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Absence of Mind

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

Marilynne Robinson
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Absence of Mind
    Book Description:

    In this ambitious book, acclaimed writer Marilynne Robinson applies her astute intellect to some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought-science, religion, and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels,Absence of Mindchallenges 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 keen interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry,Absence of Mindrestores human consciousness to its central place in the religion-science debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16647-7
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    These essays examine one side in the venerable controversy called the conflict between science and religion, in order to question the legitimacy of the claim its exponents make to speak with the authority of science and in order to raise questions about the quality of thought that lies behind it. I propose that the model from which these writers proceed is science as the word was understood by certain influential thinkers in the early modern period, the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. While it is true that at the same time and in the...

  4. ONE On Human Nature
    (pp. 1-30)

    The mind, whatever else it is, is a constant of everyone’s experience, and, in more and other ways than we know, the creator of the reality that we live within, that we live by and for and despite, and that, often enough, we die from. Nothing is more essential to us. In this chapter I wish to draw attention to the character of the thinking that is brought to bear by contemporary writers on the subject, and also to a first premise of modern and contemporary thought, the notion that we as a culture have crossed one or another threshold...

  5. TWO The Strange History of Altruism
    (pp. 31-76)

    The great breach that separates the modern Western world from its dominant traditions of religion and metaphysics is the prestige of opinion that throws into question the scale of the reality in which the mind participates. Does it open on ultimate truth, at least potentially or in momentary glimpses, or is it an extravagance of nature, brilliantly complex yet created and radically constrained by its biology and by cultural influence? Prior to any statement about the mind is an assumption about the nature of the reality of which it is part, and which is in some degree accessible to it...

  6. THREE The Freudian Self
    (pp. 77-108)

    Toward the end of his life, Carl Jung, remembering his association and his differences with Sigmund Freud, says, ‘‘Above all, Freud’s attitude toward the spirit seemed to me highly questionable. Wherever, in a person or in a work of art, an expression of spirituality (in the intellectual, not the supernatural sense) came to light, he suspected it, and insinuated that it was repressed sexuality. Anything that could not be directly interpreted as sexuality he referred to as ‘psychosexuality.’ I protested that this hypothesis, carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to an annihilating judgment upon culture. Culture would then appear...

  7. FOUR Thinking Again
    (pp. 109-136)

    It will be a great day in the history of science if we sometime discover a damp shadow elsewhere in the universe where a fungus has sprouted. The mere fossil trace of life in its simplest form would be the crowning achievement of generations of brilliant and diligent labor. And here we are, a gaudy efflorescence of consciousness, staggeringly improbable in light of everything we know about the reality that contains us. There are physicists and philosophers who would correct me. They would say, if there are an infinite number of universes, as in theory there could be, then creatures...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 137-140)
    (pp. 141-144)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 145-158)