Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

Marilynne Robinson

Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

With this book, novelist Marilynne Robinson tackles some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought - science, religion, and consciousness. 'Absence of Mind' challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science. In Robinson's view, scientific reasoning does not denote a sense of logical infallibility, as thinkers like Richard Dawkins might suggest. Instead, in its purest form, science represents a search for answers. It engages the problem of knowledge, an aspect of the mystery of consciousness, rather than providing a simple and final model of reality. By defending the importance of individual reflection, Robinson celebrates the power and variety of human consciousness in the tradition of William James. She explores the nature of subjectivity and considers the culture in which Sigmund Freud was situated and its influence on his model of self and civilization. Through interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry, 'Absence of Mind' aims to restore human consciousness to a central place in the religion-science debate. 4.3 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Religion & Spirituality
Format Hardback
Pages 176
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication June 2010
ISBN 978-0300145182
Publisher Yale University Press
 

With this book, novelist Marilynne Robinson tackles some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought - science, religion, and consciousness. 'Absence of Mind' challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science. In Robinson's view, scientific reasoning does not denote a sense of logical infallibility, as thinkers like Richard Dawkins might suggest. Instead, in its purest form, science represents a search for answers. It engages the problem of knowledge, an aspect of the mystery of consciousness, rather than providing a simple and final model of reality. By defending the importance of individual reflection, Robinson celebrates the power and variety of human consciousness in the tradition of William James. She explores the nature of subjectivity and considers the culture in which Sigmund Freud was situated and its influence on his model of self and civilization. Through interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry, 'Absence of Mind' aims to restore human consciousness to a central place in the religion-science debate.

Reviews

The Guardian

Karen Armstrong

Robinson's argument is prophetic, profound, eloquent, succinct, powerful and timely. It is not an easy read, but one of her objectives is to help readers appreciate the complexity of these issues.

03/07/2010

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The Literary Review

Bryan Appleyard

Robinson is, unusually for a novelist, a formidable scholar and a philosopher of rigour. She is also a great ironist. Her characteristic trope is a teacherish, feline, raised-eyebrow expression of helpful wonder. The scholarship and the rigour are important because these are precisely the attributes claimed by her opponents. Nothing is more characteristic of the band of brothers Richard Dawkins calls ‘the brights’ – Neo-Darwinians primarily – than their elitist sense of their cleverness and their corresponding conviction that those who oppose them, usually the religious, are simply thick. Unfortunately for them, Robinson is very religious and brighter than any bright I have ever read or met... [A] dense and yet endlessly entertaining little book.

01/06/2010

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The Daily Telegraph

Rowan Williams

She is not alone in implying that without the transcendent we shall find ourselves unable, sooner or later, to make any sense of the full range of human self-awareness. But she makes the case with exceptional elegance and authority... one of the most significant contributions yet to the current quarrels about faith, science and rationality.

28/05/2010

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The Washington Post

Michael Dirda

...these impassioned pages require and reward very close attention. "Absence of Mind" is a philosophical polemic, and its language is often abstract, the syntax convoluted, and the reasoning subtle.

27/05/2010

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The New Statesman

Julian Baggini

There is a great deal of oversimplification and overconfidence in para-scientific, anti-religious literature, and Robinson's book is justified by the challenge it mounts to both. However, a critique that fails to separate these out from the real and serious challenges to religion that modern thought has generated cannot be entirely satisfactory. Robinson raises many interesting points that are worth the effort of arguing against, and she does so in prose most para-scientific writers can only dream of. But the eloquence of the plea is not matched by the substance of the case.

14/06/2010

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The Financial Times

Siri Hustvedt

Despite my many squabbles with its arguments, I enjoyed reading Absence of Mind. The reason: it is always a pleasure to keep company with a person who takes ideas seriously.

03/07/2010

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