Forbes – Book Review: The Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

14 Jan

Like many an engineer who got nary a whiff of a liberal education, I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to make up for it through my own reading. Charting a course through history, economics, and literature has been relatively easy. But making sense of the conflicting schools of philosophy without a roadmap has been vexing—until the right book came along to finally help put all the pieces in place.

That book, The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization by Arthur Herman, should be standard reading in every Philosophy 101 course, and on the short list of “must read” books for any educated adult. Herman lays out the competing dynamic between Plato’s mysticism and Aristotle’s empiricism, which has driven over 2,300 years of history.

For the first of these 900 years, the Schools of Athens laid the foundation of Western thinking, with Plato’s Academy becoming the model for every monastery, university, and totalitarian regime. Meanwhile, Aristotle’s legacy bequeathed to us capitalism, the scientific method, and the American Revolution.

To read the rest of the column, click here.


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