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The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and…
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The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (edição 2013)

por Susan Jacoby (Autor)

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1615131,861 (3.65)7
During the Gilded Age, Ingersoll raised his voice on behalf of Enlightenment reason, secularism, and the separation of church and state with a vigor unmatched since America's revolutionary generation. Jacoby restores Ingersoll to his rightful place in an American intellectual tradition, as public figure who devoted his life to liberty of conscience belonging to the religious and nonreligious alike.… (mais)
Membro:kevinmwoods
Título:The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought
Autores:Susan Jacoby (Autor)
Informação:Yale University Press (2013), Edition: 1st, 246 pages
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The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought por Susan Jacoby

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Robert Ingersoll was a 19th century lawyer and orator who spoke out with great verve and eloquence against religion and superstition and in favor of humanist values (including anti-racism and women's rights) and the separation of church and state. I'd certainly heard of Ingersoll, but given how much I've read on these topics, I wasn't nearly as familiar with him as I thought I should be. Susan Jacoby clearly thinks a lot of people aren't as familiar with him as they should be, and this book is very much her attempt to correct that. (She even includes an open letter to the so-called "new atheists" at the end, encouraging them to acknowledge Ingersoll's contributions more.)

From what I did know of Ingersoll going in, I was inclined to be well-disposed towards him, and having finished this book now, I feel very, very much more so. Ingersoll was 100% my kind of guy, and in many ways he seems not just ahead of his own time, but possibly ours as well.

I do feel a bit sorry for Jacoby, though. Her writing is perfectly readable, if not exactly compelling, but boy does it pale in comparison to Ingersoll's. You can see why he had a reputation as an amazing speaker, and why even people who disagreed with his views used to show up just to enjoy listening to him talk. Every time Jacoby would finish up a long quote from him and go back to her own commentary, I'd resent it a little bit, because I just wanted to keep reading him.

Her commentary does put him into some good context, though, and she touches on the relevance that Ingersoll and the issues of his own time have for today's political and religious climate, not in great depth, but in ways that are thought-provoking.

Rating: 4/5 for this book, but based on it, I'd give Ingersoll himself a 5/5. ( )
4 vote bragan | Feb 13, 2021 |
I have to say I was hoping for a bit more from this one. Jacoby's treatment of Robert ingersoll in her earlier book Freethinkers was excellent, and when I saw she'd done a full-dress bio of Ingersoll I knew right away I wanted to read it. But this slim volume packs little of the same wallop, and very much needed a stronger editorial hand just to remove some of the superfluous repetition (twice, on pages 100 and 152, we are told of the very wrong misconception that Vaseline worked as a contraceptive, and at least twice she recounts how Thomas Paine was arrested and held in a French prison until the U.S. arranged for his release). Jacoby also repeats the incorrect tale that Rand Paul was named after Ayn Rand (p. 108), which is another thing the editors at Yale University Press ought to have caught and corrected.

These mild and easily-corrected grumbles aside, Ingersoll's story is an absolutely fascinating one, and I would certainly put him in the top ten list of historical speakers I wish I could have heard in person. I'd have like more biographical detail here, though: what Jacoby offers is more an extended essay arguing for Ingersoll's role in American intellectual history (which I welcome) without actually engaging very much with the man himself.

So, an imperfect book, but if you have any interest in Ingersoll and don't mind that the author puts her finger very firmly on the scale, it's worth a read. ( )
2 vote JBD1 | Oct 17, 2015 |
Some interesting commentary on Ingersoll's advocacy of free thinking. This is far below Jacoby's usual quality writing and insights. Quite dry reading and burdensome due to poor editing where single paragraphs run on for several pages with an assortment of ideas lumped together. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
Not so much a biography as an examination of the philosophical thought of the great orator. Jacoby spends little time on his childhood, or his home life. She devotes her discussion to his public life, detailing that aspect of his personality which gained him the title of The Great Agnostic (he willingly accepted atheist as a moniker, as well, indicating that they are really the same thing). She spends more time on his words than on the day to day routine of his life, and the ample quotes sprinkled throughout the book remind anyone who might have forgotten just how eloquent a defender of reason Ingersoll was. This book is a must for any freethinker, or for anyone who wants to know more about the movement known as freethought. It is also a must read for anyone who thinks there's anything new about the "new atheists" - in fact, Jacoby concludes the book with a letter to the New Atheists urging them to re-animate the memory of Ingersoll, and including him in their reading and in their discussions of important freethinkers. As always, Jacoby writes with an easy style that makes for easy, enjoyable reading. ( )
2 vote Devil_llama | Jun 14, 2014 |
A slim, admiring biography of a fascinating man I had never heard of who was quite famous in his time, the leading freethinker of his day and a champion for the separation of church and state. ( )
2 vote Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
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During the Gilded Age, Ingersoll raised his voice on behalf of Enlightenment reason, secularism, and the separation of church and state with a vigor unmatched since America's revolutionary generation. Jacoby restores Ingersoll to his rightful place in an American intellectual tradition, as public figure who devoted his life to liberty of conscience belonging to the religious and nonreligious alike.

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