Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life

By Douglas V. Porpora | Go to book overview

Introduction

If you tear the heart away from God, to whom will you then commit it? Tell me this. Soulless is the person who has been able to tear his heart away from God for a single moment.

Rumi

Let me begin with two personal anecdotes, each of which illustrates what this book is about and why I came to write it. I am a college professor, and both anecdotes relate to experiences in my classroom. Both, I believe, have wider significance.

I teach sociology, and on one occasion I asked my students whether or not they considered capitalism to be exploitative.

“It depends on your point of view,” my students said.

I was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” my students replied, “if you were a worker, you would probably say yes, and if you were a capitalist, you would probably say no.”

I pressed them further. “Well, what do you think?”

“We think,” my students replied with finality, “that it's all relative to your point of view.”

I am known by our students as one of the “campus radicals,” as one who does not like capitalism and who does think it is exploitative. Yet, I do not believe my students were just trying to avoid disagreeing with me. I am also known as a teacher who encourages discussion and who enjoys

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Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Landscapes of the Soul *
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Caterpillar's Question 25
  • Chapter 2 - The Further Geography of the Soul 57
  • Chapter 3 - The Emotional Detachment from the Sacred 95
  • Chapter 4 - The Meaning of Life 131
  • Chapter 5 - Heroes 167
  • Chapter 6 - Callings, Journeys, and Quests 201
  • Chapter 7 - Resources of the Self 237
  • Chapter 8 - Communities of Discourse 273
  • Chapter 9 - The Human Vocation 297
  • Appendix A - Theory 311
  • Appendix B - Tables 313
  • Notes 317
  • References 335
  • Index 347
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