PREFACE: The Humanistic Meanings of Life vi
1. The Tragic Sense of Life and the Dawn of Humanism — 3
Homer: The Iliad
2. Control Yourself — 23
3. What Do You Know? How Do You Know It? Why Should You Care? — 41
Plato: Euthyphro; Apology; Crito; Phaedo
4. Living the Good Life — 61
5. The Moral Landscape of Hell — 78
Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy: The Inferno
6. Growing Up Naturally — 100
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Emile
7. Enough? Never! — 121
Johann von Goethe: Faust
8. From the Maggot Man to the Superman — 136
Friedrich Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals
9. Condemned to Be Free
Fyodor Dostoevsky: “The Grand Inquisitor”
Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism
10. Find the Right Way, Do the Right Thing — 173
Confucianism: The Analects; The Great Learning;
The Doctrine of the Mean
Taoism: Tao te Ching; Chuang Tzu
11. How to Succeed in the Business of Life — 191
Niccoló Machiavelli: The Prince
12. So It Seems — 205
William Shakespeare: Hamlet; Othello; King Lear
Moliére: The Misanthrope
13. The Price of Mis-Education — 226
Charles Dickens: Hard Times
14. Democracy as a Way of Life — 249
James Madison: Federalist Paper #10
Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
John Stuart Mill: On Liberty
15. Through a Class Darkly — 280
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: The Communist Manifesto
16. We Shall Overcome — 293
Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”
Elie Wiesel: Night
17. The Psychology of Everyday Life — 313
Sigmund Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents
18. It’s Party Time: The Ethics of Civility — 328
Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway
19. The Morality and Immorality of Art — 345
Aristotle: Politics; Poetics
Leo Tolstoy: What Is Art?
20. All Stories Are True — 371
Islamic Storytelling: The Arabian Nights
Ghanaian Folklore: “Why We Tell Stories About Spider”
21. How Beautiful, How Sad — 385
Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji
22. The Uses of Idealism — 405
Miguel de Cervantes: The Adventures of Don Quixote
23. The Gifts of Imagination — 426
William Wordsworth: Preface to Lyrical Ballads; The Prelude
Percy Bysshe Shelley: “A Defense of Poetry”
24. Fantasies of Seduction and the Seductions of Fantasy — 446
Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary
25. Art for Life’s Sake — 459
Théophile Gautier: Preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin
Walter Pater: Conclusion to The Renaissance
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Thomas Mann: “Death in Venice”
26. Of Love and Marriage, Passion and Aging — 480
Gabriel García Márquez: Love in the Time of the Cholera
NOTES — 501
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY — 523
INDEX — 529
Frederic C. Beil, Publisher
Worldly Wisdom leads readers through some fifty classic works of literature, philosophy, and political thought from Homer and Confucius to Jean-Paul Sartre and Gabriel García Márquez to draw out ideas valuable for understanding human life in this world and for living that life well. Engagingly written for anyone who thinks about such ideas, as well as for anyone curious to know what great authors have thought about them, Worldly Wisdom offers both an inviting liberal education and a usefully humanistic self-help book.
Worldly wisdom book reviews:
This is a very interesting book. It is a large and beautiful cloth hard cover book. In it, the author summarizes wisdom from famous authors throughout the centuries. He uses quotes from the actual text, but very little of the actual original stories are included (mostly, it is the author's interpretation of how to apply the author's words to you own life). Very useful is the "summary" at the end of each chapter in the main thoughts on each topic. Please mark if you find my review helpful. Thank you so much!
Five stars is simply not enough for this beautifully written, celebratory book by James Sloan Allen. Worldly Wisdom provided me with a perspective on things loved and pursued over a lifetime, but not always fully articulated or put into such sweeping context. I admit to approaching it in a personal rather than chronological fashion, reading the last chapters first (Love in the Time of Cholera being my favorite work of fiction, and Don Quixote: The Uses of Idealism, being too irresistable of a draw). Only then could I move to the poignant beginning with Homer's Iliad and progress through to the party with Mrs Dalloway. The book took my breath away. Many times I had to stop reading just to digest, wrap my head around things a bit or just savor awhile. As one who wanted to be a literature major some 30 years ago, but for practical reasons opting otherwise, I find this book an astonishing resource, not only for what/who I want to read next, but as I reflect on experiences lived and ideas (and ideals) held dear. Years after completing this book, I still find myself rereading favorite chapters, and more significantly, still experiencing it's life-changing, life-enhancing repercussions. A refreshing meditation on some of the greatest literary expressions of the boundless human spirit.
A review of: Worldly Wisdom: Great Books and the Meanings of Life, by James Sloan Allen Amongst the many books about great books that I have read, this one stands out for its relevance to the inevitable questions, problems and issues of ordinary life, such as love, death, vitality and marriage. Combining the wisdom and insights of forty great classic works with the authors own profound observations, one gets a great self-help book. I was constantly stopping to think and meditate and comment on various passages. It also motivated me to purchase a number of great books that I hadn't previously read. It has my highest recommendation.
Department of Mathematics, University of Georgia
Hey, I was...scared. But then I opened Worldly Wisdom and couldn't put it down. What a surpisingly readable, page-turning thrill. Blind Homer a thrill? How about Nietsche? Actually yes; count them as thrills -- because WW shows how these classics can change your life -- make it more meaninful in spite of terrible odds. Memo to author James Allen: Where the heck were you when I was in college?
I read this book before I purchased I borrowed it from the library twice and I read it like a bible. If you have never read most of the classics elaborated in this book you would want to after reading this. I love this book.
I absolutely love this book! I have read MANY books about "Great Books," and this stands out, by far, as one of the most profound and insightful. A rare and sober depth of insight permeates this whole book, qualities which are often lacking in so many others. The author discusses about 30 or so works, and he attempts to distilled the essential humanistic life wisdom that lies embedded in each work. His goal is to make clear what each work says about what it means to be human, and how to live a meaningful life. He gives a 10 - 15 pages discussion of each book, illuminating the wisdom about life that each author conveys in his or her work. At the end of each section he lists the essential life teaching of each work. His ability to discern, pull out, and explicate the central wisdom of each book is simply amazing. For example, the first chapter is on Homer's Iliad, in which the author shows that the Iliad is not really about war, it's about how humans cope with and respond to tragedies that beset all human existence. Later he discusses "Don Quixote," and shows how Cervantes' major work is not just a fanciful collection of tales about a fictional character; rather, the book is about ideals, the power and positive use they have in human life. The ultimate test for me when reading an author discuss a classic book is whether they state the obvious, or go beyond the obvious, go beyond the surface, and bring to light the underlying or hidden teaching. James Sloan Allen does this on every page of this masterful tome. If you like books like Harold Bloom's "The Western Canon," or Dirda's "Classics for Pleasure," you will absolutely love this book also. I have a Master's in Philosophy, and so I have read many books; I can unequivocally say that aside from the "Great Books" themselves, this is one of the best books I have ever read. It is filled with wisdom about books and about life itself - it is rare and wonderful.
A few years back I read David Denby's book called Great Books, which outwardly resembles the aim of James Sloan Allen's in Worldly Wisdom. I really liked Denby's book, and I was curious to see how Denby's and Allen's views compared. First, I should make clear that I have only read the first few chapters: the chapters on Homer and Socrates. I recently read Fitzgerald’s translation of the Illiad and I must say that I felt more affinity with Denby’s critique of the Illiad than Allen’s. Allen tries to make the case that the epic is the first major work of humanism in Western Civilization, which contradicts Denby’s view. Denby thinks the humanist interpretation is off the mark. Both of these authors are far more knowledgeable than me, but I finished the Homer chapter not convinced of Allen’s thesis. Here is one example: As an instance of humanism in the epic poem, Allen recounts a passage in which Hector says goodbye to his family before heading back in to battle. Hector tosses his son into the air and exchanges affections with both his wife and son. Is this exchange really an example of humanism? It is certainly human to love one’s family, but is that the same as humanism? I found little to none of what I think of humanism (maybe I should define terms here?) in the Illiad, but instead find its interest and value as describing a culture almost wholly other to ours. What about at the end of the Odyssey where all of the women were hanged for cavorting with the suitors? It made poetry and beauty out of the most horrific, anti-human and brutal act imaginable. There are certain qualities in the works of Homer that are not brutal and violent, but I think it is stretching it to characterize them as humanist works. This book so far is, however, a highly interesting and useful way to reintroduce yourself with these classic works that should still be read and discussed in high/middle school classrooms (and rarely are).
Worldy Wisdom by James Sloan Allen offers a wealth of knowledge and insight about the art of living found in classic literature from Homer to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book will make you feel smart, almost as if you've read all the works mentioned. Eager to learn from them anew. It lifts one to appreciate, as Allen does so well, wisdom from around the world.
For an insight into how one should live this life, it is hard to beat this selection of the profound ideas of many of the greatest minds who have pondered the question reaching back over 3000 years.
HAWAI’I MEETS THE WEST
i. Aloha in Old Hawai’i?
ii. The West “Discovers” Hawai’i
iii. The Missionaries Descend and Meet Aloha
iv. Remaking Hawai’i
THE WEST ASCENDS
v. A Soft Invasion Begins: Tourists Appear and Reimagine Aloha
vi. Reaction and Revival, Decline and Fall
vii. Annexation vs Aloha ‘Aina
THE NEW HAWAI’I AND HAPA-HAOLE CULTURE: 1900-1920
viii. Territorial Politics and Aloha ‘oe to the Queen
ix. Tourism Rises
x. The Sport of Kings
xi. Hapa-Haole Culture Spreads Aloha
xii. Aloha Land
BETWEEN THE WARS: A GOLDEN AGE
xiii. The Twenties: Tourist Culture Arrives With Aloha
xiv. Hawai’i Calls
xv. Pilikia: The Dark Side
WAR TO STATEHOOD
xvi. Aloha in Wartime Hawai’i
xvii. Tourists Return With Aloha
xviii. Road to the Aloha State
WHAT IS THE ALOHA STATE AND WHOSE IS IT?: 1959-1980
xix. Growth Unboun
xx. Reaction, Aspiration, Renaissance
xxi. Culture Renaissance
xxii. Hawaiianness and Aloha
THE CULTURE OF ALOHA: 1980-2018
xxiii. From the Hawaiian Renaissance to the Culture of Aloha
xxiv. Inventing the Culture of Aloha
xxv. Exalting the Culture of Aloha
xxvi. Rewriting Hawaiian History and Criticizing the Culture of Aloha
THE CULTURE OF ALOHA
LEARNING TO LOVE IT AS TRADITION AND INVENTION
My Latest Publication
Much of the world knows the word aloha as a Hawaiian greeting, and many people know it as a term for love. But you cannot be in Hawai’i long before you discover that these meanings are the least of it. Aloha is a way of life. And “live aloha” is a common creed. In many ways, Hawai’i is a culture of aloha. How aloha,/i> became an all-embracing culture in Hawai’i is an engaging and often surprising story. This book tells that story.
The Romance of Commerce and Culture:
Capitalism, Modernism, and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform
(University of Chicago Press,1983; paperback edition, 1986; second edition, University Press of Colorado, 2002)
This book tells the lively story of how consumer commerce, modernist aesthetics, the Great Books movement, and humanistic cultural criticism converged in a mid-twentieth century campaign to heal the wounds of World War II and shape American culture for the future. This campaign—involving such figures as Robert M. Hutchins, Mortimer J. Adler, Lazló Moholy-Nagy, and Ortega y Gasset, and bringing Albert Schweitzer to America for the only time—yielded many lasting consequences. Among these consequences are the eminent Aspen Institute and the making of Aspen, Colorado, as a social and cultural Mecca.
One of the most significant pieces of cultural history to be published in the last decade.
The Sewanee Review
Rarely does a historian evoke the mood of an era as convincingly as James Sloan Allen in this portrayal of the relationship between business and ‘high culture’ in the years immediately after World War II. … A model of interdisciplinary scholarship.
Journal of American History
This is an important book, the kind that brings familiar subjects together in new ways. Its theme is the changing connection between proponents of humanistic culture and leaders in the world of business. … This sense of time and change is a major contribution to cultural history. In this book, James Sloan Allen has proved himself a master of the craft.
Illinois Historical Journal
In this tour de force, Allen manages to touch on such seemingly disparate topics as Bauhaus design, educational reform at the University of Chicago, Aristotelian philosophy, and the growth of skiing in the United States. He aims to show how American capitalism nurtured and shaped modern culture, and his objectives are quite largely fulfilled.
Business History Review
In Allen’s quite detailed, although always urbane, intelligent, and well-written book, we have an unusual and exceptionally suggestive perspective on the American upper class and its culture.
American Historical Review
The Romance of Commerce and Culture offers the readerone of the best descriptions of American thought about architecture, product design, and graphic design through most of [the twentieth] century.
Journal of Graphic Design
Selected by Choice as one of the Ten Best Books on Business of 1983.
Preface to the second edition — ix
Acknowledgements — Xi
Introduction — xiii
I. MORDENIST CULTURE AND ITS CRITICS IN CHICAGO
1. Mordenist Marketing: The Consumer Revolution and the Container Corporation of America — 3
2. Marketing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus in America — 39
3. Great Books and Cultural Reform: The Chicago Bildungsideal — 83
II. HEALING THE WOUNDS OF WAR
4. The Magic Mountain: Discovering Aspen — 119
5. Selling the Postwar Goethe — 153
6. Celebrating the Postwar Goethe — 180
7. The Birth of the Aspen Idea — 208
III. ASPEN AND AMERICA IN THE FIFTIES — AND AFTER
8. Consensus, Criticism and the New American Elite — 237
9. The Aspen Muses an the Twilight of Modernism — 268
10. Epilogue: The Romance of Commerce and Culture, 2002 — 291
NOTES — 314
INDEX — 347
Introduction: William James: A Philosopher for Our Times
“Habit” (from Psychology: The Briefer Course)
“The Laws of Habit” (from Talks to Teachers on Psychology)
“Genius and Old-Fogeyism” (from Psychology: The Briefer
“The Stream of Consciousness” (selections from Psychology: The Briefer
“Attention and Free-Will” (from Psychology: The Briefer Course)
“Will” (selections from Psychology: The Briefer Course)
“The Will” (from Talks to Teachers on Psychology)
“The Sentiment of Rationality” (selections)
“The Will To Believe” (selections)
“The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” (selections)
“On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” (selections)
The Varieties of Religious Experience , (selections)
“What Pragmatism Means” (selections)
“Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth” (selections)
A Pluralistic Universe, (selection)
The Meaning of Truth, (selection)
“On Some Mental Effects of the Earthquake”
“The Energies of Men” (selections)
“The Moral Equivalent of War”
“What Makes a Life Significant”
“Is Life Worth Living?” (selection)
William James on Habit, Will, Truth, and the Meaning of Life
Edited with an Introduction by James Sloan Allen
Frederic C. Beil Publisher, 2014
William James, the radical modern philosopher and father of American psychology (and brother of the novelist Henry James), found habit and will to be the secret of a good life. He elaborated this discovery into a philosophy of life that runs through his many scintillating writings, ranging from the classic Principles of Psychology and The Varieties of Religious Experience to the revolutionary Pragmatism and popular essays like “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Always he urged people to cultivate habits of mind—especially the habits of will, including the will to break bad habits—that give us self-mastery, alert us to truth, equip us to act, and lend zest and meaning to life.
The extensive Introduction shows how William James came to his philosophy and how he acted on it throughout his life in ideas and memorably readable works that have direct pertinence today. The selections then display James weaving this philosophy through enduring writings on habit and its uses, the stream of consciousness and the discipline of will, the efficacy of belief and clues to morality, the truths of experience, and the strenuous life and its rewards.
Excellent and informative book! Full of wisdom from beginning to end!! Excellent information on how to teach younger people the power of habits and how to change their habits. The type is somewhat small, however. I highly recommend this book! Please mark if you find my review helpful. Thank you so much!
An inspiring introduction by Allen followed by inspiring essays by James! Just what one would expect from the author of Worldly Wisdom!!
A Novel of Romance and Rebirth
Accomplished New York book editor Rebecca Winters, on the threshold of forty and recently yet amiably divorced, looks into herself one day as never before and finds – nothing. Her contented life has gone empty.
Bewildered and fraught, she vacantly buries herself in work, trying to hide her distress from others. A few weeks later, as a favor to a colleague, she grudgingly meets an author with a book to propose. Although author Alex Rodgers unsettles Rebecca with his debonair, whimsical manner and rather aesthetic view of life, his intelligence, wit, and imagination induce her to see him again. And again. And her life begins to take some surprising turns.
Despite her ambivalence toward him, a romance grows as they share the pleasure of New York—in the shadow of 9/11—and talk of man things, revealing ever more of themselves to each other, and to themselves.
This romance also takes them to India, where they find their lives happily altered anew and then caught up in a tragedy that ultimately leads Rebecca to an understanding and affirmation of life she had never known.
Delving into art and religion, palm reading and gambling, perceptions and sentimentality, illusion and reality, and what makes life most worth living, Life Line is at once a novel of ideas and a love story, brining smiles, tears, and hope.
1. Onto a Bridge of Dreams
2. A Perfect Life
4. A Way Out?
On a Bridge of Dreams (continued)
1. Shiva’s Dance
2. The City and the Night
3. Against the Grain
4. The Moon Illusion
On a Bridge of Dreams (continued)
1. Gotta Horse Right Here
2. Two Weeks
3. Eezzee to Luvv
4. Sentimental Intimacy
On a Bridge of Dreams (continued)
1. Against the odds
2. Palms and Coincidence
3. In Passing
On a Bridge of Dreams (continued)
1. Sweet Irony
2. City of Rebirth
3. Serene Elation
4. Romance and Reality
On a Bridge of Dreams (continued)
1. Give me paradise
2. A Deeper Well
3. Death Mark
4. Still Life
5. Into the Fantasy of the Night
i. Reflections at the Edge of the World 3
ii. Signs of Shanghai, c. 1996 23
iii. The Mystery of the Smiling Elephant 33
iv. The Storytellers of Marrakech 59
i. Raffles 87
ii. Tango 107
iii. A Bon Vivant’s Dream 119
iv. The Dancer with the Fish-Shaped Eyes 141
v. London Millennimum 149
vi. Ciela 175
vii. Hadrian’s Moon 199
viii. And She Went to the Elephant Races 209
ix. Safari 229
x. On Parole in Aspen 253
xi. Saigon Night and the Gentle Man from Laos 261
xii. Livin the Dream 275
xiii. Hemingway’s Ghost 285
Dreamers, Runaways, and Mysteries:
A Traveler’s Tales and Essays
The tales tell of characters drawn to these places, sometimes for escape from the lives they had led, and of incidents that memorably mark their travels. In India, an intrepid lady adventurer charms an unhappy American; in Buenos Aires, a lonely tourist gets enraptured by a torrid story of tango dancers; in Botswana, a safari takes a surprising twist under an astonishing guide; in Singapore, fantasies of Somerset Maugham bewitch a yearning visitor; in Rio de Janiero, a buoyant lady of the night beguiles a disaffected businessman; in Saigon, a nostalgic journalist hears surprising secrets from a gentle Laotian. And many more.
Cabbages & Kings
Cabbages and Kings is a rather whimsical title (borrowed from Lewis Carroll) for a collection of what are, for the most part, learned essays on serious subjects. But the collection has a somewhat whimsical spirit as it brings together writings on many things, such as style in life and art, in restaurant design, and in the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde; relations between liberalism and conservatism, Islam and the West, church and state, Modernism and Postmodernism; ideas of Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Alexis de Tocqueville, and a daughter of Karl Marx; as well as the story of a Japanese detention camp, the necessity of laughter, and how to think about the meaning of life.
And yet for all of its variety of subjects, Cabbages and Kings has an underlying theme. That is a humanistic way of life. Whether exploring the nature of style or the aspirations of Modernism, the character of popular culture or the ethics of civility, the tangles of self-consciousness or the sense of cultural decline at the end of the twentieth century, the perspective of humanism prevails. That perspective embraces ideas of many kinds along with the desire to shape a world that gives humanistic meaning to life.
Overall, Cabbages and Kings is a spirited adventure in ideas, culture, and humanism engaging both mind and imagination as it takes readers through a variegated intellectual landscape.
I. On Style & the Good Life
1. Style in Art, Character, and Culture
2. The Arts of the Dining Room
3. Remembrance of Restaurants Past
Styles of Hospitality
4. Isn’t It Romantic?
5. Theater of Tranquility
6. Starck’s Swan Song: With a Note on Feng Shui at Felix
7. Elegant Utility
8. Mrs. Dalloway and the Ethics of Civility
9. Nietzsche and Wilde: Cultural Rebellion and an Ethics of Style
II. On The Political Life
10. Notes on Liberalism and Conservatism with a Comment on Political Correctness and the Rights of Civility
11. Orwell, Mind Control, and Our Times
12. A Wartime Tragedy and a Teacher Who Would Not Let It Be Lost
13. Notes on Islam, America, and Human Rights with a Few Words on Good Soldiers in the War of Ideas
14. A Stranger to Power: On the Separation of Church and State
III. On Modernity & Modernism
15. What Was Modernism?
16. Modernity, Modernism, and the Evil of Banality
17. Self-Consciousness and the Modernist Temper
18. More Emma than Nora: A Victorian/Marxist/Modernist Melodrama
19. Sigmund Freud: Bourgeois Modernist
20. Tolstoy’s fin de siècle and Ours: From Decadence to Postmodernism
21. Fin-de-siècle America and the Twilight of Culture
IV. On Humanism, Classics, Laughter, Proust, & the Meaning of Life
22. How Humanists Have Betrayed Humanism
23. The Humanities and Their Discontents
24. Reading, Rumination, and the Classics
25. Casebooks of Humanistic Education
26. Let ’em Laugh: Tristram Shandy and the Humanity of Laughter
27. As Time Goes By: On Reading Proust and Finding the Magic Sand
28. Thinking about the Meaning of Life: A Dialogue