Wednesday, January 5, 2011

David Brooks on All Things Shining

Because of Brooks's discussion, I'm going to have to read this book. Brooks, who has a very perceptive eye for current culture (his politics are a bit to the right for my tastes, but nonetheless thoughtful). While Maureen Dowd usually has the snarky (and therefore humorous) take on the zeitgeist, Brooks ponders without proving ponderous. In this brief book review (which is what this column is), he raises some really good points. What is the role of the ecstatic in our culture? What role do sports, religion, or culture (music, theater) play in this? How do we distinguish collective feelings of "whooshing" (see his article for a definition) from the bad?For instance,how is a Nazi rally from the 1963 civil rights rally on the Washington mall? The easy answer is content, obviously, but how do we parse more subtle differences? Anyway, a thought-provoking column about what sounds like a thought-provoking book.

The book, by the way, is All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, by Herbert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly.


Cirrus said...

Like you I have a high regard for David.
But he sure missed on this one.
I don't even know where to start.
It is pure junk.
There is so little of value that I can not bring myself to spend the time to analyze what a mess it is.
Don't read it.
Spend the time with loved ones.
Or looking out the window.

Stephen N. Greenleaf, Esq. said...

Well, your advise came too late. I did read the book. While I certainly wouldn't call it junk, and I did find parts of it insightful (especially the material on Moby Dick), overall it didn't do much for me. The idea of polytheism didn't really grab me. James Hillman's works do a great deal more with this theme, which makes much more sense for psychology than for philosophy, and Hillman does it with a richness of imagination that Dreyfus & Kelly can't touch. I should be posting on the book sometime in the near future, and then I'll think more in depth about why it didn't move me.