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The Phenomenon of Man (1955)

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,038188,031 (3.63)14
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a priest , paleontologist and geologist whose highly original publication, LE PHENOMENE HUMAIN, attracted world-wide attention when it was first published. He wrote of the beginnings of our planet, the emergence of life, the birth of thought and the development of socialization in order to give humankind the inner vision necessary to thrive in an expanding universe. The original translation into English contained many fundamental mistakes clouding our understanding of Teilhard de Chardin's vision. Sarah Appleton-Weber has based her new translation, which is endorsed by the Teilhard de Chardin Foundation (Paris), on her careful comparison of the four versions of the French text. Poet and scholar Appleton-Weber, who has closely studied Teilhard's essays, letters, and other writing, gives a consistent and coherent voice to this translation of Teilhard's book.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man by Amir Aczel (inge87)
  2. 00
    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Petroglyph)
    Petroglyph: The Alchemist reads like a fairy tale version of Teilhard de Chardin's much more grandiloquent work. Coelho’s “Soul of the World” is very similar to de Chardin’s noosphere, a collective consciousness that all humans are immersed in and that ultimately resolves into God Omega. All is one, all is Love (even valence bonds at an atomic level).… (more)
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» See also 14 mentions

English (15)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Noosphäre und so. ( )
  chepedaja3527 | Aug 23, 2022 |
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin was one of the most distinguished thinkers and scientists of our time. He fits into no familiar category for he was at once a biologist and a paleontologist of world renown, and also a Jesuit priest. He applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect and his great spiritual faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile Christian theology with the scientific theory of evolution, to relate the facts of religious experience to those of natural science.

The Phenomenon of Man, the first of his writings to appear in America, Pierre Teilhard's most important book and contains the quintessence of his thought. When published in France it was the best-selling nonfiction book of the year.
  StFrancisofAssisi | Feb 6, 2021 |
This book has interesting ideas. Some of them I could believe in. Unfortunately, many of Teilhard's arguments are poorly constructed and teleological. His idea of noosphere reminds me of things I've read in works by Hofstadter, which I find very intriguing. But his approach is based on religious motives and his style is that of pseudo-science, so I'll stick with books by Hofstadter, Dennett, Rucker, etc. ( )
  joshuagomez | May 31, 2019 |
The Unifying Evolutionary Drive of Consciousness

"The Phenomenon of Man" by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is an extraordinary visionary book. Written in 1938, it predicted the advent of a so-called Noosphere, a layer of knowledge covering and connecting our planet, which has found a physical expression in the form of today's internet.

The book is mostly about paleontology, how life arose from abiotic material and how life evolved to generate man, who in its turn will lead to a convergence of evolution in what Teilhard de Chardin called the Omega point. This unique vision showing how the one became many and the many will become one again finds a strong resonance in the present day hype of the coming Technological Singularity.

But the book is not merely an accurate overview of the phenomenological aspects of evolution by a paleontologist; Teilhard de Chardin transcends the scientific method in giving a rightful place to the "within" of forms of being. This within is "consciousness" and if life was able to perfect itself to progress from mere physical interactions to sensations and culminating in knowledge of self and environment then this is because there was a conscious awareness associated with it, from the smallest forms of existence onwards.

Teilhard de Chardin therefore a priori seems a panpsychist or rather a pantheist, who pinpoints exactly the sole essence which really counts. But he does not stop there: Evolution has a direction, namely the direction of concentrating consciousness in form, striving towards an apotheosis of knowledge, which gradually is attained by the formation of the noosphere and which will culminate in the theogenesis of the Omega point. But this Omega point is not a simple merger of the drop with the ocean as in Hinduism, which advocates the dissolution of the (false) ego. Rather, the Omega point is the essence of "personalisation" in which the true ego of each living human reaches its pinnacle.

Written in days when totalitarian systems were usurping the power in the world, Teilhard de Chardin recognises that although there is a fundamental and crucial drive in the unifying purpose of such systems, their execution thereof is wrong by the very denial of the rights of the individual. Unification needs to be all-inclusive and lead to an expression of the best anyone can be. From a profound humanitarian point-of-view and not as a matter of exclusion of the weaker, Teilhard de Chardin even anticipates the necessity of eugenics to avoid degeneration of the physical aspects of the species in a world of abundance.

The strange thing is that Teilhard de Chardin was a Catholic Priest and his pantheistic and evolutionary ideas do not only prima facie seem to be contradictory to his religion but were de facto strongly condemned by his Church. Interestingly, Teilhard de Chardin sought to unify these opposing views by stating that the Omega point is not necessarily a future construct, but in fact in a sense is already there as the "Great Presence". He is able to justify his ideas as "Christian" as he reveals a proper unifying drive in all that is, an expression of intelligence and love seeking connection from the smallest particle to the highest creature. Thus his Pantheism is more a Panentheism in which God has both an immanent and transcendent aspect.

This is a book that even today has not lost a grain of its importance but rather is of ever increasing relevance in the light of the rapidly approaching Singularity.

A must read for every contemporary and future oriented philosopher! ( )
  Antonin_Tuynman | Sep 26, 2017 |
This is a difficult book to review, as I wasn't sure what to make of it as a whole. It varies between the brilliant and the confusing, possibly nonsense.
Considering that it was originally written in the 1930s,it starts off very well in giving an overview of the stuff of the universe, and the evolution of complex life, starting from the atom and moving upward through molecular self-replicating units and to ourselves. This is very well informed for its day, and captures the wonder of the world around us, physics, and evolution. Its content, and the excitement of scientific understanding is quite comparable to some of the writing of Dawkins. There are a small number of errors here and there but they are due to the incomplete scientific understanding of that age, and do not mar the gist of the first few chapters.
Where this books starts to really lose the reader is through the use of several new words for concepts that the author is introducing, or his specific use of existing words for strange specialist meanings. Some of these can be justified and aid the understanding, whereas others just serve to confuse the reader, or leave questions as to whether the author is discussing a mystical concept, a philosophical concept, or a scientific concept. Without these problems the arguments presented in this book would have been easier to follow.
What remains though, is that the author was a visionary, including his prediction and discussion of noogenesis and the formation of the noosphere (two of the words he coins here), or in other words the growth of intelligence in a sense as an extension from the physical confines of the human mind, and its encapsulation of the earth. This mirrors in a lot of its details what we have recently seen with the progression of the world wide web or "cyberspace". There are other lines of thought that he reflects on extensively, including the future evolution of the human species, and he was among the first to attempt to tackle many of the difficult questions concerning this. He promotes a global society, without racial segregation, while at the same time seriously exploring ideas of genetic engineering and ethical approaches to eugenics, and technological enhancement (what might be termed transhumanism by some people today). He follows this to an ultimate evolutionary stage that he terms the "Omega Point", some kind of apex of consciousness, spiritual development, social development, etc. This is where the book reaches its peak science fiction levels, possibly straying into mysticism, and I was confused by the argument he put forward to how this all worked. He makes it clear that it is only speculation, but he does speculate very seriously on what to me seemed like quite a tenuous concept.
So, it would be difficult to recommend this book without reservation due to some of its metaphysical aspects which will test the patience of many readers expecting a clearer cut scientific work. Indeed, it was not evident in many places, increasingly toward the end of the book, whether there was anything of substance in some of the discussions due to the obfuscating terminology. However, as a provocation for thought, this book is not in short supply of inspiration, and much worth reading is interspersed among the more tenuous sections. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Feb 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon its publication in France, and some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year — one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.

...

It would have been a great disappointment to me if Vibration did not did not somewhere make itself felt, for all scientistic mystics either vibrate in person or find themselves resonant with cosmic vibrations; but I am happy to say that on page 266 Teilhard will be found to do so.

...

In spite of all the obstacles that Teilhard perhaps wisely puts in our way, it is possible to discern a train of thought in The Phenomenon of Man.

...

I do not propose to criticize the fatuous argument I have just outlined; here, to expound is to expose.

...

How have people come to be taken in by The Phenomenon of Man? We must not underestimate the size of the market for works of this kind, for philosophy-fiction. Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.

...

I have read and studied The Phenomenon of Man with real distress, even with despair. Instead of wringing our hands over the Human Predicament, we should attend to those parts of it which are wholly remediable, above all to the gullibility which makes it possible for people to be taken in by such a bag of tricks as this. If it were an innocent, passive gullibility it would be excusable; but all too clearly, alas, it is an active willingness to be deceived.
added by jimroberts | editMind, Sir Peter Medawar (Jan 31, 1961)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pierre Teilhard de Chardinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Huxley, JulianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lange, Daniël deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If this book is to be properly understood, it must be read not as a book on metaphysics, still less as a sort of theological essay, but purely and simply as a scientific treatise.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a priest , paleontologist and geologist whose highly original publication, LE PHENOMENE HUMAIN, attracted world-wide attention when it was first published. He wrote of the beginnings of our planet, the emergence of life, the birth of thought and the development of socialization in order to give humankind the inner vision necessary to thrive in an expanding universe. The original translation into English contained many fundamental mistakes clouding our understanding of Teilhard de Chardin's vision. Sarah Appleton-Weber has based her new translation, which is endorsed by the Teilhard de Chardin Foundation (Paris), on her careful comparison of the four versions of the French text. Poet and scholar Appleton-Weber, who has closely studied Teilhard's essays, letters, and other writing, gives a consistent and coherent voice to this translation of Teilhard's book.

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Scritto tra il 1938 e il 1940, rivisto e completato soprattutto tra il 1947 e il 1948, Il Fenomeno umano è sicuramente l'opera più conosciuta di Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), gesuita, scienziato e filosofo tra i più discussi personaggi della prima metà del Novecento, sia in ambito laico sia cattolico, letto da scienziati, commentato sia da teologi che da filosofi.

Concepita come divulgazione scientifica, l'opera, pubblicata postuma nel 1955, intende parlare dell'avventura umana nella natura. Ma per analizzare il fenomeno umano nella sua interezza, l'autore ritiene indispensabile innanzitutto analizzare il processo che, secondo la teoria evolutiva che l'autore re-interpreta, ne ha preceduto l'apparizione e lo sviluppo. Non un'opera onniesplicativa sull'essere umano ma, come afferma significativamente lo stesso autore, il tentativo di individuare una legge sperimentale che descriva la capacità della materia di organizzarsi in forme nuove rispetto a quelle presenti nel passato.

Come è noto, su esplicita affermazione dello stesso Teilhard, questo libro non deve essere letto né come un'opera metafisica, né tanto meno come un saggio teologico, ma esclusivamente come una "memoria scientifica" che intende parlare solo del fenomeno, ma anche di tutto il fenomeno. Nell'intenzione dell'autore, infatti, il metodo da lui adottato deve garantire una descrizione scientifica dell'uomo, seguendone coerentemente i legami genealogici nella scala evolutiva che lega l'inorganico all'organico, ma allo stesso tempo deve fornire anche una interpretazione del fenomeno umano come asse e freccia dell'evoluzione. Proprio quest'ultimo aspetto costituisce la parte più controversa e discussa del pensiero teilhardiano in quanto si intreccia inevitabilmente con le meditazioni del filosofo e del teologo, benché lo stesso autore ha cura di specificare di non essersi avventurato in tali spazi. Il suo intento è, almeno nelle intenzioni, di rimanere rigorosamente all'interno di una descrizione fenomenologico-scientifica del posto occupato dall'uomo all'interno della natura. Ma è consapevole del fatto che se, anche in campo scientifico, non si voglia rinunciare ad inserire l'esperienza in un visione estesa alla totalità, gioco forza scienza, filosofia e religione necessariamente convergono, come accade ai meridiani in prossimità del polo. Ciò non significa, per Teilhard, che si confondano, né che cessino di guardare al reale sotto aspetti e piani diversi. Questa distinzione di diverse chiavi di lettura della realtà, se corretta da un punto di vista metodologico, nella prospettiva di Teilhard non prelude tuttavia ad un dualismo ontologico, che confina la scienza alla sola dimensione materiale, alla cartesiana res extensa, ma ad un riconoscimento che anche lo spirito è espressione della creazione e che quindi può, o meglio deve, essere riconosciuto anche all'interno dell'indagine scientifica.
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