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Passion of the Western Mind [Hardcover]

R Tarnas
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1991
Here are the great minds of Western civilization and their pivotal ideas, from Plato to Hegel, from Augustine to Nietzsche, from Copernicus to Freud. Richard Tarnas performs the near-miracle of describing profound philosophical concepts simply but without simplifying them. Ten years in the making and already hailed as a classic, The Passion of the Western Mind is truly a complete liberal education in a single volume.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publications; 1st Edition edition (Aug 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517577909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517577905
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The most thrilling narrative of the West's 3000-year odyssey in pursuit of truth accessible to a broad public. . . A work of genius." (Hellenic Journal)

"[This] magnificent critical survey, with its inherent respect for both the 'West's mainstream high culture' and the 'radically changing world' of the 1990s, offers a new breakthrough for lay and scholarly readers alike. . . Allows readers to grasp the big picture of Western culture as if for the first time." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"The most lucid and concise presentation of Western thought. The writing is elegant and carries the reader with the momentum of a novel. . . It really is a noble performance." (Joseph Campbell)

"quite brilliant" (Vera Rule Guardian) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The most lucid and concise presentation of Western thought. The writing is elegant and carries the reader with the momentum of a novel. 'It really is a noble performance.' - Joseph Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
To approach what was distinctive in a vision as complex and protean as that of the Greeks, let us begin by examining one of its most striking characteristics-a sustained, highly diversified tendency to interpret the world in terms of archetypal principles. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique reading experience 16 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book was completely engrossing. A great introduction to the history of Western thought for the interested lay person. For me, more readable than other versions (eg Russell's) because of the narrative approach - Tarnas doesn't go to great lengths to 'disprove' his predecessors, he keeps an open mind (as he explains) and just tells a fascinating story.
Minor quibbles - this book sometimes gets bogged down in huge sentences and obscure vocabulary where it's not helpful. And some ideas (eg the various attempts to describe the cosmos) would be better expressed in a diagram.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life and Death in the Western Mind 23 Aug 2007
Format:Paperback
Richard Tarnas has written an amazingly lucid, comprehensive and analytic account of the development of the way in which thinking in the West has evolved over millennia.

Tarnas identifies brilliantly the bifurcations and break-points in the thinking processes and the ideas espoused by the Western Mind. This text is not a cook-book, rather it is an educational privilege to read Tarnas thinking and analysis.

The fundamental tension running through the text is between mans independence from the world (his dreams, hopes and fears) and his dependence on a physical universe that is indifferent to him (his needs for physical well being: food, warmth, community).

An example of this tension is where the 'reason v faith' dichotomy is reassessed by the Romantics in the nineteenth century:
"The early modern dichotomy between secular science and the Christian religion, now became a more general schism between scientific rationalism on the one hand and the multifaceted Romantic humanistic culture on the other, with the latter now including a diversity of religious and philosophical perspectives loosely allied with the literary and artistic tradition."

In this way modern man has an "inner culture" of art, literature and religion while at the same time having an "outer culture" of nature, the cosmos and the limits of what it is possible to know.

Everywhere man finds himself free, but bounded, in a new set of double truths: inner-outer, subject-object, man-world, humanities-science. In short man became divided within and without. As Tarnas says "Modern man was a divided animal, inexplicably self-aware in an indifferent universe."
And so man has become trapped in a world of his own ideas and making.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a history of ideas; the best of its kind 9 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Passion of the Western Mind must be among the best studies in the History of Ideas ever written. It charts man's passage from the enchanted world of Ancient Greece through to the current disenchanted postmodern situation. On the whole he gives a thoroughly objective account of each era and examples to show his arguments. A must read for any reflective person.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent 31 Mar 2006
By yl
Format:Paperback
beautifully written with a masterful grasp of the foundation of western ideas - author briliantly linked religion/science/philosophy into one single volume - Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in philosophy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that replaces 20 others! 29 April 2010
Format:Paperback
A great overview. seems dry at first but he does give a good balanced view.
Maybe too much to read from cover to cover, but very good to dip into.
Think of a philosopher and read a resume of his ideas.
(By the way, women were not allowed to think until the 20th century...)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reunion with nature 10 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (1991, pocket edition 1993) offers an admirable survey, characterized by stringency and verbal intuition, Tarnas narrates the history of the Western mind up to our days, and in this way shows how our world view originated - the world view where Man monopolized conscious intelligence, while cosmos is turned blind and mechanistic, and God is dead. Man has become a stranger in his own world. This, however, has generated a longing for the communion that was lost. The deepest passion of the Western mind, Tarnas means, is to transcend this worldview by a reunion with Nature, from which Man once emerged. "The telos, the inner direction and goal of the Western mind has been to reconnect with the cosmos in a mature participation mystique, to surrender itself freely and consciously in the embrace of a larger unity that preserves human autonomy while also transcending human alienation" (p. 443 f). This, one might say, is the same idea and feeling that is found in Selma Lagerlöf's compositions on Man and Nature, and in Prigogine's demonstration that the whole world - Man included - functions as self-organizing systems.
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