The Search for Meaning: A Short History

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9780520253001: The Search for Meaning: A Short History

In The Search for Meaning: A Short History, Dennis Ford explores eight approaches human beings have pursued over time to invest life with meaning and to infuse order into a seemingly chaotic universe. These include myth, philosophy, science, postmodernism, pragmatism, archetypal psychology, metaphysics, and naturalism. In engaging, companionable prose, Ford boils down these systems to their bare essentials, showing the difference between viewing the world from a religious point of view and that of a naturalist, and comparing a scientific worldview to a philosophical one. Ford investigates the contributions of the Greeks, Kant, and William James, and brings the discussion up to date with contemporary thinkers. He proffers the refreshing idea that in today's world, the answers provided by traditional religions to increasingly difficult questions have lost their currency for many and that the reductive or rationalist answers provided by science and postmodernism are themselves rife with unexamined assumptions.

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From the Inside Flap:

"The Search for Meaning reads like an adventure novel of the mind. Supremely researched and also deeply personal, Dennis Ford has succeeded in rescuing experience from meaninglessness. The book's range is unusually wide, from the classical Greeks through Kierkegaard to contemporary thinkers like Huston Smith, James Hillman, and Joseph Campbell, combining a tough yet often impassioned look at the quest for greater truth. The reader will welcome this approach, realizing that there are far more strategies 'under the sun,' than classical philosophy in the perennial search for meaning in one's life."—Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage and Once and Future Myths

"Around its centerpiece—meaning—this book weaves a tapestry so encompassing, so intriguingly beautiful, I am stunned by its accomplishment. Ford approaches this centerpiece from many angles, touching on a broad range of historical, spiritual and philosophical themes. Written in a manner that is both passionate and accessible, his book shows how people throughout history have struggled with life's greatest question: Why are we here? Although the eight paths explored in this book are quite different in their assumptions and conclusions, each offers the possibility of achieving what we all desire most—a sense of meaning in our lives. The author compares and reflects on the similarities and differences between the paths, masterfully reflecting on what each school of thought can offer us today."—Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions

"Ford deserves to be congratulated for addressing a terribly important message so eloquently. I found myself coming back to the book in order to revisit its honesty and questions."—Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion

About the Author:

Dennis Ford is the author of Sins of Omission: A Primer on Moral Indifference (1990).

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Dennis Ford
Published by University of California Press (2007)
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