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The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism from Thomas More to Russell Kirk [Paperback]

Andre Gushurst-Moore

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Book Description

26 Jan 2013
The Common Mind traces the theme of the sensus communis, inherited from the medievals, through the lives and writings of twelve literary figures in the modern age, ranging from Thomas More and Jonathan Swift to C. S. Lewis and Russell Kirk. It is this quality, argues the author, which, like natural law, serves as the bedrock of orthodoxy, of social and political order, and which, by its presence or absence, determines the nature of every society. The Common Mind is an altogether uncommon achievement: a rich, multivalent reading of our present cultural condition through a brilliant procession of literary portraits; and a critical work in the ongoing effort to recover a unity of life, of understanding, of principles--in short, a common mind.


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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile, Commendable Survey 27 Mar 2013
By Erik Gravel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Andre Gushurst-Moore's latest book, The Common Mind, is founded on a straightforward concept: That there is a clear, bright line running through the thought of major thinkers across the last five hundred years of Western history. This line of thought is fundamentally concerned with establishing a stable social and political order, and springs from the rich intellectual tradition of the West.

Gushurst-Moore's book is unique in that it posits a fairly simple central thesis, but vindicates it not with an intensely focused study, but instead a broader survey of twelve writers and thinkers of Western Civilization. These thinkers range from the obvious (Thomas More, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, TS Eliot) to the more obscure (Orestes Brownson is an odd choice for this book). Further, though all were writers and thinkers, they come from a variety of fields - poetry, law, government, the Church, theology, and philosophy. Each of these twelve men gets a relatively brief chapter to themselves, written in chronological order and mostly building off of the previous chapters. The book is clearly designed to work as a sort of snowball; each writer rolls into the next, eventually building a broad intellectual consensus across generations: the common mind. Gushurst-Moore quotes liberally and accurately from the writers, and paints a clear picture of their thinking from cover to cover. The book features a brief introduction, which proposes Gushurst-Moore's central thesis, and a conclusion that looks to the future of the common mind.

This book is generally effective in its attempt to paint a picture of a single concept running through the thinking of its subjects. Gushurst-Moore is adept at dealing with different sorts of thinkers in a lucid manner, and does a commendable job of making them accessible to the average reader. The great virtue of this book is just this: that it is easily accessible for any level of reader, whether casual or academic. However, it also seems clear that this text is more directed at the casual reader. Each chapter is brief, giving only a taste of the given writer, and is not particularly useful as an academic study of the many author's discussed. Some chapters are weaker than others; TS Eliot and John Henry Newman stand out as particularly well written, while the section on Samuel Johnson is less clear. Further, Gushurst-Moore makes no effort to hide his ideological prejudices, sometimes to his detriment: a reference to "the modern tenured radicals of the academy" was particularly irritating.

These quibbles aside, Gushurt-Moore has written a pithy, intelligent, and accessible book that is clear in its thesis and engaging in its execution. I'd heartily recommend it to any reader searching for a useful survey of Western political and social thought, or someone looking for a jumping-off point into a fantastic cross-section of writers.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 26 Mar 2013
By Tommy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Andre Gushurst-Moore tackles what most would dare not, to delve into the tradition of orthodoxy, the common mind and attempt to string it all together into a coherent whole. Gushurst-Moore artfully weaves G.K. Chesterton throughout the book as his touchstone, the uniting force of close to five centuries of orthodox thought. His section on Eliot in particular is lucid and concrete, avoiding the typical pitfalls and cutting straight to the core of Eliot's work. What he accomplishes in the end is to piece together the fragments of twelve of the greatest minds in the orthodox tradition and arrange them into a mosaic whole, effectively setting the lands of orthodoxy in order, a feat Eliot himself would be proud of. A must read for any student, fulltime or hobbyist, of the modernist era.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive and helpful work 27 Mar 2013
By Evan Beacom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gushurst-Moore is somehow able to give a sweeping view of this unlikely group of writers in order to show that they all speak a universal language. Their stark differences are able to distill their commonalities -- indeed, their common mind -- and the author is able to deftly present this while neither bogging the reader down in details nor passing too quickly and distantly over each. One of his subjects, G.K. Chesterton, writes, "We have found the common things at last/ Like marriage and a creed, / So I may safely write now,/ And you may safely read." It is this set of common things, the integration of parts and wholes, the liberal arts, Christian humanism, common law, the formation of conscience, that form the common pieces of not just Christendom but the whole of human experience. Gushurst-Moore selects 12 minds of the last half millennium who saw these things and their universality with particular clarity, and demonstrates their shared vision in an ongoing conversation in the way they continue to support, shape, and inform one another, and in doing so continue to shape and inform the cultural project of Christian humanism as it exists today. A quick, thorough, and nimble work that skilfully commands many parts to reveal a single broad idea: the Common Mind.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books launched in the last years! 2 May 2013
By Alex Catharino de Souza - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In The Common Mind, Andre Gushurst-Moore introduces us to twelve men, each of whom pointed and laughed at the naked emperors of his own time. From Thomas More to Russell Kirk, including the famous names of Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Henry Newman, Benjamin Disraeli, G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, and C. S. Lewis. These men of letters asserted "common sense" in face of those who thought themselves above the common man.

I really recommend everybody read this book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegent Defense of Christian Humanism 15 Feb 2014
By H. Lee Cheek, Jr., Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
André Gushurst-Moore’s The Common Mind provides an elegantly written and philosophically convincing survey of the worldview Burke inherited and that he helped transmit to posterity. The common mind, or Christian humanism, is understood from both the perspective of a philosophical inheritance and as a perpetual challenge to contemporary life as well; as a social and political tradition dependent on the ennobling of the good, the true, and beautiful; and, the exhibition of personal restraint, and an affirmation of the transcendent nature of existence. Gushurst-Moore begins his defense of this tradition by engaging in a process of retrogression, examining the central figures who affirmed the common mind, beginning with Thomas More and concluding with Russell Kirk. Six central elements in the common mind are identified: the inheritance of the humane, self-government and law, common sense in the classical form, literature that encourages the imagination, education with a moral basis, and politics and religion (pp. 14-18). Even though six of the fourteen essays that comprise this volume were published in journals of opinion, the book is thematically coherent and the essays possess a lucidity atypical in such collections.
In each essay, the thoughtful reader is introduced to new and erudite insights about key figures who have contributed to the common mind tradition, or Christian humanism. The commentaries on Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, and Russell Kirk deserve special commendation. Instead of a rather normative survey of Swift the satirist, the faith-based and enduring insights of the writer, and his “underlying religious assumptions,” and “distrust of intellectualism, rationalism and enthusiasm” are brilliantly outlined by Gushurst-Moore (p. 46). Swift, as a contributor to the larger patrimony of the common mind and advocate of self-restraint, becomes comprehensible, including the Swift “who anticipates Burke in asserting that if liberty is anything to be valued at all, it exists as a consequence of authority rather than in spite of it” (p. 60). In a similar vein, the essay on Johnson forces a reconsideration of the writer as a more thoroughgoing defender of the inherited tradition. The essays on Burke and Russell Kirk extol their respective contributions to Christian humanism. In effect, the essay on Burke refutes the arguments promoted by Robin by demonstrating that Burke was a defender of “traditional Christian humanism” (p. 82) premised upon a proper conception of the natural law. With Russell Kirk, Gushurst-Moore’s exegesis concentrates upon the thinker’s underappreciated fiction as a defense of the common mind.
Overall, Gushurst-Moore has advanced our understanding of Burke and the inherited tradition. The only weaknesses that would deserve emendation concern his criticisms of Luther, with an emphasis upon Luther’s view of transubstantiation (p. 33), and Gushurst-Moore’s neglect of important Protestant contributors to Christian humanism beyond T. S. Eliot and C. S. Lewis. In the first instance, his characterization of Luther (pp. 26, 28, 33, 34, and 37) is contradicted by recent scholarship. A closer examination of Luther’s sacramental theology suggests that while he criticized the prevailing view of transubstantiation, he always believed in a real presence, and later Lutheran confessional statements also demonstrate support for an eucharistic theology that proximates transubstantiation. Second, the addition of essays on the eminent Protestant philosophers of the common mind like Lynn Harold Hough and Bernard Iddings Bell would have enhanced the volume by presenting a more complete survey of 20th century contributors to Christian humanism.

H. Lee Cheek, Jr., Ph.D.
Chair, Social Sciences
East Georgia State College
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