Nobility of Spirit

Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal

Rob Riemen
Translated by Marjolijn de Jager
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Nobility of Spirit
    Book Description:

    In the pages of this slim, powerful book Rob Riemen argues with passion that "nobility of spirit" is the quintessence of a civilized world. It is, as Thomas Mann believed, the sole corrective for human history. Without nobility of spirit, culture vanishes. Yet in the early twenty-first century, a time when human dignity and freedom are imperiled, the concept of nobility of spirit is scarcely considered.

    Riemen insists that if we hope to move beyond the war on terror and create a life-affirming culture, we must address timeless but neglected questions: What is a good society? Why art? Why culture? What is the responsibility of intellectuals? Why anti-Americanism? Why nihilism? Why the cult of death of fundamentalists? In a series of three essays, the author identifies nobility of spirit in the life and work of Baruch Spinoza and of Thomas Mann; explores the quest for the good society in our own time; and addresses the pursuit of truth and freedom that engaged figures as disparate as Socrates and Leone Ginzburg, a Jewish Italian intellectual murdered by Nazis.

    "The forces now aligned against humanistic values are manifold," observes George Steiner in the foreword to the book. In this imaginative and compelling volume, Riemen addresses these forces and speaks to every reader who believes in the power of classical ideas to restore Western civilization's highest values.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14540-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prelude: Dinner at the River Café
    (pp. ix-xxxviii)

    You cannot plan the most important events in your life—they happen to you. The day that a friendship or a great love wanders into your life is unanticipated; the hour that a beloved person departs this life is unanticipated; the one event that changes your life forever is unanticipated. At such moments, it is as if—conscious of its power to evaluate what is and is not truly important, what will remain with you forever and what you are free to forget—the human soul authorizes the part of you that remembers to carefully record, with all the senses...

  4. The Quest of Thomas Mann
    (pp. 1-30)

    On September 1, 1939, at noon, when the radio announces that another war has broken out in Europe, the wife and a daughter of Thomas Mann consider whether to disturb him with this news. He is still writing, and the “sacred hours” during which he creates his work have not yet passed. Nothing bothers him more than to be disturbed, and the two women decide to let him be.

    “Grab hold of time! Use it! Be mindful of every day, every hour! If you are not careful, time can slip away far too easily and quickly.” This self-admonition in his...

  5. Untimely Conversations on Timely Questions
    (pp. 31-82)

    Some conversations are unforgettable.

    In a magnificent house near Piraeus, the harbor of Athens, a small group of affluent young men has gathered to wait for the celebrations later that evening in honor of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Summer is approaching, the afternoon is warm, and the hours threaten to crawl along. Near his home, the host happens to run into a friend who is legendary for his gifts in the art of debate. Gently but firmly the host invites him to join the group, for what could better dispel lethargy and idleness than a good conversation? He is...

  6. Be Brave
    (pp. 83-112)

    The prosecutors have finished speaking and the accused has the floor. In the court of justice, located at the southern end of the marketplace, five hundred men have assembled to pass judgment on the seventy-year-old man who has risen to present his defense. When the old man passes a silent eye over the jurors seated before him, a hush falls over the room. The only sound heard is the chirping of birds, who are wholly indifferent to the seriousness of what is taking place inside the courthouse this early spring morning. All those present are acutely aware that this trial...

  7. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 113-114)
  8. Author’s Note
    (pp. 115-116)