Hans-Peter Kühn
Samstag, der 29. Mai 2010

„Ideen“ – Peter Watson oder „Vom Faustkeil zu Freud“

Peter Watson gehört zu der exklusiven Kategorie von Autoren, die vor waghalsigen Projekten weder zurückschrecken, noch an ihnen scheitern:

„Dieses Buch hat zum Ziel, all diejenigen Ideen und Erfindungen zu identifizieren und darzustellen, welche eine Langzeitwirkung auf unser Leben und Denken hatten und haben.“

Auf fast 1.200 Seiten bietet der Autor eine Alternative zur konventionellen Geschichtsschreibung, Kaiser, Könige, Dynastien, Feldzüge, Friedensverträge und Eroberungen werden übergangen. Im Mittelpunkt stehen Ideen als treibende Kräfte unserer Historie: Standardisierte Proportionen des steinernen Faustkeils, die beweisen, dass der Frühmensch schon eine Idee davon hatte, was ein Faustkeil überhaupt sein sollte, die Erfindung des Schreibens, der Sprache; Religionen, Reformation, Kapitalismus, Humanismus, Nationalismus, Imperialismus, Naturwissenschaften und Philosophie…

Watsons lebhafter Plauderton entführt uns in das faszinierende, hochgradig spannende Abenteuer des Denkens. Seine Akteure sind Aristoteles, Platon, Thomas von Aquin, Kopernikus,  Spinoza, Voltaire, Darwin…

Der Leser erfährt von Verbindungen zwischen Reformation und Kapitalismus und warum der Orient dem Okzident so weit voraus war und aus welchen Gründen China , Indien und der Islam schliesslich doch von Europa überholt wurden.

„Ideen“ ist ein hochinteressantes Panoptikum der Konzepte, die unsere Welt zu dem haben werden lassen, was sie heute ist. Eine anspruchsvolle Lektüre, die ohne ein gutes Mass an Allgemeinbildung in Geschichte, Philosophie, Natur-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften u.s.w. nur schwer zu bewältigen ist.

Diese Einschränkung ändert jedoch nichts an meiner Empfehlung…

Unbedingt lesen!!!

HPK

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5 Kommentare zu “„Ideen“ – Peter Watson oder „Vom Faustkeil zu Freud“”

  1. Chris Wood (Freitag, der 23. Juli 2010)

    After reading this review, I immediately bought the book, but the English original. Two months later, I have finished reading it, which was very worth while. The content was not quite what I expected. I had assumed that it would concentrate on the ideas which had proved correct, or at least useful. As the author states in his summing up, that would mainly mean scientific ideas. Most religious and philosophical ideas now look highly dubious. But Peter Wilson is an enormously widely-read historian, rather than a natural scientist. So 70% (I guess) of the book is about religion and philosophy. After all for a great part of the period covered, most people who could write were priests.
    As I pointed out, http://if-blog.de/en/cw/ethik-nach-dem-humanismus/, modern philosophy begins with Darwin. Until Darwin almost everybody assumed a very special place for humans in the world. So his work undermined the old philosophy, as well as religion.
    As well as taking an atheistic view of things, Peter Wilson describes Freud as a charlatan, but one who has still had considerable influence.
    Peter asserts that the three most influential ideas in history were the soul, the idea of Europe, and the experiment. This seems strange. Even experiments were not always needed for science. Many discoveries came just from careful observation, (consider Darwin).
    Peter seems no great expert on maths or natural science. He confuses differentiation with integration, and explains logarithms badly. He covers the invention of decimals and zero, but I do not remember seeing anything about negative, real or complex numbers, or about π or e. He is badly wrong about the length of the pseudo-winter caused by the eruption of MountToba. I think he exaggerates the problem of how the brain works. It is certainly a serious challenge for science to find this out, but it is not something that needs a new approach to science. He takes too seriously the ideas of Roger Penrose on this. Incidentally, Penrose is mainly a mathematician, not a physicist as Peter states.
    The book includes a useful index of people and places, but why not one of ideas? I don’t know whether it improved in translation. Despite my quibbles it is a good buy.

  2. Chris Wood (Sonntag, der 25. Juli 2010)

    By the way, I see that my copy has 822 sides, rather than the 1200 of the German translation. Can this be the normal expansion in translation, or has material been added, (or perhaps the English sides are larger)?
    The author writes (side 648 in my copy) that around 1800 a circumference of the Earth was calculated with error “less than eight pages of this book”. He does not write whether he means length, width, or thickness, and he forgets that page sizes may change.

  3. rd (Sonntag, der 25. Juli 2010)

    Hi Chris, hast Du nicht gewusst, dass englische Texte im Durchschnitt immer deutlich weniger Zeichen haben als ihr deutsches Pendant? Das merkt man z.B. auch beim SMS-Schreiben.

  4. Chris Wood (Montag, der 26. Juli 2010)

    Hi Roland, of course I knew that, but a 45% increase is much more than I have usually seen.

  5. hans-peter kühn (Sonntag, der 8. August 2010)

    Hi Chris,

    I’m just back from a wonderful rain, wine, beer and friendship soaked holiday in Bavaria.

    Thank you for your comments which I take for a valuable contribution to my review. Let me strongly recommend Watson’s “A Terrible Beauty” which I reviewed earlier under the german title “Das Lächeln der Medusa”. It starts where “Ideen” ended.

    Thank you for pointing out that english books use less signs than the german translations. It’s just another argument in favour of reading the original versions, that’s what I do anyway in most of the cases.

    Best regards

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