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Western thought, writes Clarence Glacken in this magisterial, highly influential study, centers on three questions: Was the earth made for a reason? Does the earth shape human life? How have humans affected the earth? Tracing these three questions in turn deep into antiquity, Glacken shows how varied the answers have been. Aristotle, for instance, argued that there was purpose in nature, with each thing created for the benefit of something else--especially humans. Christian thinkers extended Aristotle's ideas, although, as Glacken warns, it is incorrect to assume that this presupposes a hostility toward or indifference to the natural world. Glacken closes his tome with the advent of modern science, when theological questions gave way in large measure to more modest, empirical questions of form and process. --Gregory McNamee
"Through a highly interdisciplinary framework, Glacken relates social and natural phenomena to the supposed dichotomy of man and nature. . . . Containing a wealth of data and new approaches to the story of the development of human society, the account is absorbing and thought-provoking."--"Choice