THE CAVE AND THE LIGHT by Arthur Herman

THE CAVE AND THE LIGHT

Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II (2012) returns with a sweeping intellectual history viewed through two ancient Greek lenses.

Herman, who has taught history at an assortment of universities, whips his thesis for all it’s worth—which is considerable. After telling us the little that’s known of the biographies of his principals, he marches steadily forward through the history of philosophy and culture, showing how Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and his beliefs about our imperfect knowledge and about ideal government have waxed and waned, inspiring great art, noble theories and, in ways, totalitarian governments. He does the same for Aristotle, noting the ways his approach to the world has led to tremendous advances in science and technology, as well as egregious excess. “This book will show that Plato and Aristotle are alive and all around us,” he writes. “Their influence is reflected in every activity and in every institution…as well as on the Internet. They have taken us to the moon and probed the innermost secrets of the human heart.” Throughout, the author sprinkles allusions to contemporary events and popular culture, from Playboy to The Da Vinci Code to the Kardashians. (Sometimes he alludes to things long gone from the popular radar—Dragnet, for example.) On the journey, we meet just about every notable in intellectual history and learn how, in the author’s view, they leaned toward (or antedated, learned from or rejected) the two long-gone Greeks. Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Epicurus, Cato, Cicero, Abelard, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Luther, Calvin, da Vinci, Bacon (Roger and Francis), Locke, Rousseau, Byron, Coleridge, Darwin—these and countless others dance in the bright light of Herman’s narrative beam. Herman’s own preferences quietly emerge now and then. He appears to embrace the value of a spiritual life and has some unhappy words for Karl Marx.

Breezy and enthusiastic but resting on a sturdy rock of research.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-553-80730-1
Page count: 656pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2013




MORE BY ARTHUR HERMAN

NonfictionFREEDOM'S FORGE by Arthur Herman
by Arthur Herman
NonfictionGANDHI & CHURCHILL by Arthur Herman
by Arthur Herman
NonfictionTO RULE THE WAVES by Arthur Herman
by Arthur Herman

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieRELIGION, CULTURE, HISTORY by Steven Brutus
by Steven Brutus
NonfictionTHE HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE WORLD by Susan Wise Bauer
by Susan Wise Bauer
NonfictionEUROPE by Brendan Simms
by Brendan Simms