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Allen Bloom's THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND is monumentally important, especially in regard to its central assertion that the surface American education's first principle has for some time now been: "To avoid discrimination [particularly in regard to class, culture, race, and religion or lack thereof], one must be indescriminate in all. The one exception, and the thing to be hated, is the man who asserts otherwise." I am always just utterly amazed at how absolutely relativistic (parodox intended) 99% of my college students have become in their judgements (or rather lack of them) regarding lit and art. I push them to extremes. They will proclaim (as though programmed to say so--and Bloom says they are) that Brittney Spears "music" is every bit as good as Mozart's "for the person who hears it that way." I actually ask them if a pile of dog dung on a paper plate is as much art as Michalangelo's David, and you would not believe how many will, without a twitch, say that it is "if someone thinks it is," as though putting forth an opinion in regard to any obvious difference in quality will lead directly to the acceptance of Hitler's race policies--or, at least, they don't want to be viewed as having any "dangerous" opinions, whether or not they really have them. And this is Bloom's brilliant argument--"absolute freedom" (everything is equally good) has supplanted real freedom (the ability to say the truth or even think it). In another class, in which we study different models of morality, many students will assert with an absolute straight face (get ready!) that baby-torturing, if accepted by a given cultural as moral, would be a moral activity to take part in. What can one even say to such things?!--but Bloom saw this type of non-thinking and warned of the extremes to which it could, and would be taken.
31 of 35 people found this review helpful
A brilliant review of how the modern university came into being. It covers a wide range of philosophers from Aristotle to Nietzsche and examines their profound influence on western thought and the modern university. Bloom makes a sound case for the return to classical education.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
I’m not one to buy hardcover, but this needs to be on the bookshelf to go back to again and again.
I used to see this book as a diagnosis of the past, but if you want to understand the present political and social situation of the west, you'll read this book.
Gives a thorough exposition of the decline in Western thought across the Twentieth Century. Essential reading.
Would you try another book written by Allan Bloom or narrated by Christopher Hurt?
Maybe. It would depend on the title.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
I found it fascinating to hear a commentator with such a large view explain the impulses and movements that have made a direct contribution to the world in which we live. I didn't make it to the end - it's a long book, and it became just a bit tedious around the middle. I found I kept losing concentration. I might go back to it a bit later.
If this book were a film would you go see it?
I doubt you could make it a film. Maybe a documentary. Yes, I would - it might make it easier to follow - the filmmaker could do all the hard work.