Nature and Madness

Nature and Madness

Foreword by C. L. Rawlins
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Nature and Madness
    Book Description:

    Through much of history our relationship with the earth has been plagued by ambivalence--we not only enjoy and appreciate the forces and manifestations of nature, we seek to plunder, alter, and control them. Here Paul Shepard uncovers the cultural roots of our ecological crisis and proposes ways to repair broken bonds with the earth, our past, and nature. Ultimately encouraging, he notes, "There is a secret person undamaged in every individual. We have not lost, and cannot lose, the genuine impulse."

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4233-7
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    C. L Rawlins

    Paul Shepard’s introduction, written in 1982, places this work in its intellectual context: the analysis of human character as a natural phenomenon. But his ideas also have tremendous moral weight. Despite our present environmental destructiveness, he says, we are capable of being good, not just as individuals but as a species.

    Of his many distinguished books, Shepard believed Nature and Madness to be the most important, for its presentation of what amounts to a unified field theory of the human condition. To support this, he draws from a stunning array of disciplines. His research in the fields of biology, genetics,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    My question is: why do men persist in destroying their habitat? I have, at different times, believed the answer was a lack of information, faulty technique, or insensibility. Certainly intuitions of the interdependence of all life are an ancient wisdom, perhaps as old as thought itself, occasionally rediscovered, as it has been by the science of ecology in our own society. At mid-twentieth century there was a widely shared feeling that we only needed to bring businessmen, cab drivers, housewives, and politicians together with the right mix of oceanographers, soils experts, or foresters in order to set things right.


  6. 2 The Domesticators
    (pp. 19-46)

    Of half the time since the beginning of the momentous revolution by which agriculture and village life began to reshape the condition of human existence we know almost nothing of the felt experience. On how the world was seen we have only surmises based on bits of material culture, dug up like fossil imprints of ideas. Archaeology tells us that the first crops preceded the making of cities by about five thousand years. The fifty centuries from here back to that point of earliest urbanity, to the wheel and the advent of writing, embracing the whole tumult of civilized man,...

  7. 3 The Desert Fathers
    (pp. 47-74)

    If ideas have habitats in which they originate and prosper, then the desert edge might be called the home of Western thought. Historically this is common knowledge, for the peoples of the dry landscapes of Egypt, Sumer, Assyria, Palestine, and the Eastern European and Eurasian borders of the Mediterranean Sea fashioned many of the concepts that define Occidental civilization.

    To understand this aridity of culture we must stand apart from the conventions of history, even while using the record of the past, for the idea of history is itself a Western invention whose central theme is the rejection of habitat....

  8. 4 The Puritans
    (pp. 75-92)

    The concepts, illusions, and dreams about nature that mark Protestant thought are not, to me, comprehensible in terms only of the Reformation. Those notions saturate the modern world; its radio preachers, newspaper editorialists, and corporate warlocks alike make pronouncements whose origins are many centuries old.¹ Their premises are creatures of the desert, that silent presence, mute mentor and partner of the church fathers and the obsessional mind, then and now. In this context, too, Greek thinking comes to us in a special guise.

    For Paul, John, Anthony, Ambrose, Augustine, Tertullian, Jerome, and others the desert and desertified landscapes sustained their...

  9. 5 The Mechanists
    (pp. 93-108)

    It is odd, after seventy centuries of city life, that we continue to be uneasy about it and uncertain as to what is wrong. The situation is like those psychological illnesses in which the patient shows a devilish capacity to obscure the real problem from himself. A demon seems to make false leads, so that deliverance requires more of the same, confusing problem and symptom. It is as though traffic, smog, disease, violence, crime, uncaring strangers, dirt, drug addiction, and unemployment collectively provide distraction from something that perhaps cannot be dealt with.

    The city’s central role in harm to world...

  10. 6 The Dance of Neoteny and Ontogeny
    (pp. 109-130)

    In the ideology of recent times—of progress and the self-making of the person and the society, of the ego’s selection of choices of what-to-be, appended to a body—the child is a sac physiologique that is fostered and that grasps or obtains thought and intelligence. Epigenesis is a contrary concept of life cycle (or ontogeny). The person emerges in a genetic calendar by stages, with time-critical constraints and needs, so that instinct and experience act in concert. The mature adult is a late stage in this lifelong series of overlapping and interlocking events: not linear but spiral, resonating between...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 131-174)
  12. Index
    (pp. 175-178)