The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World

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by David Abram
     
 

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David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language,

Overview

David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language, which—even at its most abstract—echoes the calls and cries of the earth. On every page of this lyrical work, Abram weaves his arguments with passion and intellectual daring.

"Long awaited, revolutionary...This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it."—Los Angeles Times

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
How did Western civilization become so estranged from nonhuman nature that we condone the ongoing destruction of forests, rivers, valleys, species and ecosystems? Santa Fe ecologist/philosopher Abram's search for an answer to this dilemma led him to mingle with shamans in Nepal and sorcerers in Indonesia, where he studied how traditional healers monitor relations between the human community and the animate environment. In this stimulating inquiry, he also delves into the philosophy of phenomenologists Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who replaced the conventional view of a single, wholly determinable reality with a fluid picture of the mind/body as a participatory organism that reciprocally interacts with its surroundings. Abram blames the invention of the phonetic alphabet for triggering a trend toward increasing abstraction and alienation from nature. He gleans insights into how to heal the rift from Australian aborigines' concept of the Dreamtime (the perpetual emerging of the world from chaos), the Navajo concept of a Holy Wind and the importance of breath in Jewish mysticism. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This is an interesting, if impossible to classify, book; Abram is a philosopher, magician, and essayist (of the Utne Reader type); this book grew out of his explorations of magic and sorcery in indigenous cultures and the relationship between magic and the natural world. Where he leads the reader after this is tough to summarize: Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Balinese sorcerers, origins of the alphabet, Kant, Newton. Word by word this is readable and connected to a fascinating thesis: that our perceptions grew from the natural world around us, and we can "return to our senses" and be reinvigorated, reformed, by the experience. While serious readers of ecology will likely have their ideas expanded and challenged by Abram, it is more likely that his work will be of greater interest to students of philosophy, ethnography, and anthropology. Literate readers and academic collections in the philosophical sciences are likely audiences; the book is probably too ambitious for most general readers.-Mark L. Shelton, UMass Medical Ctr., Worcester

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679776390
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1997
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
164,416
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

What People are saying about this

James Hillman
"I know of no work more valuable for shifting our thinking and feeling about the place of humans in the world."
Gary Snyder
"This book by David Abram lights up the landscape of language, flesh, mind, history, mapping us back into the world."
Bill McKibben
"A landmark book....David Abram has written the best instruction manual yet for becomming fully human."

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The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Few works command the senses of the reader as this one does. I feel the world Abrams describes. I can smell the air after it rains. I can see the delicate silk of the spider. I can taste the earth as I can see the imagary between the words. I am now reading the bibliography and using the material as a source for an even greater understanding of the world around me. David has proven that Dr Doolittle exists in us all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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