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Doubt : a history : the great doubters and their legacy of innovation, from Socr
Hecht, Jennifer Michael
Adult Nonfiction BD215 .H43 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Cited midway through this magisterial book by Hecht (The End of the Soul), the Zen maxim "Great Doubt: great awakening. Little Doubt: little awakening. No Doubt: no awakening" reveals that skepticism is the sine qua non of reflection, and discloses the centrality that doubt and disbelief have played in fueling intellectual discovery. Most scholarship focuses on the belief systems that have defined religious history while leaving doubters burnt along the wayside. Hecht's poetical prose beautifully dramatizes the struggle between belief and denial, in terms of historical currents and individual wrestlings with the angel. Doubt is revealed to be the subtle stirring that has precipitated many of the more widely remembered innovations in politics, religion and science, such as medieval Jewish philosopher Gersonides's doubt of Ptolemaic cosmology 200-300 years before Copernicus, Kepler or Galileo. The breadth of this work is stunning in its coverage of nearly all extant written history. Hecht's exegesis traces doubt's meandering path from the fragments of pre-Socratics and early religious heretics in Asia, carefully elucidating the evolution of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, through the intermingling of Eastern and Western religious and philosophical thought in the Middle Ages that is often left out of popular histories, to the preeminence of doubt in thrusting open the doors of modernity with the Cartesian "I am a thing... that doubts," ergo sum. Writing with acute sensitivity, Hecht draws the reader toward personal reflection on some of the most timeless questions ever posed. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Running parallel to the history of religious belief is the history of doubt about the truth of such belief. In this sprawling, magisterial, and eloquent chronicle, poet and historian Hecht (Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment) provides an elegant study in the history of an idea that has fueled many of history's greatest innovations. For Hecht, doubt takes many forms, including cosmopolitan relativism, philosophical skepticism, moral rejection of injustice, and rational materialism. Thus, many great doubters have questioned not only the existence of God or the gods but also the absolute truth of one religion (Xenophanes); the truth of either reason, religion, or the senses (Hume); the justice of God's actions in the world (Job); and any supernatural explanation of the workings of the material world (Democritus). Hecht surveys the history of doubt from its ancient roots in Epicurus, Lucretius, and Democritus to the deism of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to the postmodern challenges of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Her brief but splendid study of the great Renaissance skeptic Montaigne is alone worth the price of the book. Hecht's warm prose, lucid insights, and impeccable research combine for a lively, thoughtful, and first-rate study of a neglected idea. Highly recommended.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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