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Before Philosophy: The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man Paperback – June 1, 1960


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Product Details

  • Series: Pelican
  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014020198X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140201987
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brett Williams on February 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book explains how utterly different ancients were from us in how they saw the world and themselves in it. And how - without assistance by unnatural applications of reason and science - we're precisely the same if allowed to be. It raises questions of how we can possibly save our natural world and truly believe in a spiritual reality if we and the natural world are subjected to modern thinking found to be so successful.
Focusing on Sumer and Egypt we find the ancients didn't separate man from nature. Man was part of society embedded in nature, dependent on cosmic forces. Long before Old Testament declarations of conquest over nature, man was not in opposition. They obviously struggled "against" a "hostile" environment, but this account is our language describing their situation, not their state of mind. Reminiscent of Campbell's clarification between modern and ancient perspectives as "it" vs. "thou", our authors describe this difference as "subject" vs. "object". The ancients had one mode of expression, thought, speech - the personal. Everything had a will and personality revealing itself. They could reason logically but such intellectual detachment was hardly compatible with their experience of reality. Impersonal laws did not satisfy their understanding. When the river doesn't rise, it's not due to lack of rain - the river refused to rise. You'd not hurt yourself in a fall - the ground chose to hurt you, or not. Their view was qualitative and concrete, not quantitative and abstract.
In science we apply a procedure, progressively reducing phenomena until subjected to universal laws. We "de-complicate" systems to understand them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 19, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man: An Essay on Speculative Thought in the Ancient Near East" is one of the books which shaped views of the Ancient Near East for serious-minded students during the whole second half of the twentieth century -- although not all its readers may immediately recall it as having that title. If you check its product page, you will see that Amazon gives it the date of 1977, but this refers only to the trade paperback edition, with some bibliographic updating. It was in fact first published, under that title, in 1946, as an "Oriental Institute Essay." The list of contributors was extremely impressive -- in fact, only one doesn't have that badge of modern celebrity, a Wikipedia article. (And I assume that the addition to that list of H.A. Frankfort, better known professionally as the art-historian Henriette Groenwegen-Frankfort, is just a matter of time.)

However, it was for almost three decades better known as "BEFORE PHILOSOPHY: THE INTELLECTUAL ADVENTURE OF ANCIENT MAN," a slightly-abbreviated mass-market paperback edition released in 1949 by Penguin Books, under their Pelican imprint, and kept in print into the 1970s. This was the version I encountered in High School, and re-read in its entirety several times over the decades. Many readers will probably find it quite satisfactory, if a used copy can be found at a reasonable price.

The main difference between the two editions was the omission by Penguin of William A. Irwin's forty-page treatment of "The Hebrews," a competent piece of work, but containing few if any surprises for readers acquainted with the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"). This left a few comments in the Introduction (by Henri and H.A. Frankfort) without support from the rest of the volume, but otherwise probably wasn't missed.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nazani VINE VOICE on August 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is exactly the antidote to all the current attempts to rewrite history. I wish every person attending divinity school would have to read this, before they start lying about how Christians invented morality and ethics.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Seel on May 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
everything ok. So i can give a recommondation for the one who sold the book or for the plant that sold it
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