Animism and the Ancients: Native Americans and Western Progress
This essay argues that a particular, scholarly misinterpretation of foundational texts of Western culture foists on these texts a notion of progress that cannot legitimately be found in them. The texts are those of the Milesians. The scholars considered are Merrill Ring, Eduard Zeller, W. K. C. Guthrie, G. S. Kirk, and J. E. Raven. That claims to find Western notions of progress in the Milesians are false supports particular criticisms of Western culture put forward by Native American scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. Deloria argues that a much more empirical attitude, even culture, emerges from primal categorical emphases than from Western, progress-oriented, materialist and/or religious such emphases. This claim is explored as it results from distinguishing between the dominance of time over place in Western, progress-oriented thinking, on the one hand, and the dominance of place over time in primal, empirically-oriented thinking on the other. The result is that Deloria's claim seems defensible.
Keywords: Native American, Western religions, Western science, primal thought, Christianity, empiricism
Professor Joe Frank Jones
Professor of Philosophy and Religion, School of Arts and Sciences Department of Religion and Philosophy, Barton College