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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop with the negativity
Well, I just finished reading this book for the first time a few days ago. I was presented with an idea that had never been brought fully to my senses. I personally am going through a huge mind change in my everyday life... not all credit goes to this book, but much of it can. Those who say all this hub-bub about the author being a poor writer and being an arrogant SOB...
Published on July 4 2004 by Nails

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars False Analogy Part Deux
First off, does the book deserve 1 star? In my humble opinion no it does not. It deserves maybe 3. Why only the one? Shear force of weight. I am simply trying to be somewhat of a counter balance. I approached this book expecting great things or at least substantial things. And let us begin and end there. No substance. Many arguments are arguments of False Analogy, but...
Published on April 30 2002 by michael_gorka


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop with the negativity, July 4 2004
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
Well, I just finished reading this book for the first time a few days ago. I was presented with an idea that had never been brought fully to my senses. I personally am going through a huge mind change in my everyday life... not all credit goes to this book, but much of it can. Those who say all this hub-bub about the author being a poor writer and being an arrogant SOB therefore his book is not worth reading, (which those who criticize in this way are being arrogant in the first place; ie. contempt and disregard) really does not change my mind about this book having significance. The reason i think arrogance comes across is because of the importance of the issue... i don't think it is because of self-importance as some have suggested. I think the author is just trying to raise awareness about a big problem. With that being the goal lets see if these negative Nelly's who take all the flaws that they have assumed the author has made can get off their high horse of intellectual supremacy and get down to the basic principles being taught here. If you evaluate anything that is said by anyone it is all propaganda (if i understand the words meaning) to each ones own will... so lets stop with those remarks as well. To tell you the truth I just wanted to write this review to keep those darn smart people from discouraging us regular people from reading this book. I'm sure it has things that someone might disagree with and I'm sure some might think that they are much too smart to be fooled in such a dogmatic way, but the objective of this book- which i believe it achieved - is simple..... SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE. And you cannot argue with that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars False Analogy Part Deux, April 30 2002
By 
"michael_gorka" (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
First off, does the book deserve 1 star? In my humble opinion no it does not. It deserves maybe 3. Why only the one? Shear force of weight. I am simply trying to be somewhat of a counter balance. I approached this book expecting great things or at least substantial things. And let us begin and end there. No substance. Many arguments are arguments of False Analogy, but there are other fallacies in there too. False Dichotomy, Begging the Question, False Cause, Hasty Generalization... Just to name a few. I urge you to look up the definitions of these fallacies and then reread the book. The book appeals to common sense, elucidated via analogy. Unfortunately the analogies themselves are flawed. I want so much to embrace a proverbial smack down on pop culture, but this book does not even begin to give real ammunition to do so. Many things in this book are over simplified. And there is an air of absolutism, but this is somewhat begging the question; what mechanism does one use to discern the absolute nature of what Ishmael is teaching? Do we use the "myth" of "Mother Culture" to absolutely discern the flaws of "Mother Culture"? The same mechanism we used to create this culture is the mechanism we are appealing to to dismiss it. Perhaps the method is flawed. Maybe we weren't asking the right questions. Maybe the sum of our knowledge is incomplete and thus appealing to known laws, like gravity, is incomplete. This book is food for the masses. To question just one simple Ishmael analogy. If building civilization out of accordance with the Natural Law of Competition is parallel to attempting to defy the Law of Gravity, then by following the analogy thus are there corollary Laws in civilization to the Laws of Aerodynamics which allow us to circumvent the Law of Gravity. If modern civilization is akin to a non flight worthy aircraft what represents the pilot? What represents the controls? Who built the machine? Based on what model? What represents the cliff we jumped off of? Are some cliffs bigger than others? What is the exact force that is propelling us to which analogous ground? What is the amount of energy produced from the collision between our non flight worthy craft and the proverbial ground? What is the proverbial ground? Now maybe your immediate reaction is that I am picking nits. I agree. That is the problem with analogy though. For elucidation great, but you can't base an argument on analogy without embracing the whole analogy. We need more substance. We need more reliable methods of achieving answers. I love every chance to bash cultural myth, but I need more meat than this. Also the book mentions a reference to Zero Sum Economics, fallacy. In economics if I take more it does not mean less for others. Wealth is created not merely existing and redistributed.
Remember all you people who claim to love it. You are basically making the same argument that Scrooge was making in Dickens. "Why not let them starve and decrease the surplus population." I'm not saying that's a bad idea. I'm just saying if you wanted to beat up Scrooge so he could smell the festive truth of humanity when you read or saw A Christmas Carol then try to be at least a little consistent. And for those of you who say Quinn was not saying that. pg 138 "...Because the population is never allowed to decline to the point at which it can be supported by it's own resources..." Allowed to decline means starving to death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but far from perfect, April 29 2002
By 
Travis J. Mcdermott (Malibu, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
Like some others in here, I would actually rate this book a 3 or 4, but since when I check out a book one of the first things I read are the negative reviews, I thought I'd throw my $.02 in here. For those who insist that this book "doesn't back up assumptions with facts" or that it's "just another new age diatribe" I'd suggest following up a reading of Ishmael with Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" which not only won a Pulitzer, but backs up nearly everthing Quinn postulates about "how things came to be this way."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If it feels good, write it., March 12 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
This is an interesting book in that it indicts human civilization for covering up a 'true' cultural history and for being creative rational beings. I wouldn't mind if the author attempted to back up the thesis with solid evidence or at least good analysis, but the author attempts to convince the reader by invoking wishful environmentalist thinking while showing a lack of understanding of biological, ecological and physical processes. I kept wishing that the human questioner would have taken one course in environmental biology and studied just a bit of physics. Then, instead of asking 'Gee Whiz!' style questions of the ape, he could have grilled him. That would have been interesting! Of course, many would argue that the scales haven't fallen from my eyes yet - that just by criticizing it shows that I didn't get it. If you dislike the cold glare of logic, analysis and reason, and are more interested in basking in the warming glow of sociological anthropology and emotion, read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking but ultimately incorrect, Aug. 23 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
I did not give this book three stars because of its plot, characters, etc., because this is less a novel than a logical argument. I gave this book three stars because, although it is very thought provoking, I think the logic is fatally flawed. Here are a few examples:
1) One of Ishmael's basic assumptions is that humans are just like any other animals in the natural environment. Apparently reasoning ability doesn't really count for anything. In my opinion, some kind of cultural expansion is inevitable for a rational species. When you become rational, you realize that food equals survival and that death means permanent absence from this world; therefore, you work to get as much food as possible and prolong your existence as much as possible. And if hyenas could reason, I'm pretty sure they WOULD eradicate their lion competitors to get more food. They're not acting out any unbreakable law of nature; they just haven't figured out that fewer competitors means more food for them.
2. He says that only our current Taker civilization is assimilative and aggressive. What about Chinese culture? They had an agricultural society which assimilated many other cultures in Asia before they even saw an Indo-European (Taker).
3. Apparently he's insinuating that the widespread Leaver agricultural society in ancient Europe was the "correct society" that was advanced but not assimilative. Why was it widespread, then? A culture begins in a certain location and, as he states, other peoples are usually not happy about adopting a new culture. It seems to me that a culture must be assimilative to be widespread, so his argument about this prehistoric culture does not seem compelling.
4. He says that the agricultural civilizations in North America (Aztec, Inca) abandoned their way of life when they realized it was "against the law." Actually, they were probably wiped out by smallpox and Spanish conquistadors. And they were definitely assimilative; the Aztecs and Incas both subjugated many surrounding tribes.
Of course, an Ishmael devotee would accuse me of being a slave to Mother Culture. This is another problem I see with this book's logic: it is stated in such a way that any logical counter-argument can be dismissed as the product of cultural brainwashing. However, Ishmael apparently didn't realize that many of his ideas are not radically anti-Western, but rather commonplace among environmentalists and postmodernists.
I must admit that this novel is very thought-provoking; for example, Ishmael's interpretation of Cain, Abel, and the Garden of Eden is very interesting. However, it didn't even come close to changing my life as it has apparently changed others, because the logical flaws were just too great.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thuoght-provoking, Dec 14 2013
By 
Andrew Brown "BusinessCaster" (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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How often do you read a book that causes you to re-examine the fundamentals assumptions you live by? Well, Ishmael is one of those rare books that does so -- but in an entertaining, inventive, and entertaining way. It will spark creative thinking and fun conversations.
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3.0 out of 5 stars okay read, April 21 2012
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
Ishmael is an ape, an intellectual ape. This ape proceeds to teach a college professor through telepathy about evolution, the environment and philosophy.

While some of the ideas were interesting and worthwhile, some were repetitive to say the least and some were downright condescending. Some of these themes are well-founded and others just plain silly as is a gorilla chewing on a stick and pontificating.

I am an average person and would say this is an average book. This book will not dramatically change my life unlike evidently untold others. This book was made for the philosophy and environmental professors of the world. An okay read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outcast or Lost Heirs, Aug. 15 2003
By 
Girija Karamcheti (Claremont, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. This book by Daniel Quinn has gone through several publications, and remains an underground classic. Quinn asks philosophical and ethical questions about the place of humans in the world and creates an intriguing perspective to make the reader ask these questions. He turns the roles of teacher and student, human and animal, man and nature, upside down and forces us to view the question of our place in the world by making us stand on our heads.
The Title alludes to meanings with which we are all familiar. Ishmael, the first son of Abraham with his slave, who is later thrown out of his father's home, has come to symbolize social outcasts. "Call me Ishmael" says the hero of Moby Dick, who represents the motley crew searching for the Great White Whale. So who is Ishmael? In Quinn's book he is a teacher who is looking for a student. He is also a primate, a gorilla looking to share his wisdom and thought with a human willing to listen.
Each word in the Title gives a clue to the subject. This book is indeed an Adventure, an allegory about the human condition and our place in the environment. Are we the intentional outcast who has endangered all other life forms? Who are we? This central question is explored in a series of Socratic dialogues with a perspective that keeps us always looking with new eyes at old questions. The questions challenge our Mind and the effort to imagine a dialogue between a gorilla, our primate cousin, and a human, engages the Spirit.
This book is for anyone interested in the relationship of man in the environment and for anyone wondering about the relationship of humanity to all life. It would make a great book for high school and college students, who seem more aware of our perilous future as a species. I found it a unique and thought-provoking book; like having an interesting conversation with a stranger.
I rate this as one of ten most interesting books I have read.
Daniel Quinn has written a sequel called My Ishmael where a young girl is the student who engages in Socratic dialogue with our gorilla teacher. He has written several other books on similar issues for those who would like to read more about these questions with an intriguing perspective.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Before you flip past this review, give me a chance., Dec 5 2003
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
Before ever reading Quinn's work, I had already heard much gushing about it. Being the uber-liberal that I am, it seemed likely that this book would fit me like a handtailored suit.
But this is not the case. The thing is, Quinn makes a lot of interesting points and often times in very novel ways. But even as such there is a degree of ease and glossiness to his opinions that the issues he covers do not deserve.
Analogy is the main method of myopia here (mine of course, is aliteration) and this maybe a primary selling point, and failing, of the book. It is important to note that analogy is an extremely good way of getting ones point across, but not as good away of shedding optimum light on complicated subjects.
With Quinn, some pretty complex stuff gets boiled down to some pretty simple (yet beautiful) stories. And this is where Quinn loses me. I think he is on the right track more often then not here, but sometimes he can't see the forst for the trees. This is ironic because this a very large point made in the book.
I suggest reading Ishmael, but remember that a good reader should act as a filter, not a sponge.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An insult to your intelligence, July 15 2002
By 
This review is from: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Paperback)
If you're thinking of reading this book, it's probably because you're an intelligent and thoughtful individual who enjoys quality literature that challenges you intellectually while engaging you emotionally. Which means this book would be a waste of your time.
"Ishmael" is not, despite its categorization as fiction, a novel. It is a work of philosophy, and a poor one. Its central tenet - that human beings, through their total disregard for the world around them, are destroying the Earth and its non-human inhabitants as well as each other - is true enough, but it's also obvious to any halfway thoughtful or literate person. Its secondary tenet, that the media portrays the subjugation and destruction of the Earth's wildlife and environment as an inevitable product of civilization, is almost as trivial. If the book has a tertiary tenet, it's that people in general are so stupid that they need to be told this stuff, and that they need to be told it repeatedly, in language appropriate for casual conversation with a fifth-grader.
What else is wrong with this book? Well, it's based on the ridiculous premise of a telepathic ape who lives in an office building and bestows his wisdom on the protagonist, which makes the whole story seem like something Kurt Vonnegut might have written as a joke, if he were capable of writing this badly. The protagonist (if a novel with no story could be said to have a protagonist) is one of the least intelligent characters I've come across in a novel. Presumably this is an excuse for the ape to repeat his teachings, again and again, as if they're in some way revolutionary.
So what's *right* about "Ishmael"? Why did it win a prestigious award, and why have so many reviewers - professional as well as Amazon-based - given it high marks? Well, as philosophy books go this one is unusually easy to read and understand. As novels go, it has more of a social conscience than most (although, as I've said, this social conscience is poorly expressed and destroys the book's value as literature). The things "Ishmael" says are true and valuable and might be interesting if they were expressed more thoroughly and in a less patronizing manner. It's not a *bad* book, really. I wouldn't call it a waste of paper. It's just wildly inappropriate for anyone who might read it. A book like this is going to attract an audience of intelligent, educated people: people who have already learned - through other books, or other people, or their own thoughts - everything "Ishmael" has to teach. The people who should consider reading this book, who might really learn something from it - children under the age of, at most, twelve and anyone who has never had an original thought in his life - are not likely to pick it up. Which, I can't restrain myself from saying, isn't a huge loss.
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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn (Paperback - May 1 1995)
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