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The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World Paperback – Feb 25 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (Feb. 25 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776390
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.2 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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LATE ONE EVENING I STEPPED OUT OF MY LITTLE HUT IN THE rice paddies of eastern Bali and found myself falling through space. Read the first page
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16 2004
Format: Paperback
I heard the author in a spirited public debate between him and biologist E.O. Wilson a couple years ago, at the old Town Hall in Boston. The mutual respect between the two men was palpable (perhaps because they are both outspoken advocates for wild nature). Yet they hold richly contrasting views regarding human society and its relation to the earth. Abram's eloquence there moved me to order this book. Upon reading it I was, in a word, stunned. It's easily one of the most important works I've come upon in thirty years of serious reading.
A few of the reader reviews below are absurdly off the mark. One of them claims that the book is anti-science. That's simply inane; I'm a working biologist, and can avow that this book is entirely consonant with the best of contemporary natural science. Indeed "The Spell of the Sensuous" got a rave review in "Science" (the journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science). Here's a brief excerpt from that review: "A truly original work. Abram puts forth his daring hypothesis with a poetic vigor and argumentative insight that stimulate reconsideration of the technological commonplace...With Abram anthropology becomes a bridge between science and its others." (Science, vol. 275)

In any case, this is a book that NEEDS to be much more widely known. (I've just read it a second time, and I'm still reeling at the implications.) A bunch of other reviews by a range of well-known thinkers are printed in the paperback edition. I'll copy them here, since they give a fine sense of both the depth and the span of Abram's book:
"This is a landmark book.
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By mad on May 1 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was suggested to me by my dissertation director. I don't hesitate to suggest it to everyone!! It's an education in itself.
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Format: Paperback
Despite aboriginals being so sidelined on our society, haven't you been curious about their stories? what they mean? how it is to operate in the world without being literate and how it may affect your worldview? This book dives really deep...

It is absolutely incredible how we have taken the written word, literacy, as such a leap of human develepment. Yet where has this 'development' got us? Look around. The world is crumbling. Maybe literacy is just a tool like a knife: used to fillet a fish or to kill a fellow man...

David Abram makes you wonder: what is progress? what is time? what is truth?

If you seek enlightenment in the crazy, impersonal world we live in - READ THIS BOOK.
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By A Customer on Aug. 6 2003
Format: Paperback
...detailing the way academic philosophy can be adapted and shaped to aesthetics and lifestyle, or an appreciation of nature. Some very nice insights, and very nice desciptions of natural/cultural processes. I would mainly recommend this to academic philosophers who never get out in the sun.
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By A Customer on Aug. 1 2003
Format: Paperback
I just read the last page of Spell of the Sensuous and I am eager to read more. Having spent the summer studying western philosophy-- I found this book engaging. If the goal of philosophy is to help us make sense of the world around us and to help us strive to be "better humans" this book suceeds in a way that is urgent for the times. We have made great strides in language and science and mathmatics, but we must return from the abstract to the sensuous if we are to survive as a species.
Abrams' premise is that the development of the alphabet created an abstract world which became the foundation of western philosophy and religion, and that our involvement in this abstract world allowed us to separate ourselves for the first time from the natural world, eventually leading to this moment in time when we have all but forgotten our connection to nature.
I was especially moved by Abrahams definition of truth, that all our truths are false if they result in destruction of the planet. We must become aware of the reciprocality of the relationship we have with other living and nonliving things, including the very air we breathe.
How compelling to read that the very air for indigenous and early communities was considered sacred, connecting all living creatures with the world around them and with the creator,then to consider the relationship contemporary culture has with the invisble air, not as the breath of God, but as a dumping ground for pollution.
This book contains the framework for a new way of thinking about ourselves in the world. At the very least, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to encourage an awakening of the senses. Through poetic prose, Abrams calls us outside of ourselves into a more vibrant and living world.
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Format: Paperback
There is much talk these days about a paradigm shift. I certainly hope that this is true. We really need one. And if there is, I am convinced that this book will be looked back on in the years to come as the most significant book of our times. It will be viewed as the book that cemented the shift.
I didn't think I would ever find a book like this. It not only gives beautiful expression to a world and a world of thought that I had come to think as irretrievably extinct, but it does it with so much power and background knowledge drawing with clarity and precision from many fields that are normally viewed as distinct disciplines (Philosophy, Anthropology, History, Linguistics) and puts it all together into a whole that is certainly greater than the sum of it's parts.
But it is also far more than an academic tour de force. David Abram is a magician in more than one sense. This book is itself truly a piece of magic.
For anyone who cares about planet earth, nature, mankind and our future, this book is an absolute must-read! Sure, some people will misinterpret it or read into it what they want. Maybe even reject it's basic premise outright. But if any book has the power to turn our thinking around (which I believe must happen for us to survive), this is it. Or at least, it's a fabulous start.
Good work, David!
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