Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals by John Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is "an attack on the unthinking beliefs of thinking people".
I gather he intends it not to be a well laid out logical presentation of how Humanists, liberal humanism and the idea of progress,have it all wrong. But instead is a collection of witty observations from a philosophical Oscar Wilde. And many of them really are clever and disarming and probably a few are even true.
My only problem is that he has no problem painting the subject he is skewering in it's most unreasonable light. That and the fact that he has quotes but no attribution. (there is an full “recommended reading” section at the which we can only assume references all the quotes he had). Plus he never really says who these humanists are. Maybe if I was around upper crust academia I would know who these humanists are that have some an idealize view of the perfectibility of man. But I'm not so I don't know anybody who things humans are on the road to perfection by virtue of their positivistic approach to life. And from my casual fascination with protestant super religious types I really think he misses the point on their world view. He implies they are somehow at war with science, but actually they claim it as their own and accept all the technology with joy but deny anything that might intrude on their personal bibilcal stores. In fact they believe science proves the literal bible rather than challenges it. They may be crazy but that is what they believe.
It was refreshing to see him discount Kant an Heidegger with only a few paragraphs on each. I guess I don't have to worry about feeling bad that I never read that stuff. But he also dispatched any mystical religious figures with only a few sentences which saddened me a bit.
I guess my takeaway form the book is that any idea of progress is bunk and the more we accept that we really are machines, the less stressed out we will be. All in all I'm glad I read it and I may even read it again sometime soon .
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