The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies
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The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  58 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Spanning thirty years of intensive research, this book proves what many scholars could not explain: that today’s Western world must be considered the product of both Greek and Indian thought—Western and Eastern philosophies.

Thomas McEvilley explores how trade, imperialism, and migration currents allowed cultural philosophies to intermingle freely throughout India, Egypt, G...more
Hardcover, 768 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Allworth Press
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This book should be required reading for anyone who's studied both Greek and Indian philosophy. Ultimately its as much a diffusion study as a comparative one, a meticulously researched inquest into the influence these two traditions have had on the other over the last 3000 years. Drawing from abundant sources, McEvilley methodically and eloquently refutes the modern Judeao-Christian viewpoint held by most scholars that the western tradition is logical and scientific while the eastern is mystical...more
I can hardly say enough good things about this book. It is ground breaking, game changing, and so wide ranging I can hardly believe one person could have the time to dig into and compare so many different philosophies and movements that span millenniums. I thought I knew something about Greek and Eastern thought, but I learned a huge amount. New things I took away from the book: The constant intercourse between Greece and India. Strains of philosophies and ways of living that I had no idea exist...more
The implicit assumption made by comparative philosophy is that the terms used in different philosophical systems refer to the same, or similar, underlying concepts. In this sense, the diffusion hypothesis that McEvilley champions--the idea that at times in history ancient Greek and Indian philosophies encountered and influenced each other--is accepted before proven. In many cases the purported similarities McEvilley shows simply may be artifacts of translation. That said, in some cases McEvilley...more
McEvilley exhibits an amazing breadth of scholarship here (which isn't surprising considering the heft of this volume), but there's not always a corresponding depth. As someone who studies Indian and Buddhist philosophy with an interest in East-West comparative work, I have the greatest sympathy for McEvilley's overall project of trying to make the history of ideas more cross-cultural, but I'm not sure he always succeeds in doing what he sets out to do.

I noted two general procedures in the text....more
I only got 10 pages into this book and I do plan to go back to it. So far, while the subject matter is interesting, his approach did not impress. It seemed to me that he he had a political agenda (a politically correct agenda) and gathered hearsay and information to support his claims. He kept quoting Walter Burkett and as I have Burkett's books I decided to go straight to them, rather than to read what McEviley says he says.

As I said, I only got 10 pages into this and I'm sure there's much the...more
Jesse Whyte
He's got some unconventional opinions, but I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. Well documented scholarship. The kind of text I'm likely to return to a few times over the years.
Kjell Anderson
A brilliant book from a brilliant mind. This completely changed my perspective on the origins of philosophy. It also illustrated once again how ridiculously ethnocentric the teaching of philosophy and theory is in most Western universities. McEvilley has the ability to effortless span many fields of knowledge and to see the connections between them.
This book definitely isn't for everybody - it was a very challenging read.
Jun 05, 2012 Matt marked it as to-read
Recommended by Jeff Knapp (friend of James Schrader) in a FB thread discussing the lack of non-Western traditions in US philosophy education, based on this link:

Looks like it could be an interesting way to structure an "Ancient Philosophy" course.
McEvilley's breadth of scholarship is jaw dropping. This book will make you rethink the foundations of "western" civilization. Someday I hope to pick up where he has left off in comparative Greek and Indian philosophy. Truly inspiring.
Fascinating, provocative, and above all, controversial! Take this one with a big grain of salt, but the parallels between Indian and Greek philosophy are striking and probably not coincidental.
Rightly ambitious, but poorly executed. Too many errors and lack of descriptive precision.
Jim Coughenour
Oct 07, 2008 Jim Coughenour is currently reading it
Shelves: classics, thinkingcap
I'll never finish this one – I've been reading it for months.
Aimee J Martin
Adding fuel to my passion of Eastern Philosophy
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