Books

The disconsolations of philosophy

The Silence of Animals (On Progress and Other Modern Myths)*
by John Gray.

The British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society and the Ethical Society and other august institutions and individuals are engaged in an intellectual battle against religion. They seek to undermine religious authority, question the metaphysics of spirituality and re-establish the human at the centre of the world and the author of its value system. They pit modern reason against the superstitious and the archaic. But hold on, now John Gray arrives from the future in his latest book The Silence of Animals, before their battle is won, and tries to overthrow them from an exalted position they have not quite yet attained.

Gray’s position can be stated thus: humanists’ belief in progress via a rational world view is a superstition based on the wrong truth about the human animal.

• Outside of science progress is simply a myth. Science and technology are cumulative and capable of making progress, but ethics and politics deal with recurring dilemmas. For example torture and slavery are universal evils that cannot be consigned to the past like redundant theories in science. Barbarism is a recurring disease of our civilisation, a mistake that will for ever be remade. Whilst human knowledge increases, human irrationality stays the same and human history belongs to the cycles of the natural world. Continue reading

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