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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Richard E. Rubenstein brings the past to life in this engrossing story of social, religious, and scientific revolution during one of the darkest periods in European history. When a group of Dark Ages scholars rediscovered the works of Aristotle, the great thinker's ideas ignited a firestorm of enlightened thought. This is the endlessly fascinating account of the pivotal period in history when the modern era took root.
(P)2003 Recorded Books

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  • Overall
  • John
  • Omaha, NE, USA
  • 12-16-04

Interesting story of the rediscovery of Aristotle

This is a well-written narrative of how the rediscovery of Aristotle's writings in the West (they were never really lost in the East) around 1150 to 1200 had a huge effect on Western thinking. If you are interested in ethics, history of religion, the early Middle Ages, or simply want to be understand the relationship between Greek Civilization and Western Civilization, this is a great book. Because it goes into some depth on Aristotle and philosophy, it takes some patience to get through. However, this was the most entertaining overview of this rather dry topic I have come across. Much of this may be old news to historians and philosophers, but the overall story of how Aristotle's key writings were lost and then rediscovered and the effect this had on university life around 1200 to 1250 is fascinating. Highly recommended.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent survey

This book delivers exactly what it promises. The subject is difficult and the author makes it as lively as it can be, very well written. It helps to have basic background in 13th century European history, many of the main characters and events from the period are discussed within the context of the books subject revealing interesting stories and details. It helps to have a hard copy and take certain theological passages slowly, pausing to digest, not a good car book IMO. Overall, he de-mystifies the process that took place from re-discovery of Aristotle to the split of theology and reason. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in medieval history, and/or theology.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Aristotle's reception through the ages.

Very well done! If you like this kind of history--following one thread through history to see the role it plays in the panorama of culture, politics and society--you'll like this very much. This is a story of reason--in the form of Aristotle's life and work--in European history (up to the Renaissance). It's serious, entertaining without giving the complexity of the subject matter short shrift, well-written and well-narrated; however, if you don't like history, or if you just want a quick cruise through the middle ages, this book will bore you.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Outstanding

This is not an easy listen, even if you are familiar with Aristotle and some of the main 'players.' It commands your full attention and is worth it! An excellent synthesis and interpretation of the interplay between spirit and reason from antiquity on. I keep recommending this book to my friends so I'll have people to discuss it with--it's that good.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • despinne
  • Edgewater, MD, United States
  • 11-19-05

A Good

You never know how an audiobook will go. Some look interesting and turn out to be a complete waste of time. This is not one of those. I have avoided philosophy for years, but it's presented very well here. I am not very familiar with this period of history, so I have been listening to each chapter twice. In fact, I feel very connected to the medieval people as a result of this book. They were very real, with very real thoughts and ideas that we still use today.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Pioneering and Inspirational Work of Scholarship

This book is thorough and well-researched. Perhaps more important, it's also engaging. I believe it's for one primary reason: Mr. Rubenstein, though he had preconceptions regarding the material at the outset of completing this work, unexpectedly had his mind changed and enlightened. His wonder and fascination due to the insights he discovered shine through so brilliantly as to serve as a contagion to the listener.

All too often, especially when dealing with Medieval and Renaissance periods in history, well-established dogmas in the modern psyche have to be overcome in order to fully appreciate the full import of the facts. Fortunately, Mr. Rubenstein presents compelling examples and detailed information along with well formed opinions. These are almost sure to enlighten any curious listener.

What I most appreciated was his presentation of Aristotle's material as a type of "alien technology" to the minds of Medieval Europeans. Indeed, it was. It was too good to not learn about and use, yet it often served to undermine the established powers of the day. It was both a friend to those who wanted to get at the truth, yet a foe to established political power systems.

A modern reader, if he cares to make a ready application to present-day concerns, might bear in mind the impact of "thought-systems" of all sorts and their power to alter the course of society. One might better be able to understand and appreciate the battles waged between different ideologues once one realizes that the victor has not only won an argument, but the minds of men. It is no small matter.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Marje
  • Sarasota, FL, USA
  • 02-28-10

A battle of belief systems.

Readers of (listeners to) this scholarly work should be prepared to spend a great deal of time on the complex details of intellectual, religious and Catholic church history and on how they were impacted by ancient Aristotelian thought as it was discovered and rediscovered again and again during the Middle Ages. This subject matter is punctuated by beautifully written personal stories of historical figures including Aristotle, Hypatia, Boethius, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, Wiliam of Ockham, Meister Eckhart, etc.

The book makes clear that the bitter opposition, censorship and persecution that Copernicus and Galileo experienced at the hands of the Catholic Church had been experienced in one way or another by many other individuals long before them. In addition, it becomes clear how profoundly The Renaissance (and later, The Enlightenment) was influenced by the enlightened thinkers of the Middle Ages, who in turn trace the origins of their thought back to the Golden Age of Greece. As the author states: "No thinker dominated Western intellectual life so completely and for such a long time as did the philosopher. " Aristotle indeed has many children.

At heart, the book is about the battle of belief systems. It is summed up in this sentence from the beginning of the book: "The Aristotelian Revolution transformed Western thinking and set our culture on a path of scientific inquiry that it has followed ever since the Middle Ages."

I would recommend this book to anyone with a deep interest in the intellectual history of human reason in the Western World. I also can't recommend highly ennough The Modern Scholar series of lectures by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto: "Ideas that Shaped Mankind"availalbe here at audible.com.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dan
  • Indian Trail, NC, United States
  • 05-17-08

Fascinating, but easy to put down

I'm not a big philosophy buff, but I am interested in the subject, particularly how it impacted theology in this period. I'm also a history nerd, so this tied in well with at least two of my major interests.

That said, I found myself wanting the book to be over. I'm glad I finished it--academically--but I wasn't as entertained as I am with many audio non-fiction works.

Still, I enjoyed it. Worth a credit if your interests so lean.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Why we think the way we do.

This book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants insight into the sources of modern thought.
The author is very effective in developing the bridge between ancient philosophers and present political behaviors. It develops the rich history of the role of Islam in the evolution of western thought.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Interesting, if a little bit one-sided

Lots of interesting information, particularly in regards to medieval Europe and the Catholic Church. However, very little mention is made of the Jewish and Muslim relationships with Aristotelian ideas. The narrator also leaves a bit to be desired. Still, a fascinating read for those interested in the intellectual history of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.