Paul Shepard is one of the most profound and original thinkers of our time. He has helped define the field of human ecology, and has played a vital role in the development of what have come to be known as environmental philosophy, ecophilosophy, and deep ecology -- new ways of thinking about human-environment interactions that ultimately hold great promise for healing the bonds between humans and the natural world. Traces of an Omnivore ...
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Traces of an Omnivore

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Paul Shepard is one of the most profound and original thinkers of our time. He has helped define the field of human ecology, and has played a vital role in the development of what have come to be known as environmental philosophy, ecophilosophy, and deep ecology -- new ways of thinking about human-environment interactions that ultimately hold great promise for healing the bonds between humans and the natural world. Traces of an Omnivore presents a readable and accessible introduction to this seminal thinker and writer.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Paul Shepard has addressed the most fundamental question of life: Who are we? An oft-repeated theme of his writing is what he sees as the central fact of our existence: that our genetic heritage, formed by three million years of hunting and gathering remains essentially unchanged. Shepard argues that this, "our wild Pleistocene genome," influences everything from human neurology and ontogeny to our pathologies, social structure, myths, and cosmology.

While Shepard's writings travel widely across the intellectual landscape, exploring topics as diverse as aesthetics, the bear, hunting, perception, agriculture, human ontogeny, history, animal rights, domestication, post-modern deconstruction, tourism, vegetarianism, the iconography of animals, the Hudson River school of painters, human ecology, theoretical psychology, and metaphysics, the fundamental importance of our genetic makeup is the predominant theme of this collection.

As Jack Turner states in an eloquent and enlightening introduction, the essays gathered here "address controversy with an intellectual courage uncommon in an age that exults the relativist, the skeptic, and the cynic. Perused with care they will reward the reader with a deepened appreciation of what we so casually denigrate as primitive life -- the only life we have in the only world we will ever know."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book presents 17 previously published essays by the late Shepard The Company of Others, a long-time leader in the fields of human ecology and environmental philosophy. In each piece, from slightly varying perspectives, he attempts to answer the same two questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Shepard claims that our evolutionary heritage, shaped by our three-million-year history as hunters and gatherers, remains largely intact, making it impossible for us to separate ourselves from nature. Indeed, he interprets many of our social activities, such as dining rituals and the telling of fairy tales, as substitutes for more ancient ones. Despite a prolific publication record, Shepard is not well known. In the introduction, Jack Turner says that this, in part, is because "Shepard's books are formidably intellectual, devoid of nods to popularization." This collection demonstrates this point perfectly. A couple of the essays"The Corvidean Millennium; or, Letter from an Old Crow" and "Advice from the Pleistocene"are a joy to read. The others are largely impenetrable. Nov.
Kirkus Reviews
If you want to cure the many ills afflicting our species, take your cues from our ancestors in the Pleistocene. That's the counsel Shepard (Thinking Animals, 1978, etc.) offers in these provocative if esoteric essays.

Shepard was long a stalwart in the field of human ecology; indeed, he pretty much defined that field and influenced its offspring, ecophilosophy and deep ecology. Here is a gallimaufry of his writings, "iotas of debris," as Shepard humbly refers to them, from journals obscure and rarefied, concerning the corruption of the human animal. For Shepard, our society is no longer sane, due to our warped relationship with the natural world. We are, in our hearts and genes, hunters and gatherers, Ice Age primates hot-wired for the wild. As we have tried to slough off this life, pathetically domesticating ourselves, we have jettisoned what was subtle, complex, and unique in our ancestors. Shepard argues against every facet of our present existence, from the way in which we raise our children to our inability to bond with wild creatures, from our postured distaste for hunting to our lack of wonder. He bumps into all sorts of figures as he goes his garrulous way—Martin Heidegger, Edith Cobb, Ortega y Gasset—and can spin a delightful tale, as in his wonderful inventory of the iconography of the bear. And though one might rightly gibe Shepard for moments of abstruseness (it is hard to imagine our ancestors in the Pleistocene jawing about the "adolescent cosmosizing process"), one of the highlights of this collection is its distillation of Shepard's often highly recondite books. He suffers no fools: If you can't get ontological, don't bother to apply.

Radical, indelicate, opinionated, and dauntingly learned even at their most outlandish, Shepard's ideas on humanity's true place in the environment are well worth mulling over.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610913966
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1996
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 255
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Paul Shepard was Avery Professor of Human Ecology Emeritus at Pitzer College and the Claremont Graduate School. Among his books are Thinking Animals (Viking, 1978), Nature and Madness, (Sierra Club, 1982) and The Others (Island Press/Shearwater, 1995).

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Table of Contents

The Ark of the Mind 3
Animal Rights and Human Rites 11
Phyto-resonance of the True Self 27
Bears and People 33
Searching Out Kindred Spirits 47
On Animal Friends 51
The Corvidean Millennium; or, Letter from an Old Crow 75
Place and Human Development 87
Place in American Culture 93
Ecology and Man - A Viewpoint 111
Advice from the Pleistocene 123
The Philosopher, the Naturalist, and the Agony of the Planet 127
Hunting for a Better Ecology 135
If You Care about Nature You Can't Go On Hating the Germans Like This 145
Virtually Hunting Reality in the Forests of Simulacra 153
A Posthistoric Primitivism 165
The Wilderness Is Where My Genome Lives 215
Acknowledgment of Sources 223
Index 225
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