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Passion of the Western Mind Hardcover – Aug 1991


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publications; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517577909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517577905
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,459 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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Sept. 1999
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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By BookMaven on 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Robert Marsland on 9 Sept. 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Erland.Lagerroth on 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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By yl on 31 Mar. 2006
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Bould on 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is without a doubt the most comprehensive, interesting and easy-to-read history of western philosophy I have ever read. By presenting the evolution of thought in an unbiased way, Tarnas allows the reader to formulate their own opinions about the development of the western mind and the meanings behind it. I genuinely could not put this book down in parts and have found that it has vastly increased my understanding of other philosophical subjects by providing the big picture.
However: I would strongly recommend that you skip the prologue at the end of the book. After a monumental and groundbreaking analysis of western thought, Tarnas proceeds to deliver one the most bizarre and fantastic personal theories I have ever read. This is not to say that it isn't valid, it just doesn't fit well at the end of such an impartial book.
Nevertheless, this should definitely be read by anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of the roots of philosophy, psychology etc.
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