Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals

Self and Soul A Defense of Ideals In a culture that has become progressively skeptical and materialistic the desires of the individual self stand supreme Mark Edmundson says We spare little thought for the great ideals that once gav

  • Title: Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals
  • Author: Mark Edmundson
  • ISBN: 9780674088207
  • Page: 306
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In a culture that has become progressively skeptical and materialistic, the desires of the individual self stand supreme, Mark Edmundson says We spare little thought for the great ideals that once gave life meaning and worth Self and Soul is an impassioned effort to defend the values of the Soul.Edmundson guides readers back to the ancient sources of the three greatIn a culture that has become progressively skeptical and materialistic, the desires of the individual self stand supreme, Mark Edmundson says We spare little thought for the great ideals that once gave life meaning and worth Self and Soul is an impassioned effort to defend the values of the Soul.Edmundson guides readers back to the ancient sources of the three great ideals courage, contemplation, and compassion Homer s Iliad presents two contrasting versions of the heroic ideal Achilles, who risks everything to become the greatest of warriors, and Hector, who sacrifices his life to defend his people Plato s quest is for timeless truth he is the prime example of the authentic thinker, concentrating the ideal of contemplation The third great ideal, compassion, is embodied by Jesus, the Buddha, and Confucius, who taught loving kindness, forgiveness, and forbearance in a world where such qualities are difficult and sometimes dangerous to espouse.Shakespeare and Freud are the modern world s great enemies of these ideals, Edmundson argues Shakespeare detests chivalry and has little time for faith and philosophy Freud sees ideals as illusions that will inevitably betray us But between them, a new ideal arises imaginative creation, exemplified by Blake and Shelley.Self and Soul is, as Edmundson provocatively writes, an attempt to resurrect Soul in the modern world.

    One thought on “Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals”

    1. This is one of the most devastating books I've read.Edmundson is an English Professor at UVA. The book doubles as a polemic against the self absorption of our society and a literary analysis in which Edmundson shines. But don't be put off by the latter. You need not be an academic to enjoy this book. You don't even have to have read the texts he discusses.In a nutshell, Edmundson's thesis is that our present culture only presents one way of living, one set of values (or maybe anti-values) to pur [...]

    2. A solid argument favoring the ideals of courage, compassion and contemplation over the pursuit of safety, security and entertainment. It uses Homer, Jesus and Socrates as ancient exemplars and compares them to "modern" thinkers Shakespeare and Freud, effectively dismantling the self-protecting mantra of the present day for the sake of pursuing deeper meaning. The author's academic approach occasionally undercuts the depth of meaning for which he argues, but still stands as a strong defense again [...]

    3. Mark Edmundson wrote an essay on the pleasure of cursing (‘On Shit: Profanity as Weltanschauung’) which I loved. Though I’m not personally given to cursing, I appreciate the skillful use of profanity by others (my wife can swear like a sailor). Having enjoyed that piece, and having read some reviews of the present title, I decided to pick up a copy of Self and Soul.It’s hard to disagree with Edmundson’s basic complaint that Western society is awash in bourgeois acquisitiveness, mindles [...]

    4. Professor Edmundson has written a polemical work: a fact he announces in his “Polemical Introduction” and confirms in his “Polemical Conclusion”. Not surprisingly, the book is polemical throughout. Edmundson's arguments, images, adjectives and characterizations are tilted so strongly that they repeatedly risk falling into vacuity: grand statements with little content and even less weight. Edmundson claims to be arguing in favour of ideals and against the banal, bourgeois (his word) satis [...]

    5. I'm not sure if Mark Edmundson actually makes compelling arguments in his books, or if I just naturally agree with him and delight in having someone build up an academic case around my existing beliefs. Either way, Edmundson rails against how our society has taken the great ideals and virtues of our time, and has reduced them to a safe commercial simulacrum (instead of doing heroic deeds, we watch movies and are vicariously heroic). He writes about exemplars of ideals, like Jesus, Achilles, Plat [...]

    6. Edmundson's book provides an historical and literary reading of the ideals by which men and women have lived their lives for hundreds of years. These ideals, he argues, are at the center of the purpose-driven life. Moreover, these ideals could not be further from the center of our current lives. Undoubtedly, this book gives the member of a capitalist society lots to think about. As a polemic, Edmundson's ideas and, perhaps more so, his tone challenge the reader to live a life in stricter accorda [...]

    7. An unexpected gem. Ideals, in the sense used by the author, are those few heroic virtues (Soul) to which humans aspire. The heroic/Soul ideals include courage and honor (the Homeric warrior virtues); compassion/love (exemplified by Buddha, Jesus, Confucius); truth and thought (exemplified by Socrates and Plato).These Soul ideals have always been in conflict with the self-centered, materialistic Self. With the advent of more material prosperity and the coming of the bourgeoisie. Men and women asp [...]

    8. I was engrossed in this book, intrigued by the theory it expressed, impressed with the reasoning that supported the theory, and in full agreement with its conclusions.The book is a serious indictment of current "middle class values," anode the fulness of life that we have sacrificed in order to preserve them. it is a call to awareness, reminder that there is something more to life than mere comfortable existence. To me, however, its best moments were in the concluding chapter, especially with re [...]

    9. I heard Mark Edmundson discuss this book on the radio and was impressed by his message and the way he articulated it. His defense of Soul in a world dominated by Self was inspiring and resonated with the way I aspire live. My reaction to the chapters in the book varied. The chapters on courage (achilles, Hector), compassion (Bhudda, Jesus, Confucious) moved me. The chapters on Shakespeare and The Romantic poets did not. The chapter on Freud provided great insight. This is a deep and important bo [...]

    10. Reviewing this in another venue, so keeping my remarks short here. Readers on the left and the right will find red meat here. Another way to say this is there is something here to irritate virtually everyone. Edmundson's central claim that moderns have sacrificed ideals for comforts rings true; his supporting arguments often involve less than convincing arguments about particular writers and texts.

    11. It's an interesting survey of different ideal selves throughout history, but I had a hard time as the author insisted a very static concept of identity, as well as having a unflagging love for ancient modes of being. He seems to have almost no use for the contemporary mode of existence, discarding it as "fallen" in some way. Red flag.

    12. One of the most thought provoking and important books I've read in a long while. If you find yourself wondering why there seems to be a lack of inspiration, a dearth of real values, and a whole bunch of noise in the world today, read this book. While it points out the problem, it also offers hope.

    13. Author posits a thought provoking juxtaposition of "Self" (modern culture) and "Soul" (ancient ideals of courage, compassion, and contemplation); academic non-fiction, but engaging and well-written prose.

    14. Three desirable ideals are presented - courage, contemplation, and compassion. A "pure" example of each would be Achilles, Plato, and Buddha, respectively.It is an interesting subject, but I felt it would have been better as longish essay, not a 200 plus page book.

    15. Wow. The final chapter of this book blew me away. It shined a bright white light on my life in America today. Fascinating and thought provoking.

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