The closing of the Western mind : the rise of faith and the fall of reason

by Freeman, Charles, 1947-

Format: Print Book 2003
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Mt. Lebanon Public Library Non-Fiction 940.12 F72
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Northland Public Library Nonfiction 940.12 F87
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A radical and powerful reappraisal of the impact of Constantine's adoption of Christianity on the later Roman world, and on the subsequent development both of Christianity and of Western civilization.

When the Emperor Contstantine converted to Christianity in 368 AD, he changed the course of European history in ways that continue to have repercussions to the present day. Adopting those aspects of the religion that suited his purposes, he turned Rome on a course from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilization of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority, whether that of the Bible, or the writings of Ptolemy in astronomy and of Galen and Hippocrates in medicine. Only a thousand years later, with the advent of the Renaissance and the emergence of modern science, did Europe begin to free itself from the effects of Constantine's decision, yet the effects of his establishment of Christianity as a state religion remain with us, in many respects, today. Brilliantly wide-ranging and ambitious, this is a major work of history.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Freeman is a well-known scholar of ancient Greece and Rome, and in this provocatively titled work he directs his encyclopedic knowledge of the classical world at its relationship with early Christianity. Specifically, he's interested in the consequences for Greek rationalism when Constantine turns the faith into a religion of insiders, rather than outsiders; the closing of the Western mind is Rome's deliberate persecution of those whose God is the noble syllogism. His claim is not so much that Christians wouldn't listen to reason but that they weren't tolerant of reasoned dissent--in other words, that the classical tradition didn't simply waste away but was suffocated by a consolidated church and its ritual, which some would consider irrational superstition. In advancing this claim, his exploration of early Christian attitudes toward Jews, science, and sex are particularly illuminating, as is his perspective on Islam as preservers of Aristotle. Freeman is clearly a little mournful about the loss of logic until Thomas Aquinas, but the product of his frustration with the early church--this book--is simply too impressively erudite to dismiss as polemic or, indeed, to set down. --Brendan Driscoll Copyright 2003 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Freeman repeats an oft-told tale of the rise of Christianity and the supposed demise of philosophy in a book that is fascinating, frustrating and flawed. He contends that as the Christian faith developed in the first four centuries it gradually triumphed over the reigning Hellenistic and Roman philosophies. Christianity's power culminated when Constantine declared it the official state religion in 312. Freeman points to Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, as the figure who showed Constantine that the bishopric could wield power over the state. From then until the Middle Ages, Freeman argues, the church ruled triumphant, successfully squelching any challenges to its religious and political authority. Yet Freeman (The Greek Achievement) fails to show that faith became totally dominant over reason. First, he asserts that Paul of Tarsus, whom many think of as the founder of Christianity, condemned the Hellenistic philosophy of his time. Freeman is wrong about this, for the rhetorical style and the social context of Paul's letters show just how dependent he was on the philosophy around him. Second, Freeman glosses over the tremendous influence of Clement of Alexandria's open embrace of philosophy as a way of understanding the Christian faith. Third, the creeds that the church developed in the fourth century depended deeply on philosophical language and categories in an effort to make the faith understandable to its followers. Finally, Augustine's notions of original sin and the two cities depended directly on Plato's philosophy; Augustine even admits in the Confessions that Cicero was his model. While Freeman tells a good story, his arguments fail to be convincing. 16 pages of illus. Not seen by PW, 1 map. (Oct. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Civilization, Western.
Christianity -- Influence.
Church and state -- Europe -- History.
Church history -- Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600.
Church history -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
Civilization, Western -- Classical influences.
Europe -- History -- To 476.
Europe -- History -- 476-1492.
Europe -- Intellectual life.
Publisher New York :Knopf,2003
Edition 1st American ed.
Language English
Description xxiii, 432 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [405]-416) and index.
ISBN 140004085X
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