Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Twenty years ago, when I completed my first manuscript, I found myself in the midst of a dilemma. My work was based on a definition of the word play that could only be properly understood through a complete reading of the book: readers needed to know at the beginning the use of a word they could only comprehend once they had been through the entire work. ...

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1. To Thine Own Self Be True

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pp. 17-45

On a daily basis, the most fundamental problem of human existence is that individuals are called upon to make choices with insufficient knowledge about the consequences. No matter how long one lives or how wise one becomes, one finds oneself in the same dilemma: one needs to make a decision, but the outcomes of the various possibilities remain unclear. ...

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2. The Production of the Gods

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pp. 46-78

The laws of beauty work themselves out in human lives in any number of ways. When people are fortunate, they discover the means through which to compose their lives in pleasing ways, and novels such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being express the richness of this everyday dimension of the laws of beauty. ...

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3. The Principle of Taste

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pp. 79-106

The laws of beauty work themselves out in lives in a variety of ways. At their best they provide people with the pleasing rhythms they most deeply desire. At worst, they offer the most fearsome creation of the gods out of our desperate desire to restore the rhythms we have lost. ...

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4. The Frenzy of Regret

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pp. 107-139

Kundera’s laws of beauty, Kant’s archetype of taste, and Dickinson’s art of soulmaking all point to the processes on the basis of which human lives unfold when they are provided fitting contexts in which to express themselves. In the best of cases, even unpropitious circumstances can be overcome by individuals who learn to focus ...

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5. Demonic Possession

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pp. 140-169

Once one begins to relate the laws of beauty to the archetypes of taste that produce the collective violence that is also central to human existence, one is engaged in the most difficult of inquiries because there is no easy way to distinguish between the archetype of taste that produces concord and the one that produces the dissolution of order. ...

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6. The City of Demons

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pp. 170-182

If humans are devoted to the production of an idea of taste that can never be completely rendered, if individuals are bedeviled throughout life by the question of whether they are the instrument of good or evil spirits, then Czeslaw Milosz’s poetry is the consummate expression of our age. ...

Index

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pp. 183-190