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The Passion Of The Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View Paperback – 2 Sep 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (2 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184595162X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845951627
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"I have never read a book about the ways in which we think that was clearer or more exciting" (John Cleese)

"Quite brilliant" (Guardian)

"[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)

"30,000 years of Western thought distilled into a powerful, enthralling narrative" (Sydney Morning Herald)

"An extraordinary work of scholarship. It not only places the history of Western thought in perspective, but offers new insights concerning the evolution of our thinking and the future of the whole human enterprise" (John E. Mack, winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

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... A noble performance' - Joseph Campbell

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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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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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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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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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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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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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This is a very good history of the thought, ideas and philosophies that have been part and parcel of the Western Mind. I found the bit in the middle involving the Scholastics a little difficult to grasp but that is more me than Richard Tarnas! The authors analysis and summing up of the complexities of the last few centuries are excellent and for me clarified the various issues involved.
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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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