I have recently read John Gray’s Straw Dogs and my pained response may or may not produce something longer from me at a later point. For now I am content just to blog this essay by Keith Sutherland from the academic Journal of Consciousness Studies. It hits on a central objection I had to Straw Dogs, namely that though JG claims importance for his project because he is starting from the point of taking Darwinism seriously, he has to ignore the fact that many philosophers have actually been productively engaged in this activity (what I think would be called “naturalised” philosophy) for some time.

Not only that, but while flagrantly betraying fundamental misunderstandings of the science (genetics, “cognitive science”, etc), JG goes on to extrapolate all manner of invalid claims that (on one, vaguely waving, hand) brings him within the fringes of the Extropians (at one point quoting Hans “I am actually barking mad” Moravec) and (on the other) seem to sidestep argument in the “well it’s Gaia innit” mode.

My suspicion is that I’m barking up the wrong tree though – that the book was MEANT to be a general hand waving “what would Schopenhauer/Cioran make of all this science”. The implict and cliched “I have a wonderful proof of this, but there is no room in the margin” is a great way to critic-proof a book*, but it doesn’t make for more than a rant.

(* not that it worked – i have since googled some reviews of the book, that have served to quell my ire, hurrah)