute truth, of absolute right and wrong. In explaining where we are and how we got here, Bloom presents a devastating critique of modern American education and its students, an intellectual history of the United States and its unique foundation in Enlightenment philosophy, and an assesment of the project of liberal education.
Far from being just another critic of the latest postmodern fad or the ongoing excesses of academic relativism, Bloom has his eye on the ages - his subject is our place in history and our relationship to the canon of philosophy handed down to us over centuries. This book isn't about the last few decades of academic decline, it's about the last few centuries of philosophical upheaval and uncertainty.
Bloom's pessimism about the future prospects of liberal education (and Enlightenment liberalism generally) isn't entirely warranted, but then that's partially because so many of Bloom's readers have taken his warnings seriously and labored to reverse the academic trends he identified so clearly. If the light at the end of the tunnel is now dimly visible, in large part we have Bloom to thank for it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martin Ternouth on 7 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Allan Bloom's thesis is that a University was historically a place where universal (hence the name) truths about human life were debated in the departments of humanities (hence the name) between various protagonists of opposed ideas in order to differentiate the merely fashionable from the moral concepts that are applicable in all ages and cultures, and under all political regimes. He claims that this is no longer the case, and that a surrender in the 1960s and 70s to fashionable liberal (left-wing in a European context) relative moralities has left the humanities as a poor relation in the pursuit of truth to the natural sciences (mathematics, physiscs, chemistry, biology) and science's dependent technological professions - engineering, medicine, and the law. He compares this surrender to a similar surrender in German universities to the right-wing views of the Nazis in the 1930s.

I found his ideas surprisingly modern, and feel that they have travelled better than other ideas that were around at the time of its gestation: the inevitability of world Communist domination, for example.

His central and passionate argument is for a return of civilised debate between political opponents to identify absolute moral truths, instead of mud-slinging between left and right and between those with no religious beliefs (atheists) and those for whom religion is central to their lives - Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others. He says that an increasing trading of insults and a refusal to engage in such debates is evidence of The Closing of the American Mind.

Some of the adverse reviews of this book twenty-five years on seem to confirm his worst fears.

"the book is a disgrace and an outrage . . .

meandering, incoherent, rambling babble . . .

ranting and raving on paper . . .

a bitter, hate filled man . . .

personal-grudge-filled . . ."
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Oct. 1996
Format: Paperback
Although a few years old, Bloom's _Closing of the American Mind_ is still a tour de force in assessing the state of American thought. Bloom contends that our society suffers from a neurotic open-ness to almost any opinion except the opinion that some positions have (innately) more merit than others. We are intolerant of the concepts of good and value in our thought life and in our spiritual world. Bloom recommends a rerurn (or progression, possibly) to a worldview that is at once more rigorous and ultimately more "open minded" in the truest sense.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Aug. 1997
Format: Paperback
Professor Bloom, in my opinion, generalizes a bit too much in describing the "modern" American student. One of those myself - a sophomore undergrad at the time of "Closings" publishing - I thought Bloom hit and miss when referring to the "average" American student.

However, he does an unbelievably good job in describing the ills in the "social sciences" and how we have arrived today at a place where graduate students study comic books and MTV is a weighty topic of intellectual speculation and where old masters like Aristotle are almost dissapeared (Does this reflect poorly on Aristotle or on ourselves?). For anyone who wonders at where we went wrong in the twentieth century, Bloom is like a breath of fresh air in the unwholesome swamp of the modern research university. Much of what I felt during years of instruction/indoctrination as a university student is plainly and eloquently laid out by Bloom - he seems to give voice to what was inchoate in my soul on this important issue.

It is not easy reading - even for the well educated. But nothing worth doing was ever easy, and if you want "fun" and "light" you can always open up a comic book again. On the other hand, if you really want to stretch your mind and engage certain "Big Questions" (whether you agree with Bloom or not), then read "The Closing of the American Mind."

It was the most important book I have read in years. Bloom may overstate his case at times, but there is the essential kernel of truth in what he says, in my opinion. Great intoduction also by Saul Bellows.
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