Quotes from The Closing of the American Mind

Allan Bloom ·  392 pages

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“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency -- the belief that the here and now is all there is.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Picture a thirteen-year-old boy sitting in the living room of his family home doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones or watching MTV. He enjoys the liberties hard won over centuries by the alliance of philosophic genius and political heroism, consecrated by the blood of martyrs; he is provided with comfort and leisure by the most productive economy ever known to mankind; science has penetrated the secrets of nature in order to provide him with the marvelous, lifelike electronic sound and image reproduction he is enjoying. And in what does progress culminate? A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic rhythms; whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of onanism or the killing of parents; whose ambition is to win fame and wealth in imitating the drag-queen who makes the music. In short, life is made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“The real community of man, in the midst of all the self-contradictory simulacra of community, is the community of those who seek the truth, of the potential knowers...of all men to the extent they desire to know. But in fact, this includes only a few, the true friends, as Plato was to Aristotle at the very moment they were disagreeing about the nature of the good...They were absolutely one soul as they looked at the problem. This, according to Plato, is the only real friendship, the only real common good. It is here that the contact people so desperately seek is to be found...This is the meaning of the riddle of the improbable philosopher-kings. They have a true community that is exemplary for all other communities.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Error is indeed our enemy, but it alone points to the truth and therefore deserves our respectful treatment.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind



“The humanities are like the great old Paris Flea Market where, amidst masses of junk, people with a good eye found cast away treasures...They are like a refugee camp where all the geniuses driven out of their jobs and countries by unfriendly regimes are idling.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and preferred answers, not because he is obstinate but because he knows others worthy of consideration.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Commitment is a word invented in our abstract modernity to signify the absence of any real motives in the soul for moral dedication.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Our Nation, a great stage for the acting out of great thoughts, presents the classic confrontation between Locke's views of the state of nature and Rousseau's criticism of them... Nature is raw material, worthless without the mixture of human labor; yet nature is also the highest and most sacred thing. The same people who struggle to save the snail-darter bless the pill, worry about hunting deer and defend abortion. Reverence for nature, mastery of nature- whichever is convenient.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“I do not believe that my generation, my cousins who have been educated in the American way, all of whom are MDs or PhDs, have any comparable learning...I am not saying anything so trite as that life is fuller when people have myths to live by. I mean rather that a life based on the Book is closer to the truth, that it provides the material for deeper research in and access to the real nature of things. Without the great revelations, epics, and philosophies as part of our natural vision, there is nothing to see out there, and eventually little left inside. The Bible is not the only means to furnish a mind, but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer, it will remain unfurnished.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind



“The utilitarian behaves sensibly in all that is required for preservation but never takes account of the fact that he must die...His whole life is absorbed in avoiding death, which is inevitable, and therefore he might be thought to be the most irrational of men, if rationality has anything to do with understanding ends or comprehending the human situation as such. He gives way without reserve to his most powerful passion and the wishes it engenders.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“The end result is that there can be no more truth or goodness and no need or even ability to make tough choices. Where the purpose of higher education once was to enable the student to find truth, the modern university teaches that there is no truth, only 'lifestyle.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Sycophancy toward those who hold power is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist.... Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Although the natural rights inherent in our( Constitutional) regime are adequate to the solution of this ( minority) problem...the equal protection of the law did not protect a man from contempt and hatred as a Jew, an Italian or a Black"..." 'Openness' was designed to provide a respectable place for those groups or minorities--to wrest respect from those who were disposed to give it--This breaks the delicate balance between majority and minority in Constitutional thought. In such a perspective where there is no common good, minorities are no longer problematic and the protection of them emerges as THE central function of government.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“These sociologists who talk to facilely about the sacred are like a man who keeps a toothless old circus lion around the house in order to experience the thrills of the jungle.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind



“The inflamed sensitivity induced by radicalized democratic theory finally experiences any limit as arbitrary and tyrannical. There are no absolutes; freedom is absolute. Of course the result is that, on the one hand, the argument justifying freedom disappears and, on the other, all beliefs begin to have the attenuated character that was initially supposed to be limited to religious belief.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“We are like ignorant shepherds living on a site where great civilizations once flourished. The shepherds play with the fragments that pop up to the surface, having no notion of the beautiful structures of which they were once a part.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Utopianism is, as Plato taught us at the outset, the fire with which we must play because it is the only way we can find out what we are. We need to criticize false understandings of Utopia, but the easy way out provided by realism is deadly.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“There is no real education that does not respond to felt need; anything else acquired is trifling display.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind



“One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“The very fact of their fury shows how much Plato threatens what is dear and intimate to them. They are little able to defend their experience, which had seemed unquestionable until questioned, and it is most resistant to cool analysis. Yet if a student can- and this is most difficult and unusual- draw back, get acritical distance on what he clings to, come to doubt the ultimate value of what he loves, he has taken the first and most difficult step toward the philosophic conversion. Indignation is the soul's defence against against the wound of doubt about its own; it reorders the cosmos to support the justice of its cause. It justifies putting Socrates to death. Recognizing indignation for what it constitutes knowledge of the soul, and thus an experience more philosophic than the study of mathematics”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


“Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason.”
― Allan Bloom, quote from The Closing of the American Mind


About the author

Allan Bloom
Born place: in Indianapolis, Indiana, The United States
Born date September 14, 1930
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