One of our best contemporary writers explores the tension between science and religion and reveals how our concept of mind determines how we understand and value human nature and human civilization
In this ambitious book, acclaimed writer Marilynne Robinson applies her astute intellect to some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought—science, religion, and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels, Absence of Mind challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science. In Robinson’s view, scientific reasoning does not denote a sense of logical infallibility, as thinkers like Richard Dawkins might suggest. Instead, in its purest form, science represents a search for answers. It engages the problem of knowledge, an aspect of the mystery of consciousness, rather than providing a simple and final model of reality.
By defending the importance of individual reflection, Robinson celebrates the power and variety of human consciousness in the tradition of William James. She explores the nature of subjectivity and considers the culture in which Sigmund Freud was situated and its influence on his model of self and civilization. Through keen interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry, Absence of Mind restores human consciousness to its central place in the religion-science debate.
Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction; Home, winner of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction; and Housekeeping, winner of the 1982 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction. She is also the author of two previous books of nonfiction, Mother Country and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives in Iowa City.
"There is much to admire, and even to agree with, in Robinson's humanist passion. Her defense of the insights to be gained from religion and literature is as convincing as her attacks on the facile generalizations of parascience."—Adam Kirsch, Boston Globe
"[Robinson] makes the case with exceptional elegance and authority—the authority not only of one of the unmistakably great novelists of the age but of a clear and logical mind that is wholly intolerant of intellectual cliché. . . . This book has a greater density (and sophistication) of argument than many three times its length; but it is one of the most significant contributions yet to the current quarrels about faith, science and rationality."—Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Daily Telegraph
"These impassioned pages require and reward very close attention."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"Robinson's argument is prophetic, profound, eloquent, succinct, powerful and timely."—Karen Armstrong, The Guardian
"I enjoyed reading Absence of Mind. The reason: it is always a pleasure to keep company with a person who takes ideas seriously."—Siri Hustvedt, Financial Times
"The width of Robinson’s erudition is almost daunting, but she shares it with characteristic generosity. . . . Persist and you’ll be rewarded."—Sunday Telegraph
"Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest living American novelists, turns her word power towards those whose bogus science leaves us feeling that 'our minds are not our own.' In Absence of Mind, her affirmation of 'human exceptionalism' presents humanity as 'much more than an optimised ape.'"—Christopher Jamison, Times
"Those who savor Robinson's clear prose will be gratified; her mind, in thought, is elegant."—Publishers Weekly
"The 2009 Orange Prize Winner considers science, religion, and consciousness, and defends the importance of individual reflection and the search for answers."—The Bookseller
"Robinson is one of the greatest Christian thinkers alive today. She is also one of the world's best novelists. . . . Absence of Mind is a slim but compelling volume."—Luke Coppen, Catholic Herald
"This is a wonderful little book, full of wisdom, warmth and wit. . . . [Robinson] is able to apply her astute intellect, delicious sense of humour, incisive insight into human nature and down-to-earth philosophy of life."—Mark Patrick Hederman, Irish Times
"I'm enjoying arguing and agreeing with Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind."—Zadie Smith, The Observer
"I have barely scratched the surface of this dense and yet endlessly entertaining little book. Marilynne Robinson is herself the best evidence of her own thesis—the exceptional mystery of the human mind."—Bryan Appleyard, Literary Review
"It is worth admiring Robinson's bravery and intellectual independence, and noting the sheer force and capacity of language like hers to persuade."—Geordie Williamson, The Australian
"A typically rigorous argument about the nature of modernity from one of the greatest thinkers and novelists of our time."—Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman 'A Year In Books'
Named a Best Book of 2010—Globe & Mail, "2010 Globe 100"
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