A reading club with a view to the future

010 Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind

The book critiques American universities and their emphasis on relativism, leading to a generation lacking in critical thinking and values.

Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind


The Closing of the American Mind is a critique of higher education in America, specifically the emphasis on relativism, which is the idea that there is no objective truth and that everything is relative to one's own experience. Bloom argues that this approach to education has led to a generation of students who lack a moral and intellectual foundation, and are unable to engage in meaningful discourse. He suggests that this has resulted in a decline in the quality of education, and ultimately, a decline in American society as a whole.


Title: The Closing of the American Mind

Author: Allan Bloom

Publishing year: 1999

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length in hours: 14 hours and 39 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. The decline of the American university system
  2. The rise of relativism in American culture
  3. The failure of universities to provide students with a moral and intellectual foundation
  4. The impact of technology on education and culture
  5. The need for a return to traditional values and critical thinking in education
Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind

5 funny quotes

  1. "There is no book so bad... that it does not have something good in it."
  2. "The contemporary university is certainly a place where nothing useful is ever taught and everything useless is venerated."
  3. "The proper study of mankind is books."
  4. "If there is any magic in the world, it lies in the attempt to understand someone else's point of view."
  5. "The danger is that in our reaction against false sentiments we should go to the extreme of suppressing all sentiments."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The university now offers no distinctive visage to the world, no unity of purpose, no collective momentum, no commanding voice."
  2. "The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence."
  3. "Openness - and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings - is the great insight of our times."
  4. "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."
  5. "American universities are less centers of higher learning than arenas for power struggles, where politically correct speech and thought regulate the subject matter of study."

5 dilemmas

  1. Can academic freedom coexist with the need for moral and intellectual guidance in education?
  2. Is there a place for traditional values in a society that values openness and relativism?
  3. How can universities balance the need to provide critical thinking skills with the need to protect students from harmful ideas?
  4. Is the decline of American universities a reflection of a larger decline in American society?
  5. How can technology be harnessed to support, rather than detract from, the pursuit of knowledge and critical thinking?

5 examples

  1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. John Stuart Mill
  4. Martin Heidegger
  5. Immanuel Kant

Referenced books

  1. "The Republic" by Plato - Referenced extensively to examine the concept of education and the formation of a just society.
  2. "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill - Discussed in relation to the tension between individual freedom and societal constraints.
  3. "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - Quoted to illustrate the influence of Marxist ideology on modern thought.
  4. "The Interpretation of Dreams" by Sigmund Freud - Referenced to discuss the influence of psychoanalysis and its impact on intellectual life.
  5. "1984" by George Orwell - Cited to explore themes of authoritarianism and the dangers of a totalitarian society.

Share a quote

"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: The Closing of the American Mind
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