October 12, 2014


THE SHALLOW NIHILISM OF JOHN GRAY : The Silence of Animals is anti-humanist posing dressed up as profundity. (ANTHONY MCCARTHY, 10 OCTOBER 2014, Spiked Review of Books)

[W]hat use is a thinker who now says (albeit in an interview) 'I try to avoid beliefs' and that we should have as few as possible? Such statements are not just hopeless; they are mindless. GK Chesterton, a thinker about as different from Gray as it is possible to imagine, tells us that 'if there is such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions... The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions.'

Chesterton contrasts such growth with the position of someone who has 'outgrown definitions', saying that such a man 'when he says that he disbelieves in finality... is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.'

Indeed, Gray's book could equally well have been called The Silence of Turnips - though it would then probably not have been lauded (by Philip Hensher in the Spectator as 'original and memorable, rich and suggestive'. [...]

A major problem for Gray, in his reduction of humanity, is the fact of human language. It is undeniably 'real' - something Gray does not in any way deny - and saturated in the application of the intellect. One has to insist, through the use of language, that the reality of language is an intellectual tie with the outside and ordered world, a world in which we act purposively and meaningfully. Significantly, Gray, having gradually cast off everything of value, finally recommends that we imitate the 'silence of animals', seeing the world without cognition. Cognition is something that needs to be cast off (though Gray himself hasn't got round to it yet!) and, having abandoned language, reason, being, we learn that we should live in moments.

There is really nothing more to say about this. Gray - who incidentally is a keen exponent of population control, along with the euthanasia and abortion that might help it along - has somehow arrived at a position far worse than those of the Panglossian progressives he attempts to challenge.

Coincidentally, I just read both The World Without Us by Alan Weisman and Make Room! Make Room by Harry Harrison (the basis for Soylent Green), two masterworks of anti-humanism.  What such "thinkers" remind us of is the danger inherent in Judeo-Christianity, the central tenet of which is that God biffed Creation, so while we have the capacity for good, we are not naturally good.

Even God nearly succumbed to the temptation to get rid of us and start over, so it's hardly surprising that some humans would despair even further.  

But the good life consists in trying to overcome nature and be as good as we possibly can be, while celebrating the striving of our fellow men to do likewise.  Therein lies the heroism of the human creature, a thing to be marvelled at and honored  (as even God realized once He'd despaired Himself on the Cross).    To give up on the species and dwell only on our shortcomings is indeed shallow and ultimately always descends into monstrousness.


Posted by at October 12, 2014 8:43 AM

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