Allan Bloom : biography
Allan David Bloom (September 14, 1930 – October 7, 1992) was an American philosopher, classicist, and academician. He studied under David Grene, Leo Strauss, Richard McKeon and Alexandre Kojève. He subsequently taught at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Yale University, École Normale Supérieure of Paris, and the University of Chicago. Bloom championed the idea of Great Books education and became famous for his criticism of contemporary American higher education, with his views being expressed in his bestselling 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind. Characterized as a conservative in the popular media, Bloom explicitly stated that this was a misunderstanding and made it clear that he was not to be affiliated with any conservative movements.Bloom, Allan. Giants and Dwarfs: Essays 1960–1990, Touchstone Books, 1991. Saul Bellow wrote Ravelstein, a roman à clef based on Bloom, his friend and teaching partner at the University of Chicago.
The Closing of the American Mind
| "Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion." |
— Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
The Closing of the American Mind was published in 1987, five years after Bloom published an essay in The National Review about the failure of universities to serve the needs of students. With the encouragement of Saul Bellow, his colleague at the University of Chicago, he expanded his thoughts into a book "about a life I've led", that critically reflected on the current state of higher education in American universities. His friends and admirers imagined the work would be a modest success, as did Bloom, who recognized his publisher’s modest advance to complete the project as a lack of sales confidence. Yet on the momentum of strong initial reviews, including one by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times and an op-ed piece by syndicated conservative commentator George Will titled, "A How-To Book for the Independent" it became an unexpected best seller, eventually selling close to half a million copies in hardback and remaining at number one on the New York Times Non-fiction Best Seller list for four months.Goldstein, William. “The Story behind the Best Seller: Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind.” Publishers Weekly. July 3, 1987.
Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind is a critique of the contemporary university and how Bloom sees it as failing its students. In it, Bloom criticizes the modern movements in philosophy and the humanities. Philosophy professors involved in ordinary language analysis or logical positivism disregard important "humanizing" ethical and political issues and fail to pique the interest of students.Bloom, Allan. 1987. The Closing of the American Mind, p. 278. New York: Simon & Schuster. Literature professors involved in deconstructionism promote irrationalism and skepticism of standards of truth and thereby dissolve the moral imperatives which are communicated through genuine philosophy and which elevate and broaden the intellects of those who engage with them.Bloom, Allan. 1987. The Closing of the American Mind, p. 279. New York: Simon & Schuster To a great extent, Bloom's criticism revolves around his belief that the "great books" of Western thought have been devalued as a source of wisdom. Bloom's critique extends beyond the university to speak to the general crisis in American society. The Closing of the American Mind draws analogies between the United States and the Weimar Republic. The modern liberal philosophy, he says, enshrined in the Enlightenment thought of John Locke—that a just society could be based upon self-interest alone, coupled by the emergence of relativism in American thought—had led to this crisis.
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