Straw Dogs

By John Gray,

Book cover of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

Book 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…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Straw Dogs as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Reading Straw Dogs made me not only appreciate my dog (& the cat) even more but realize a lot of the ideas of what I thought made me human are not that uniquely human.

I don’t think I agree with everything in the book, but exactly because of that it’s a great read and humbling in the face of how much we take freedom from the non-humans and other humans away.  

A brilliant attack on a collection of human vanities, most importantly the idea of progress. The political left and right are united in the idea that history has a direction. Human societies gradually progress towards a perfect endpoint – an end of history – where no further improvement can be made. Left and right disagree on what this endpoint will look like, but they agree that there is one, and that one can, therefore, be on the right or wrong side of history. Not so fast, argues John Gray. History is a long time, and the idea of progress is…

From Mark's list on humans and other animals.

Straw Dogs is not at all about dogs, but nevertheless speaks to human-animal relationships through a brutal condemnation of human self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement. Gray's command of philosophy, history, literature, and current events is remarkable. Philosophers are not known for “less is more” writing, but Gray is a master at packaging profound observations in compact, surprising vignettes and examples. Gray articulates for me what is so deeply wrong with liberal moral philosophy and offers a roadmap for decentering the human. 

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