In short, for Gray, humanism is nothing more than "a secular religion thrown together from decaying scraps of Christian myth". Gray champions James Lovelock's view of the Earth as a self-regulating system whose behaviour resembles, in some ways, that of an organism. The Gaia hypothesis is the backdrop to Gray's apparently relentless pessimism about the fate of humankind. What it teaches us is that this self-regulating system has no need of humanity, does not exist for the sake of humanity, and will regulate itself in ignorance of humanity's fate.
Straw Dogs can be usefully compared with Mary Midgely's excellent Science and Poetry since both take off from the view of man as animal while sharing similar views about the cultural role of philosophy. Both encourage us to overcome the Platonic-Cartesian-Kantian philosophical tradition while stressing the importance of Gaia in emphasising our essential continuity with the physical and natural world. For Gray, humans "think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals". Straw Dogs could have been made to stretch for 500 large pages. Instead you get 200 small pages of gold; simple, concise, riveting.--Larry Brown
This is a critique of liberal humanism, defined as the faith in inevitable progress to a utopian world, courtesy of science, reason, technology and morality. Read morePublished on May 29 2004 by Rafe Champion
I hope Professor Gray feels better.
I have to tell you I enjoyed many aspects of this book, Straw Dogs. Nihilist philosophies of the West can be very entertaining. Read more
When I first read a review of this book in the Economist, I put it on my must read list. Extracts from other reviews at the front of the book certainly describe it much better than... Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2004 by Too Soon Old
row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
life is but a dream
STRAW DOGS - Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. By John Gray. 246 pages. London: Granta Books, 2002. ISBN 1-86207-512-3 (Hbk).
Are you feeling bad? in despair? Read more
In a nutshell: collect all the negatives about human existence to sustain your claim that the whole species should be done with, the quicker the better, so that mythical Gaia can... Read morePublished on Dec 30 2003 by Ward Schelfhout
There are two kinds of people: those able to face the truth and those who prefer comforting illusions. Read morePublished on Dec 18 2003 by tepi
I became interested in this book while reading a review panning it in The Nation by one Danny Postell (thanks to Arts & Letters Daily). Read morePublished on Dec 17 2003 by N N Taleb
Having read a number of Gray's other books on liberalism and found them, despite aggravated differences of perspective, crisply interesting at least in an acerbic sort of way, I... Read morePublished on Dec 10 2003 by John C. Landon