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Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

de John Gray

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Straw Dogs is a radical work of philosophy that 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 enthrone 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. In Straw Dogs, 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.… (més)
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Perros de paja. Reflexiones sobre los humanos y otros animales es un ensayo de John N. Gray -profesor de pensamiento europeo en la London School of Economics.
  varbes | Mar 12, 2021 |
I rarely mark books down - I normally have something I can at least hold onto when I read a book.

However, here we go.

It draws spurious conclusions from poor research that is approached with no academic rigour. There is only one side to Gray's story ("HUMANISM BAD"). It is repeated on almost every second page. It is repeated on almost every second page.

Pessimism is one thing, but this is just bad research, poorly formed arguments and populist meanderings. A whole section is dedicated to belittling 19th Century philosophy, with no heed paid at all to 20th Century philosophy, as if it had never happened. You can learn nothing from this book that you can't learn from a half-hour Wikipedia hole, and you might learn a whole lot more there.

If you want to learn about human-ness, nature and technology read other theorists (I recommend Bernard Stiegler). Absolutely give this one a miss. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
Gray's book - like much of his work - is an attack upon religion, especially the monotheistic, Judaeo-Christian variety. He sees this as influencing the secular humanist beliefs in the fundamental goodness of human nature, and the possibility of social progress - both of which Gray rejects, arguing that that a distorted understanding of Darwinism is responsible. However, he argues, if we read Darwin correctly, then humans are merely animals, driven by irrational instincts, and therefore destined never to improve or escape these dictates. He also points out that Darwinian evolution has no end or purpose - another humanist misreading - and therefore that humanity cannot be seen as its highest expression. As such, he sees even Nietzsche as caught up in an alternative expression of the humanist spell. It is the tragic expression of these two mistakes that Gray traces in this and other books.

In contrast, Gray champions the pessimistic nihilism of Schopenhauer and looks similarly to Buddhism to relieve us of the necessary suffering implied in all existence. I'm not sure this really provides much solace, and we might also question the basis of Gray's assertions - his determinism, his reductive materialism, his pessimistic nihilism - which as Nietzsche himself pointed out, are no less value-driven conclusions.

That said, I do like his work. Like Nietzsche, even where you don't agree with him, his viewpoint provides a useful tool from which to dissect the inbuilt assumptions of and prejudices that drive the scientific humanism that still largely dominates the modern Western worldview.

Gareth Southwell is a philosopher, writer and illustrator.
  Gareth.Southwell | May 23, 2020 |
From the premise that humans are not a special case, and rather just another species of animal that has evolved on Earth, Gray proceeds to tear down much of contemporary Western society.

The prose was easy to read, and despite the gloomy tone, the book was enjoyable. Each section was a short thought, building up to an overall picture of a human species that is unremarkable, and yet full of a fantastic conceit as to its place in the cosmos, and its destiny to greatness. This culture is apparent in the Christian faith, and its atheist successor humanism.

Christian and Humanist modes of thought are foundations of western culture, and the tendrils of this line of reasoning can be found in the big ideas of church and state, and right down to our own desire and motivation to find our personal calling.

The book doesn't offer any solutions to this situation. Rather, I get the feeling Gray has pulled the curtains back on the elaborate theatre of modern society, but leaves us to decide if we'll continue to play our assigned role.

( )
  Beniaminus | Nov 1, 2017 |
Gray is better when he's in metaphysical territory, and when he's demolishing the cherished views of philosophers before him. His chapters on 'The Human' and 'The Deception' are masterful, and every page contains a 'holy fuck he's explained that well' moment.

However the book is severely let down by the later chapters, which aim to adapt some of this to our modern world, and tackle the issue of 'progress' (which is really a simplistic attack on historical determinism). Gray makes a series of mostly-unfounded (and totally unreferenced) claims about modern economics and social behavior, which end up just sounding like your classic grumpy-old-man.

Finally, Gray ends up replacing one type of determinism for another. He moves from attacking the straw man argument 'everything is definitely meaningful and getting better', before attempting to posit that 'everything is definitely not meaningful, nor getting better', after which you realise that it's far easier to tear things down than build them up. ( )
1 vota sometimeunderwater | Nov 13, 2014 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
John Grayautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Jaquet, ChristopheTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Le ciel et la terre ne sont pas humains : ils traitent tous les êtres comme chiens de paille.

Lao-tseu
CHAPITRE I

Toutes les religions, presque toutes les philosophies, une partie même de la science, témoignent de l’inlassable, l’héroïque effort de l’humanité niant désespérément sa propre contingence.

Jacques Monod
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Remerciements

Dans ce livre, j’essaie de présenter une vision des choses dans laquelle les humains n’occupent pas une place centrale. Mes pensées se présentent de façon fragmentaire, mais ne sont pas sans système. [...]
Préface à l’édition paperback anglaise
Les Chiens de paille sont une attaque contre les croyances impensées des gens qui font profession de penser. L’humanisme libéral a aujourd’hui la puissance omniprésente et invasive qui était autrefois celle de la religion révélée. [...]
CHAPITRE I
L’humain

1. La science contre l’humanisme

La plupart des gens aujourd’hui croient appartenir à une espèce capable d’être la maîtresse de son destin. Il ne s’agit pas là de science, mais de foi. Jamais nous ne parlons d’un temps où la baleine ou le gorille seront maîtres de leur destin. Alors pourquoi l’être humain ?
[...]
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

Straw Dogs is a radical work of philosophy that 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 enthrone 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. In Straw Dogs, 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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