Daniel's Reviews > Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self

Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson
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's review
Jul 26, 11

Read in July, 2010

In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson criticizes what she calls 'parascience' along with its attempts to submit all mysteries - the mind, religious phenomena - to materialist explanations. While Robinson never gives a complete definition of 'parascience', throughout her short book she points to several of its defining features: it is confident (33), allegedly anti-metaphysical, and opposed to diversity (38). While these attributes are not necessarily bad, Robinson contends that they are unwarranted when it comes to investigating subjective experience. In any investigation, researchers should approach their subject in a way that best suits it, which, in the case of the mind, means having a certain level of uncertainty. Because many 'scientists' have not done this, they have finished their investigations with the very dualisms they wished to eliminate (118).

Now, although the book's description suggests that Robinson ""challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science"", Robinson does not really engage with 'postmodern atheism' since postmoderns are, almost by definition, as opposed to parascience as Robinson herself. Rather, if we are going to apply labels, Robinson works within a modern and often anglo-american sphere (even though she refers to Rorty and Vattimo early on, noting how they differ from the other philosophers she criticizes (4-6) ). This, I think, is somewhat unfortunate since the inadequacies of parascience have already been questioned by so-called continental philosophers. But despite this, Absence of Mind is, in general, well written and argued, although I will probably need to read it again before I completely grasp her arguments.

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