This book by Dreyfus and Kelly was enjoyable to read. However, it was difficult to comprehend.
The book covers the following topics:
• Our Contemporary Nihilism
• David Foster Wallace’s Nihilism
• Homer’s Polytheism
• From Aeschylus to Augustine: Monotheism on the Rise
• From Dante to Kant: The Attractions and Dangers of Autonomy
• Fanaticism, Polytheism and Melville’s “Evil Art”
• Conclusion: Lives Worth Living in a Secular Age
The authors begin the book with a quote from Melville’s Moby Dick, a novel that plays a critical role in their analysis:
If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure back to their birthright, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; on the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove’s high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.
This is a good summary of the book. The authors trace the development of the great philosophical ideas through the writings of Western authors from the polytheism of Greece to the monotheistic religions of the Mid East to the nihilism of the modern West. They end the book with a new type of polytheism appropriate to our times that the authors believe will restore purpose to our lives.
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, Free Press, 2011, 254 pp
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