Dance of Person and Place, The: One Interpretation of American Indian Philosophy

SUNY Press
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Uses the concept of “world-making” to provide an
introduction to American Indian philosophy.

Ever since first contact
with Europeans, American Indian stories about how the world is have been
regarded as interesting objects of study, but also as childish and savage,
philosophically curious and ethically monstrous. Using the writings of early
ethnographers and cultural anthropologists, early narratives told or written by
Indians, and scholarly work by contemporary Native writers and philosophers,
Shawnee philosopher Thomas M. Norton-Smith develops a rational reconstruction of
American Indian philosophy as a dance of person and place. He views Native
philosophy through the lens of a culturally sophisticated constructivism
grounded in the work of contemporary American analytic philosopher Nelson
Goodman, in which descriptions of the world (or “world versions”) satisfying
certain criteria construct actual worlds—words make worlds. Ultimately,
Norton-Smith argues that the Native ways of organizing experiences with spoken
words and other performances construct real worlds as robustly as their Western
counterparts, and, in so doing, he helps to bridge the chasm between Western and
American Indian philosophical traditions.

“…a deft and self-aware
exemplification of the task of cross-cultural comparison … The writing is
accessible and shows a deft and helpful interplay between abstract language and
concrete illustrative material.” — The Pluralist

does a good job illustrating how worlds are created through language and how
language itself contains philosophy.” — H-Net Reviews

“…Norton-Smith offers an insightful discussion of
Native American epistemological concepts … This book is an excellent exercise
for all philosophy students as an expansion of worldviews and an examination of
Western epistemological foundations and biases. It also offers an insightful
discussion of indigenous philosophy for both philosophy and indigenous scholars
… Highly recommended.” ― CHOICE

“The author opens a unique and
exciting avenue for philosophical discourse by demonstrating a method of inquiry
that provides a new way of interpreting Native thinking, a method that not only
promotes Native philosophical systems but allows for greater communication
between Western and Native philosophers.” — Lorraine Mayer, author of Cries
from a Métis Heart

“Challenging and provocative, this book is a great
step forward in the conversation of academic Indigenous philosophy.” — Brian
Yazzie Burkhart, Pitzer College
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About the author

Thomas M. Norton-Smith is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University Stark.
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Additional Information

SUNY Press
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Published on
Apr 1, 2010
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HISTORY / Native American
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Eligible for Family Library

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