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The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,185 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
Here are the great minds of Western civilization and their pivotal ideas, from Plato to Hegel, from Augustine to Nietzsche, from Copernicus to Freud. Richard Tarnas performs the near-miracle of describing profound philosophical concepts simply but without simplifying them. Ten years in the making and already hailed as a classic, The Passion of the Western Mind is truly a c ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published July 4th 1996 by Pimlico (first published 1991)
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Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really can’t remember how this book ended up on my to-read shelf. As I recently wanted to read a book on the history of thought like that of Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, I picked this up since it is relatively recent and thus it would give an idea of some modern schools of thought like those of Postmodernism and Deconstructionism, something Russell’s book lacked since it is written in 1945.

As a history of western thought, this book is excellent. I would highly recommend i
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book that describes itself as one the encompasses the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View, there was very little mention of the roles women played. I took a class with the author, and when we brought up the invisibility of women in history, and in his book, he became defensive and told us we had an "allergy" towards him...still not sure what that means. As he explained throughout the three day course, he understands what it means to be a woman because he's experienced childbirth during L ...more
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very important, well written and dense treatise about the history of ideas in Western Civilization.
The author manages to condense, in a single book, all the major stepping stones of the intellectual history of the West, and he manages to achieve this result without seriously compromising on depth and accuracy.
The great drama of the evolution of the Western Mind is described passionately and in a gripping and enjoyable book, where the critical concepts and world-views, as expressed by
Clay Kallam
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Though this book was written in 1991, it still serves as an excellent analysis of the paralysis of the modern world. Richard Tarnas is primarily focused on philosophers and philosophy, but a glance at the present political situation reveals how strong the connection is between the loss of a common paradigm (or even two or three) and the confusion that confounds the global society.

Tarnas, though, grounds that grasp of the present in the intellectual traditions that shaped the modern world, and be
Erik Graff
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those seeking a 1-volume introduction to Western thought
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: philosophy
Nine-tenths or so of this book is a very conventional, albeit prolix, survey of the history of philosophical thinking in the West from the pre-Socratics to the present. As a brief introduction to the history of ideas it is to be recommended. Even the wordy repetitiveness of Tarnas' exposition may function as an aid to retention and understanding for beginners.

Having devoted decades to such studies myself, I found most of the book to be a rehash of familiar ideas and would never have gone through
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tarnas aptly delineates the trajectory of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic era to postmodernism: a long laborious journey from Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (Greek era); to Jesus Christ, Paul, Augustine and Aquinas (Christian Medieval era); and then Copernicus, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Freud and Jung (Modern era); and finally a quick turn at Nietzsche and (Postmodernism). Of course, these figures are central; the narrative encompasses more. Yet it neglects othe ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subject matter is fascinating. I can't say the same thing for Tarnas' writing style, however. Tarnas seems to think his book is a game of Scrabble. But you don't win points with readers when you employ unnecessary extended metaphors every other page, write the same thing over and over in different ways, and use complicated words when simpler ones would suffice. With a good editor, this book could be condensed into a more readable form- one that allows the average person to engage the materia ...more
Tom Lombardo
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Campbell called this book "the most lucid and concise presentation I have read of the grand lines...of Western thought." High praise from someone who would know! Tarnas' greatest achievement, to my mind, is the lucidity of his prose which makes this an enormously readable survey of the Western Mind from the Greeks to the Post Moderns.

Tarnas' objective for creating this opus is similar to what Campbell wished to do: that is, to create the possibility for an integration of all cultures and
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This was a very interesting book about cultural philosophy. 95% of the book is a survey from Plato to Postmodernism. In the last 5% of the book, Tarnas uses the entire trajectory of western thought to present his reflections regarding the direction in which culture may be headed. Although my comprehension of what he describes remains incomplete, I'll attempt a brief review of only the epilogue:

Tarnas shows that the Scientific Enlightenment created a paradigm shift in the collective human psyche,
Sawsan Alotaibi
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: أوصي-به
التحديث الأول:

بالأمس بدأت به، لا ثقة بالكتاب بل ثقة باسم الدار الناشرة له، وأجده كتاب جيد جداً ولا زلت في البداية، عرّفني على إجابات كانت تشكل علي مثل علاقة تعدد الآلهة عند الإغريق بالجواهر المفردة لدى أفلاطون.
لكن بالطبع لا نسّلم لمؤرخ غربي يتحدث عن الغرب ولابد من تذكر قوة تأثير المركزية الغربية فيهم .

توقفت عن كتاب زكريا ابراهيم حتى أحصل على نسخة خاصة أتمكن من خلالها أن أعيث بالكتاب تخطيطاً وتعليقاً.

التحديث الأخير :

آلا العقل الغربي
ريتشارد تارناس

" آلام العقل الغربي" لا تتوقع أن تجد في الكتاب آلا
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
An impressive synthesis of a lot of material; excellent review of the "Greek mind" and how it persists; of the "Judeao-Christian mind" and how it persists. Perhaps most provocative is the suggestion that we are somehow mystically evolving into a new consciousness (Gaia), and that the roots of this come out of Freud, Jung, Groff, and the psychedelics, with an accompanying shift from a masculine dominated intellectual culture to a feminine one.

One HUGE omission: what about the non-Western mind? T
Kathryn Bashaar
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am glad I read this book, but, woo, am I glad I'm done with it. It took me 6 weeks to read and was very intellectually challenging. It is a very well-done history of Western thought, just at the right level for me. It gets a little depressing when he gets to the post-modern era. Bottom line: after centuries of the best minds trying to understand ourselves and the world we live in, we can know nothing with certainty. Then the epilogue gets kind of woo-woo, with the hypothesis that our collectiv ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book to read in order to understand Western thought and its development. If you want to close the gap between how you and westerners tend to view much of the world around us, then this book helps you get on that track. It defines the line of thought through which they have progressed to where they are today. Very surprising stories... e.g. "Human Evolution" was actually conceived to great detail by the Pre-Socratic Greeks?

This book is currently leading me on a philosophical ramp
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes history or thought they didn't like history
Recommended to Jenell by: one of my college teachers
Shelves: history
Richard Tarnas' book, The Passion of the Western Mind, descriptively and eloquently chronicles the evolution of human discoveries and consciousness (from the time of ancient Greece to modern times). I'm a homeschooling mom and am currently using Tarnas' book to prepare myself for history lessons with my child. It provides a wonderful context by describing the leading ideas of an historical time period. In that way I can help my daughter understand the culture and motivations of a people so that ...more
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Tarnas offers an excellent introduction to the history of Western thought. Beginning with the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, he traces the development of Western thought in science, religion, philosophy and other fields through to the modern day, concluding with his own unique contributions to this Great Conversation. If you are looking for a book to get your started on the road toward a liberal education, this is the place to begin; the bibliography alone makes this book worth buying.
Kareem Brakat
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: فلسفة
كتب مهم جدا للمهتمين بتاريخ الفكر والفلسفة
ومحتاج اكتر من قراءة
Kevin Fuller
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tarnas begins with Plato, working backward and forward from him. Plato's Forms, in particular, set the stage for the rest of the book, in my view. According to Plato, there are transcendent Forms for 'Man', 'Tree', 'Woman', for example, that the soul was exposed to before birth and remembers later in life. These Forms are timeless, trancendent and most, Beautiful.
Aristotle, the tenth in line from Pythagoras, quickly relegates Plato's Forms to the particular, noting their birth, maturation and d
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author had the ability to write the story of the development of understanding our place in the universe and how we fit in it as if he were writing a novel. The narrative flows that well. He's a very good writer.

The author steps the reader through the development of how we think about knowledge. The heavens above, the home of the Gods, are first thought of as perfect: universal, necessary, and certain. Overtime, through rational thought and coupling with experience we start to understand the
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, philosophy
Tarnas begins with an intention to deal with a variety of material so large that its capacity to fit into one (fairly short) volume initially seems questionable. However, Tarnas does an admirable job in presenting a cohesive narrative, encompassing a wide range of sources and identifying the continuous, backwards-looking strand that connects the doctrines and theories. Unlike other attempts of the same nature, the presentation of the various viewpoints is done in a consistently fair and convinci ...more
Jan 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book. It is a nice overview of western philosophy. I like the extensive chronology of western philosophy in the back of the book.

I do take issue with his conclusion that the silencing of women's voices is not just "social restriction" but instead "archetypal" and a necessary step in the formation of the human psyche. I disagree and know that women have made contributions that we are unaware of because our society has decided that it is ok that they have no voice. I did no
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall I thought this book provided a great introduction to the major intellectual ideas as they moulded throughout time. However, and perhaps this is because I am a Lacanian, I thought the epilogue of this book was AWFUL. I'm really glad that Tarnas was able to keep it separate from the rest of his book (except perhaps when he starts praising Jung and only briefly mentioning Freud). As Lacan said, "there is no sexual relationship," so the fact that Tarnas provides this as the basis for his ide ...more
This is an amazing overview of the entire history and legacy of Western thought from the Ancient Greeks to contemporary times, covering along the way the Medieval and Renaissance mind as well as the development of the modern worldview. Though it necessarily glosses over more detailed explorations of specific philosophers and movements, the author includes the ideas that are most fundamentally important to how we think today and puts them in a historical context. I now feel like I have a much bet ...more
Peter Vicaire
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's some pretty enjoyable, heady stuff, canvassing the philosophical minds of the ancient Greeks and early Christians through the middle ages, the enlightenment, and the sparks of the "modern" world. However, it does seem to thin out somewhat in the latter stages of the book relative to the earlier pages. Interestingly, I actually took 1.5 years to fumble my way through it - putting it down for months at a time in between philosophical eras. That unintentional reading method didn't take away ...more
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gave me a great overview of the history of our thinking, and tremendous respect for the long traditions we benefit from. It links the different eras in a brilliant way and gives just the right level of detail to really understand each era, including the Greeks, the Christians, the Enlightenment and modern thinking.
Only the last chapter on Postmodernism doesn't quite make it - but given that this book was published before Ken Wilber's greatest works (in 1991) so had not benefited from I
LadiesBookTea Since 1993
To be read in 7 parts.

Read Chapter 1: "Greek" due along with the reading of one Greek play by the end of June.

Read Chapter 2: along with?

Read Chapter 3: 1/25/12 along with The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
Pamphill, Eusebius

Reading chapter 4 (Middle Ages) in time for 9/5/12 meeting along with two poems: The Song of Roland (translated by Dorothy Sayers) and Gawain and the green knight (translated by J. R. Tolkien)

Reading Chapter 5:
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best single volume work on the development of Western thought. A fascinating look on how we have developed our world view starting from the ancient Greeks and going to the 20th century. A must read.
Leo Kerner
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read his book many years ago. I found it nothing less than fascinating, one of the very best non-fiction books I have ever read. I highly recommend it to all who are interested in ideas and their evolution in Western civilization
Alaa Bahabri
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
كتاب رائع،،عرض العقل الغربي بشكل مركز ،نقدي ، وموجز ..يعطيك الكثير من التفسيرات للظواهر الحديثة اليومية، و الاتجاهات العلمية، بل و يعطيك نوعاً من الضوء لما سيحصل في المستقبل..
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it was indeed amazing
Curby Graham
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent overview of the history of Western thought. The writer is sympathetic to Christianity though he is not a practicing one. The only reason I did not give it five stars is his rather bizarre epilogue. But otherwise a must have for any student of Western Civilization.
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Richard Theodore Tarnas (born February 21, 1950) is a cultural historian known for his books The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View and Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. Tarnas is professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and is the founding director of its graduate program in Philosop ...more
More about Richard Tarnas...
“The world is in some essential sense a construct. Human knowledge is radically interpretive. There are no perspective-independent facts. Every act of perception and cognition is contingent, mediated, situated, contextual, theory-soaked. Human language cannot establish its ground in an independent reality. Meaning is rendered by the mind and cannot be assumed to inhere in the object, in the world beyond the mind, for that world can never be contacted without having already been saturated by the mind's own nature. That world cannot even be justifiably postulated. Radical uncertainty prevails, for in the end what one knows and experiences is to an indeterminate extent a projection.” 6 likes
“Knowledge based on the senses is therefore a subjective judgment, an ever-varying opinion without any absolute foundation. True knowledge, by contrast, is possible only from a direct apprehension of the transcendent Forms, which are eternal and beyond the shifting confusion and imperfection of the physical plane. Knowledge derived from the senses is merely opinion and is fallible by any nonrelative standard. Only knowledge derived directly from the Ideas is infallible and can be justifiably called real knowledge.” 2 likes
More quotes…