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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
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on October 15, 2002
I read this and loved it. Afterward, it occurred on me that I wouldn't be able to find anything as good for quite a while so I immediately read it again. Sure its about the intertwined relationship of our perceptions, language and the environment. I expected that. What I didn't expect and was very surprised by was how, after reading 80 or so pages, I walked outside and the world looked very different, much more alive and involving than before. I think that maybe after a new kidney or heart for the sake of a transplant, this may be the best present I could get. Its a great primer for folks lost in the muck of analytic philosophy about the world they live in. And for the people that don't care about philosphy, its like a wonderful love letter to the earth. This book rocks. I am anxiously awaiting the next book from David Abram. I've been waiting for about 4 years now. Dave, are you listening? We want another book. Thanks.
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on April 24, 2002
"The Spell of the Sensuous" is one of the freshest, most enlightening and insightful books I've ever read. As I turned each page I kept saying to myself, "amazing;" amazing in its wisdom, amazing in its expression, and most amazing that it has not yet received a Pulitzer Prize. David Abram, whose uncanny perception and deep understanding and appreciation of life, coupled with eloquent and inspiring presentation, has produced a significant and beautiful piece of literature for now and for all times. And it couldn't have been written at a better time, when the suffering world is examining its misplaced priorities and seeking the insight for understanding our connectedness, our interdependence, our oneness. Abram has cast his spell with brilliance and perfection. Under it, the readers and seekers are inspired in their quest.
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on June 18, 1998
David Abram argues persuasively that the alphabet and written language have alienated us from the world in which we live. He compares our platonism, which imprisons intelligence and subjectivity within humans and denies them to other creatures, to the animism of oral cultures, which regards all beings as intelligent subjects. The alphabet, invented by Semites and perfected by the Greeks, was instrumental in this great change. The knowledge and wisdom that our ancestors learned from other creatures we now find in the printed word. Abram, an ecologist and philosopher now living in New Mexico, says we are intelligent, subjective beings because we are part of an intelligent, subjective universe. The unfinished task he leaves us with is to reconcile the beauty of the written language of books with the living language of our environment.
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on March 12, 1998
Our graduate Micro-Sociology Theory course used this as one of the texts, along with Mead's Mind, Self, and Society, and Reynold's Symbolic Interactionism. I really enjoyed Spell of the Sensuous, it was a refreshing, creative evalution. His writing style was a very appropriate fit with the content. His eloquent pleas are convincingly supported. I'll be rereading this book (although my copy is falling apart already!) with great enthusiasm. This truly is an interactive experience between the reader and the text! I did not rate this a 10, as his theory does not always withstand scrutiny. Abram is not a sociologist by profession, but his observations, explanations, and predictions seem very plausible and on-target. This is a great interdisciplinary application. Highly recommended.
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on October 5, 1999
A fascinating odyssey through the mind, first with the philosophical viewpoint of phenomenology which at last tries to describe reailty as it shows itself to us/itself and the perspective of the other both indigenous peoples and animals and plants. At times lyrical and deeply personal and at others academic it nevertheless doesn't let go of the connection it forms at the beginning with tales of Abrams life. One feels that the experience of the world so honestly told throughout the book at times, provide the true wonder evident in Abrams life. It is a pity more of these experiences were not forthcoming. It reminds me of the answer given by a Zen student in Japan when asked about his practice : "the world is so beautiful you almost can't stand it"
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on January 25, 2011
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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on September 2, 1998
This book was a pleasure to read. Skillfully written, reading it was a sensuous experience in and of itself. The content and the references are of high quality. On the down side, there are several repetitive passages throughout the book. Nonetheless, I recommend the book wholeheartedly. Also, as a companion piece, consider reading Kieran Egan's "The Educated Mind." Egan writes about the development of intellectual tools--somatic, mythic, romantic, philosophic, and ironic. Abram's covers the somatic and mythic tools quite well. Egan cover's the whole set at a higher level but with less focus. Together, the two books complement each other nicely.
D. Wesley
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on January 12, 1999
Every time I looked up from the pages of this book, I saw the world in a new light. David Abram claims that the invention of the modern alphabet drastically altered the way we see and interact with our environment. He backs this up with evidence from his own experiences in Indonesia and Nepal, and with studies done by anthropolists around the world. Each idea is well supported by the one that comes before and flows naturally into the next. Despite the potential for this to be a 'heavy' work, it is written with a graceful and light touch. Even today, images that David Abram crafted shine in my memory like a happy dream.
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on August 2, 2001
Few books have the power to change the way we experience our existence, but this book opens up vast new horizons. Among other virtues, it includes an uncommonly accessible presentation of the key ideas of the phenomenological philosophers Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Most amazingly, it provides an approach to understanding the human mind that somehow manages to be both abstract and very concrete. It is a compelling guide to the inner and outer worlds that we inhabit, prodding us toward a richer participation in the possibilities of those worlds.
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on September 4, 1997
Abram has woven many abstract, complex ideas into this wonderful book. His concepts of participation, of a reciprocity between the inanimate (as well as animals) and humans, of a tension and exchange, helped me solidify many concepts I found seeds of in fiction books. He never comes off as tacky New Age or bored academician -- everything presented in this book is sincere, thoughtful, and thoroughly engrossing.
The book bogs down slightly in the latter stages, as he discusses the nature of language, and his tone is on even keel throughout.
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