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The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature Hardcover – Oct 30 2006


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The Veil of Isis is profoundly original in design. Pierre Hadot is both an eminent historian of philosophy and a philosopher himself. Both sides of his interest are evident in this outstanding study, in which the argument develops historically and analytically.
--Brian Stock, Professor of History and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto

In The Veil of Isis Pierre Hadot, an eminent authority on Neoplatonic philosophy, addresses the exploration of nature in Western thought across more than two millennia. His mastery of a wide range of literature, philosophy, iconography, and technology from antiquity to the present reveals unsuspected links of thought and image throughout the long process of uncovering the secrets of nature. In a brilliant finale Hadot brings the whole evolution into conjunction with the many-breasted Artemis of Ephesus, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and the Freemasons. The book is a dizzying tour de force that would be the envy of a modern Plotinus.
--G. W. Bowersock, author of Mosaics as History

Decidedly, with this new book of a rare richness and clarity, about which he says he has been thinking for more than forty years, the philosopher... gives evidence of an tireless spirit of exploration.
--Roger-Pol Droit Le Monde des Livres

Pierre Hadot's The Veil of Isis is an extremely ambitious work, giving us an account of the evolution of man's attitude towards, and understanding of, nature from antiquity down to the present day. It is a very significant contribution to our understanding of this important topic­-and it makes for good reading.
--Michael Frede, Professor Emeritus of the History of Philosophy, Keble College, Oxford

[Hadot] is an extraordinary guide to the history of the idea of nature from Heraclitus to now. You will find yourself in the company of a wise Greek, a pagan, a philosopher who believes that a role of philosophy is to teach us how to live.
--Ian Hacking (London Review of Books 2007-05-10)

Again and again sparks fly as Hadot reveals the enduring fascination of nature's mystery.
--Tom D'Evelyn (Providence Journal 2007-07-29)

This very learned book displays an enormous scholarship and yet is a fascinating read.
--Robert J. Dostal (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007-03-25)

[Hadot] has written a remarkably insightful book on the theme of the secrets of nature and their significance for the history of science and ideas about nature. First published in 2004 by Editions Gallimard, it is now available in English through Michael Chase’s adept and eloquent translation...Of particular interest to historians of science will be Hadot’s conception of the Promethean attitude and the mechanization of nature...Hadot’s analysis is significant for its focus on Nature as female both in reality and as metaphor during the Renaissance and early modern era...[W]hatever view the reader may hold of the rise of science or of the consequences of the Promethean attitude, The Veil of Isis is a rewarding voyage through a multitude of texts, illustrations and historical figures that brings a set of complex and often contradictory ideas into a clear and compelling argument.
--Carolyn Merchant (British Journal for the History of Science 2008-07-01)

Pierre Hadot, professor emeritus of the Collège de France, has written a remarkably insightful book on the theme of secrets of nature and their significance for the history of science and ideas about nature. First published in 2004 by Editions Gallimard, it is now available in English through Michael Chase’s adept and eloquent translation...Of particular interest to historians of science will be Hadot’s conception of the Promethean attitude and the mechanization of nature...The Veil of Isis is a rewarding voyage through a multitude of texts, illustrations and historical figures that brings a set of complex and often contradictory ideas into a clear and compelling argument.
--Carolyn Merchant (British Journal for the History of Science)

About the Author

Pierre Hadot is Professor Emeritus, Collège de France. His books include Philosophy as a Way of Life and Plotinus.

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Trembling of the Veil Nov. 10 2012
By toronto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is about 2/3 of a great book, which is still very good. Hadot is a very well known French philosopher of a not post-modern kind, and writes very clearly (and the translation by Michael Chase is beautiful). The book is a survey of the theme of penetrating the secrets of nature, and it is surprising how much mileage the author gets out of the idea. The first 2/3 of the book is spectacular, handling a range of ancient sources with aplomb and care. After that, it sort of winds down, and becomes spotty in dealing with the 19th and 20th centuries. I don't usually want books bigger, but this one should have been. The dealings with Heidegger and Nietszche, though interesting, are really just sketches for arguments that need a lot more material and discussion; the same with the Romantic poets. The Orphic approach to Nature doesn't really come off: it needed a lot more work. Nevertheless, I learned a lot. One hardly reads anything as ambitious as this, and carried off.
28 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Nature as a Mythopoetic matrix April 2 2009
By Luca Graziuso and Marina Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There is much in Hadot's The Veil of Isis to ponder and appreciate: the scholarly vein, the invaluable insights, the clarity of presentation, the sensibility of the philosopher and the ethical intrigues that art haunts us by. This is the best book on such matters since Joseph Campbell and Lewis Hyde have written on the subject, as it manages to expose analogies and interpretive intuitions that will lend you an intent to create more through art, literature and self-discovery than ever before. The ethics of the subject are unveiled with distinction and a verve that makes philosophy exciting, mythology pertinant, and the epistemic realm of nature a poetic art that enchants and inspires. Highly recommended.
With very best Christmas Dec 5 2014
By hortulan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
everything - book and service - was OK. With very best Christmas wishes
5 of 35 people found the following review helpful
seminal ideas, oh my! Oct. 31 2011
By Jemima McFarland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book charts important territory that was brilliantly explored, as the authors note, by Carolyn Merchant in her Death of Nature. I almost gave up on this volume at once, due an ominously careless reference at the beginning (Thorvaldsen was not Swedish), but the material is vital and the approach appealing so I persisted and can offer two quotes to illustrate where the thinking goes afoul:
First,"[t]he Promethean attitude, which consists of using technical procedures to tear Nature's "secrets" from her in order to dominate and exploit her, has had a gigantic influence. It has engendered our modern civilization and the worldwide expansion of science and industry." (p. 101) Yes, folks, it is our 'attitude" that changes the world, not an expanding population's need to utilize limited resources! Thought, not necessity, is the mother, or rather the father, of invention!
Second, there are not-so-veiled imperatives of sentiment that warp the procedure of the thought:
"The Christian character of this mechanistic revolution of the seventeenth century cannot be overemphasized." This, we are told, is because that revolution "echoes God's exhortation to Adam and Eve to "Subjugate the earth."" (pp. 129-30). Nevermind that 'subjugate' is not a translation of the Hebrew, that one line does not a story make, and that said mechanistic revolution caused contemporary Christian theologians to wail in dismay; if we desire to jump on the bash-religion bandwagon, let us lose no opportunity to ride, however intellectually far-fetched.
Again, this is an appealing approach to important material, and represents fascinating scholarship. Ultimately, however, the thinking is hasty and even irresponsible at times. Regretfully, I laid it aside midway, for life is short.


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