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The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Anglais) Broché – 25 février 1997


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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, 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

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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. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index
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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa06b2860) étoiles sur 5 104 commentaires
209 internautes sur 214 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f20336c) étoiles sur 5 Put down your books; learn to read the world around you. . . 15 janvier 2001
Par Ruth Henriquez Lyon - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The Spell of the Sensuous reveals how our Western worldview has evolved to be based on literacy, abstract thought, and separation from the body. By "the body" I mean not just our individual, animal bodies, but the body of the earth and the material cosmos. By removing ourselves from this sensuous realm, we have lost the connection to "the living dream that we share with the soaring hawk, the spider, and the stone silently sprouting lichens on its coarse surface."

There is a paradox here, because Abrams' book exposes the drawbacks of literacy and abstract, logical thinking. But it is itself a piece of very well-argued written discourse. However, it works, and not just because Abrams' arguments are so convincing. Part of their power stems from the fact that Abrams is an artist; he has the gift of using words and imagery that can reach below the logical brain to inspire a more direct way of perceiving the world. The result is a book which is a moving combination of philosophical writing and pure poetry.

Abrams works from a phenomenological standpoint, and the book begins with a discussion of phenomenology's history and major ideas.* This is a readable and unintimidating introduction to the subject. Abrams then proceeds to show how, starting at the time of alphabetization, the Western mind began to grow away from direct physical knowing of the world and toward abstract, conceptual representations. Our language became removed from nature, and helped us to remove ourselves from it and to inhabit an almost entirely human-centered world.

As a counterpoint to the Western use of language, Abrams goes on to show how people in non-literate cultures use language as a way to connect with the body and the physical realm. In these oral cultures language "is experienced not as the exclusive property of humankind, but as a property of the sensuous life-world." In other words, the world--the animals, plants, stones, wind--speaks a language that most of us can no longer hear. Abrams explores indigenous oral poetry and stories to illustrate this entirely other way of experiencing language.

My first reading of this book triggered a conversion of sorts. It spun me 180 degrees, from the world of concepts to the world of immediate perception. I'm on my third reading now and still incorporating teachings passed over previously. I am finding that returning my gaze to the uninterpreted physical world is a difficult practice, as I have been conditioned (like most Westerners) to run my experience through a filter of concepts and judgments. But, like meditation, this practice can help to loosen one's psyche from its "mind-forg'd manacles." For this reason, The Spell of the Sensuous is really a manual for liberating one's inner and outer vision.

*Phenomenology is the study of how we experience consciousness. Unlike many branches of philosophy which rely on arguments built in logical steps, phenomenology is more about how we perceive and feel the immediate play of events around and within ourselves. Thus it is less abstract and more experiential than many branches of philosophy. See [...] for more information.
59 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9ee65540) étoiles sur 5 I'm waiting for his next book 15 octobre 2002
Par Musher X - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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.
38 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f21d4b0) étoiles sur 5 Spellbound -- and also slightly tricked. 14 février 2009
Par Guttersnipe Das - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
David Abram has written an extraordinary book about how we stopped perceiving the world as sacred and came to feel cut off. It's a daring darting mix of ecology, linguistics, indigenous traditions and philosophy. It is also is a book that is remarkably different from chapter to chapter.

The first chapter, about Abram's experiences as a sleight-of-hand magician in Nepal and Indonesia, is lyrical and gorgeous. I admit that I also caught myself thinking, "Dude! I want some of what you are smoking!"

I thought chapter two might advocate wearing amethyst pendants. Not remotely. The next two chapters -- on philosophy and linguistics -- require black coffee and a clear-headed morning. It is exhilarating to watch someone think this way -- like watching a daredevil making leaps over cars -- except the leaps he is making are not sport but the leaps we need to survive on the planet.

Abram investigates the present, the past, the future, and where each can be found in the landscape. He even goes so far as to offer, on page 202, a meditation on how to dissolve time. (Of course I annotated my copy; you never know when you're going to need just this sort of thing.) The last section is about writing, how the Hebrews left out the sacred vowels but the Greeks left us marooned in the abstract. My crude summary does violence to the text. It is exhilarating to read.

Then comes the coda and, a few pages before the end, he says, basically, "This might be true and it might not and what is true anyway? Truth is what heals the planet and falsehood is what harms it." Part of me agreed and part of me felt like the victim of a sleight-of-hand magician. I want my truths to be, well, true and not just gorgeous. The whole section made me feel uneasy.

I do not mean to condemn the book. Not at all. I have told everyone I know to read it -- I want people discuss it with! Abram gave me raptures, lectures, arguments and questions. A beautiful book, well worth wrestling with and re-visiting.
31 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9ffb9d44) étoiles sur 5 language and the walls it generates 5 octobre 1999
Par Frank Bierbrauer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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"
80 internautes sur 91 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par kaioatey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In this elegantly titled book Abrams argues about a "language older than words" - a language of immediacy imbued with connectedness between an (indigenous) person and her environemnt. The landscape talks and sensitive and attuned people listen and hear it speak. Abrams' `ecophenomenology' coincides with a plethora of similarly well-intentioned works that have appeared in recent years.

Abrams shares this basic idea with others - phenomenologists, philosophers, linguists, ethnographers and anthropologists many of whom performed research on indigenous peoples from around the world. For an indigenous person the intimacy between the landscape and the inner space of feeling is rather ordinary and normal, certainly nothing special. That someone has to argue that this communication even exists is, to someone living close to nature almost incomprehensible.

Be that as it may, Abrams quotes other people (indigenous folks and their observers) copiously and not always consistently. His own contribution I find a bit sketchy and perhaps even problematic. For example, he goes to great length trying to shift the blame for the ecological blindness of Western man away from his/her absurd belief in a warlike, genocidal and jealous Hebrew deity onto Greek philosophers and their use of abstract language. This is not a little disingenuous, since it wasn't ancient pagans who wrecked the relationship between the Western World and forces of nature, but rather the fanatic followers of the 3 monotheistic religions blindly marching towards promised salvation. Now the entire planet is paying for soteriological orthodoxy and its distrust of the body and nature.

Perhaps a more serious concern is that although Abrams pays lip service to the indigenous relationship with the landscape, he does this through the prism of his own logocentric viewpoint rooted in Western anthropology and phenomenology (ie, the book is based on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty). Abrams' use of concepts which is ostensibly aiming at disentanglement from the conceptual double-bind(s) reminds me of a fly ineffectually buzzing around spider's web. Apart from the Introduction - which is promising, as it suggests Abrams will use the book to talk about his personal experiences, insights or revelations, the book itself is a brainy, abstract and a superconceptual treatise, I personally had to skip pages as it sometimes simply got too boring. The diametric opposite of SOTS would probably be Jensen's Language Older Than Words - a brilliant personal expose on the same topic which, for reasons unclear to me, received much less attention. Be that as it may, the interest in SOTS signifies that ecophenomenology is here to stay and i personally am happy about it.
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