Four Cultures of the West

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Harvard University Press, 2004 - 261 pages
The workings of Western intelligence in our day--whether in politics or the arts, in the humanities or the church--are as troubling as they are mysterious, leading to the questions: Where are we going? What in the world were we thinking? By exploring the history of four "cultures" so deeply embedded in Western history that we rarely see their instrumental role in politics, religion, education, and the arts, this timely book provides a broad framework for addressing these questions in a fresh way. The cultures considered here originated in the ancient world, took on Christian forms, and manifest themselves today in more secular ways. These are, as John W. O'Malley identifies them: the prophetic culture that proclaims the need for radical change in the structures of society (represented by, for example, Jeremiah, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.); the academic culture that seeks instead to understand those structures (Aristotle, Aquinas, the modern university); the humanistic culture that addresses fundamental human issues and works for the common good of society (Cicero, Erasmus, and Eleanor Roosevelt); and the culture of art and performance that celebrates the mystery of the human condition (Phidias, Michelangelo, Balanchine). By showing how these cultures, as modes of activity and discourse in which Western intelligence has manifested itself through the centuries and continues to do so, O'Malley produces an essay that especially through the history of Christianity brilliantly illuminates the larger history of the West.

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User Review  - vpfluke - LibraryThing

This is an excellent analysis of four systems of Western philosophy, thought, and education. O'Malley proposes that one, prophecy and reform, comes out of Jerusalem, and the other three out of Athens ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rocscssrs - LibraryThing

5 stars because it's a book which can fundamentally change the way you look at things. O'Malley sees four "cultures," or traditions of value, thought and expression, operating at varying strength and ... Read full review


Prophecy and Reform
The Academy and the Professions
Poetry Rhetoric and the Common Good
Art and Performance
The Book of Our Experience
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About the author (2004)

John W. O'Malley is Professor of Church History at Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

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