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A Guide for the Perplexed by E. F.…
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A Guide for the Perplexed (1977)

by E. F. Schumacher

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The book that virtually started everything for me. Read in 1983, year of undergrad graduation, and things have never been the same since. I had resistance to even looking at the title. ( )
  ted_newell | Jun 20, 2015 |
LIfe affirming insights and defense of the Higher Power
  selmablanche | Jul 14, 2012 |
Schumacher begins by describing his difficulties travelling through Leningrad, attempting to reconcile his map with the major landmarks he could see.

His confusion was resolved only when a guide explained, that the map featured only inactive church buildings, whilst active churches were simply omitted.

This story introduces the idea of ‘Adaequatio’; that we can only see that which we have the means to see, an ancient and powerful idea.

For example, whilst all able bodied can hear sound, not everyone can appreciate music, some simply hearing a progression of notes. For them, music simply does not exist.

Schumacher explores what it is to be human. Building a simple 4-level scale of lifeless minerals, plants, conscious animals and self-aware humanity He describes how each level has no awareness of their being levels above.

At the heart of the book, is the Western desire to see the world as problems to be solved. Science has developed with a belief that it’s role is to solve problems and its ‘adaequatio’ has honed its skills at seeing the solvable and rendered it blind to everything else.

In Schumacher’s words science is able to see problems with convergent solutions, but fails even to recognise as valid, those with divergent solutions.

As an example, consider the divergent problem of whether discipline or freedom is the best way to teach? There’s no one correct answer.

Real life is the navigation of divergent problems, not the solving of convergent ones.

In a balanced world, this science bias would pose no problem, sitting alongside tools better suited to divergent problems.

The fundamental issue for the West is this loss of balance.

Science’s pernicious influence has turned us all into seekers of answers and divergent problem tools such as faith and religion are dismissed as failing the scientific test.

The catch-22 is that for balance, we need tools that fail the scientific test!

Since Schumacher wrote his book, things have grown worse. Science is at the heart of healthcare and education in the UK for example, not only in its rightful place solving convergent problems of practice, but quite inappropriately to address the divergent problems of the purpose of care.

The book is a lesson in communicating challenging ideas in ways that engage and illuminate. ( )
1 vote Steve55 | Sep 4, 2011 |
"Man's happiness is to move higher, to develop his highest facilities, to gain knowledge of the highest things and, if possible, to 'see God.' If he moves lower, develops only his lower faculties, which he shares with the animals, then he makes himself deeply unhappy, even to the point of despair." (p. 12)
2 vote stephenjchow | Apr 21, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060906111, Paperback)

The author of the world wide best-seller, Small Is Beautiful, now tackles the subject of Man, the World, and the Meaning of Living. Schumacher writes about man's relation to the world. man has obligations -- to other men, to the earth, to progress and technology, but most importantly himself. If man can fulfill these obligations, then and only then can he enjoy a real relationship with the world, then and only then can he know the meaning of living.

Schumacher says we need maps: a "map of knowledge" and a "map of living." The concern of the mapmaker--in this instance, Schumacher--is to find for everything it's proper place. Things out of place tend to get lost; they become invisible and there proper places end to be filled by other things that ought not be there at all and therefore serve to mislead.

A Guide for the Perplexed teaches us to be our own map makers. This constantly surprising, always stimulating book will be welcomed by a large audience, including the many new fans who believe strongly in what Schumacher has to say.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Summary: Examines the nature and organisation of knowledge. Argues that the current philosophical 'maps' that dominate western thought and science are both overly narrow and based on some false premises.

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