Ideas [NOOK Book]

Overview

Peter Watson's hugely ambitious and stimulating history of ideas from deep antiquity to the present day&#8212from the invention of writing, mathematics, science, and philosophy to the rise of such concepts as the law, sacrifice, democracy, and the soul&#8212offers an illuminated path to a greater understanding of our world and ourselves.

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Ideas

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Overview

Peter Watson's hugely ambitious and stimulating history of ideas from deep antiquity to the present day&#8212from the invention of writing, mathematics, science, and philosophy to the rise of such concepts as the law, sacrifice, democracy, and the soul&#8212offers an illuminated path to a greater understanding of our world and ourselves.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061800306
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 848
  • Sales rank: 1,272,114
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Peter Watson has been a senioreditor at the London Sunday Times, a New York correspondentof the London Times, a columnist for theLondon Observer, and a contributor to the New YorkTimes. He has published three exposés on the world ofart and antiquities, and is the author of several booksof cultural and intellectual history. From 1997 to 2007he was a research associate at the McDonald Institutefor Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

Ideas

A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud
By Peter Watson

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Peter Watson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060935642

Chapter One

Ideas Before Language

George Schaller, director of the Wildlife Conservation Division of the New York Zoological Society, is known to his fellow biologists as a meticulous observer of wild animals. In a long and distinguished career he has made many systematic studies of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, mountain gorillas and hyenas. His book, The Last Panda, published in 1993, recorded many new and striking facts about the animal the Chinese call the 'bearcat'. He found that on one occasion a sick panda had gone freely to a human family in the Wolong area, where it was fed sugar and rice porridge for three days, until it recovered and returned to the forest.1

In the late 1960s Schaller and a colleague spent a few days on the Serengeti plain in Tanzania, East Africa, where they made a simple observation which had escaped everyone else. In the course of those few days, they stumbled across quite a lot of dead meat 'just lying around'. They found dead buffalo, the butchered remains of lion kills, and they also came across a few incapacitated animals that would have been easy prey for carnivores. Smaller deer (like Thompson's gazelles) remaineduneaten for barely a day but larger animals, such as adult buffalo, 'persisted as significant food resources' for about four days.2 Schaller concluded from this that early humans could have survived quite easily on the Serengeti simply by scavenging, that there was enough 'ruin' in the bush for them to live on without going hunting. Other colleagues subsequently pointed out that even today the Hadza, a hunter-gathering tribe who live in northern Tanzania, sometimes scavenge by creeping up on lions who have made a kill and then creating a loud din. The lions are frightened away.

This outline of man's earliest lifestyle is conjectural.3 And to dignify the practice as an 'idea' is surely an exaggeration: this was instinct at work. But scavenging, unromantic as it sounds, may not be such a bad starting-point. It may even be that the open African savannah was the type of environment which favoured animals who were generalists, as much as specialists, like a hippopotamus, for example, or a giraffe, and it is this which stimulated mankind's intelligence in the first place. The scavenging hypothesis has, however, found recent support from a study of the marks made on bones excavated at palaeontological sites: animals killed by carnivores do show tool marks but fewer than those butchered by humans. It is important to stress that meat-eating in early humans does not, in and of itself, imply hunting.4

There are two candidates for humankind's first idea, one rather more hypothetical than the other. The more hypothetical relates to bipedalism. For a long time, ever since the publication of The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin in 1871, the matter of bipedalism was felt to be a non-issue. Following Darwin, everyone assumed that man's early ancestors descended from the trees and began to walk upright because of changes in the climate, which made rainforest scarcer and open savannah more common. (Between 6.5 million and 5 million years ago, the Antarctic ice-cap sucked so much water from the oceans that the Mediterranean was drained dry.) This dating agrees well with the genetic evidence. It is now known that the basic mutation rate in DNA is 0.71 per cent per million years. Working back from the present difference between chimpanzee and human DNA, we arrive at a figure of 6.6 million years ago for the chimpanzee-human divergence.5

Several species of bipedal ape have now been discovered in Africa, all the way back to Sahelanthropus, who lived six to seven million years ago in the Djurab desert of Chad and was close to the common ancestor for chimpanzees and humans.6 But the human ancestor which illustrates bipedalism best is Australopithecus afarensis, better known as 'Lucy', because on the night she was discovered the Beatles' song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' was playing in the palaeontologists' camp. Enough of Lucy's skeleton survives to put beyond doubt the fact that, by 3.4 to 2.9 million years ago, early humans were bipedal.

It is now believed that the first and most important spurt in the brain size of man's direct ancestors was associated with the evolution of bipedalism. (Most important because it was the largest; there is evidence that our brains are, relative to our bodies, slightly smaller now than in the past.) 7 In the new, open, savannah-type environment, so it is argued, walking upright freed the arms and hands to transport food to the more widely scattered trees where other group members were living. It was bipedalism which also freed the hands to make stone tools, which helped early man change his diet to a carnivorous one which, in providing much more calorie-rich food, enabled further brain growth. But there was a second important consequence: the upright posture also made possible the descent of the larynx, which lies much lower in the throat of humans than in the apes.8 At its new level, the larynx was in a much better position to form vowels and consonants. In addition, bipedalism also changed the pattern of breathing, which improved the quality of sound. Finally, meat, as well as being more nutritious, was easier to chew than tough plant material, and this helped modify the structure of the jaw, encouraging fine muscles to develop which, among other things, enabled subtler movements of the tongue, necessary for the varied range of sounds used in speech. Cutting-tools also supplemented teeth which may therefore have become smaller, helpful in the development of speech. None of this was 'intended', of course; it was a 'spin-off' as a result of bipedalism and meat-eating. A final consequence of bipedalism was that females could only give birth to relatively small-brained offspring--because mothers needed relatively narrow pelvises to be able to walk efficiently. From this it followed that the infants would be dependent on their mothers for a considerable period, which . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Ideas by Peter Watson Copyright © 2006 by Peter Watson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : the most important ideas in history - some candidates 1
Prologue : the discovery of time 12
Pt. 1 Lucy to Gilgamesh : the evolution of imagination
1 Ideas before language 21
2 The emergence of language and the conquest of cold 39
3 The birth of the gods, the evolution of house and home 53
4 Cities of wisdom 73
Pt. 2 Isaiah to Zhu Xi : the romance of the soul
5 Sacrifice, soul, saviour : 'the spiritual breakthrough' 99
6 The origins of science, philosophy and the humanities 123
7 The ideas of Israel, the idea of Jesus 149
8 Alexandria, occident and orient in the year 0 171
9 Law, Latin, literacy and the liberal arts 199
10 Pagans and Christians, Mediterranean and Germanic traditions 217
11 The near-death of the book, the birth of Christian art 242
12 Falsafah and al-Jabr in Baghdad and Toledo 258
13 Hindu numerals, Sanskrit, Vedanta 282
14 China's scholar-elite, Lixue and the culture of the brush 297
Pt. 3 The great hinge of history : European acceleration
15 The idea of Europe 319
Pt. 4 Aquinas to Jefferson : the attack on authority, the idea of the secular and the birth of modern individualism
16 'Half-way between God and Man' : the techniques of papal thought-control 339
17 The spread of learning and the rise of accuracy 363
18 The arrival of the secular : capitalism, humanism, individualism 388
19 The explosion of the imagination 406
20 The mental horizon of Christopher Columbus 424
21 The 'Indian' mind : ideas in the new world 441
22 History heads north : the intellectual impact of Protestantism 458
23 The genius of the experiment 474
24 Liberty, property and community : origins of conservatism and liberalism 496
25 The 'atheist scare' scare and the advent of doubt 512
26 From soul to mind : the search for the laws of human nature 527
27 The idea of the factory and its consequences 550
28 The invention of America 572
Pt. 5 Vico to Freud : parallel truths : the modern incoherence
29 The oriental renaissance 589
30 The great reversal of values - romanticism 606
31 The rise of history, pre-history and deep time 624
32 New ideas about human order : the origins of social science and statistics 646
33 The uses and abuses of nationalism and imperialism 660
34 The American mind and the modern university 687
35 Enemies of the cross and the Qur'an - the end of the soul 703
36 Modernism and the discovery of the unconscious 718
Conclusion : the electron, the elements and the elusive self 735
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 42 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(31)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 21, 2012

    Excellent book on History from the perspective of ideas and thei

    Excellent book on History from the perspective of ideas and their development.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Gave broad perspective

    This book was well written and provided a broad perspective. I especially enjoyed the section on the Scientific Revolution. There is some controversy in interpreting this time period that i learned by reading this book. By blending history with explanations of science, it helps to put ideas into perspective.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If you liked The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out,you'll love Ideas!

    I read Ideas-and I found every moment of it fascinating. I enjoyed reading The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman just as much,so read Ideas if you enjoyed reading The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2014

    Kenny

    Nothin'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2014

    Jared

    Mmkay

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2014

    Logan

    Hey.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Idea POST

    How bout a warship fanfic like you r on a ship that is suddenly attacked and nearly scuttles?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Hawkie

    Well...I don't know much about warships so it may be boring to write....

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Jadestone, Lightshadow, and Vapoursecret's idea

    We create a place to plot things to make it interesting. Like one of us could rp a badger or other natural predator that will attempt to attack camp. Or a cat could go 'besark' and try to take over the clan. Or something. Anyway, we should have place to plot these things and perhaps activities so that camp isn't constantly boring. Perhaps we can have a game that we play daily or semi-daily or something. Tell me what you think. Just curious before I bring it up to Couragestar to perhaps even suggest at the next gathering. We need more correlation with the other Clans as well...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    GREAT book

    I enjoyed this book so much :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Briarkit

    ((Actually, can you do one about K.K attacking WingClan again? This time they are trying to take over the camp so they have more territory. All of the WingClan cats ((like Luckywish, Me, etc.)) Does that sound good?))

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    ShrewFangs idea

    Names: <br>
    BumbleHawk, ReeseStripe, Hawthorne, BlackStorm, GreyClaw, Sagestorm, ScoutPaw, TalonStar, EchoScreech, Lionpaw. <br>
    Female names: <br>
    Tridantpaw, MurcyWave, Swamppaw, SeaLuck, Lovedash, RainDust, BlueMoon, SilverFeather, Softpaw, Cheerpaw, LightPaw. <p>
    Plot: <br>
    Its a cold Leafbare for *ClanName* and *Leader* is getting more concerned for his dieing clan. The other clans must be rational with prey, they must share. But one day, destruction hits the clans. Cats are killed....it was the day of the Ice Scare. When ice shards suddenly came from the sky...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    MEN

    Come in naked and pee on everything and everyone

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    Twilight Suns¿I have an ad.

    Hello im Twilight Suns, a vampire & i started a vampire rp at vampire result one. Post ur description at result two. You join automatically. You dont have to ask. Thanks. |~•Twilight Suns•~|

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    I HAVE SOME ADS

    Orphanige center we need orphans.join blazeclan and wedge resut 1 NO POWERS AT ALL.medcat needs a clan go to herbs(make aure you add the s)result 1

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Julie

    Thnx.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Cole

    Um hello anyone on

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    <3

    <3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    I have the best idea etr

    A the idea

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2012

    Metalclaw

    This is the worst idea I have ever heard. If we do go through with this, some people will simply ignore this and keep in the Clan they have now, or make more. This is a circle we have been argueing about for a very long time, and the Clans have never changed. I think change will simply push some others to rebel and make this problem worse. No matter how long some people say there should only be four Clans, the majority of us rprs will argue to stay in the ones we have now. Again, this is a meaningless arguement that will never be resolved.
    -Metalclaw

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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