- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals Paperback – 1 Sep 2003
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
John Gray's Straw Dogs attempts to present a world view in which humans are not central and which argues against the humanist belief in progress. The heart of the book is summed up in the idea that modern humanists have still not come to terms with Darwin, still not come to terms with the idea that humans are like other animals. Christians and modern humanists in the Platonic-Cartesian tradition typically think of humans enjoying a special relationship to God, or a special status in nature in a way that other animals do not. Even the great debunkers--philosophers such as Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Heidegger--end up making human beings the centre of things or the end point of some world-historical process. By contrast, in a Taoist, Shinto, Hindu or animist culture Darwin's discovery would have been easily accommodated since these faiths see humans and other animals as kin.
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 text refers to the Hardcover edition.
'An essential guide to the new Millennium. Straw Dogs challenges all our assumptions about what it is to be human' -- J.G. Ballard
'Nobody can hope to understand the times in which we live unless they have read Straw Dogs -- Sue Corrigan, Mail on Sunday
Gray is one of the most consistently interesting and unpredictable thinkers in Britain an enthralling book -- Observer
Nothing will get you thinking as much as this brilliant book opens new vistas of understanding' -- George Walden, Sunday Telegraph
That rarest of things, a contemporary work of philosophy, wholly accessible, and profoundly relevant to the rapidly evolving world' -- Will Self
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
However, at the same time, this book is incredibly frustrating. The positions are not very rigorously argued, the reader is carried forward more by rhetoric than by logic. There is far too much hand-waving by the author. As other reviewers have pointed out, whole fields of human endeavour ('philosophy', 'religion', etc.) are reified as homogeneous blocks of doctrine and dismissed with a single remark. The discussion of individual philosophers is very inadequate, all of them being treated as scarcely worthy of notice – except Schopenhauer, whose philosophy is praised for anticipating Gray's. Too much is just stated as though it didn't require any argument. For example, Plato is castigated for reifying human language into transcendent Forms.Read more ›
It is really just an essay about human self-deception and arrogance bulked out with snippets of oriental twaddle (Tao Te Ching) and worn out 'new age' pseudo science (Santayana, and Lovelock's 'Gaia hypothesis'). Gray is a Malthusian who believes that humans will reject population control and proceed to rape the planet until we wipe ourselves out. The Earth might be better without us, he argues.
There are many brilliant one-liners and as many absurd generalisations.
Gray is a philosopher, not a scientist, so he does not really 'get' science. He thinks science is as likely to be as shoddy as religion because the early scientists were muddled and torn between their religious upbringings and their findings. This is fair comment on Copernicus and Newton (the latter experimented with alchemy as well as refraction) but few modern scientists find their energies dispersed in this way. Science is a method of enquiry and has served us well.
Gray repeats a literary device which tires in the end; there are long quotes from writers we believe he is trying to support, only to discover that he nails them with a pithy arrow to the heart. This artificial postponement of the 'coup de grace' becomes contrived and shows that the author is more interested in style over substance.
Do I dare suggest that something of the same bafflement has overcome some of our (negative) reviewers here? I am not foolish enough to say all, nor to quote anyone's review, for fear of being kicked to death in a stampede of PhDs and PPEs. What interests me here is the outrage, the overall sense of having been `let down' by an emeritus Professor of European Thought, no less. And I think, crudely, there are two main sources of this cheek-chewing ire. The first is the demand, or the desperate desire, for evidence. These people want proof that, for example, progress is an illusion. Well, I may not know much about Wittgenstein but I know he wrote down what he thought; and I know he lived in this world. I don't need evidence for this.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
John Gray's Straw Dogs is an authoritative though lacerating demolition of the anthropocentric viewpoint that in one form or another humankind has lived with throughout our... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Leonaster
John Gray has undertaken a gargantuan task, to dislodge human being from the top pedestal to just a mere animal like all others in this world. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Manto
essential reading for everyone. unfortunately the edition i was sent was very tatty. perfectly readable though.Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
By far the best summation of western philosophy/religion as a vain exercise in giving meaning to existence. Probably the best penny I ever spent. Read morePublished 15 months ago by C. J. Boorman
Powerful book, even when you don't agree with all the author's points of view (I do for most), it makes you wonder...Published 15 months ago by Pierluigi Bragaglia