Author Topic: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)  (Read 3890 times)

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Offline janusroad

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Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« on: May 27, 2008, 11:46:26 AM »
Has anyone read this book, and what was your impression of it. I haven't read read in years but I feel like a lot of it was pseudoscience
« Last Edit: May 29, 2008, 03:52:12 AM by Apeiron »

Offline cerveauxfrits

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Re: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2008, 12:07:51 PM »
I haven't read it in years, either.  I don't remember it making any scientific claims so I wouldn't say it could really be described as pseudoscientific, but I wasn't a huge fan of the Luddite-ish philosophy it promoted.

Offline moj

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Re: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 05:45:47 PM »
I read it many years ago and liked it at the time, but yes it was probably filled with woo. I was living with hippies and smoking a lot. who doesn't want to read and ponder the idea of wicked smart chatty gorillas? But I don't remember enough about the message to comment any more.

Offline cerveauxfrits

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Re: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 06:03:38 PM »
Here's what I remember as the gist of the book:

It divides human society up into two categories:
  "Takers", which are basically any agrarian or post-agrarian 'civilized' culture.
  "Leavers", which is everyone else - essentially, tribal hunter-gatherer cultures.

Takers supposedly see Man as the pinnacle of creation and nature as a thing to be dominated.  Leavers live in harmony with the world.  I think it also presents the Biblical story of Cain and Abel as an allegory where Cain symbolizes the takers and Abel the leavers.

Obviously, Quinn thinks that leaver culture is superior.  One of the undercurrents I read from the book is that taker culture is destroying the world, and if we don't want to destroy ourselves and take much of creation with us, we need to abandon our domineering attitude and return to the worldview that he argues is held by more tribal societies.

Offline Lagnath

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Re: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2008, 12:51:49 PM »
I read this at a friends suggestion not too long ago. There are a number of criticisms that come to mind.

1. The book divides everyone into either takers or leavers, as if it's an impossibility for people to fall somewhere in between.

2. The book goes to a whole lot of trouble to disguise some parts of it's message. This is a tactic of quite a few "christian" books and it's a tactic I really don't like one bit. Anyone who needs to veil their message for 90% of a book then suddenly reveal the "real" names of the players in the book at the last minute is suspect.

3. As a corollary to point #1, the book is a HUGE lesson in the false dichotomy logical fallacy.

4. The book is one of a number of "scholarly" sources in the recent past who have started humping privative societies. It seems to come and go in popularity over the years. It's become very very popular to make these people lives seem "perfect" and "in balance". Where after all criticisms of how horrible it is to live like these people are brushed off without any deep consideration.

I have to leave for a lunch appointment but I'll post more later, if I remember/ have time.

Offline cerveauxfrits

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Re: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2008, 01:36:59 PM »
Not to mention that the book was dripping with . . . I don't know what to call it.  Tribal fetishism?  Y'know, like where a lot of folks who have had essentially no direct involvement with any American Indian cultures but can still tell you all about their deep and profound relationship with nature.

I've always suspected that what they were professing had more to do with their own utopian dreams being projected onto the proverbial Other than anything else.

Offline bjza

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Re: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2008, 03:37:44 PM »
Quinn's books certainly aren't any sort of pinnacle of philosophy, but I must say that, personally, they opened my eyes to species- and culturally-biased ways of looking at the world that even my modicum of scientific training hadn't been able to erase. Despite the preachiness of the book, it accomplishes one of the things great sci-fi is supposed to: show us our society from a complete outsider's point of view.

As a novel, I may have preferred The Story of B, but I may be a few too many years removed to really say. I only read those first two and Beyond Civilization.

Offline musteion

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Re: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2008, 04:28:00 PM »
I thought it was interesting... as far as it goes. You can get a more straightforward rendition of his thoughts in The Story of B, and skip some of his more annoying literary devices from the first book.

As for his philosophy... it reminds me of Ayn Rand in that it sounds nice until you try to imagine putting his thoughts into practice.  Quinn would like to un-ring the bell of technology and mass production, and I don't think it's probable, even if it were possible.

Offline Iconoclast

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Re: Daniel Quinn - Ishmael (1992)
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2008, 03:31:07 PM »
I thought it was interesting... as far as it goes. You can get a more straightforward rendition of his thoughts in The Story of B, and skip some of his more annoying literary devices from the first book.

As for his philosophy... it reminds me of Ayn Rand in that it sounds nice until you try to imagine putting his thoughts into practice.  Quinn would like to un-ring the bell of technology and mass production, and I don't think it's probable, even if it were possible.

Have to agree wtih bjza and musteion on this mostly (but I kind of enjoyed the literary devices- at least when I read it years ago).  Here is a whopper for you: I credit this book for turning me into a true skeptic.  The books premise was so opposite of my Republican-free markets solve all-nature is for our taking-perspective of the time, but in a reasonably convincing way, that I was forced to question my world view.  While I can't agree with Quinn's conclusions once extrapolated, it was an eye-opener in terms understanding naturalism vs a human-centric world.  Reading it caused me to seek out skepticism in order to stop assuming [what I know, am told, or observe is true] and start proving.  When I read it (years ago), I didn't think it a philosophy as much as an observation of "how we got to where we are" and definitely not a prescription for the future (like Rand).  Having just finished Guns, Germs and Steel, I don't think Quinn is too "out there" in terms of describing human progress, but the premise is flawed to a degree at several levels.
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