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The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View (1991)

por Richard Tarnas

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1,661910,830 (3.97)32
"[This] magnificent critical survey, with its inherent respect for both the 'Westt'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 for the first time." SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE Here are the great minds of Western civilization and their pivotal ideas, from Plato to Hegel, from Augustine to Nietzsche, from Copernicus to Freud. Richard Tarnas performs the near-miracle of describing profound philosophical concepts simply but without simplifying them. Ten years in the making and already hailed as a classic, THE PASSION OF THE WESERN MIND is truly a complete liberal education in a single volume.… (mais)
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As you can see from the title, this book purports to be an intellectual history of the west. This turns out to mean basically western philosophy. Unfortunately it is dry as dust. I found myself slogging through it ten or so pages at a time.

Meanwhile I noticed that it consistently used "man" for "human". I presumed that meant it was fairly old - 1975 or earlier, maybe 1980 in a pinch - but when I checked, the book turned out to be copyright 1991. This caused me to hypothesize the author was middle aged or older when writing the book, or a hidebound reactionary.

As it turned out, he was something I find even worse. He was using this language to make a point, which he explains later on. And he shifts to normal language both in his notes and when he reached something resembling his present day. This male author regards "feminine" and "masculine" as well defined principles, presumably not culturally contingent. He sees the entirety of western cultural development as being masculine-centric, until "now", with the brilliant discoveries and innovations of psychologists like Stanislav Grof. Grof is, to put it politely, rather "fringe" in his theories, which have AFAICT become even less popular now than they were in 1991. Few people would discuss him in terms of "discoveries".

But that's only the start of my issues with Tarnas. AFAICT, he manages to give a fairly objective account of just about everything before 1900, maybe even a bit later. But after that, he writes like a true believer. He starts teaching about "truth" and "discovery" rather than "beliefs" and "theories" some time in the twentieth century, but the shift is gradual. Most of these "discoveries" come from psychiatry, and involve people like Freud, Jung, etc.

Among Tarnas' exotic beliefs: people who speak languages with grammatical gender, inevitably suffer from the same confusion of "man" with "human" common among English authors writing before the 1970s. If the word for "human being" is masculine gendered, such as the Greek anthropos, people who use it will inevitably and only somewhat consciously confuse it with the word for adult human male (andros in Greek). Their cultures will therefore be patriarchal, etc. etc. etc. (See p. 441.)

But my "throw this book across the room" moment was when, after telling me that centuries of androcentric bias were essential to the evolution of western ideas (p. 441), it was all going to be better now. All this masculinity had produced a masculine crisis, being resolved by "a tremendous emergence of the feminine in our culture" (p. 442) including the emergence of feminism. Also such feminine things as a sense of unity with the planet. "And this dramatic development is not just a compensation, not just a return of the repressed, ... [it has] ... been all along the underlying goal of Western intellectual and spiritual evolution." As I read it, women will now be useful for more than just making babies; they'll be valued for providing the "feminine principle" that more enlightened western men now recognize that they need. Wow! Such freedom! Women get new ways to serve the needs of men. (Yes, in spite of the obligatory claim that both principles are in all people, he's back to using "man" for "human", so I don't think he really means that women count as more than vessels of femininity.)

Don't read this book. If you skip the epilogue, which presents the author's theories, and use caution once it reaches the 20th century, it's probably adequate as an intellectual history. But such books are not especially rare; there are surely many competitors which are much more readable. ( )
  ArlieS | Aug 20, 2023 |
This is a relatively comprehensive survey of Western thought from the early Greeks through modern times. Tarnas takes us through the several stages of Greek thought, through the rise of Christianity and and the evolution of Westerners' view of themselves and their place in the universe over the centuries. Tarnas also does a good job of taking us through our various changes as science, on the one hand, and spirituality (outside of organized religion), on the other, become sort of dually transcendent in modern humanity. The writing is clear, meant for "laypersons" rather than academics, although things do get kind of dense, in a way that seemed mostly unavoidable to me, when the concepts become particularly complex.

This is a discussion of relatively mainstream ideas, however. I recall little, if any, discussion, for example, of the religions that Christianity supplanted as is spread through Europe, or of the repression of those religions practiced at the time, so often including the repression (to put it mildly) of women. A look at the index, in fact, reveals that the term "Goddess worship" appears once, and not until page 443. This is the book's very final chapter, when Tarnas finally comes around to discuss these issues and to say . . . "As Jung prophesied, an epochal shift is taking place in the contemporary psyche, a reconciliation between the two great polarities, a union of opposites . . . between the long-dominant but now alienated masculine and the long-suppressed but now ascending feminine. . . . But to achieve this reintegration of the repressed feminine, the masculine must undergo a sacrifice, an ego death. The Western mind must be willing to open itself to a reality the nature of Which could shatter its most established beliefs about itself . . . . And this is the great challenge of our time, the evolutionary imperative for the masculine to see through and overcome its hubris and one-sidedness . . . " As point of reference, Tarnas was writing in 1991. He goes into much more depth in this final chapter of these concepts, but it's too bad that it all had to wait for, basically, a post-script. (And who does he mean precisely when he says, "The Western mind must be willing . . . "?)

So, all in all, this is a very useful, just detailed enough and mostly clearly written survey of the history of patriarchal Western thought. ( )
  rocketjk | Aug 13, 2019 |
LA PASIÓN DE LA MENTE OCCIDENTAL

Memoria mundi
«La pasión de la mente occidental» es un amplio recorrido a través de las
ideas centrales que han moldeado la evolución del pensamiento en Occi
dente. Con una claridad y amplitud de miras que han hecho que este libro se
un best seller en Estados Unidos y lectura obligatoria en no pocas universi
dades norteamericanas, Tarnas realiza una síntesis completa de toda la
cosmovisión occidental, desde el antiguo legado de los griegos hasta la época
helenistica; desde la aparición del cristianismo y el desarrollo de la escolástica
medieval al renacimiento de la cultura clásica; desde la revolución cien
tifica y filosófica de la era moderna, con todo su brillante dinamismo critico
en continua transformación, hasta la mentalidad posmoderna. A través de la
filosofia, la religión, la psicología y la ciencia, Tarnas va desvelando el largo
desarrollo de esta prometeica pasión del hombre occidental ly sus sucesivas
crisis) mediante un sólido y coherente tratado del pensamiento occidental.
Hegel dijo que una civilización no puede tomar conciencia de sí misma
hasta que no ha madurado lo suficiente como para aproximarse a su muer
te. En su epilogo, Tarnas nos habla del fin del hombre moderno, y aboga por
nuevos valores: la reintegración de lo «femeninow y el redescubrimiento em
pático del misterio de la naturaleza y el universo.

«La más lúcida y concisa introducción que he leido sobre (as grandes li
neas del pensamiento occidental que cualquier estudiante debería saber. Su
estilo es elegante y transporta al lector con el impetu de una novela
Joseph Campbell

Richard Tarnas es historiador de la cultura y profesor de Filosofía y Psi
cologia en el California Institute of Integral Studies [CIIS) de San Francisco
así como fundador y director del programa de Filosofía, Cosmologia y
Conciencia. Graduado cum laude por la Universidad de Harvard en Historia de la
cultura y Psicología en 1972, se doctoró en 1976 en el Instituto Saybrook. De
1980 a 1990 escribió «The Passion of the Western Mind» [19911 que se convirtió
en un éxito en Estados Unidos, y, tras treinta años de estudio de los
tránsitos planetarios, su siguiente libro, «Cosmos and Psyche» (2006), ambos
publicados en Atalanta.
  FundacionRosacruz | Feb 6, 2018 |
Knappe synthese van de ontwikkeling van het Westerse denken (vanaf de Grieken), maar wel met een beperkte focus op filosofie (en dan nog vooral metafysica en kennisleer). Vanuit historisch standpunt valt ook op dat Tarnas nogal inzoomt op het individuele genie en dat hij niet-Westerse invloeden bijna helemaal buiten beeld laat. Tarnas besteedt ook bijzondere aandacht aan astronomie en astrologie. Het slothoofdstuk is helemaal anders van aard en gaat nogal de psychedelische toer op. ( )
  bookomaniac | Apr 16, 2015 |
i wish a teacher would have put this in my hands in high school, or freshman year of college. it's a great starting point for exploring the history of western thought and culture. ( )
  pessoanongrata | Mar 30, 2013 |
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A book that explores the evolution of the Western mind places special demands on both reader and writer, for it asks us to enter into frames of reference that are sometimes radically different from our own.
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"[This] magnificent critical survey, with its inherent respect for both the 'Westt'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 for the first time." SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE Here are the great minds of Western civilization and their pivotal ideas, from Plato to Hegel, from Augustine to Nietzsche, from Copernicus to Freud. Richard Tarnas performs the near-miracle of describing profound philosophical concepts simply but without simplifying them. Ten years in the making and already hailed as a classic, THE PASSION OF THE WESERN MIND is truly a complete liberal education in a single volume.

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