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Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism

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Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Available in English for the first time, Imperfect Garden is both an approachable intellectual history and a bracing treatise on how we should understand and experience our lives. In it, one of France's most prominent intellectuals explores the foundations, limits, and possibilities of humanist thinking. Through his critical but sympathetic excavation of humanism, Tzvetan Todorov seeks an answer to modernity's fundamental challenge: how to maintain our hard-won liberty without paying too dearly in social ties, common values, and a coherent and responsible sense of self.

Todorov reads afresh the works of major humanists--primarily Montaigne, Rousseau, and Constant, but also Descartes, Montesquieu, and Toqueville. Each chapter considers humanism's approach to one major theme of human existence: liberty, social life, love, self, morality, and expression. Discussing humanism in dialogue with other systems, Todorov finds a response to the predicament of modernity that is far more instructive than any offered by conservatism, scientific determinism, existential individualism, or humanism's other contemporary competitors. Humanism suggests that we are members of an intelligent and sociable species who can act according to our will while connecting the well-being of other members with our own. It is through this understanding of free will, Todorov argues, that we can use humanism to rescue universality and reconcile human liberty with solidarity and personal integrity.

Placing the history of ideas at the service of a quest for moral and political wisdom, Todorov's compelling and no doubt controversial rethinking of humanist ideas testifies to the enduring capacity of those ideas to meditate on--and, if we are fortunate, cultivate--the imperfect garden in which we live.

Synopsis:

"Tzvetan Todorov's timely book centers on examinations of French thinkers of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries--Montaigne, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Constant--but its importance extends well beyond these canny analyses and the particular culture they probe. Imperfect Garden is a moving defense of humanism, an eloquent articulation of its central values of freedom, responsibility, and decency. There is nothing facile about this defense: Todorov enables us to see the fragility, fault lines, and complexity of secular, democratic thought. But by the close of this richly thoughtful study, the whole project of modernity has been clarified and powerfully reaffirmed."--Stephen Greenblatt

"Imperfect Garden is a splendid defense of moderate humanism. Tzvetan Todorov carefully reads older French thinkers--Montaigne, Descartes, Montesquieu, and Rousseau--to find a solution to modernity's predicaments. While rejecting twentieth-century overconfidence in the human ability to invent its future (an overconfidence that has led to catastrophe), Todorov remains a strong defender of human autonomy, of respect for the Other, and of the universality of human values."--Thomas Pavel

Synopsis:

Available in English for the first time, Imperfect Garden is both an approachable intellectual history and a bracing treatise on how we should understand and experience our lives. In it, one of France's most prominent intellectuals explores the foundations, limits, and possibilities of humanist thinking. Through his critical but sympathetic excavation of humanism, Tzvetan Todorov seeks an answer to modernity's fundamental challenge: how to maintain our hard-won liberty without paying too dearly in social ties, common values, and a coherent and responsible sense of self.

Todorov reads afresh the works of major humanists--primarily Montaigne, Rousseau, and Constant, but also Descartes, Montesquieu, and Toqueville. Each chapter considers humanism's approach to one major theme of human existence: liberty, social life, love, self, morality, and expression. Discussing humanism in dialogue with other systems, Todorov finds a response to the predicament of modernity that is far more instructive than any offered by conservatism, scientific determinism, existential individualism, or humanism's other contemporary competitors. Humanism suggests that we are members of an intelligent and sociable species who can act according to our will while connecting the well-being of other members with our own. It is through this understanding of free will, Todorov argues, that we can use humanism to rescue universality and reconcile human liberty with solidarity and personal integrity.

Placing the history of ideas at the service of a quest for moral and political wisdom, Todorov's compelling and no doubt controversial rethinking of humanist ideas testifies to the enduring capacity of those ideas to meditate on--and, if we are fortunate, cultivate--the imperfect garden in which we live.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Hidden Pact 1

CHAPTER 1: The Interplay of Four Families 9

CHAPTER 2: The Declaration of Autonomy 47

CHAPTER 3: Interdependence 80

CHAPTER 4: Living Alone 94

CHAPTER 5: The Ways of Love 115

CHAPTER 6: The Individual : Plurality and Universality 139

CHAPTER 7: The Choice of Values 160

CHAPTER 8: A Morality Made for Humanity 178

CHAPTER 9: The Need for Enthusiasm 207

Epilogue: The Humanist Wager 226

Bibliography 239

Index 24 7

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691010472
Author:
Todorov, Tzvetan
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton, N.J.
Subject:
History
Subject:
Humanism
Subject:
Social values
Subject:
Individualism
Subject:
Philosophy, french
Subject:
Movements - Humanism
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
European History
Subject:
Social values -- France -- History.
Subject:
Philosophy : General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
84-351
Publication Date:
March 2002
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Pages:
264
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 19 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » Atheism and Humanism
Humanities » Philosophy » General

Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism New Hardcover
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Product details 264 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691010472 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Tzvetan Todorov's timely book centers on examinations of French thinkers of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries--Montaigne, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Constant--but its importance extends well beyond these canny analyses and the particular culture they probe. Imperfect Garden is a moving defense of humanism, an eloquent articulation of its central values of freedom, responsibility, and decency. There is nothing facile about this defense: Todorov enables us to see the fragility, fault lines, and complexity of secular, democratic thought. But by the close of this richly thoughtful study, the whole project of modernity has been clarified and powerfully reaffirmed."--Stephen Greenblatt

"Imperfect Garden is a splendid defense of moderate humanism. Tzvetan Todorov carefully reads older French thinkers--Montaigne, Descartes, Montesquieu, and Rousseau--to find a solution to modernity's predicaments. While rejecting twentieth-century overconfidence in the human ability to invent its future (an overconfidence that has led to catastrophe), Todorov remains a strong defender of human autonomy, of respect for the Other, and of the universality of human values."--Thomas Pavel

"Synopsis" by , Available in English for the first time, Imperfect Garden is both an approachable intellectual history and a bracing treatise on how we should understand and experience our lives. In it, one of France's most prominent intellectuals explores the foundations, limits, and possibilities of humanist thinking. Through his critical but sympathetic excavation of humanism, Tzvetan Todorov seeks an answer to modernity's fundamental challenge: how to maintain our hard-won liberty without paying too dearly in social ties, common values, and a coherent and responsible sense of self.

Todorov reads afresh the works of major humanists--primarily Montaigne, Rousseau, and Constant, but also Descartes, Montesquieu, and Toqueville. Each chapter considers humanism's approach to one major theme of human existence: liberty, social life, love, self, morality, and expression. Discussing humanism in dialogue with other systems, Todorov finds a response to the predicament of modernity that is far more instructive than any offered by conservatism, scientific determinism, existential individualism, or humanism's other contemporary competitors. Humanism suggests that we are members of an intelligent and sociable species who can act according to our will while connecting the well-being of other members with our own. It is through this understanding of free will, Todorov argues, that we can use humanism to rescue universality and reconcile human liberty with solidarity and personal integrity.

Placing the history of ideas at the service of a quest for moral and political wisdom, Todorov's compelling and no doubt controversial rethinking of humanist ideas testifies to the enduring capacity of those ideas to meditate on--and, if we are fortunate, cultivate--the imperfect garden in which we live.

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