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The Rediscovery of Meaning, and Other Essays Paperback – 8 Feb 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Barfield Press UK; 2 edition (8 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956942334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956942333
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 24 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The rediscovery of meaning" is a collection of essays by Owen Barfield, the Anthroposophist and philosopher who was a close friend and associate of C.S. Lewis.

Barfield is never an easy read, and I readily admit that I didn't get this one! The essays cover subjects that are simply too abstract and nebulous for my tastes: literary criticism, the meaning of allegory, the relation between imagination and inspiration, the evolution of consciousness... Or perhaps it's better to say that Barfield's way of writing about these subjects somehow doesn't hit home. At least not my one!

Still, it seems uncharitable to give a low rating to a book by Barfield for being mere Barfield. Thus, I'll give it three stars (the OK rating). As for the best introduction to Barfield's philosophy, it's probably "Romantic religion" by R.J. Reilly.
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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The best introduction to Barfield's comprehensive world-view 30 Mar. 2010
By myriad eyes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read most all of Barfield's works, I would definitely recommend The Rediscovery of Meaning and Other Essays as the best introduction to his comprehensive world-view. Barfield's logic is superb and it is refreshing to find someone with a conviction of the Spirit really approaching the great authority of Scientific Materialism head on with penetrating insight. What follows is more of an exposition of one of Barfield's primary arguments - a common thread through most all these essays - than a review...

In the 17th century, "natural philosophy", pretty much established by Aristotle, became or broke off into what we now call science. The scientific method was ironically established by various devoutly Christian men, including Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes. The latter, commonly known as "the Father of Modern Philosophy", formulated the foundations of this science on a philosophy of dualism, wherein there are two fundamentally divided realities: 'res extensa' (extended things) and 'res cogitans' (thinking things). These 'extended things' referred to perceivable objects in the world, which were viewed as "bits of matter in motion", as mechanisms created by God the Designer. This way of seeing nature as a causal mechanism - as the whole being the sum of its parts - was precisely the perspective that exponentially expanded man's ability to create his own mechanisms. Over time, this physical- causal aspect of reality came to dominate man's consciousness, and an inattentiveness to the world of meaning finally grew into a conviction that it did not exist. Barfield demonstrates the simplicity of why this happened in the title essay, showing that all the attention in the world can be paid to the mechanics of a hand writing a sentence - the pressure of the pencil and its angle, the constituents of the material written on, ad infinitum - but this will never tell you the meaning of the words on the page. An entirely different approach is required for the discovery of meaning, and Barfield's is through the history of words. He asks why it is that, if in fact the world is meaningless and all that exists are physical facts, why it is that so much of language seemingly refers to immaterial concepts. Etymology reveals that "virtually all" conceptual, immaterial words once referred to physical objects as well (he gives an overwhelming number of examples in his History of English Words). The scientific impulse, which has been to divide, dissect, and define with ever greater position, by necessity took hold of language and did the same to it. Barfield uses a possible example with the word 'heart'. We can either speak of a man having a 'kind heart' or a healthy physical heart. But for the purposes of scientific precision, it would be useful to continue using 'heart' for the dispositional reference and adopt 'cardium' for the physical one. And this may well happen. In John 3:8, Jesus tells his audience that "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." The Greek word 'pneuma' is used twice in this utterance, but it requires two different words in the English language- 'wind' and 'Spirit' - to be translated intelligibly to us. Barfield explains this "metaphorical characteristic" of of all language - though the metaphor may no longer be understood - brilliantly: "A thing functions as a symbol when it not only announces, but represents something other than itself. We owe the existence of language to the fact that the mental images, into which the memory converts the forms of the outer world, can function not only as signs and reminders of themselves, but as symbols for concepts. If this were not so, they could have never given rise to words - which make abstract thought possible." This "symbolic significance is inherent in the forms of the outer world themselves. The first metaphors were not artificial but natural." To repeat this, man only has subjective concepts because these concepts exist objectively in the world. These original, natural metaphors which men thought in - or which the world thought in men - came about through a state of consciousness Barfield terms "original participation" - an identification with the body and its environment. Over time, concomitant with the development of language, man gained a greater inner awareness, and eventually, self-consciousness - the ability to distinguish between the inner and outer worlds. This eventually obvious distinction ultimately came to be falsely perceived as a division (Descartes' dualism) and then a one-side rejection (Comte's positivism). But with the attainment of self-consciousness came the priceless gift of freedom, the determining of one's life from within, and the great task now before us is to overcome the subjective-objective dichotomy which Barfield calls "final participation." Barfield once referred to his writings as a Greek primer, and to those of Rudolf Steiner as the entire Greek corpus. It is to them - to Anthroposophy - that he refers us as the surest path to this final participation - to the Rediscovery of Meaning.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant 14 July 2010
By Michael Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of Barfield's essays represents probably the finest introduction to his thought. Barfield was one of the 20th Century's greatest minds, and these essays provide a nice overview of the complexity and depth found in his more elaborate works. The title essay, "The Rediscovery of Meaning," remains one of my favorite essays ever.

Barfield, in these essays, presents the alternative view to the materialist and naturalist interpretations of our reality. Barfied makes a stunning case for the reality of meaning. He shows that the materialists mistakenly reduce things down to what they are, and ignore what they mean. Using linguistic analysis and the careful logic of a legal mind, he shows how meaning is a real property of reality, and the best kind of research is that which accounts for both.

I highly recommend this text, especially to those who have never read Barfield before. This work is much more accessible than his lengthier texts.
philosopher 27 Nov. 2014
By Halifax Student Account - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Arthur Schopenhaur writes somewhere that only a few lucky bi-peds ever reach the exulted rank of 'philosopher'. Robert Pirsig says the same thing. It isn't enough to be able to write about the history of philosophy and write the ideas down. This won't make you a philosopher.

Brian Magee hints at this truth. Magee only hints mind, rather than points out the obvious, because the stranglehold is now so tight that nobody even notices. This is the law of strangulation.

It isn't enough to study philosophy in university and earn that doctorate in philosophy. What Schopenhauer is saying is that you can love the subject of philosophy, but you won't make it as a philosopher. You can earn a Phd in music but this won't make you a talented composer. So calling yourself a philosopher is like calling yourself Mozart or Napoleon. I reckon one of the problems with modern living is all those crazy people calling themselves philosophers being let out of the lunatic bin. The rich also suffer from a similar problem because they all claim to be entrepreneurs. But an entrepreneur is a rare bi-ped, like a philosopher. This is merely egoism gone mad.

Can you imagine a fellow on a radio program calling himself the equal to Richard Wagner or Beethoven? Well this is what thinkers with Phd's in philosophy do all the time.

I must say however, Owen Barfield is close to Schopenhauer's definition of a philosopher. Barfield is scraping the universe and he can really think and he's worth reading. He is only unknown because philosophy got strangled to death.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Mere Barfield 24 April 2011
By Ashtar Command - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The rediscovery of meaning" is a collection of essays by Owen Barfield, the Anthroposophist and philosopher who was a close friend and associate of C.S. Lewis.

Barfield is never an easy read, and I readily admit that I didn't get this one! The essays cover subjects that are simply too abstract and nebulous for my tastes: literary criticism, the meaning of allegory, the relation between imagination and inspiration, the evolution of consciousness... Or perhaps it's better to say that Barfield's way of writing about these subjects somehow doesn't hit home. At least not my one!

Still, it seems uncharitable to give a low rating to a book by Barfield for being mere Barfield. Thus, I'll give it three stars (the OK rating). As for the best introduction to Barfield's philosophy, it's probably "Romantic Religion" by R.J. Reilly.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Barefield is incredible 20 Oct. 2013
By Gordon J. Alt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
His writing is truly significant, and this offers several unique quick reads. WHile his other works require intense concentration and commitment.
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