While I like Pan's Travail for the most part, I want to make a comment on Hughes credibility. Everything was fine until the 4th chapter, especially pages 52-59. I had trouble getting through it because of Hughes' reliance on secondary sources and the inferences that he pulls from them. I began to get a bit frustrated after reading sentences like "Thus he may have attempted to distinguish matter and energy as the primal entities" (p 58). This is the conclusion to a paragraph and a about the greek philosophers pointing to a lodestone and its attraction for iron. I'd say Hughes' conclusion is a sssstttttttttrrrrrrrettcchhhh. Another frustrating sentence: On page 56 Hughes says "though the nonceramic painting of the greeks is almost completely lost, it can be deduced...that it included portrayals of nature." Deduced? How many of them? The majority? One or two? What were the others of? I'd say this is not a very high quality point, and probably deserves little more that a sentence of analysis, let alone a whole paragraph. For most of the chapter I felt like many of the ideas were stretches so that Hughes could prove a point. (For more, check out the section on the orgin of the word pollution, views toward it, and most importantly, Hughes's interpretation on page 52.) I think a good editor would have improved the quality of this chapter greatly.
Aside from bringing in a skeptical editor, Hughes probably shouldn't assume things that cannot be based on fact. For example, on page 53: "Ancient religion recognized the essential oneness of humankind with nature" after which Hughes goes on to imply that all the ceremonies and gods that have to do with nature are the human desire to be closer to nature. I disagree. I think that all of these rituals and gods that have to do with nature are simply an expression of the human desire to explain the universe, regardless of how high or what type of a regard they hold nature. Once again, 7th inning stretch status.
I'm probably making far to big a deal about this, and I hate to pick apart a book like this that is full of information and logical thought. But it is important to remember that you can't believe all statements at face value, and some ideas in this book should be taken with a couple grains of salt.
A tiny thought on something Professor Tantillo said in lecture today: The use of modern things in historical disney movies. If I understood correctly he was trying to imply that this is a current example of primitivism in the past, and that primitivism had no beginning and is a constant throughout human history. Well, that may be the case, but I think that disney writers throw in familiar things with no motive other than so 5 year olds can relate to what is going on in the plot. As if the catchy tunes aren't enough. : )
OOOOOOOkkkkkkkkkkkkkk Have a good day folks....