Questions remain, but Freeman does a good job in forcing a reexamination of this crucial turning point.

A.D. 381


A chronicle of one significant year in Christian history.

In 381, Emperor Theodosius decreed that all subjects of the Roman Empire were required to believe in the Christian Trinity. That same year, the First Council of Constantinople brought together Christian leaders to codify this belief in the Trinity as correct and accepted doctrine. Historians have taught for centuries that the Christian church harmoniously and all but simultaneously came to the decision that the Trinity was indeed true and orthodox belief, but Freeman (The Closing of the Western Mind, 2003, etc.) emphatically disagrees. Debate over the Trinity and over the nature of Christ was still quite alive during this period, he asserts. Theodosius, largely for reasons of state security, squelched this debate through official edicts, overlaid with a veneer of doctrinal concord through the Council of Constantinople. The author frames his argument as being about the freedom of intellectual debate and the free exchange of ideas. Before 381, he avers, the Greek tradition of open intellectual discourse and the Roman tradition of religious tolerance marked the empire and, indeed, all of the Western world. After 381, both traditions would be extinguished for more than 1,000 years. “The tragedy of Theodosius’ imposition and its aftermath lay in the elimination of discussion,” writes Freeman, “not only of spiritual matters but across the whole spectrum of human knowledge.” He stops short of passing judgment on Theodosius or any of the other personalities involved in this lively period. Instead, he hopes to see them in context, rather than as the two-dimensional characters history has long depicted.

Questions remain, but Freeman does a good job in forcing a reexamination of this crucial turning point.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59020-171-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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