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The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game

The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game

Paul Shepard
Foreword by George Sessions
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game
    Book Description:

    In what may be his boldest and most controversial book, Paul Shepard presents an account of human behavior and ecology in light of our past. In it, he contends that agriculture is responsible for our ecological decline and looks to the hunting and gathering lifestyle as a model more closely in tune with our essential nature. Shepard advocates affirming the profound and beautiful nature of the hunter and gatherer, redefining agriculture and combining technology with hunting and gathering to recover a livable environment and peaceful society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4232-0
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    George Sessions

    The 1960s were a tumultuous yet creative decade for America. Along with the human-centered social justice and peace concerns of the civil rights and antiwar movements, the decade also produced a countercultural, “hippie” movement and culminated in the Ecological Revolution. For many who failed to understand the nature and magnitude of that revolution, the “new environmental awareness” amounted to little more than alarm about urban pollution or a reiteration of the utilitarian policies that, under the name “resource conservation and development,” had served as enlightened environmental awareness through most of the twentieth century.¹ For others, however, the shocking awareness that...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xxv-xxx)

    Anyone who enjoys identifying stars in the night sky has learned that the way to see the dimmest points is to look slightly to one side of them. They vanish when focused on directly and reappear when the line of vision is shifted away. This is because the more light-sensitive cells of the retina are found outside the region of the greatest acuity where we normally bring objects into focus.

    Looking obliquely carries with it slightly disturbing feelings, as much psychological as visual. We often say, “Let’s bring the subject up and have a look at it.” But we look...

    (pp. 1-36)

    The dawn of civilization, associated with the first agriculture, is generally seen as a great sunrise before which men lived in a mental and social twilight, waiting, straining to become fully human. We see those vague predecessors as incomplete, with a few crude tools, living days of fear and monotony, nights of terror and discomfort, with a short, brutish existence as the only reward for the struggle to survive.

    Today’s myth of progress and gospel of radical change, orientation to tomorrow and frantic exchange of old things for new are modern only in terms of the whole human span that...

    (pp. 37-86)

    From the standpoint of evolution the more trivial the trait the more recent its origin. All essential parts evolve first, the frills come later. So ancient are the main outlines and concerns of human life that, by comparison, recorded history is short.

    Civilization itself is in part a creation of historical concepts. The two—history and civilization—form a set of self-defining connections. They are related through the myth of progress, which is the sum of changes in themselves and their environment brought about by men with an acute consciousness of the forces of nature, social loneliness, and cosmic isolation....

    (pp. 87-128)

    The popular concept of “man’s rise to civilization” projects for the mind’s eye a dark struggle with a primordial past, in which men were constantly threatened by a hostile world, followed by the greater margin of safety and enlightened institutions of civilization. Pre-historic man stands sentenced to the limbo of savagery by a conventional historical view which is seldom questioned. Briefly, this view holds that the development of agriculture made it possible for people to abandon the nomadic and uncertain life of hunting and gathering, and that they gladly did so, becoming sedentary. Human well-being was improved and society was...

    (pp. 129-174)

    It is widely believed that urban life is more complex than the hunter’s world because it is organized on a class basis, with specialized occupations, while the latter is more egalitarian, and each man and woman is capable of the full range of his or her activities. But town society is only more complex in this sense as the abstraction of an outside observer. It is not more complex from the standpoint of its individual members.

    Urban life has a special kind of sensory opulence in the diverse scenes of human embroilment—in the human stream on the streets or...

    (pp. 175-234)

    It has been said that, because man lacks unusual physical features, he is an unspecialized species, or a generalized animal; that his brain enabled him to modify his behavior or make tools in substitution for biological evolution of the kind that produced the penguin’s adaptations to the Antarctic Ocean or the giraffe’s ability to browse in the treetops while standing on the ground.

    This view was based on a misunderstanding of how specialization modifies particular functions of the central nervous system. Indeed, it was wrong even about physical characteristics: the human skin, foot, eyes, pharynx, heat-regulating system, hand musculature, maturation...

    (pp. 235-278)

    As agriculture replaced hunting and gathering it was accompanied by radical changes in the way men saw and responded to their natural surroundings. Although hundreds of local forms of farming developed, each with its special techniques, they all shared the aim of completely humanizing the earth’s surface, replacing wild with domestic, and creating landscapes from habitat. It is not surprising that the world religions have in common a peasant mythology, a “reality” opposing town and country, wild and tame, man and nature. It is frequently said, even by anthropologists today, that man has always attempted to maximize his share of...

  11. Appendix
    (pp. 281-284)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-302)