Throughout history, from the time of Socrates to our own modern age, the human race has sought the answers to fundamental questions of life: Who are we Why are we here In his previous national bestsellers, The Discoverers and The Creators , Daniel J. Boorstin first told brilliantly how e discovered the reality of our world, and then he celebrated man's achievements in the arts. He now turns to the great figures in history who sought meaning and purpose in our existence.Boorstin says our Western culture has seen three grand epics of Seeking. First there was the heroic way of prophets and philosophers--men like Moses or Job or Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as those in the communities of the early church universities and the Protestant Reformation--seeking salvation sor truth from the god above or the reason within each of us.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
In The Discoverers (1983), Boorstin introduced readers to scientists, explorers, historians and other pursuers of knowledge. Ten years later, The Creators did the same for innovators in art. "We glory in their discoveries and creations," he writes in the introduction to his latest, "But we are all Seekers. We all want to know why." Starting from that perhaps overbroad premise, Boorstin begins with an examination of Hebrew prophets and Greek philosophers--those who seek from a higher authority and those who seek from within. From this point on there are rather few religious seekers; instead most are philosophers of systems, of systems for discovering truth (the reason of Descartes, the empiricism of Locke, the individual experience of Kierkegaard) or for describing it (the encyclopedia of Diderot, the cultural cycles of Spengler, Hegel's World-Spirit). Certain subjects seem rather out of place, and chapters like that on H.G. Wells and John Reed, another on Oliver Wendell Holmes and E.O. Wilson; and individual chapters on Samuel Beckett, Lord Acton and Andre Malraux, have the feel of an insatiable polymath's chapbook. There are many movements, many people and many big ideas here, all expounded with Boorstin's characteristic enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge. It's perhaps inevitable that in such a broad survey some simplification would slip in--e.g., identifying 13th-century universities as centers for training gentlemen, rather than for offering professional training in theology, law and medicine. But what Boorstin does so well is bring together many ideas that fertilize and cross-fertilize the reader's imagination and curiosity. Author tour. (Sept.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . Genius of the Short Form
Posted December 22, 2008 by Robert Birman , Louisville, KYDaniel J. Boorstin's series, The Seekers, The Creators, The Discoverers..are collections of brilliant essays concerning the pivotal artists, philosophers, adventurers throughout history. Comprised of 10-15 page overviews (organized by person), these books educate, entertain and engage readers of any age and will translate splendidly in electronic form for the Sony e-Reader. Perfect for travel or leisure reading, I recommend Boorstin's titles most highly. Boorstin was nominated to Librarian of Congress by Gerald Ford and passed away in 2004.
October 26, 1999
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Excerpt from The Seekers by Daniel J. Boorstin
We have a common sky. A common firmament encompasses us. What matters it by what kind of learned theory each man looketh for the truth? There is no one way that will take us to so mighty a secret.
--Symmachus, on replacing the statue of victory in the roman forum, a.d. 384
Great Seekers never become obsolete. Their answers may be displaced, but the questions they posed remain. We inherit and are enriched by their ways of asking. The Hebrew prophets and the ancient Greek philosophers remain alive to challenge us. Their voices resound across the millennia with a power far out of proportion to their brief lives or the small communities where they lived. Christianity brought together their appeal to the God above and the reason within--into churches, monasteries, and universities that long survived their founders. These would guide, solace, and confine Seekers for the Western centuries.
THE WAY OF PROPHETS:
A HIGHER AUTHORITY
When we do science, we are pantheists;
when we do poetry, we are polytheists;
when we moralize we are monotheists.
--Goethe, Maxims and Reflections
From Seer to Prophet: Moses' Test of Obedience
The future has always been the great treasure-house of meaning. People everywhere, dissatisfied with naked experience, have clothed the present with signs of things to come. They have found clues in the lives of
sacrificial animals, in the flight of birds, in the movements of the planets, in their own dreams and sneezes. The saga of the prophets records efforts to cease being the victim of the gods' whims by deciphering divine
intentions in advance, toward becoming an independent self-conscious self, freely choosing beliefs.