It’s frequently said that we live in a “post-truth” age. That obviously can’t be true, but it does name a real problem on our hands. Getting things right is hard, especially if they’re complicated. It takes preparation, diligence, and honesty. Wisdom, according to Thomas Aquinas, is the quality of right judgment. This book is about the problem of becoming wise, the problem “before truth.” It is about that problem particularly as it comes up for religious, philosophical, and theological truth claims. Before Truth: Lonergan, Aquinas, and the Problem of Wisdom proposes that Bernard Lonergan’s approach to these problems can help us become wise. One of the special problems facing Christian believers today is our awareness of how much our tradition has developed. This development has occurred along a path shot through with contingencies. Theologians have to be able to articulate how and why doctrines, institutions, and practices that have developed—and are still developing—should nevertheless be worthy of our assent and devotion.
As ardent debates over creationism fill the front pages of newspapers, Genesis has never been more timely. And as Leon R. Kass shows in The Beginning of Wisdom, it’s also timeless.
Examining Genesis in a philosophical light, Kass presents it not as a story of what happened long ago, but as the enduring story of humanity itself. He asserts that the first half of Genesis contains insights about human nature that “rival anything produced by the great philosophers.” Kass here reads these first stories—from Adam and Eve to the tower of Babel—as a mirror for self-discovery that reveals truths about human reason, speech, freedom, sexual desire, pride, shame, anger, and death. Taking a step further in the second half of his book, Kass explores the struggles in Genesis to launch a new way of life that addresses mankind’s morally ambiguous nature by promoting righteousness and holiness.
Even readers who don’t agree with Kass’s interpretations will find The Beginning of Wisdom acompelling book—a masterful philosophical take on one of the world’s seminal religious texts.
“Extraordinary. . . . Its analyses and hypotheses will leave no reader’s understanding of Genesis unchanged.” —New York Times
“A learned and fluent, delightfully overstuffed stroll through the Gates of Eden. . . . Mix Harold Bloom with Stephen Jay Gould and you’ll get something like Kass. A wonderfully intelligent reading of Genesis.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Throughout his book, Kass uses fruitful, fascinating techniques for getting at the heart of Genesis. . . . Innumerable times [he] makes a reader sit back and rethink what has previously been tediously familiar or baffling.”—WashingtonPost
“It is important to state that this is a book not merely rich, but prodigiously rich with insight. Kass is a marvelous reader, sensitive and careful. His interpretations surprise again and again with their cogency and poignancy.”—JerusalemPost
We all know the saying, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” but is that really true? After all, for some people, traumatic experiences ultimately lead to truly debilitating outcomes. For others though, adversity really does seem to lead to “post-traumatic growth” where individuals move through suffering and find their lives changed in positive ways as a result. Why does this growth happen for some people and not others? How exactly does it happen? Can the positive results be purposefully replicated?
These are the central questions of a new study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Virginia. They share their findings, along with practical advice and inspiring stories, in their new book Choosing Wisdom and the companion PBS documentary of the same name. Based on interviews with two distinct populations—medical patients coping with chronic pain and physicians coping with having been involved in serious medical errors—Choosing Wisdom delves into how average people respond to adversity, how they change, and what factors help or hinder positive change. Through these interviews, the authors chart each person’s journey, and though the circumstances of each case may be unique, the commonalities are remarkable.
By paying careful attention to the journeys of these exemplars, this cutting-edge research will shed new light on how we can grow, change, and develop wisdom through adversity. It will be a welcome source of inspiration for anyone facing their own difficult journey and for those who seek to aid them along the way.
Divine Love and Wisdom has been called the most profound work of the Enlightenment scientist and seer Emanuel Swedenborg. It demonstrates how God’s love, wisdom, and humanity are reflected in creation and in ourselves, and suggests that the act of Creation is not a mystery of the past, but a miracle ongoing in every instant of the present. Like a blueprint of things unseen, Divine Love and Wisdom makes visible the hidden design of the universe, as well as the qualities of its Architect. Its vivid depiction of the spiritual mechanism of the world has impressed thinkers such as William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry James Sr.
The New Century Edition of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg is a modern-language, scholarly translation of Swedenborg’s theological works. The series’ easy-to-read style retains the dignity, variety, clarity, and gender-inclusive language of Swedenborg’s original Latin, bringing his thought to life.
This portable edition contains the text of the New Century Edition translation, but not the introduction, annotations, or other supplementary materials found in the deluxe edition.
Eros, Wisdom, and Silence is a close reading of Plato’s Seventh Letter and his dialogues Symposium and Phaedrus, with significant attention also given to Alcibiades I. A book about love, James Rhodes’s work was conceived as a conversation and meant to be read side by side with Plato’s works and those of his worthy interlocutors. It invites lovers to participate in conversations that move their souls to love, and it also invites the reader to take part in the author’s dialogues with Plato and his commentators.
Rhodes addresses two closely related questions: First, what does Plato mean when he says in the Seventh Letter that he never has written and never will write anything concerning that about which he is serious? Second, what does Socrates mean when he claims to have an art of eros and that this techne is the only thing he knows?
Through careful analysis, Rhodes establishes answers to these questions.
He determines that Plato cannot write anything concerning that about which he is serious because his most profound knowledge consists of his soul’s silent vision of ultimate, transcendent reality, which is ineffable. Rhodes also shows that, for Socrates, eros is a symbol for the soul’s experience of divine reality, which pulls every element of human nature toward its proper end, but which also leads people to evil and tyranny when human resistance causes it to become diseased.
Opening up a new avenue of Plato scholarship, Eros, Wisdom, and Silence is political philosophy at its conversational best. Scholars and students in political philosophy, classical studies, and religious studies will find this work invaluable.
Happiness and Wisdom contributes to ongoing debates about the nature of Augustine's early development, and argues that Augustine's vision of the soul's ascent through the liberal arts is an attractive and basically coherent view of learning, which, while not wholly novel, surpasses both classical and earlier patristic renderings of the aims of education.
The image of the female caregiver holding a midnight vigil at the bedside of a sick relative is so firmly rooted in our collective imagination we might assume that such caregiving would have attracted the scrutiny of numerous historians. As Emily Abel demonstrates in this groundbreaking study of caregiving in America across class and ethnic divides and over the course of ninety years, this has hardly been the case.
While caring for sick and disabled family members was commonplace for women in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America, that caregiving, the caregivers' experience of it, and the medical profession's reaction to it took diverse and sometimes unexpected forms. A complex series of historical changes, Abel shows, has profoundly altered the content and cultural meaning of care. Hearts of Wisdom is an immersion into that "world of care." Drawing on antebellum slave narratives, white farm women's diaries, and public health records, Abel puts together a multifaceted picture of what caregiving meant to American women--and what it cost them--from the pre-Civil War years to the brink of America's entry into the Second World War. She shows that caregiving offered women an arena in which experience could be parlayed into expertise, while at the same time the revolution in bacteriology and the transformation of the formal health care system were weakening women's claim to that expertise.
Table of Contents:
Part One: 1850-1890 1. "Hot Flannels, Hot Teas, and a Great Deal of Care": Emily Hawley Gillespie and Sarah Gillespie, 1858-1888 2. An Overview of Nineteenth-Century Caregiving 3. "Tried at the Quilting Bees": Con'icts between "Old Ladies" and Aspiring Professionals
Part Two: 1890-1940 4. A "Terrible and Exhausting" Struggle: Martha Shaw Farnsworth, 1890-1924 5. "Just as You Direct": Caregiver Translations of Medical Authority 6. Negotiating Public Health Directives: Poor New Yorkers at the Turn of the Century
Reviews of this book: This excellent historical review of female caregiving within families as a transformative experience identifies conditions that make this form of human connectedness rewarding and meaningful. --J.E. Thompson, Choice
This is a breathtaking work in terms of its depth and its breadth. Emily Abel's research is impressive in its time frame, wide range of topics, and wonderful source material. What she has given us, for the first time, is a full-length study of the female support network, not only for childbirth but for a whole range of health issues. With her pleasing writing style and clear, readable prose, she gives us much more than mere glimpses of anonymous people--she provides the reader with a sense of the texture of human lives. --Susan L. Smith, University of Alberta
The reader of Hearts of Wisdom is surprised by the topic and content, but is left with the sense that the most central story of human possibility has been left out of all other history books. The work offers a substantive contribution to history, feminist scholarship, caregiving professions, and informal caregivers. --Patricia Benner, R.N., Ph.D, University of California, San Francisco
In this innovative hybrid of biography, memoir, and criticism, Eric G. Wilson describes how John Keats gave him solace during a bout of mental illness in spring 2012. While on a tour of the principal sites in Keats’s life—ranging from his London medical school to the small room in Rome where he died—Wilson discovered analogies between the poet’s troubles and his own. He was most struck by Keats’s enlivening vision of the soul.
For Keats, we don’t possess but rather make a soul. We do this by imaginatively transforming our suffering into empathy toward humans and nature alike. Tracking this idea in Keats’s tumultuous yet exhilarating life and work, Wilson struggles to envision his depression anew, desperate to overcome the apathy alienating him from his family.
How to Make a Soul offers fresh perspectives on Keats’s pragmatism, irony, comedy, ethics, and aesthetics, but is above all a lyrical celebration of those galvanizing instances when life springs into art.
"That over forty years after they were delivered these famous but unavailable Gifford Lectures should be published is occasion for celebration. Once again we hear Daube’s voice, patient and probing, as he turns over, tests, pushes fresh inquiries, and finds new insights. No man has had such a subtle sense of scriptural texts matched by such a supple sense of the practices and peculiarities of human beings engaged in the legal process. Law and Wisdom in the Bible is classic Daube." mdash;John T. Noonan Jr., United States Circuit Judge
David Daube (1909–99) was known for his unique and sophisticated research on Roman law, biblical law, Jewish Law, and medical ethics. In Law and Wisdom in the Bible, the first published collection of his 1964 Gifford Lectures, Daube derives from his complex understanding of biblical texts both ancient and contemporary notions about wisdom, justice, and education.
In addressing these and other profound issues, Daube crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and bridges the
gap between humanism and religion, especially with regard to Christianity and Judaism. With his sophisticated understanding of Talmudic law and literature, his thinking, which is on full display in these lectures, revolutionized prevailing perceptions about the New Testament.
Jerry App’s farm stories open the barn door to understanding life in the country.
“Even with the all the hard work, we had more time (perhaps we took more time) to enjoy what was all around us: nights filled with starlight, days with clear blue skies and puffy clouds. Wonderful smells everywhere—fresh mown hay, wildflowers, and apple blossoms. Interesting sounds—the rumble of distant thunder, an owl calling in the woods, a flock of Canada geese winging over in the fall.”
In this paperback edition of a beloved Jerry Apps classic, the rural historian tells stories from his childhood days on a small central Wisconsin dairy farm in the 1930s and 1950s. From a January morning memory of pancakes piled high after chores, to a June day spent learning to ride a pony named Ginger, Jerry moves through the turn of the seasons and teaches gentle lessons about life on the farm. With recipes associated with each month and a new introduction exclusive to this 2nd edition, Living a Country Year celebrates the rhythms of rural life with warmth and humor.
Many human beings have considered the powers and the limits of human knowledge, but few have wondered about the power that the idea of knowledge has over us. The Madness of Knowledge is the first book to investigate this emotional inner life of knowledge – the lusts, fantasies, dreams and fears that the idea of knowing provokes. There are in-depth discussions of the imperious will to know, of Freud’s epistemophilia, or love of knowledge, and the curiously insistent links between madness, magical thinking and the desire for knowledge. Steven Connor also probes secrets and revelations, quarreling and the history of quizzes and ‘general knowledge’, charlatanry and pretension, both the violent disdain and the sanctification of the stupid, as well as the emotional investment in the spaces and places of knowledge, from the study to the library. In an age of artificial intelligence, alternative facts and mistrust of truth, The Madness of Knowledge offers an opulent, enlarging and sometimes unnerving psychopathology of intellectual life.
The twenty-five poems and eleven metrical charms in this Old English volume offer tantalizing insights into the mental landscape of the Anglo-Saxons. The Wanderer and The Seafarerfamously combine philosophical consolation with introspection to achieve a spiritual understanding of life as a journey. The Wife's Lament, The Husband's Message, and Wulf and Eadwacer direct a subjective lyrical intensity on the perennial themes of love, separation, and the passion for vengeance. From suffering comes wisdom, and these poems find meaning in the loss of fortune and reputation, exile, and alienation. "Woe is wondrously clinging; clouds glide," reads a stoic, matter-of-fact observation in Maxims II on nature's indifference to human suffering. Another form of wisdom emerges in the form of folk remedies, such as charms to treat stabbing pain, cysts, childbirth, and nightmares of witch-riding caused by a dwarf. The enigmatic dialogues of Solomon and Saturn combine scholarly erudition and proverbial wisdom. Learning of all kinds is celebrated, including the meaning of individual runes in The Rune Poem and the catalog of legendary heroes in Widsith. This book is a welcome complement to the previously published DOML volume Old English Shorter Poems, Volume I: Religious and Didactic.
In this interpretive commentary on Theaetetus, Gregory Kirk makes a major contribution to scholarship on Plato by emphasizing the relevance of the interpersonal dynamics between the interlocutors for the interpretation of the dialogue’s central arguments about knowledge. Kirk attends closely to the personalities of the participants in the dialogue, focusing especially on the unique demands faced by a student—in this case, Theaetetus—and the ways in which one can embrace or deflect the responsibilities of learning. Kirk’s approach gives equal consideration to the dual demands of dramatic interpretation and philosophical argument that constitute the unique character of the Platonic text, and he develops an original interpretation of the Theaetetus, concluding that the uncertainty that characterizes wisdom supersedes the certainty of knowledge.
Based on decades of research, A Privilege of Intellect is D. A. Drennen’s portrait of the English cardinal John Henry Newman (1801–90), whose conversion to the Roman Catholic Church in 1845 significantly boosted the presence of the Catholic Church in England and caused many Anglicans to follow his example. Newman—who will be beatified this fall—devoted his life both to the Church and to the university, demonstrating that religious faith and intellectual pursuits could exist in harmony. Drennen’s biography combines theology with psychology and philosophy and will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
Winner of a da Vinci Eye Medal for Superior Cover Design
Shortlisted for the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award’s Montaigne Medal
To dive deep into your inner life. To explore what matters most: wisdom, happiness, the pain of loss, self–accountability, aging, and more. Searching for Soul: A Survivor’s Guide is a breathtakingly honest case study: a self-examination resulting in the discovery of a meaningful life.
Bobbe Tyler blends her story with in-depth commentary, framing each chapter as a response to one of a set of questions, appended to the book, entitled The Harvesting Wisdom Interview. In her search for fulfillment, Tyler asks and answers the most difficult questions about the trauma of mental illness, divorce, financial and emotional despair. The rewards of this hard–won wisdom belong not to her alone but by way of her unflinching examination of life’s many paths, dead ends, and circuitous routes — to anyone who has faced a life–choice gone wrong — or known the indescribable recovery from addiction or abuse, or longed for the peace that seems just out of reach. This searing self–appraisal provides hope and fellowship for those who seek to know themselves better.
Examine new insights into the conceptual worldview of biblical
The Bible is full of metaphors. On the surface, these metaphors seem like simple literary flourishes that have been added to the text for artistic effect. This book, however, argues that biblical metaphors reflect more basic, prelinguistic cognitive structures. These conceptual metaphors developed out of common concrete experiences and only gradually developed into the complex metaphors that one finds within biblical texts. This book explores how common sensory activities like seeing, hearing, touching, eating, breathing, and walking developed into the abstract metaphors for wisdom that one finds in Proverbs, Job, and Qohelet. Because it traces the cognitive development of a set of related metaphors across several congruent texts, it provides a model by which scholars can trace the cognitive development of biblical metaphors more generally in the Hebrew Bible and other early Jewish and Christian texts.
A synthesis of conceptual metaphor theory that provides a workable theory for examining biblical texts
An analytical framework for studying sensory experience and sensory metaphors in biblical texts
Singing the Chaos: Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry combines both a historical and a critical approach toward the works of major British, American, French, German, and Russian poets. Comprehensive in scope and arranged chronologically to survey a century of high poetic achievement, the study is unified by Pratt's overriding argument that "modern poets have endowed a disintegrating civilization with humane wisdom by 'singing the chaos' that surrounds them, making ours a great age in spite of itself."
In developing this central theme, Pratt brings alive the energy, the freshness, and the originality of technique that made Baudelaire, Pound, Yeats, Rilke, Eliot, and others the initiators of the revolution in poetry. He brings a more complete, clearer perspective to other major themes: modernism as an age of irony; poets as both madmen and geniuses; the modern poet as tragic hero; the dominance of religious or visionary truths over social or political issues; and the combination of radical experiments in poetic form with an apocalyptic view of Western civilization. His detailed treatment of the Fugitive poets and his recognition of their prominent role in twentieth-century literature constitute an important historical revision.
Brilliantly informed, insightful, and, above all, accurately sympathetic to the points of view of the poets Pratt presents, Singing the Chaos is that rare book that belongs on all shelves devoted to modernist poetry.
The late Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter Stan Hochman was known for his many zingers, such as “Harry Litwack, the stoic Temple coach, stalks the sidelines like a blind man at a nudist colony.” As a reporter, he was more interested in how athletes felt, what their values were, how they lived their lives, or what made them tick than he was about how many runs they scored or punches they landed.
In Stan Hochman Unfiltered, his wife Gloria collects nearly 100 of his best columns from the Daily News about baseball, horse racing, boxing, football, hockey, and basketball (both college and pro), as well as food, films, and even Liz Taylor. Each section is introduced by a friend or colleague, including Garry Maddox, Bernie Parent, Larry Merchant, and Ray Didinger, among others.
Hochman penned a candid, cantankerous column about whether Pete Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame; wrote a graphic account of the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fight of the century; and skewered Norman “Bottom Line” Braman, the one-time owner of the Eagles. He also wrote human-interest stories, including features about the importance of kids with special needs playing sports.
In addition to being a beloved writer, Hochman was also known for his stint on WIP’s radio as the Grand Imperial Poobah, where he would settle callers’ most pressing debates. Hochman long earned the respect and admiration of his subjects, peers, and readers throughout his career, and Stan Hochman Unfiltered is a testament to his enduring legacy.
Our emerging world system is bringing the great traditions and cultures it has spawned into ever more intimate and dangerous contact. Langan argues that we must struggle toward a unity of discourse respectful of genuine experiences of varying civilizations if we are to live peacefully on one planet.
The study of wisdom is challenging and thought provoking. This volume sheds light on the age-old question: What is wisdom and where does it come from?
Evidence of wisdom can be seen in both perception and performance, in sacred scriptures and in brain images. An eminent group of scholars from fields as diverse as theology, philosophy, medicine, biology, psychology, and linguistics were brought together to bring focus to this understudied area of scientific research.
Editor Warren Brown presents his research on brain functioning, drawn from observing individuals with damage to specific neural areas, to suggest the importance of integration between hemispheres of the brain to comprehend complex situations in a way that may be termed “wise.” Diana Van Lancker also looks at hemispheres of the brain and explores studies that show that left brain functioning is related to prayers, chants, and sayings often used in religious practice.
Wolfgang Mieder, recognized as the foremost scholar in the study of proverbs, explores the secular use of the biblical proverb of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matt. 12:25). R. E. Clements also looks to the book of Proverbs and focuses on its ultimate goal: virtue and wholeness.
“There’s no fool like an old fool,” the saying goes. What is it about wisdom that sets it apart from mere intelligence? What is that elusive difference between a simple grasp of the facts and profound understanding? Wisdom has fascinated the human race for thousands of years; philosophers are notorious for being in love with it, and for centuries writers have tried to capture its essence in proverbs and fables. In this book, Trevor Curnow provides an accessible introduction to wisdom and the many ways we have thought about and tried to achieve it throughout history.
Drawing on examples from a diversity of eras and places—from ancient Egypt to medieval Europe to modern Africa—Curnow explores the ways we have sought to overcome the problems posed by our existence, such as love and death, with a steadfast wisdom. He shows how many cultures have attributed wisdom to deities such as Apollo, Odin, and Sarasvati, and how, especially, we have placed it within the vehicle of the proverb, which has safeguarded its lessons throughout time and across cultures.
Including a collection of one hundred sayings that offer a rich record of wisdom’s reification, this history gives new insight into what wisdom actually is and where we might find it.
This volume presents the original texts and annotated translations of a collection of Mesopotamian wisdom compositions and related texts of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.E.) found at the ancient Near Eastern sites of Hattuša, Emar, and Ugarit. These wisdom compositions constitute the missing link between the great Sumerian wisdom corpus and early Akkadian wisdom literature of the Old Babylonian period, on the one hand, and the wisdom compositions of the first millennium B.C.E., on the other. Included here are works such as the Ballad of Early Rulers, Hear the Advice, and The Date-Palm and the Tamarisk, as well as proverb collections from Ugarit and Hattuša. A detailed introduction provides an assessment of the place of wisdom literature in the ancient curriculum and library collections.
Every religion acknowledges certain spiritual principles and records them in its sacred literature and traditions. This book curates these ancient teachings and shows how they apply to modern life with the help of parables, quotations, and commentaries.
By reading Wisdom from World Religions, people from all walks of life will be inspired to pursue their own spiritual growth and to contemplate questions central to our existence, such as how, through love and creativity, can we be agents of divinity on earth?
Uplifting and instructional, this is a book to be treasured, studied, and practiced.
The Wisdom of Money
Pascal Bruckner Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress HG220.3.B7813 2017 | Dewey Decimal 306.3
Money is an evil that does good, and a good that does evil. It is wise to have money, says Pascal Bruckner, and wise to think and talk about it critically. One of the world’s great essayists guides us through the commentary that money has generated since ancient times, as he builds an unfashionable defense of the worldly wisdom of the bourgeoisie.
By exploring a practical, rather than propositional, understanding of religious belief, this book provides a new construct through which to view philosophy of religion. Terrence W. Tilley shifts the focus of debate from the justification of rational belief to the exercise of wisdom in making or maintaining a commitment to religious practices. It is through practices, Tilley concludes, that religious belief is formed.
After analyzing the strengths and limitations of the modern approaches, Tilley applies the concept of wisdom to the process of making a religious commitment. Wisdom, as explored by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Henry Newman, may be thought of as the bridge between intellectual and moral virtues. Roughly, it can be described as the ability to put intellect into action in a context. Because wisdom is a virtue requiring concrete display, the book discusses the wisdom of commitment to specific religious practices of a range of traditions. These examples demonstrate the issues and complexities involved in the wisdom of making a religious commitment. This important challenge to contemporary philosophy of religion will be of special interest to students and teachers of theology and philosophy of religion.
The Wisdom of the Hive
Thomas D Seeley Harvard University Press, 1995 Library of Congress QL568.A6S445 1995 | Dewey Decimal 595.799
This book describes and illustrates the results of more than fifteen years of elegant experimental studies conducted by the author to investigate how a colony of bees is organized to gather its resources. The results of his research--including studies of the shaking signal, tremble dance, and waggle dance--offer the clearest, most detailed picture available of how a highly integrated animal society works.
The controversy over the management of national forests in the Pacific Northwest vividly demonstrates the shortcomings of existing management institutions and natural resource policies. The Wisdom of the Spotted Owl explores the American policymaking process through the case of the spotted owl -- a case that offers a striking illustration of the failure of our society to cope with long-term, science-intensive issues requiring collective choices.Steven Lewis Yaffee analyzes the political and organizational dynamics from which the controversy emerged and the factors that led to our stunning inability to solve it. He examines the state of resource management agencies and policy processes, providing insight into questions such as: What caused the extreme polarization of opinion and lack of communication throughout the 1980s and early 1990s? How can the inadequate response of government agencies and the failure of the decisionmaking process be explained? What kinds of changes must be made to enable our resource policy institutions to better deal with critical environmental issues of the 1990s and beyond? By outlining a set of needed reforms, the book will assist those who are involved in re-creating natural resource agencies and public policy processes for the challenges of the next century. In explaining the policymaking process -- its realities and idiosyncrasies -- The Wisdom of the Spotted Owl provides a framework for understanding policies and institutions, and presents a prescription for change to allow for more effective handling of current and future environmental problems.
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Rémi Brague in this wide-ranging cultural history.
Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality.
Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own.