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L'âme désarmée : essai sur le déclin de la… (1987)

par Allan Bloom

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

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3,857282,480 (3.59)36
L'universite : est-il possible en un mot de faire lever plus de prestiges ? Il s'agit bien du centre de l'Occident, parce que l'Universite est le coeur des democraties. Allan Bloom balaie ces prestiges, ces mirages : narcissisme, nihilisme, relativisme paralysant, creativite sterile. Fait-il le proces de l'Amerique ? Il l'aime, mais craint pour son avenir, et pour le notre. Fait-il le proces de la jeunesse ? Il l'aime avec une generosite et un discernement peu communs, mais son anxiete croit : ces dernieres decennies ont vu se repandre, en Europe non moins qu'aux Etats-Unis, un style d'education et un mode de vie qui tendent a rendre les jeunes gens et les jeunes filles de plus en plus incapables de faire face noblement, intelligemment ou meme raisonnablement aux grands faits de la vie humaine : l'amour, la famille, la citoyennete, la recherche de la verite. Allan Bloom nous redonne acces a ce tres proche tresor que les universites soucieuses d' utilite et de scientificite , que les Eglises ivres de popularite et d' ouverture ont mis sous le boisseau : notre ame. Elle est le seul sujet de ce livre profond. Publie en anglais en 1987 (The Closing of the American Mind), l'ouvrage a ete traduit en francais des sa parution, dans une edition amputee de l'essentiel de sa troisieme partie. Le voici propose dans une traduction integrale.… (plus d'informations)
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» Voir aussi les 36 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 28 (suivant | tout afficher)
I have waited years and years to read this. I knew there was good stuff in here, but now that I finally made time for it, I wasn't as excited to read about it now. Still, it was a provocative, intriguing, and historical read.

****
Published in the late 80s, Allan Bloom wrote a scathing and disappointing report about the decline of reason and rise of relativism in the American university system. He blamed the 1960s for the change. You think?

Bloom argued for a return to the Great Books in education, which help us to think about the ideas that matter: is there truth, freedom, and a God? -- something young people crave to know, but now never find out in higher learning because everything is relative.
****

A few final (truncated) quotes:

"A good program of liberal education feeds the student's love of truth and passion to live a good life."

"The only serious solution is the one that is universally rejected: the good old Great Books approach, in which liberal education means reading classic texts, letting them dictate what the questions are and the method of approaching them,...trying to read them as their authors wished them to be read." ( )
  GRLopez | Oct 23, 2021 |
Quite an interesting look into the state of the university in the late 1980's. According to Al Mohler, if these things were true then, how much more so now!

Here in his book the late Alan Bloom, a professor at an elite American university, offers a penetrating look into the status of higher education systems. The institutions and universities have become little more than an inculcation of values such as openness and tolerance. It is a unique work to have such a lengthy stay atop the NYT bestseller list, yet I presume many today would find Bloom obtuse; he calls out the cultural mantras of openness, tolerance, and relativism as impoverishing the souls of today's students.

Bloom's analysis is undoubtedly insightful and provocative, but sometimes challenging to understand. He regularly critiques and cites from philosophers such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hobbes, and Locke, and little familiarity with these characters can make his points hard to grasp. Many chapters were difficult to follow, not because he is unclear, but because he is drawing from such a deep well of philosophical knowledge. Even despite these shortcomings in the reader, those involved at any level of education would benefit from a handful of selections from his work, such as the brief section on books. He says, "our students have lost the practice of and the taste for reading. They have not learned how to read, nor do they have the expectation of delight or improvement from reading" (63). He goes on to cite how pop psychology is now the sole informant of what people are like and their range of motives (64). Furthermore, he states, "lack of education simply results in students' seeking for enlightenment wherever it is readily available, without being able to distinguish between the sublime and trash, insight and propaganda" (64). In an information age that has only accelerated exponentially since Bloom's title released, this truth is even more evident. With information whizzing about whenever and wherever we want it, discernment and knowledge is hardly distinguishable from the soiled refuse that so often passes for knowledge today.

From a theological vantage point, though the decline of the book in university is lamentable, the book of all books is Scripture. It stands as the norming norm. Convictions about this book led to the founding of the university in the first place and it is not a little ironic that the narrative is ever inching towards full circle. This book has long since fell out of favor in the major institutions. Furthermore, the university, which began out of convictions about one book, have gradually lost their influence in directing students toward enjoyment and enlightenment from books in general.

Though much more could be said, Christians realize that the primary location for education begins in the home (Deut. 6, 9). Christian parents cannot neglect this responsibility and settle for passing on social cues and merely what is acceptable societal behavior. Many ideas of significant consequence are being passed out like hot cakes not only in the university but across all the cultural mediums today. The re-education of young people remains essential. Though the education systems are faltering, parents must not! One remedy can be found in taking hold of the book of books and allowing its words find a rich dwelling place deep down in the soul and a fruitful place of prominence in family discussion. Easier said than done, but conviction will endure in the long run.

I only read about halfway through, and as the prescriptive side waned in its helpfulness, I eventually put it down to move on to other things.
  joshcrouse3 | Sep 17, 2021 |
Case 14 shelf 4
  semoffat | Sep 1, 2021 |
In this book, Allan Bloom argues that the university has been compromised by the fractured thinking that characterizes our society at large. The university is in danger of losing its true purpose, to the ultimate detriment of all society. He traces the origins of this moment back to Enlightenment philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, who radically reformed the idea of what it is to be a human being, and what the human being's relationship to the state is. According to his analysis, these developments culminated in a subjective turn with Nietzsche and Heidegger, which disembedded morality from any rational basis and gave birth to modern individualism. This, in turn, got watered down into our contemporary American values culture and its individualistic ideals of "fulfillment" and "lifestyle." He concludes that, since contemporary culture sees mankind as reducible to these impulses, the humanities have lost the authority and relevance they once had -- and this is the beginning of the end for the traditional role and authority of the university.

Style-wise, this book is a disaster. Bloom goes on and on and on with ramblings so prolix and convoluted that I had a hard time keeping track whether he was summarizing the position of some past philosopher or advancing his own argument, and sometimes even what his argument was. At several points, I thought I was following his train of thought only to be surprised by where he went in the next sentence. He name-drops constantly as though he expects his readers to know what it is he has in mind -- and when he does explain, he offers broad summaries of a thinker's entire body of thought with little to no elaboration -- so either way, we must take him at his word when he eventually reaches a conclusion (which sometimes never happens). It's also terribly disorganized. Despite being divided into sections, the book repeats arguments and doubles back constantly, an aspect which I found maddening. (For example, on p. 208 he makes the point that Nietzsche was the first anti-Socratic philosopher, and then makes the same point again a hundred pages later, on p. 307.)

It is beyond me how this book became a best-seller. For stylistic reasons alone I would not recommend this to anyone. I only finished this book because I was using it for a class. There are a number of other books that make similar points much better, and in less space - The Abolition of Man, After Virtue, and John Taylor Gatto come to mind. Bloom also has something in common with Charles Taylor in his analysis of the Enlightenment as a turning point. (If I remember correctly, in his Massey lectures, Taylor responds directly to Bloom by defending aspects of modern individualism against Bloom's unilateral attack.)

Content-wise, I agree for the most part with Bloom's criticism of modern relativistic values culture. As a public school teacher, I see propaganda for this ideology all the time, and am well familiar with both its vacuity and its lack of effectiveness among the students for actually shaping their lives in any meaningful way. I am also witness to the fallout of how our culture as a whole tends to devalue the pursuit of knowledge as part of the good life, let alone philosophy as the highest of all pursuits. His insight that values culture merely rephrases existential questions rather than actually answering them is a good one. And he makes a strong case that, in order for our culture to find its way out of its contradictions, we must return to philosophy. (It was my own experience a number of years ago reading After Virtue and realizing that the emperor had no clothes -- that modern moral discourse serves only to mask its own baselessness -- that started me down the path of philosophy.)

His insights into the state of education, especially in the final section, are even more incisive. He was clearly traumatized by the Cornell takeover in 1969, and looks on that event as a paradigm case of how academia concedes to popular demands, rather than standing as a bulwark resistant to popular opinion and pushing back in an enriching, constructive way. In this, he sounds very conservative -- the activists had charged the university with systemic racism, and his critique could be seen as insensitive to race issues. But his point isn't so much about the activists' claims, as with their closed-minded attitude. He sees antiracism as part of the pseudo-fascism of new liberalism, an intolerant ideological package that proceeds by force rather than argument and makes a point of censoring opposition. (Again, all this is a result of developments in Enlightenment and existentialist philosophy, and a necessary consequence of democracy.) You've probably heard something like this before -- so, take it as you will. His ultimate concern is the fallout, that the humanities are separated from the other disciplines, cordoned off and relativized. As part of this closed-minded package, there isn't anything to learn from philosophy or the tradition except what can be practically applied to the here and now. E.g., Plato, Shakespeare, etc. were all sexists/racists/etc., so we approach these authors from a position of superiority and utility, which makes authentic engagement with them, and therefore true enrichment, impossible. And in cutting ourselves off from these authors, we are cutting ourselves off from ourselves. I.e., we are unable to engage critically with the philosophical heritage we borrow from unknowingly every day (Enlightenment and existentialism), which stunts our growth and our functioning as a society. Most of those points I think are fair, and to a large extent still relevant. And many of them resonate personally.

On the other hand, he does go on more than one caustic rant about young people and their rock music, casual sex, "liberal values," etc., clearly giving vent to some deep bitterness. Although he makes some valid observations here, it's hard not to read these in the voice of an old fuddy-duddy armchair-would-be-philosopher railing against the damn youngsters. These sections of the book are horribly dated and call into question his own credibility.

Also, he fails to truly reckon with some of the figures he brings up. Although he does offer a pretty good summary of Nietzsche's philosophy, I think he either misunderstands what subjectivity really means for Nietzsche and Heidegger (and their followers) or is too quick to dismiss them because of their scorn for (and his love of) Socrates and the Socratic tradition. He doesn't come to grips with what their insights really mean for his stake in the preservation of the university. So in the end, he could come off almost naïve.

So kind of a mixed bag overall. It did raise some important questions, and I think I learned something about Rousseau and the history of the Enlightenment. But again, it was terribly written, rambly, and poorly organized, and I'm pretty sure that if I didn't have a background in philosophy and didn't already know basically what he was talking about, I would have been totally lost. Perhaps that's why a lot of people just ended up reading this as sort of a conservative clarion call in the culture wars. Closing of the American mind indeed. ( )
1 voter exhypothesi | Mar 7, 2021 |
I think the diversity of these reviews and comments is a testament to the quality of Bloom’s work. Something that, had the book been emphasizing a bunch of thoughtless relativism (as opposed to thoughtful relativism), would have garnered a whole bunch of flat and homogenous reviews. The book had a section on race, yes. It also had a section on gender, students, the university, the crises of philosophy, and several others, all of which were critical and none of which were central to Bloom’s argument. In fact, the sole object of Bloom’s criticism was ultimately the tattered state of modern thought and the mockery it makes of our collective reality, Life.

The point of this book isn’t to tell you or anyone else what to think. The point of this book is to make you think.

In all honesty, I did debate giving this book less than 5 stars due to Bloom’s section on race and the surprising attention it seems to elicit from readers. However, beyond the section being one of the shortest, nowhere within it does Bloom allude to or even insinuate racist sentiment. Most of the focus appears to be a misinterpretation of Bloom’s addressing the use and abuse of statistical data that, despite being completely devoid of any cultural sensitivity or insight, was used to uproot existing communities (no doubt underserved communities, but Bloom’s concern is the university) on the expectation of immediate cultural assimilation and absolute conformism. Something that, had there been any serious thought to actual human beings – the culture of the black communities – may have elicited more insightful and impactful outcomes (insofar as Bloom saw it).

The book makes a plea for the revitalization of philosophy and a renewed meaning of human nature. All of this is under the expectation that the author should be taken seriously, but not absolutely. ( )
  mitchanderson | Jan 17, 2021 |
Affichage de 1-5 de 28 (suivant | tout afficher)
ALLAN BLOOM, a professor of philosophy and political science at the University of Chicago, is perhaps best known as a translator and interpreter of Jean Jacques Rousseau's ''Emile'' and Plato's ''Republic,'' two classic texts that ponder the relationship between education and society. In ''The Closing of the American Mind,'' Mr. Bloom has drawn both on his deep acquaintance with philosophical thinking about education and on a long career as a teacher to give us an extraordinary meditation on the fate of liberal education in this country - a meditation, as he puts it in his opening pages, ''on the state of our souls.''
 

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L'universite : est-il possible en un mot de faire lever plus de prestiges ? Il s'agit bien du centre de l'Occident, parce que l'Universite est le coeur des democraties. Allan Bloom balaie ces prestiges, ces mirages : narcissisme, nihilisme, relativisme paralysant, creativite sterile. Fait-il le proces de l'Amerique ? Il l'aime, mais craint pour son avenir, et pour le notre. Fait-il le proces de la jeunesse ? Il l'aime avec une generosite et un discernement peu communs, mais son anxiete croit : ces dernieres decennies ont vu se repandre, en Europe non moins qu'aux Etats-Unis, un style d'education et un mode de vie qui tendent a rendre les jeunes gens et les jeunes filles de plus en plus incapables de faire face noblement, intelligemment ou meme raisonnablement aux grands faits de la vie humaine : l'amour, la famille, la citoyennete, la recherche de la verite. Allan Bloom nous redonne acces a ce tres proche tresor que les universites soucieuses d' utilite et de scientificite , que les Eglises ivres de popularite et d' ouverture ont mis sous le boisseau : notre ame. Elle est le seul sujet de ce livre profond. Publie en anglais en 1987 (The Closing of the American Mind), l'ouvrage a ete traduit en francais des sa parution, dans une edition amputee de l'essentiel de sa troisieme partie. Le voici propose dans une traduction integrale.

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