The Seekers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In forty-one short chapters on people who have created the Western intellectual world and the ways they have taught the masses to think about knowledge, Daniel J. Boorstin continues his personal quest to survey the broader historical scene and make it intelligible to the average reader.

Boorstin opens THE SEEKERS: THE STORY OF MAN’S CONTINUING QUEST TO UNDERSTAND HIS WORLD with Moses and the Old Testament God, but his search for intelligible knowledge really begins with Plato, the most delightful of writers and the most dangerous to democratic values. He concludes with Albert Einstein, the least intelligible but among the friendliest to tolerance, forbearance, and humanity (though drawing the line at Nazis and their ilk). He organizes thinkers both chronologically and according to method. First come the prophets, then the philosophers, the churchmen, historians and political philosophers, social scientists, the existentialists, and a group of four moderns (John Acton, Andre Malraux, Henri-Louis Bergson and Einstein) who deviate from traditional patterns to seek meaning in the search rather than in the discovery.

Each mini-biography ties the life story of the thinker to his thought, condensing both to a form and style that can be easily followed by the non-specialist reader. Not for nothing has Boorstin won almost every major literary award available; this volume is, in fact, somewhat easier to read than the earlier two volumes of this trilogy, THE DISCOVERERS (1983) and THE CREATORS (1992). We are all seekers, he says, we all want to know why; and we all use three basic approaches to knowledge: seeking truth from God, from the humanities, and from the social sciences. Today we are more concerned with the questions than the answers, but the search goes on.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, August, 1998, p. 1915.

Library Journal. CXXIII, October 1, 1998, p. 108.

National Catholic Reporter. November 6, 1998, p. 21.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, September 6, 1998, p. 10.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 13, 1998, p. F5.

The Wall Street Journal. September 30, 1998, p. A16.