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The Reckless Mind


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Mark Lilla's celebrated collection of essays exploring the role of philosophers in political life, now with a new afterword by the author, will be releasing simultaneously with Lilla's new collection The Shipwrecked Mind, also forthcoming from New York Review Books.

About the Author

Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities at Columbia University and the author of The Stillborn God: Politics, Religion, and the Modern West and the forthcoming collection The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction (September 2016).


"A skilled exploration of why notable 20th-century European philosophers and intellectuals -- figures such as Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault, among others -- had at times succumbed to what [Lilla] calls 'tyrannophilia, ' a narcissistic embrace of totalitarian politics, assuming that tyrants would put their big ideas into action." --Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post

"The essays that make up Mark Lilla's book . . . are driven by his sense of disappointment, a lover's kind of disappointment, that such profound and influential minds should have been so politically insouciant when confronted by the hectic barbarity of the 20th century. . . . Lilla has a gift for nimble exposition, and each study in his collection is illuminating, often revelatory." --The New York Times Book Review

"Mark Lilla is today the leading intellectual commentator in the United States on European thinkers and ideas. . . . He understands them better than they are understood in their own countries. And often better than they understand themselves." --Die Zeit

"This is important. Lilla's short, elegant and readable book is about what happens when philosophers get tangled up in the real world. It is also a matter of recognizing that the world is in the shape that it is because of the influence of the most rarefied of minds." --Nicolas Lezard, The Guardian, Paperback of the Week

"Lilla's accessible, summary look at eight 20th-century thinkers is a compilation of cautionary tales...shrewd advice...a very canny book showing us how not to think and chew politics at the same time." -- Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"As Mr. Lilla ably shows, what is common to these thinkers is a rejection of political philosophy. They deny the possibility of a patient, sober and rational exploration of political possibilities. And even when they become disillusioned with specific tyrants--Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Khomeini--they continue to reject political moderation and balanced analysis." --Daniel J. Mahoney, The Wall Street Journal

"'Lilla has a gift for nimble exposition, and each study in his collection is illuminating, often revelatory, ' Sunil Khilnani wrote here in 2002." -- The New York Times Book Review

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