“The Classics as the Antidote to Modern Malaise”

dreyfus-and-kelly-all-things-shining“. . . Though brief, this is an ambitious book, offering insightful readings of authors including Homer, Dante, Descartes and Kant, as well as the novelists Herman Melville and David Foster Wallace. Mr. Dreyfus and Mr. Kelly believe that great books are the ‘gathering places’ where the major forces of a culture are focused, and so they are able to chart our descent from Homer’s gratitude before many gods to Wallace’s paralysis before a plethora of choices. . .
Great books are there to reconnect us. Mr. Dreyfus and Mr. Kelly admire Dante’s focus on the saving power of various forms of desire, but find that his ultimate emphasis on the overwhelming bliss of contemplating God ‘makes all other earthly joys irrelevant.’ Dante’s achievement turns out to be ‘not the answer to nihilism but another step in its direction.’ Similarly, the philosophical focus after Descartes and Kant is on the autonomous self as the basis for knowledge, but the authors explore how the idea of a human subject able to bestow meaning on inert objects winds up undermining our openness to the world.” [. . .]    –Michael Roth, The New York Times, January 3, 2011