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The Closing Of The Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by [Freeman, Charles]
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The Closing Of The Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Length: 512 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"An elegant story, engagingly told. Freeman has a talent for narrative history and for encapsulating the more arcane disputes of ancient historians and theologians" (Independent)

"There is much here to admire... It is a panoramic view that Freeman handles with grace, erudition and lucidity" (Washington Times)

"A triumph... Engrossing... Successfully realized... Wholly admirable... Freeman is to be congratulated on a broad-brush approach that throws the main issue into sharp focus... [He] has added a new level of understanding" (The Times Higher Education Supplement)

Book Description

'Entertaining... An excellent and readable account of the development of Christian doctrine' New York Times

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4575 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (15 Feb. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004E10RPY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #372,572 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I really liked this book. Written from the perspective of a historian (rather than, say, a theologian), it traces the radical change in outlook of western culture between the fall of the Roman Empire and the replacement of much of its former authority by new church structures. Among the most interesting elements is his treatment of how the Emperors (both Roman and Byzantian) used the church for their own political ends, but were in turn used by the church - a relationship that approached symbiosis, but again not without its traumas and conflicts as well.
The author also does an excellent, and in my view very fair, appraisal of the early church philosophers and movements. He neither idolizes nor vilifies such early bastions of Christianity as Augustine, and even the crisis over the Arian heresies (to modern eyes both tragic and farcial) are treated carefully. Overall the book doesn't paint the prettiest of pictures of the early church, and certainly exposes how many of the dogmas that one would think (if you have a Catholic or Othodox background at least) have been eternal but in fact owe most of their existnace to 3rd or 4th century politics than they do any divine revelation.
Top marks from me, and a very fulfilling read for anyone interested in late classical or early medieval history, as well as *everyone* interested in Christian theology.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a deeply interesting book that is detailed, well researched by very readable. It deals with the often deeply negative (and occaisionally positive) effect that Christianity had upon thought and ideas in the the late Roman Empire (hence the title) and much of Western thought to the present day, The author does this through examining what key figours had to say including Ambrose, Jerome (a serioudsly strange man in my view) and Augustin. Of particular interest is the often hidden/forgotten views of the late paganists and, so-called, heretics. Paganism took a lot longer to die out than early Christian historians would have us believe. Well worth reading for beleivers and non believers alike.
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Format: Paperback
Some say that this is ‘a bigoted attack on Christianity by an atheist.’ That is not so. The author has an interest in Christianity but is critical of its subversion by politics and empire. Christians have long debated whether the conversion of Constantine was a good thing (because it led toi the flourishing of Christianity as a major world religion) or a bad thing (because it made the teachings of Jesus almost unrecognisable in practice e.g. going to war instead of being pacifist.)

It seemed rather fitting that I read this book during a holiday to the Middle East where there was very little evidence of Christianity.

The book argues that far from suppressing Greek philosophy Christianity integrated the more authoritarian aspects of Platonism at the expense of the Aristotelian tradition until its rehabilitation by Aquinas.

Despite the seeming dogmatism of the title, the author mostly recounts what happened and who thought what and lets the reader come to his/her own conclusions.

If you want a fairly brief account of the various debates of the early fathers and the ecumenical councils then this a good book to read as it covers the ground in about half the number of pages of other books like ‘Fathers and heretics’. Of course, that means that some stuff invariably gets left out.

He’s a bit too hard on Paul. He may have been Jewish but he was also a Roman citizen with a certain urbanity about him. However, Paul made a virtue of ‘foolishness to shame the wise’ – maybe he was smarting from his unsuccessful encounter with the philosophers of Athens. The author also sets Paul in opposition to Matthew about Judaism – law versus grace - something recent scholarship from E. P. Sanders onwards has shown to be false.
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Format: Paperback
The book traces the history of how the pursuit of empirical reason, which was one of the most fruitful characteristics of the Greek world, was, between the time of St Paul and the end of the fourth century (where Freeman effectively ends his account) first attacked and then closed down by Christianity. That theme is sometimes obscured by acres of narrative material which, interesting and well-told though it is, has no relevance at all to the theme promised by the title.

The Western Mind (here meaning the Mind of Europe and Asia Minor) was not exactly "closed" during that period, and Freeman's title talks about the CLOSING, not the CLOSED, Western Mind. For most of the period the Western Mind was open to some subtle and sophisticated thinking and, much as the Church tried to prevent it, to vigorous argument and dissent. True, these were rarely empirical or about this world, but, entirely and fruitlessly unempirically, concerned themselves with such questions as the nature of Christ, over which the Western Mind ties itself into knots by trying to reconcile differing biblical texts and the doctrine of the Trinity, none of them resting on any verifiable data. Freeman explains that, coupled with the fear of eternal punishment for "error", that accounted for a level of bitterness in debate that was unknown in the philosophical debates in the Greek world. It meant that, while the minds of individual theologians were often closed, you could hardly say that of "the Western Mind" collectively until the end of the fourth century, by which time the Church had effectively suppressed all heresies. It is only in the 12th and 13th centuries - after the end of the book - that new heresies arose.
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