Cover image for Plagues of the mind : the new epidemic of false knowledge
Plagues of the mind : the new epidemic of false knowledge
Thornton, Bruce S.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Wilmington, Del. : ISI Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 279 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1720 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B837 .T46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Mass literacy, mass communication, and the Internet have all increased the amount of information available. But false knowledge still abounds. Taking cues from Sir Thomas Browne, the English Renaissance skeptic, this title examines a host of contemporary errors in thinking and offers a powerful explanation of why they occur.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Rather than cleaving contemporary intellectual foolishness to its historical roots, Thornton starts at those roots, advances from the crucial eighteenth century to the present, and concludes with case studies of three modern loci of falsehood--romantic environmentalism, the American Indian as ethical paragon, and goddess worship. The trouble all began with the Enlightenment assumption, founded on similar dispositions in classical Greek philosophy and scholastic Christianity, that knowledge bred virtue. Once a person knew the good, reason would compel realizing it, for humans are naturally inclined to goodness. Thereafter, romanticism demoted reason and preferred feeling but didn't dispute natural human goodness. Thus the stage was set for "if it feels good, it is good" as the highest ethical standard, and all three current follies that Thornton analyzes are rife with the sentimental indulgence, self-righteousness, and contempt for empirical evidence, especially about human behavior, that the feel-good ethic fosters. Thornton's exposition is complex, yet as he draws the thoughts and interpretations of an impressive array of social critics into his grand intellectual-historical argument, his prose never becomes obscure, though Al Gore, Vine Deloria, Carol Christ, and other targets of his criticism have reason to wish it had. --Ray Olson

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Part 1 of the Causes of Errorp. 1
Chapter 1 Knowledge is Virtuep. 3
Chapter 2 ""Feeling is All There Is""p. 17
Chapter 3 Discontented with Civilizationp. 27
Chapter 4 Tragedy and Therapyp. 53
Part 2 of Three Popular and Received Ideasp. 89
Chapter 5 Romantic Environmentalismp. 91
Chapter 6 the White Man's Golden Age Red Manp. 131
Chapter 7 the False Goddess and Her Lost Paradisep. 177
Conclusion the Examined Lifep. 215
Notesp. 225
Indexp. 263