The Modern Mind
An Intellectual History of the 20th CenturyBook - 2001
This major narrative history of the people and ideas that shaped the modern world is a brilliantly reasoned examination of the thought and individuals that made twentieth-century culture. From Freud to Babbitt, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the books range is encyclopedic, covering the major writers, artists, scientists, and philosophers who produced the ideas by which we live. Beginning with four seminal ideas that were introduced in 1900 -- the unconscious, the gene, the quantum, and Picasso's first paintings in Paris-Peter Watson has produced a fluent and engaging narrative of the intellectual tradition of the past century.
The book is divided into four parts -- Freud to Wittgenstein; Spengler to Animal Farm; Sartre to the Sea of Tranquillity; the counterculture to Kosovo -- and there are forty-two chapters. Watson emphasizes that "the century may be understood as a period during which the scientific method colonized all modes of thought and changed the way thinking is done." He sees the first half of the century as a period of discovery and the last half as a period of analysis, synthesis, and understanding, and he explores the role of the United States in setting the century's agenda in many areas. Unlike more conventional histories, in which the focus is on political events and personalities, The Modern Mind is an illuminating blueprint of twentieth-century thought and culture and the men and women who created it.