Synopses & Reviews
The British bestseller Straw Dogs is an exciting, radical work of philosophy, which sets out to challenge our most cherished assumptions about what it means to be human. From Plato to Christianity, from the Enlightenment to Nietzsche and Marx, the Western tradition has been based on arrogant and erroneous beliefs about human beings and their place in the world. Philosophies such as liberalism and Marxism think of humankind as a species whose destiny is to transcend natural limits and conquer the Earth. John Gray argues that this belief in human difference is a dangerous illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned. The result is an exhilarating, sometimes disturbing book that leads the reader to question our deepest-held beliefs. Will Self, in the New Statesman, called Straw Dogs his book of the year: "I read it once, I read it twice and took notes . . . I thought it that good." "Nothing will get you thinking as much as this brilliant book" (Sunday Telegraph).
"Humans think they are 'free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals,' writes London University economics professor Gray (Black Mass) in a series of brief and intriguing mini-essays. His themes include the similarities between hypnotism and financial markets and uncomfortable truths behind drug use and its prohibition. In a chapter called 'Deception,' Gray traces Humanism from Plato through Postmodernism. He critiques both science and religion: 'Science can advance human knowledge, it cannot make humanity cherish truth. Like the Christians of former times, scientists are caught up in the web of power; they struggle for survival and success; their view of the world is a patchwork of conventional beliefs.' At a certain point, it can be difficult to see where Gray's allegiances lie. He tears down institutions, especially consciousness, self, free will and morality, and questions our ability to solve the problems of overpopulation and overconsumption: 'Only a breed of ex-humans can thrive in the world that unchecked human expansion has created.' So what's left? Gray recommends a devaluation of progress, mastery, and immortality, and a return to contemplation and acceptance: 'Other animals do not need a purpose in life. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?' This comforting question punctuates an otherwise profoundly disturbing meditation on humankind's real place in the world." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, John Gray is the author of Black Mass, among other books. He is currently a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics.