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The Self Awakened


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Table of Contents

The Philosophy of the Age Rejected Options The Perennial Philosophy and Its Enemy Pragmatism Reclaimed Pragmatism As a Starting Point Three Ideas of the Pragmatists Central Themes: Agency, Contingency, Futurity, Experimentalism Two Misreadings of Pragmatism Pragmatist Insights and American Mistakes The Core Conception: Constraint, Incompleteness, Resistance, Reinvention A Conception of Humanity Four Elements of the Conception Philosophical Attitudes Associated With These Ideas Time and Experience: Antinomies of the Impersonal The Source of the Antinomies The Antinomy of Time The Antinomy of Objectivity The Reality of Time: the Transformation of Transformation The Reality of Time The Thesis That Time Is the Transformation of Transformation The Thesis That Time Holds Sway Over Everything The Thesis That There Is No Closed Horizon of Possible Worlds The Thesis That Mathematics Is a Trojan Horse Within the Mind Against the Recognition of Time The Thesis That Human Experience Has an Inescapable Temporal Structure Self-Consciousness: Humanity Imagined The Imagination Disarmed in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Rationalization, Humanization, and Escapism Self-Consciousness Redirected An Initial View of the Mind The Initial View Developed By Contrast The Two Sides of the Mind From the Conception of the Mind to the Marking of a Direction What Then Should We Do? Conception and Orientation The Indifference of Nature: False Escape Will and Imagination The Manifest World and Hidden Reality The Conflict Between the Enabling Requirements of Self-Possession Self and Character Historical and Biographical Time The Prophecies of Art Society: the Perpetual Invention of the Future Politics: Democracy As Anti-Fate A Moment of Reform: the Reinvention of Social Democracy Religion: the Self Awakened The Problems of Connection and Transcendence Restated How We Encounter These Problems in the Course of a Life Existential Options The Two Awakenings of the Self Demands of the Second Awakening Philosophy: Beyond Super-Science and Self-Help First Digression: Nature in Its Place Second Digression: the Universal Grid of Philosophy Proper Name Index Thematic Index

Promotional Information

Roberto Unger is one of the very few creative political philosophers of our time. The brief and broadly accessible The Self Awakened, which takes a distinctive position on one of the great questions of political philosophy and develops its implications for the political predicaments of our time, will serve as the best introduction to his complex work. For the brave band of secular humanists who do not wish to turn back the clock, this book represents an important contribution to an important conversation. -- Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University, and author of The Failure of the Founding Fathers

About the Author

Roberto Mangabeira Unger is the Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University.


In this difficult work, Unger (law, Harvard Univ.) develops "a conception of humanity and of its place in the world" and calls for "a world revolution that is spiritual as well as political." He believes that to bring this about, we need an alternative to the "perennial philosophy" that sees change and time as illusions and ultimate reality as an unchanging "unity prior to all difference." This thinking, which traces its roots back to ancient Greek metaphysics, is, he argues, exactly the opposite of what is needed today; what is needed now is action-engagement-a refined pragmatism that goes out into the world and brings about transformative projects "in politics, religion and speculative thought." He outlines these projects in detail, touching on myriad central issues in philosophy, law, and politics. This is not an easy book: Unger's interests are wide-ranging, highly informed, insightful, and demanding. His writing is graceful, with poetic overtones. Highly recommended for advanced studies in philosophy, law, and political theory.-Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Unger's interests are wide-ranging, highly informed, insightful, and demanding. His writing is graceful, with poetic overtones. -- Leon H. Brody Library Journal 20070301 Unger writes broadly for an educated audience, but most specifically for philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and legal theorists. His style is inviting and non-technical, almost sermonic in certain passages. His capacious and ambitious mind yields a challenge, though, of holding together and keeping in view the multiple facets of his philosophical vision. His penchant for apt and memorable metaphors, however, assists readers in this task. -- Brad Frazier Metapsychology Online 20070710 The Self Awakened shows [Roberto Mangabeira Unger] to be one of the few living philosophers whose thinking has the range of the great philosophers of the past...Unger has a restless and unruly mind, and is, I can report from several personal encounters, one of the most articulate and penetratingly original thinkers one is likely to meet...His thinking and writing have always ranged beyond the boundaries of legal and social theory, to psychology, psychoanalysis, and architecture. In this book, he takes on the task and direction of philosophy itself and draws out implications ranging from the theory and practice of politics, to psychology, to the most fundamental questions about space, time, cosmology, physics, and mathematics...[The Self Awakened] is written in a vivid prose style that mixes precise lawyerly argument with poetic and metaphorical passages of astounding vividness. It is a polemic and a call to action, but what it challenges us to do most of all is to experiment with how we live and think. It is many years since I found myself as inspired and provoked by a book of non-fiction. Unger aims at nothing less than to invent a new kind of politics, which is evolutionary in style but revolutionary in outcome...This is a philosophy as ambitious as any being written now. -- Lee Smolin Times Higher Education Supplement This book reads like something from a bygone age. Unger has given readers a humanist manifesto, a text more at home in the 1930s than in the postmodern age. It is that rarest of things: an earnest book...Unger contests the claims of academic philosophy to naturalize all aspects of human existence in the name of science. Instead, he offers readers the hope that human beings will be able to transcend their limitations through imagination, and thereby become authentically futural beings. In order to accomplish this, a renewal of philosophy must take place: a radicalized pragmatism whose practitioners truly realize that they control their own fates. -- C. R. McCall Choice 20080401

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