Absence of Mind The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self Marilynne Robinson

The Terry Lectures Series
Publication date:
28 Jun 2011
Yale University Press
176 pages: 197 x 127mm
Sales territories:
World English

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One of our best contemporary writers explores the tension between science and religion and reveals how our concept of mind determines how we understand and value human nature and human civilization

In this ambitious book, acclaimed writer Marilynne Robinson applies her astute intellect to some of the most vexing topics in the history of human thought—science, religion, and consciousness. Crafted with the same care and insight as her award-winning novels, Absence of Mind challenges postmodern atheists who crusade against religion under the banner of science. In Robinson’s view, scientific reasoning does not denote a sense of logical infallibility, as thinkers like Richard Dawkins might suggest. Instead, in its purest form, science represents a search for answers. It engages the problem of knowledge, an aspect of the mystery of consciousness, rather than providing a simple and final model of reality.

By defending the importance of individual reflection, Robinson celebrates the power and variety of human consciousness in the tradition of William James. She explores the nature of subjectivity and considers the culture in which Sigmund Freud was situated and its influence on his model of self and civilization. Through keen interpretations of language, emotion, science, and poetry, Absence of Mind restores human consciousness to its central place in the religion-science debate.

Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction; Home, winner of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction; and Housekeeping, winner of the 1982 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction. She is also the author of two previous books of nonfiction, Mother Country and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives in Iowa City.

'Marilynne Robinson is one of the greatest Christian thinkers alive today. She is also one of the world’s best novelists' -The Catholic Herald

'A much needed cerebral pick-me-up. The Orange Prize-winning author of Home presents a collection of philosophical writings pitting science against religion, and finding science wanting.' -The Sunday Telegraph

'I enjoyed reading Absence of Mind. The reason: it is always a pleasure to keep company with a person who takes ideas seriously.' -Siri Hustvedt, Financial Times

'Robinson takes the science-versus-religion debate a stage further…Robinson’s argument is prophetic, profound, eloquent, succinct, powerful and timely.-Karen Armstrong, The Guardian

'The width of Robinson’s erudition is almost daunting, but she shares it with characteristic generosity… Persist and you’ll be rewarded.'—Sunday Telegraph

'This is a wonderful little book, full of wisdom, warmth and wit…Robinson has all the brilliance and erudition necessary to be a philosopher…. Robinson, as novelist, is able to apply her astute intellect, delicious sense of humour, incisive insight into human nature and down-to-earth philosophy of life.' -Mark Patrick Hederman, Irish Times

'It is worth admiring Robinson’s bravery and intellectual independence, and noting the sheer force and capacity of language like hers to persuade.' -Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A typically rigorous argument about the nature of modernity from one of the greatest thinkers and novelists of our time.’ -Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman ‘A Year In Books