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The Closing of the American Mind | [Allan Bloom]

The Closing of the American Mind

In one of the most important books of our time, Allan Bloom, a professor of social thought at the University of Chicago and a noted translator of Plato and Rousseau, argues that the social and political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis.
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Publisher's Summary

In one of the most important books of our time, Allan Bloom, a professor of social thought at the University of Chicago and a noted translator of Plato and Rousseau, argues that the social and political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Bloom cites everything from the universities' lack of purpose to the students' lack of learning, from the jargon of liberation to the supplanting of reason by so-called creativity. Furthermore, he shows how American democracy has unwittingly played host to vulgarized Continental ideas of nihilism and despair, of relativism disguised as tolerance, while demonstrating that the collective mind of the American university is closed to the very principles of spiritual heritage that gave rise to the university in the first place.

(P)1992 by Blackstone Audiobooks; ©1987 by Alan Bloom

What the Critics Say

"With clarity, gravity, and grace, Bloom makes a convincing case for the improbable proposition that reading old books about the permanent questions could help to reestablish reason and restore the soul." (Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard University)

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  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 06-29-10
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 06-29-10 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "VERY IMPORTANT WORK!"

    Allen Bloom's THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND is monumentally important, especially in regard to its central assertion that the surface American education's first principle has for some time now been: "To avoid discrimination [particularly in regard to class, culture, race, and religion or lack thereof], one must be indescriminate in all. The one exception, and the thing to be hated, is the man who asserts otherwise." I am always just utterly amazed at how absolutely relativistic (parodox intended) 99% of my college students have become in their judgements (or rather lack of them) regarding lit and art. I push them to extremes. They will proclaim (as though programmed to say so--and Bloom says they are) that Brittney Spears "music" is every bit as good as Mozart's "for the person who hears it that way." I actually ask them if a pile of dog dung on a paper plate is as much art as Michalangelo's David, and you would not believe how many will, without a twitch, say that it is "if someone thinks it is," as though putting forth an opinion in regard to any obvious difference in quality will lead directly to the acceptance of Hitler's race policies--or, at least, they don't want to be viewed as having any "dangerous" opinions, whether or not they really have them. And this is Bloom's brilliant argument--"absolute freedom" (everything is equally good) has supplanted real freedom (the ability to say the truth or even think it). In another class, in which we study different models of morality, many students will assert with an absolute straight face (get ready!) that baby-torturing, if accepted by a given cultural as moral, would be a moral activity to take part in. What can one even say to such things?!--but Bloom saw this type of non-thinking and warned of the extremes to which it could, and would be taken.

    18 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Boring, OR, USA 12-15-03
    Matt Boring, OR, USA 12-15-03
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    "Excellent...Must Listen"

    This was an excellent listen. Every American should listen to this a couple times. Great understanding of what happened before the "60's revolution" and what drove that cultural revolution.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Chicago, IL, USA 01-20-06
    Gary Chicago, IL, USA 01-20-06
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    "The Devolution Of The University"

    A brilliant review of how the modern university came into being. It covers a wide range of philosophers from Aristotle to Nietzsche and examines their profound influence on western thought and the modern university. Bloom makes a sound case for the return to classical education.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron C 11-17-05
    Ron C 11-17-05 Member Since 2004
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    "A Must Read!"

    A must read!
    Enlightening, in-depth, comprehensive dissective analysis of the American educational system. Bloom's firsthand account is extremely well-written and this audio version is expertly read. My only complaint is that it ended too soon.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Dallas, TX 09-21-09
    Michael Dallas, TX 09-21-09 Member Since 2006
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    "The Most Important Book In The World"

    Bloom's book should be required reading for every American, but especially for college age Americans. This book will change the way you view the world. It will pull the rug out from underneath you and there aren't many books that will do that. Read this book. Then read it again and again until you have one of those "OMG!" moments.

    A friend of mine was reading this book for a class and I told her, 'Oh come on that's a bunch of garbage." Later, I read the book, and it has fundamentally shaken my views of liberal education, made me question my allegiance to the Republican party--indeed, to any party, and has opened my mind to the sheer ignorance with which I and most people in America live their lives. This book will make you embrace education like a man who has spent months in a hot desert will embrace water.
    READ THIS BOOK NOW!

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Seattle, WA, USA 04-24-10
    Robert Seattle, WA, USA 04-24-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Wonderful Book - Typical Boring Narration"

    Ive read the book several times and find it filled with many important insights for those living in our Constitutional republic. I also have an old recording on cassettes which were narrated by Allan Bloom himself. I was hoping that this would be the same recording, but available in a modern audio format without all the hiss of those old cassette tapes. Unfortunately, someone else narrated the book. He has the typical syrupy but monotonous kind of voice so often found in audio books. There's none of the inflection or passion of the author when he read the book. I find it hard to keep my eyes open when listening to this version. Does the narrator even understand what he's reading, its significance ? This version lulls me to sleep. I better not drive with it on. I doubt I will finish listening to this version. It was quite a disappointment. Even though I don't think I can listen to more than 10 minutes of it, I can't bear to give the book a horrible rating. The content deserves 5 stars. - -

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Walter Ossining , NY, USA 08-07-04
    Walter Ossining , NY, USA 08-07-04
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    "One of the greatest books ever written"

    I found this book to be highly educational.

    9 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Volther Barnesville, GA, USA 01-25-10
    Volther Barnesville, GA, USA 01-25-10
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    "The closing of the American Mind"

    This book mostly talks about what is happening in our College Academies and the various aspect of college student's views of their liberal ideas and ethical thinking of thier lifestyles and towards their fellow colleagues. It also talks about philosophies and hiarchy of science professions and their ideas such as political science, psychological science, natural science, and other areas sciences. All of these and some other thoughts of Allan Bloom somehow find it's way throughout American society. Allan Bloom is indeed had some expertise in his Phd. profession and as a college professor to talk about what is happening in our Academics, politics, sciences, and college lifestyle and ethics in America in his point of view.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer United States 03-12-13
    Amazon Customer United States 03-12-13 Member Since 2012
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    "A digest of the intellectual conservitive movement"
    Any additional comments?

    I was struck by how little of this book was not familiar. I'm 38 years old, and I read a lot. The fact that I've heard almost all the arguments contained in this book, even though it's now 27 years since it was written, tells me that it has been very influential. Everything in it has been amplified by repetition.

    So, it was not a book that "made me think," because I've heard it all before- from Bloom's description of conviction-less Gen X students to the influence of the Frankfurt School on American intellectuals. If you've glanced at National Review sometime in the last two decades you've seen it all.

    That's not a hit on Bloom, because he's the original compiler. These ideas were all floating around, but he put them all in one place.

    Honestly, the best part for me was early on. There's a good discussion of rock music, which will seem quaint to readers who've lived their entire lives in the era since the 1950s. Bloom is still right- the influence of music on the lives of the young is underrated. Much attention remains focused on other external influences such as video games or movies when it is music that matters. I think this part of the book has the deepest bite. People seem very defensive about their music, and music has an undue influence on their thinking. My coworkers spend hundreds of dollars on car stereos. I buy new tires instead. I get Bloom's point.

    Overall, if you want to understand the intellectual side of the conservative movement this is a very good place to start. If you have a background in the liberal arts, especially in 19th and 20th century philosophy, that will help a lot. Otherwise it can be very hard going.

    This isn't an anti-liberal screed so much as a Platonic defense of absolute truth, and the pursuit of the good. The extent to which this criticism falls on liberals is a result of their own abdication of the responsibility that they once took seriously- to educate the young in the service of building a better society. They don't even know what that is anymore, to their cost. Creating a blasted nihilistic world of the mind for our best and brightest is not a plan designed to produce an elite with the common good foremost in their minds.

    The education of our elite is the subject of this book. Looking around, it's obvious that whatever education our current elite received it was sorely lacking in moral direction. If that's a conservative message, what happened to the liberals?

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-14-14
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-14-14 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Silly screed and poorly written"

    It's easy to mock the author. Rock music leads to promiscuous sex, sex is bad when it has no consequences, blacks stick together, "no fault insurance, no fault divorce, and no fault sex" leads to lessening of our values, romantic love is dead, and so on, but that's not the reason he wrote the book and I won't mock him for those silly statements.

    He does state that "tradition and myths even if they are not real" help us determine our real nature and develop our soul. Our individual values and valuing others opinions lessen our souls and anything that makes us see our world in relativistic terms instead of absolute values leads to the closing of the American mind for the student. There's nothing wrong with developing a thesis like this, but the author is such a poor writer it's hard to follow his line of thought and why it could be true. I, for one, wrestle with absolute verse relative truth and what does it mean.

    "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds". The author must have a very large mind and never tires in showing it by quoting philosophers but never putting them in a context such that the listener can follow the author's points. Here's how the author approaches one of his typical points, "materialism leads to reductionism which gives you determinism". He leaves it at that. He never tells you why. I only can get the impression that he must be a dualist and doesn't like science but I get no reason why that's relevant. He says dignity originally only refereed to God, and science won't give it to us and creativity lies outside of the realm of science. I have no idea what he means, but I get the feeling that he doesn't like science.

    He's got some muddled theory that is hard to decipher that the beginning of the end of the university happened because of the enlightenment, and it's really hard to figure out what he means since he is such a poor writer who loves to name drop and never let the reader know what he is really trying to say. It's something to do with valuing others diversity is very bad. Empathy, seeing from others point of view, is the downfall of everything. Fine, go ahead and write a coherent book that supports that viewpoint. The author doesn't.

    He's most proud of reintroducing prejudice into his students (his words, not mine). Prejudice is what the fool uses instead of reason. He really seems to not to like science. The enlightenment is okay but went too far. I stopped listening after about three fourths of the book at the point he quoted Swift to support his view that the enlightenment had gone too far. I finally figured out that he meant those things he was trying to say. It is really hard to comprehend what he is saying. He seems to think democracy is very bad and aristocracy is the ideal we should strive for. But, I'm not sure since he is such a poor writer and it's hard to figure out what he is saying.

    There is one good thing about this book it's that he clearly shows how not to approach critical reasoning. He challenges his student to name a great book, a hero, and asks does evil exist. I would have answered, "the best book ever on critical reasoning is "Origin of Species". Darwin is my hero (or sometimes I would say Abraham Lincoln, isn't it amazing my two heroes were born on the exact same day Feb 12,1809), and evil are people like you who want to tear us apart instead of bringing us together".

    If I can save just one person from listening to this book, it was worth me suffering through it. (Oh, yeah, there are background conversations going on during the recording of the story. I found it quaint, but some could find it obnoxious. Another reason not to listen to this book!).

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
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