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Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

Paperback

By (author) John Gray

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  • Publisher: GRANTA BOOKS
  • Format: Paperback | 246 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 22mm | 200g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2004
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1862075964
  • ISBN 13: 9781862075962
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Sales rank: 13,963

Product description

A 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. Even in the present day, despite Darwin's discoveries, nearly all schools of thought take as their starting point the belief that humans are radically different from other animals. John Gray argues that this humanist belief in human difference is an illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned.

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Author information

John Gray is Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.

Review quote

'This powerful and brilliant book is an essential guide to the new Millennium. Straw Dogs challenges all our assumptions about what it is to be human, and convincingly shows that most of them are delusions. Who are we, and why are we here? John Gray's answers will shock most of us deeply. This is the most exhilarating book I have read since Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene' - J.G. Ballard 'My book of the year was Straw Dogs. I read it once, I read it twice and took notes. I arranged to meet its author so I could publicise the book - I thought it that good... a devastating critique of liberal humanism, and all of it set out in easy-to-digest (although hard-to-swallow apercus)' - Will Self, New Statesman 'One of the most important books published this year, and will probably prove to be one of the most important this century... nobody can hope to understand the times in which we live unless they have read Straw Dogs' - Sue Corrigan, Mail on Sunday 'There is unlikely to be a more provocative or more compelling book published this year than Straw Dogs... Gray is one of the most consistently interesting and unpredictable thinkers in Britain' - Jason Cowley, Observer

Editorial reviews

John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, has produced a fascinating and contentious book that questions religious, humanist and philosophical assumptions about the nature of man. The author's initially shocking interpretation is that humans can never be other than 'straw dogs'. We are simply animals wearing masks that prevent us from seeing our true natures. Thinking that we can be masters of our fate is an illusion, a matter of faith rather than science. Gray opens up the debate on morality, technology and economics, on our mistaken belief in progress and a host of contemporary issues including the world-changing events of September 11 2001. Most of the ills with which we are beset relate to our basic natures. The destruction of the natural world has been brought about by an exceptionally rapacious primate - ourselves. We are rapidly reaching the overpopulation mark and remain helpless to prevent new technologies of mass destruction from becoming easily available to unstable individuals or states. Gray argues that advances in scientific knowledge will never be used primarily to pursue truth or to improve human life since 'the uses of knowledge will always be as shifting and crooked as humans themselves'. We may believe in selfhood and free will but actively control little of what happens to us. Perversely, with masks firmly in place, we continue to believe that ' mankind can achieve conscious mastery of its existence'. We view ourselves as unitary subjects, consider our lives to be the culmination of our activities and ground ourselves in the meaningfulness of history. But recent cognitive science and ancient Buddhist teachings have converged to reveal our true selves to be at once illusive and elusive. Buddhism sees the self as empty of self-nature; cognitive scientists observe that we are bundles of perceptions, fragmentary rather than unitary. Gray points out that although the idea of becoming like a wild animal is offensive to western religious and humanist prejudice, it is now in line with the most advanced scientific knowledge. The views of Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger and many of the world's major thinkers, writers and artists are expertly distilled and compared throughout. While the book is awesome in scope, the readings are short, succinct and easily digestible. Professor Gray questions not only mankind's 'superior' nature but also turns his unblinking gaze on the utility and goals of contemporary philosophy itself. (Kirkus UK)