Straw Dogs
Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs

Humans cannot save the world, but this is no reason for despair. It does not need saving. Happily, humans will never live in a world of their own making. (Location 73)

Humanism can mean many things, but for us it means belief in progress. To believe in progress is to believe that, by using the new powers given us by growing scientific knowledge, humans can free themselves from the limits that frame the lives of other animals. This is the hope of nearly everybody nowadays, but it is groundless. For though human knowledge will very likely continue to grow and with it human power, the human animal will stay the same: a highly inventive species that is also one of the most predatory and destructive. (Location 93)

Humanists insist that by using our knowledge we can control our environment and flourish as never before. (Location 98)

In the world shown us by Darwin, there is nothing that can be called progress. (Location 100)

He has been attacked by biologists and social scientists who believe that the human species is not governed by the same laws as other animals. (Location 113)

The idea that humanity can shape its future assumes that it is exempt from this truth. (Location 116)

Around 65 million years ago the dinosaurs and three quarters of all other species suddenly perished. (Location 126)

It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. (Location 134)

It is true that a few traditional peoples lived in balance with the Earth for long periods. The Inuit and the Bushmen stumbled into ways of life in which their footprint was slight. We cannot tread the Earth so lightly. Homo rapiens has become too numerous. (Location 135)

No one forecast the population collapse that is occurring in post-communist European Russia, or the scale of the fall in fertility that is under way in much of the world. (Location 138)

themselves a new geological era, the Eremozoic, the Era of Solitude, in which little remains on the Earth but themselves and the prosthetic environment that keeps them alive. (Location 144)

Lovelock suggests four possible outcomes of disseminated primatemaia: ‘destruction of the invading disease organisms; chronic infection; destruction of the host; or symbiosis – a lasting relationship of mutual benefit to the host and invader’. (Location 147)

The biosphere is older and stronger than they will ever be. As Margulis writes, ‘No human culture, despite its inventiveness, can kill life on this planet, were it even to try.’ (Location 151)

In a chaotic system even the near future cannot be predicted accurately. (Location 157)

As Lovelock has suggested, climate change may be a mechanism through which the planet eases its human burden. (Location 158)

A globalised world is a delicate construction. (Location 169)

People who are now over forty have lived through a doubling of the world’s human population. (Location 172)

Morrison observes, humans are like other animals in responding to stress. They react to scarcity and overcrowding by tuning down the reproductive urge: (Location 176)

They cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them. (Location 188)

‘Humanity’ does not exist. There are only humans, driven by conflicting needs and illusions, and subject to every kind of infirmity of will and judgement. (Location 192)

Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. (Location 203)

The world’s powers can pledge that genetic engineering will have only benign uses, but it can be only a matter of time before it is used for purposes of war. (Location 210)

There have always been tyrannies; but without modern means of transport and communication, Stalin and Mao could not have built their gulags. (Location 218)

Technology is not something that humankind can control. It is an event that has befallen the world. (Location 220)

‘The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles an hour’ – not much more than he could travel on his own feet. Which is more important today: the use of cars as means of transportation, or their use as expressions of our unconscious yearnings for personal freedom, sexual release and the final liberation of sudden death? (Location 223)

Technical progress leaves only one problem unsolved: the frailty of human nature. Unfortunately that problem is insoluble. (Location 228)

Cities are no more artificial than the hives of bees. (Location 240)

Our powers and intelligence do not belong specifically to us but to all life.’ (Location 242)

Humanism is a doctrine of salvation – the belief that humankind can take charge of its destiny. (Location 245)

Hunter-gatherers saw their prey as equals, if not superiors, and animals were worshipped as divinities in many traditional cultures. (Location 249)

but by the needs of the moment. (Location 254)

Religious fundamentalists see the power of science as the chief source of modern disenchantment. (Location 259)

Scientific fundamentalists claim that science is the disinterested pursuit of truth. (Location 268)

for hope and censorship. (Location 269)

The political projects of the twentieth century have failed, or achieved much less than they promised. (Location 271)

Science gives us a sense of progress that ethical and political life cannot. (Location 272)

From the standpoint of anyone who values freedom of thought, this may be unfortunate, but it is undoubtedly the chief source of science’s appeal. (Location 276)

The authority of science comes from the power it gives humans over their environment. (Location 284)

The greatest scientists have never been bound by what are now regarded as the rules of scientific method. (Location 311)

Galileo saw himself as a defender of theology, not as an enemy of the Church. (Location 313)

but the progress of science comes from acting against reason. (Location 319)

It encourages us to believe that, unlike any other animal, we can understand the natural world, and thereby bend it to our will. (Location 322)

Yet, as Barbour points out, science suggests that time may not be part of the scheme of things. (Location 328)

Like technology, science has evolved to meet human needs; again like technology, it discloses a world humans cannot control, or ever fully understand. (Location 331)

In fact, its supreme value may be in showing that the world humans are programmed to perceive is a chimera. (Location 333)

Humanists believe that if we know the truth we will be free. In affirming this they imagine they are wiser than thinkers of earlier times. In fact they are in the grip of a forgotten religion. (Location 336)

Human knowledge is one thing, human well-being another. There is no predetermined harmony between the two. The examined life may not be worth living. (Location 344)

In admitting that he was guided by an inner voice, he showed the lingering power of shamanic practices, in which humans have immemorially sought communion with spirits. (Location 348)

They took for granted that freedom would always remain the privilege of a few; there was no hope for the species. (Location 352)

The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals. (Location 356)

In the life of the mind, as in biological evolution, there is a kind of natural selection of memes, whereby the fittest memes survive. (Location 358)

Certainly ideas compete with one another, but the winners are normally those with power and human folly on their side. (Location 361)

Darwinian theory tells us that an interest in truth is not needed for survival or reproduction. (Location 364)

Evolutionary psychologists have shown that deceit is pervasive in animal communication. (Location 366)

As Trivers points out, evolution favours useful error: ‘the conventional view that natural selection favours nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution’. (Location 373)

The uses of knowledge will always be as shifting and crooked as humans are themselves. (Location 380)

History is not made in the struggle for self-preservation, as Hobbes imagined or wished to believe. (Location 382)

When times are desperate they act to protect their offspring, to revenge themselves on enemies, or simply to give vent to their feelings. (Location 383)

The upshot of scientific inquiry is that humans cannot be other than irrational. Curiously, this is a conclusion few rationalists have been ready to accept. (Location 386)

Humans cannot live without illusion. (Location 394)

life is a fluke which cannot be deduced from the nature of things, but once it has emerged, it evolves by the natural selection of random mutations. (Location 404)

He ‘must at last awake out of his millenary dream and discover his total solitude, his fundamental isolation. (Location 409)

For Monod, humanity is a uniquely privileged species. It alone knows that its existence is an accident, and it alone can take charge of its destiny. (Location 412)

In contrast, the Gaia hypothesis – the theory that the Earth is a self-regulating system whose behaviour resembles in some ways that of an organism – embodies the most rigorous scientific naturalism. (Location 423)

The truth is that they fear and hate it because it means that humans can never be other than straw dogs. (Location 448)

the belief that humans are radically different from all other animals. (Location 461)

In our more detached moments, we admit that this view of ourselves is flawed. Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams than the enactments of conscious selves. (Location 468)

Schopenhauer scorned the ideas of universal emancipation that had begun to spread through Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. (Location 481)

looking to the state only to protect his life and property. (Location 483)

He had an acute sense of the dangers of human life. (Location 487)

He never married but seems to have been sexually highly active. An erotic diary found in his papers at his death was burnt by his executor, but his celebrated essay ‘On Women’ gave him a reputation for misogyny that has stayed with him ever since. (Location 488)

The woman was injured and sued him. He lost the case, and as a result had to give her a quarterly sum of money for the rest of her life. (Location 495)

‘Obit anus, abit onus’ (the old woman dies, the burden departs). (Location 497)

Schopenhauer believed that philosophy was ruled by Christian prejudices. (Location 500)

The thinkers of the Enlightenment aimed to replace traditional religion by faith in humanity. But the upshot of Schopenhauer’s criticism of Kant is that the Enlightenment was only a secular version of Christianity’s central mistake. (Location 503)

In contrast, for Schopenhauer we are at one with other animals in our inner-most essence. (Location 506)

But that individuality is an illusion. Like other animals, we are embodiments of universal Will, the struggling, suffering energy that animates everything in the world. (Location 507)

that the free, conscious individual who is the core of Christianity and humanism is an error that conceals from us what we really are. (Location 510)

In Hume’s view, we cannot even know that the external world really exists. Indeed we do not even know that we ourselves exist, since all we find when we look within is a bundle of sensations. (Location 514)

Kant accepted Hume’s argument that we cannot know things in themselves, only the phenomena that are given us in experience. (Location 517)

Accepting the arguments of Hume and Kant that the world is unknowable, he concluded that both the world and the individual subject that imagines it knows it are maya, dreamlike constructions with no basis in reality. (Location 522)

the feeling of compassion for the suffering of others which is made possible by the fact that separate individuals are finally figments. (Location 524)

individual selfhood is an illusion. (Location 526)

Schopenhauer went one step further and observed that we ourselves belong in the world of appearances. (Location 528)

Sexual passion enables the species to reproduce; it cares nothing for individual well-being or personal autonomy. (Location 534)

one in which there are no separate things at all, in which plurality and difference do not exist, and there is only the ceaseless striving he calls Will. (Location 538)

Our intellects are not impartial observers of the world but active participants in it. They shape a view of it that helps us in our struggles. (Location 541)

‘What history relates is in fact only the long, heavy and confused dream of mankind.’ (Location 549)

Against Schopenhauer, Nietzsche had often argued that the best people should cultivate a taste for cruelty. (Location 566)

Nietzsche insisted that pity was not the supreme virtue but rather a sign of weak vitality. If pity became the core of ethics, the result would (Location 569)

Schopenhauer argued that we achieve compassion for other living things by ‘turning away from the Will’ – by ceasing to care about our own well-being and survival. (Location 571)

we must give up the idea that human history has a meaning. (Location 584)

– an unbeliever who could not give up Christian hopes. In (Location 602)

Philosophers from Plato to Hegel have interpreted the world as if it was a mirror of human thinking. (Location 649)

Idealism is the belief that only humans exist. (Location 654)

Instead he denied that any sense could be given to the idea of a world existing apart from language. This led him to give up his earlier mystical belief, (Location 659)

Postmodernists tell us there is no such thing as nature, (Location 668)

only the floating world of our own constructions. (Location 669)

In fact, the postmodern denial of truth is the worst kind of arrogance. (Location 671)

postmodernists are implicitly rejecting any limit on human ambitions. (Location 672)

Yet after all the work of Plato and Spinoza, Descartes and Bertrand Russell, we have no more reason than other animals do for believing that the sun will rise tomorrow. (Location 680)

It is the crystallisation of language in writing. (Location 685)

writing gave humans the power to preserve their thoughts and experiences from time. (Location 686)

Writing creates an artificial memory, whereby humans can enlarge their experience beyond the limits of one generation or one way of life. (Location 689)

Plato was what historians of philosophy call a realist – he believed that abstract terms designated spiritual or intellectual entities. (Location 700)

Europe owes much of its murderous history to errors of thinking engendered by the alphabet. (Location 705)

If humanists are to be believed, the Earth – with its vast wealth of ecosystems and life forms – had no value until humans came onto the scene. (Location 708)

That is not the way most humans have ever lived. (Location 713)

Consciousness counts for less in the scheme of things than we have been taught. (Location 721)

identified ultimate reality with what was perceived by humans in their most conscious moments; (Location 721)

The old dualisms tell us that matter lacks intelligence and knowledge can exist only where there are minds. (Location 728)

‘Living systems are cognitive systems. And living as a process is a process of cognition. (Location 735)

Conscious perception is only a fraction of what we know through our senses. (Location 737)

What surfaces in consciousness are fading shadows of things we know already. (Location 738)

nearly all our daily doings go on without conscious awareness; (Location 740)

the most creative acts in the life of the mind come to pass unawares. (Location 741)

our nearest evolutionary kin among the apes have many of the mental capacities we are accustomed to think belong only to ourselves. (Location 747)

Where other animals differ from humans is in lacking the sensation of selfhood. (Location 749)

Very often we are at our most skilful when we are least self-aware. (Location 751)

traditions are often described as techniques for heightening consciousness. In fact they are ways of bypassing it. (Location 754)

The Surrealists understood that if we are to look at the world afresh we must recover the vision of things we are given by unconscious or subliminal perception. (Location 759)

In the earliest art there are traces of what the senses showed before they were overlaid by conscious awareness. (Location 762)

The mind of the artist was already stored with the million years of his life as a reflective being. Most of this is now beyond our reach.’ (Location 764)

Most of what we perceive of the world comes not from conscious observation but from a continuous process of unconscious scanning: (Location 766)

Subliminal advertising works – which is why in most countries it was effectively banned around forty years ago. (Location 775)

To equate what we know with what we learn though conscious awareness is a cardinal error. (Location 778)

Lord Jim’s life is overshadowed by a question he cannot answer. Did he jump? Or was he pushed by events? (Location 797)

These are strong arguments against free will; but recent scientific research has weakened it even more. (Location 804)

In fact, in nearly the whole of our lives, our actions are initiated unconsciously: the brain makes us ready for action, then we have the experience of acting. As Libet and his colleagues put it: (Location 806)

This means we have conscious access to about a millionth of the information we daily use to survive. (Location 814)

When we are on the point of acting, we cannot predict what we are about to do. (Location 818)

Our feeling of freedom comes about through switching between these two angles of vision. Free will is a trick of perspective. (Location 820)

The knowing-I cannot find the acting self for which it seeks. (Location 831)

We cannot wake up or fall asleep, remember or forget our dreams, summon or banish our thoughts, by deciding to do so. (Location 842)

They arise from a structure of habits and skills that is almost infinitely complicated. (Location 844)

Freud understood that much of the life of the mind goes on in the absence of consciousness. (Location 849)

Unlike the unconscious mind of which Freud speaks, they are what makes conscious awareness possible. (Location 851)

Yet much the greater part of everyone’s life goes on without thinking. (Location 854)

It means we spend our lives coping with what comes along. (Location 855)

We cannot shake off the sense that we are enduring selves, and yet we know we are not. (Location 895)

he recalled these memories as bright vignettes in a waste of forgotten time. (Location 907)

‘Setting aside some metaphysicians … I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind that they are nothing but a collection of perceptions which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement.’ (Location 911)

The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, (Location 914)

We are all bundles of sensations. (Location 922)

Selfhood is a side effect of the coarseness of consciousness; the inner life is too subtle and transient to be known to itself. (Location 925)

Where humans differ from ravens is that they use language to look back on their lives and call up a virtual self. (Location 937)

By using language we have invented a fictive self, which we project into the past and the future – and even beyond the grave. (Location 941)

The dissolution of self that mystics seek comes only with death. (Location 945)

The I is a thing of the moment, and yet our lives are ruled by it. (Location 945)

This is the primordial human error, in virtue of which we pass our lives as in a dream. (Location 947)

Buddhists believe that by the refinement of attention we can attain insight into reality – the momentary, vanishing world that ordinary attention simplifies and makes palatable to us. (Location 950)

We tune out 99 percent of the sensory stimuli we actually receive, and we solidify the remainder into discrete mental objects. (Location 953)

The Buddhist ideal of awakening implies that we can sever our links with our evolutionary past. (Location 955)

Meditation may give us a fresher view of things, but it cannot uncover them as they are in themselves. (Location 958)

that we are descendants of a long lineage, only a fraction of which is human. (Location 959)

Our brains and spinal cords are encrypted with traces of far older worlds. (Location 960)

That we cannot awaken from our dream is recognised in Taoism. (Location 964)

Chuang-Tzu sees human life as a dream, but he does not seek to awaken from it. (Location 972)

‘Buddhists awaken out of dreaming; Chuang-Tzu wakes up to dreaming.’ (Location 978)

We cannot be rid of illusions. Illusion is our natural condition. Why not accept it? (Location 986)

If philosophers have rarely considered the possibility that truth might not bring happiness, the reason is that truth has rarely been of the first importance to them. (Location 999)

to discover which illusions we can give up, and which we will never shake off. (Location 1011)

Henceforth our aim will be to identify our invincible illusions. Which untruths might we be rid of, and which can we not do without? – that is the question, that is the experiment. (Location 1013)

He was ready to collaborate with any regime so long as it helped him amass the beautiful objects he craved. (Location 1023)

Utz out from the common run of mankind is his amorality. (Location 1026)

During the Nazi and communist periods they did what most people always do (Location 1028)

If you are like most people, you think of ‘morality’ as something special, a set of values that outweighs all others. (Location 1029)

you will find that morality plays a far smaller part in your life than you have been taught that it should. (Location 1032)

morality is something that comes from beyond the world: right is what God commands, wrong what God forbids. And morality is more important than anything else – fine (Location 1034)

They are imperatives which you must obey. (Location 1037)

Moral philosophy has always been an exercise in make-believe, less realistic in its picture of human life than the average bourgeois novel. We must look elsewhere if we want anything that (Location 1043)

It says that human life has no price. Very well. (Location 1054)

But the lesson of Roman Frister’s story is that it is a convenience, to be relied upon only in normal times. (Location 1056)

female survivors were turned loose with the heads of their husbands tied around their necks. (Location 1073)

Genocide is as human as art or prayer. (Location 1076)

Between 1492 and 1990 there were at least thirty-six genocides claiming between tens of thousands and tens of millions of lives. (Location 1084)

Inasmuch as it was a movement dedicated to toleration and personal freedom, Hitler loathed the Enlightenment. (Location 1102)

He knew the Soviet famines were artificial. But he turned a jovial eye on their victims from the considered conviction that mass extermination was justified if it advanced the cause of progress. (Location 1112)

Between 1917 and 1959 over 60 million people were killed in the Soviet Union. (Location 1115)

could not bring themselves to see that the pursuit of progress had ended in mass murder. (Location 1124)

Progress and mass murder run in tandem. As the numbers killed by famine and plague have waned, so death by violence has increased. (Location 1127)

It has long been known that those who perform great acts of kindness are rarely forgiven. (Location 1140)

Morality tells us that conscience may not be heard – but that it speaks always against cruelty and injustice. (Location 1141)

Even so, tragedy has nothing to do with morality. (Location 1146)

Tragedy is born of myth, not morality. (Location 1151)

he understood that reason cannot be the guide of life. (Location 1153)

For both, tragedy came from the encounter of human will with fate. (Location 1157)

There is tragedy when humans refuse to submit to circumstances that neither courage nor intelligence can remedy. (Location 1159)

Tragedy befalls those who have wagered against the odds. The worth of their goals is irrelevant. The life of a petty criminal can (Location 1160)

to make tragedy impossible. (Location 1162)

For humanists, we can look forward to a time when all people have the chance of a happy life; (Location 1163)

on the stage that human beings are ennobled by extremes of suffering. (Location 1165)

‘whoever thinks that he can behave differently has never touched the true bottom of life; he has never had to breathe his last in “a world without heroes”’. (Location 1172)

‘literary fairy tales’, deep human bonds are forged under the pressure of tragedy and need; (Location 1174)

but in fact no tie of friendship or sympathy was strong enough to survive life in Kolyma: (Location 1175)

After his return from the camps, he spent the remainder of his life refusing to forget what he had seen. (Location 1180)

I knew I would not permit my memory to forget everything that I had seen. And I regained my calm and fell asleep. (Location 1184)

At its worst human life is not tragic but unmeaning. (Location 1185)

He returned to Moscow in 1956 to find that his wife had left him and his daughter had rejected him. (Location 1193)

The intuitions people have on moral questions are intensely felt. They are also shallow and transient to the last degree. (Location 1206)

Ideas of justice are as timeless as fashions in hats. (Location 1210)

Englishman knows nothing of the world – except the difference between right and wrong. (Location 1213)

If we did, we would have to admit that, like beauty and intelligence, goodness is a gift of fortune. (Location 1222)

We would have to own up to what we all deny – that being good is good luck. By making us face this awkward truth, (Location 1223)

they seek an excitement that mere pleasure can no longer supply. (Location 1228)

but it has certainly enriched our vices. (Location 1229)

Among those who have once been Christians, pleasure can be intense only if it is mixed with the sensation of acting immorally. (Location 1231)

have never tired of asking why anyone should be moral. (Location 1234)

They would have been better employed questioning self-interest. (Location 1237)

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Caring about your self as it will be in the future is no more reasonable than caring about the self you are now. (Location 1241)

Homer. It became the search for a super-good that nothing can destroy, a uniquely potent value that defeats all others and insures those who live by it against tragedy. (Location 1247)

it was taken for granted that everyone’s life is ruled by fate and chance. (Location 1249)

We think of morality as a set of laws or rules that everyone must obey, and as a special sort of value, which takes precedence over every other. (Location 1255)

Machiavelli’s The Prince has long been condemned for preaching immorality. It teaches that anyone who tries to be honourable in the struggle for power will surely come to grief: (Location 1269)

boldness and a talent for dissimulation. (Location 1271)

It is because we have identified the good life with the chosen life. (Location 1286)

We are not authors of our lives; we are not even part-authors of the events that mark us most deeply. (Location 1290)

It is the casual drift of things that shapes our most fateful relationships. The life of each of us is a chapter of accidents. (Location 1292)

New technologies alter our lives daily. (Location 1294)

The traditions of the past cannot be retrieved. (Location 1294)

At the same time we have little idea of what the future will bring. (Location 1295)

Choice has become a fetish; but the mark of a fetish is that it is unchosen. (Location 1297)

Like humans, dolphins act purposefully to achieve the goods things of life, they take pleasure in exercising their powers and skills, and they display qualities such as curiosity and bravery. (Location 1302)

It teaches that humans are unlike other animals, which simply respond to the situations in which they find themselves. We can scrutinise our motives and impulses; we can know why we act as we do. (Location 1309)

For all of them, consciousness is our very essence, and the good life means living as a fully conscious individual. (Location 1313)

but it is the only possible ground of ethics. (Location 1314)

Western thought is fixated on the gap between what is and what ought to be. (Location 1318)

Different people follow different customs; but in acting without intention, we are not simply following habit. (Location 1320)

Right action was whatever comes from a clear view of the situation. (Location 1323)

only the natural life lived skilfully. (Location 1324)

The good life means living according to our natures and circumstances. (Location 1327)

The common man cannot see things objectively, because his mind is clouded by anxiety about achieving his goals. (Location 1330)

The Taoist relaxes the body, calms the mind, loosens the grip of categories made habitual by naming, frees the current of thought for more fluid differentiations and assimilations, and instead of pondering choices lets his problems solve themselves as inclination spontaneously finds its own direction.… (Location 1337)

For people in thrall to ‘morality’, the good life means perpetual striving. (Location 1347)

Rather than agonising over alternatives, he responds effortlessly to situations as they arise. He lives not as he chooses but as he must. Such a human (Location 1349)

The idea that freedom means becoming like a wild animal or machine is offensive to Western religious and humanist prejudices, (Location 1352)

the littleness of man in a vast universe; the inhuman Tao which all things follow, without purpose and indifferent to human needs; the transience of life, the impossibility of knowing what comes after death; (Location 1355)

But we cannot attain the amoral selflessness of wild animals, or the choiceless automatism of machines. (Location 1360)

We cannot return to a purely spontaneous existence. (Location 1361)

it is partly in the conflicts of their instincts. (Location 1362)

Luckily, as the history of philosophy testifies, humans have a gift for self-deception, and thrive in ignorance of their natures. (Location 1364)

sin meant disobedience to God, and the punishment for sinful mankind was the end of the world. (Location 1376)

a divine messenger who brought retribution to the world and redemption to the obedient few. (Location 1377)

Paul turned a Jewish messianic cult into a Greco-Roman mystery religion; but he could not free the faith he invented from Jesus’s inheritance. (Location 1379)

Humans think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals. (Location 1387)

Their religions are attempts to be rid of a freedom they have never possessed. (Location 1388)

science has taken on the role of mankind’s deliverer. (Location 1389)

Whoever says salvation exists is a slave, because he keeps weighing each of his words and deeds at every moment. (Location 1393)

Average humanity takes its saviours too lightly to need saving from them. (Location 1403)

Jesus returns to the world during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Though he comes ‘softly, unobserved’, it is not long before he is recognised by the people, and taken prisoner by the Grand Inquisitor. (Location 1409)

People will worship whomever gives them bread, for they need their rulers to be gods. (Location 1413)

‘Is it true that mankind demands, and will always demand, miracle, mystery and authority?’ He answers: (Location 1420)

Today, man gets his sense of the miraculous from science and machinery, radio, airplanes, vast ships, zeppelins, poison gas, artificial silk: these things nourish man’s sense of the miraculous as magic did in the past.… (Location 1422)

Today, for the mass of humanity, science and technology embody ‘miracle, mystery and authority’. (Location 1425)

Even as it enables poverty to be diminished and sickness to be alleviated, science will be used to refine tyranny and perfect the art of war. (Location 1429)

The secular religions of modern times tell us that humans yearn to be free; (Location 1431)

it is true that they find restraint of any kind irksome. Yet it is rare that individuals value their freedom more than the comfort that comes with servility, and rarer still for whole peoples to do (Location 1431)

But they will be rare, and variations on anarchy and tyranny will be the norm. (Location 1435)

Tyrants promise security – and release from the tedium of everyday existence. (Location 1437)

He sees himself as the most tragic of men, cursed with a vision of truth denied to feeble humanity, and so burdened with the responsibility of caring for it. He is bound to save humanity from ‘the great anxiety and (Location 1441)

They were no different from the rest of mankind, perhaps even worse: crazed fanatics, revenge seekers or timorous careerists. (Location 1447)

Science can advance human knowledge, it cannot make humanity cherish truth. (Location 1450)

Science cannot bring ‘miracle, mystery and authority’ to humankind, if only because – like those who served the Church in the past – its servants are all too human. (Location 1452)

For Christians, religion is a matter of true belief. If only one belief can be true, every way of life in which it is not accepted must be in error. (Location 1458)

Without monotheism, humankind would surely still have been one of the most violent animals, but it would have been spared wars of religion. (Location 1460)

Polytheism is too delicate a way of thinking for modern minds. (Location 1462)

Atheism is a late bloom of a Christian passion for truth. (Location 1469)

The old pagans were right to shudder at the uncouth earnestness of the early Christians. (Location 1471)

that all other faiths were in error. (Location 1473)

When Christians insisted that they alone possessed the truth they condemned the lush profusion of the pagan world with a damning finality. (Location 1474)

faith, it gave truth a supreme value it had not had before. (Location 1478)

If we live in a world without gods, we have Christianity to thank for it. (Location 1479)

Where is nihilism here? Homer’s vultures do not redeem human life. There is nothing in it that needs redemption. (Location 1492)

Why do other animals not seek deliverance from suffering? (Location 1502)

‘Imagine a cow or a pig which rejected the body for a “noble eightfold way of self-enlightenment”. One would feel that the beast had made a false calculation.’ (Location 1504)

For those who know themselves to be mortals, what the Buddha sought is always near at hand. (Location 1506)

why deny ourselves the pleasure of life? (Location 1507)

The truth is, we do not fear the passing of time because we know death. (Location 1511)

We fear death because we resist passing time. (Location 1512)

It is because they are not burdened by time. (Location 1513)

but more often in an instinctual movement no different from that in which a cat seeks a quiet place to see out its end. (Location 1516)

is that humans have learnt to cling more abjectly to life. (Location 1519)

Neither one escapes the fatal law of being who or what it is. (Location 1524)

Mystical philosophies promise an enlightenment that will deliver us from suffering; but the hope they offer is a burden better laid down. (Location 1533)

Anxiety and suffering are as natural to them as serenity and joy. (Location 1534)

obsession, self-deception and perpetual unrest. (Location 1535)

He preached selflessness; but he organised his life to allow him to combine mystical ecstasy with more commonplace consolations. (Location 1538)

Those who spurn their animal nature do not cease to be human, they merely become caricatures of humanity. (Location 1540)

An exploration of the appeal of Fascism to the progressive mind, it is also a love story. (Location 1563)

Yet his own life demonstrates that this is impossible. In a turn of events that is part tragedy and part farce, the narrator discovers that he is the Air Vice Marshal’s son. (Location 1572)

But the narrator rejects the life of the Aerodrome for a life of ordinary love of the sort his father despises. (Location 1577)

Other animals may live without knowing why, but humans can impress a purpose on their lives. (Location 1579)

David Hume saw humans as a highly inventive species, but otherwise very like other animals. (Location 1581)

Hume expected no more than this. Perhaps for that reason, he has had little influence. (Location 1583)

Hitler and his followers shared the Enlightenment’s faith in human progress, a faith that Christianity had kindled. In embracing the grandiose view of human possibilities (Location 1586)

The Bolsheviks believed man to be destined for dominion over nature. (Location 1596)

Fedorov’s view of humanity as a chosen species, destined to conquer the Earth and defeat mortality, is a modern formulation of an ancient faith. (Location 1599)

The practical effects of the Marxian-Fedorovian cult of technology were ruinous. Inspired by a materialist philosophy, the Soviet Union inflicted more far-reaching and lasting damage on the material environment than any regime in history. (Location 1605)

Much of the opposition to Gorbachev focused on his scheme for redirecting some of Russia’s rivers, which would have flooded large parts of Siberia and – as a consequence – altered the world’s climate. (Location 1610)

Perhaps, one way or another, it will someday be feasible. (Location 1617)

The fatal snag in the promise of cryogenic immortality is not that it exaggerates the powers of technology. (Location 1618)

Technological immortalists imagine that the society that exists today will last for ever. (Location 1619)

War, revolution or economic collapse will have laid waste to the cryonic mausoleums in which they silently await their resurrection. (Location 1621)

himself a morphine addict – showed that wild chacma baboons used intoxicants to disrupt the tedium of ordinary consciousness. (Location 1634)

‘The habitual use of poisons for the purpose of inducing euphoria – a feeling of mental wellbeing and happiness – is a universal remedy for the pain of consciousness.’ (Location 1637)

Drug use is a primordial animal activity. Among humans, it is immemorial and nearly universal. What then accounts for the ‘war on drugs’? (Location 1639)

Drug use is a tacit admission of a forbidden truth. For most people happiness is beyond reach. Fulfilment is found not in daily life but in escaping from it. Since happiness is unavailable, the mass of mankind seeks pleasure. (Location 1647)

Societies founded on a faith in progress cannot admit the normal unhappiness of human life. As (Location 1650)

Jesus promised the resurrection of the body, not an afterlife as a disembodied consciousness. Despite this, the followers of Jesus have always disparaged the flesh. (Location 1666)

These cybernauts seek to make the thin trickle of consciousness – our shallowest fleeting sensation – everlasting. (Location 1675)

Cybernauts who seek immortality in the ether are ready to disown their bodies for the sake of a deathless existence in the ether. (Location 1679)

but it will be at the price of losing their animal souls. (Location 1680)

all reality is virtual. (Location 1689)

Lem’s phantomat is the endpoint in a new technology of virtual reality; but humans have always sought relief from their lives. (Location 1699)

Virtual reality is a technological simulation of techniques of lucid dreaming practised by shamans for millennia. (Location 1708)

the shamans know that neither the ordinary world nor the alternate worlds they explore in trance are of their own making. (Location 1710)

It is the hold on our lives we gain when we know we are mortal. (Location 1717)

Whatever we believe, death marks the limit of the only life we know. (Location 1719)

The idea that we may be on the way to contriving a fiction from which there is no exit endows technology with a power it can never possess. (Location 1724)

Even so, it can no more enable us to escape fate and chance than the cryogenic vats that promise everlasting life to frozen corpses. (Location 1725)

Lucid dreaming is a dangerous sport; those who practise it must expect to encounter things they could not have imagined. (Location 1727)

At that point, we will find ourselves once again in a world we have not made. We have dreamt of machines that can deliver us from ourselves; but the dream worlds they make for us contain rifts and gaps that return us to mortal life. (Location 1732)

Humanity could soon find itself alone, in an empty world. Humans co-opt over 40 per cent of the Earth’s living tissue. If, over the next few decades, human numbers increase by half again, well over half the world’s organic matter will be given over to humans. (Location 1738)

If the present wave of mass extinctions is followed by an Era of Solitude, it will surely be full of mystics. (Location 1742)

What could be more natural for a species that has exterminated its animal kin than to look into a mirror and find that it is not alone? (Location 1744)

A zoo is a better window from which to look out of the human world than a monastery. (Location 1754)

If we turn from solipsism, we will be less concerned with the fate of the human animal. (Location 1758)

Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obviously worth preserving. (Location 1761)

The Earth will forget mankind. The play of life will go on. (Location 1763)

Science enables humans to satisfy their needs. It does nothing to change them. (Location 1772)

There is progress in knowledge, but not in ethics. (Location 1773)

The growth of knowledge is real and – barring a worldwide catastrophe – it is now irreversible. (Location 1774)

History is not progress or decline, but recurring gain and loss. (Location 1776)

It enabled larger numbers to live poorer lives. Almost certainly, Paleolithic humanity was better off. (Location 1781)

other areas, the hunter-gatherers destroyed their environment themselves. (Location 1785)

There was never a Golden Age of harmony with the Earth. (Location 1787)

Most hunter-gatherers were fully as rapacious as later humans. (Location 1788)

If this is so, it is because both increased the powers of humans without enhancing their freedom. (Location 1790)

In the eyes of those for whom wealth means having an abundance of objects, the hunter-gathering life must look like poverty. (Location 1791)

‘We are inclined to think of hunter-gatherers as poor because they don’t have anything; perhaps better to think of them for that reason as free,’ writes (Location 1792)

‘… it is the agriculturalists, with their commitment to specific farms and large numbers of children, who are forced to keep moving, resettling, colonising new lands.… As (Location 1797)

Infanticide, geronticide and sexual abstinence limited their numbers. Once again, these practices can be seen as consequences of their poverty; but they are just as well viewed as ways of maintaining their freedom. (Location 1805)

Very probably they had no choice. Whether as a result of climate change, or a slow build-up in population, or because wildlife had declined through over-hunting, hunter-gathering communities found themselves impelled to increase food production. (Location 1807)

Farmers drove the remaining hunter-gatherers into less hospitable territory, or simply killed them off. The remainder were driven to the edge of the world, marginal lands such as the Kalahari where they linger today. (Location 1810)

Farming became indispensable because of the larger population it made possible. From that point onwards there was no turning back. (Location 1812)

They are unlikely to improve the lives of peasant farmers; but they may well enable them to survive in greater numbers. (Location 1814)

‘In the next century inexpensive but capable robots will displace human labour so broadly that the average workday would have to plummet to practically zero to keep everyone employed.’ (Location 1818)

Yet it is time that increasing numbers are becoming economically redundant. It is no longer unthinkable that within a few generations the majority of the population will have little or no role in the production process. (Location 1822)

At the same time, new technologies are steadily stripping away the functions of the labour force that the Industrial Revolution has created. (Location 1827)

will value human labour only in so far as it cannot be replaced. (Location 1829)

lead to a future where humans are supported by machines, as our ancestors were by wildlife.’ (Location 1830)

‘almost all humans work to amuse other humans’. (Location 1831)

Many of them satisfy needs that in the past were repressed or disguised. (Location 1833)

The function of this new economy, legal and illegal, is to entertain and distract a population which – though it is busier than ever before – secretly suspects that it is useless. (Location 1835)

Unless it is cut short by ecological collapse, it will eventually do the same to nearly everyone. (Location 1837)

None but the incorrigibly feckless any longer believe in taking the long view. Saving is gambling, careers and pensions are high-level punts. (Location 1843)

The few who are seriously rich hedge their bets. (Location 1844)

The proles – the rest of us – live from day to day. (Location 1844)

Today, nearly everyone is much better off. Yet the rackety existence of the majority is as far removed from the security enjoyed by the truly wealthy as it was in Victorian times. (Location 1852)

Wars are no longer fought by conscript armies but by computers – and, in the collapsed states that litter much of the world, by the ragged irregular armies of the poor. (Location 1854)

Social democracy has been replaced by an oligarchy of the rich as part of the price of peace. (Location 1857)

In the twenty-first century the rich work harder than they have ever done. (Location 1892)

where the accidie of burnt-out executives is treated with a regime of ‘carefully metered violence, a microdose of madness like the minute traces of strychnine in a nerve tonic’. (Location 1894)

‘The consumer society hungers for the deviant and the unexpected. What else can drive the bizarre shifts in the entertainment landscape that will keep us buying?’ (Location 1898)

But what will happen when we run out of new vices? How will satiety and idleness be staved off when designer sex, drugs and violence no longer sell? (Location 1900)

Situationists inspired anti-capitalist riots that shook the capitals of Europe. (Location 1906)

Like the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Situationists dreamt of a world in which labour had given way to play. (Location 1915)

Marx scorned utopianism as unscientific. But if ‘scientific socialism’ resembles any science, it is alchemy. (Location 1919)

Marx imagined the end of scarcity would bring the end of history. (Location 1922)

Hunter-gatherers were less burdened by labour than the majority of mankind at any later stage, but their sparse communities were completely dependent on the Earth’s bounty. (Location 1924)

Instead, animated by the faith that humans are destined to master the Earth, he insisted that freedom from labour could be achieved without any restraints on their desires. (Location 1927)

Their ideas soon reappeared as the cleverly marketed nihilism of punk rock bands. (Location 1942)

Situationists soon became just one more commodity in the cultural supermarket. (Location 1942)

Humans are gods stranded in a world of darkness. (Location 1952)

This mystical vision is the Situationists’ true inspiration, and that of anyone who has ever dreamt of a world in which humans can live without restraint. (Location 1954)

Markets have always been partly figments, but today they are more so than ever before. (Location 1957)

The Internet confirms what has long been known – the world is ruled by the power of suggestion. (Location 1959)

consciousness emerged as a side effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media. (Location 1967)

Humans are ill suited to the incessant labour and recurrent migration that go with farming. Cities were created from the yearning for a settled existence. (Location 1972)

They need to move freely on the land so they can track its changes; but they are not bound to move into new territory, as farmers must when they have exhausted (Location 1973)

the soil. (Location 1974)

but it is ancient cities that best meet the need for a settled existence. (Location 1975)

For them, becoming modern meant racial conquest and genocide. (Location 1994)

Any society that systematically uses science and technology to achieve its goals is modern. Death camps are as modern as laser surgery. (Location 1995)

in most others fundamentalism is on the rise. (Location 1998)

meaningless. Despite these facts, twenty-first-century modernisers talk in the dated accents of Marx and the Positivists, nineteenth-century Europeans who mistook their parochial hopes for universal historical laws. (Location 2000)

Everyone believed the world was becoming steadily more secular. (Location 2008)

Everyone took for granted that the world was at peace. States everywhere were linked up in a worldwide network of free markets. Even the biggest of them – China – was signing up to global capitalism. (Location 2010)

Al Qaeda took orders from no state, it exploited the weakness of states. A by-product of ‘globalisation’, it successfully privatised terror and projected it worldwide. (Location 2015)

but it uses the Internet to repudiate Western modernity. (Location 2019)

But the Japanese case is unique in that it involved the deliberate and sustained rejection of a key modern technology. (Location 2027)

own. A new kind of two-bladed plough, a spiked-wheel potato planter and a new kind of weeding machine were developed during the time of Japan’s isolation. (Location 2033)

There is no escape from a world of predatory states. (Location 2045)

For most people in the countryside and many in the cities, only smallholdings staved off starvation. (Location 2056)

Quite to the contrary, it has pioneered what may prove to be the most advanced form of capitalism. (Location 2057)

Russian anarcho-capitalism shows many signs of surpassing Western capitalism in this new phase of development. (Location 2061)

Future wars will be fought over dwindling natural resources. (Location 2074)

Do not make the mistake of thinking that wars of scarcity are fought only among the poor. The wealth of the richest countries depends on retaining their grip on natural resources. (Location 2083)

The Cold War was a family quarrel among Western ideologies. (Location 2087)

We may well look back on the twentieth century as a time of peace. (Location 2089)

‘I had supposed that most people liked money better than anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better.’ (Location 2094)

He believed fulfilment was in love, the pursuit of truth and working for a better world. (Location 2096)

average humanity, happiness is found in none of these things, but in the desperate, world-forgetting play of war. (Location 2097)

They come from ethnic and religious enmities, competition for trade and territory, the life-and-death struggle for scarce resources. (Location 2104)

As with tyranny, the promise is fraudulent; but the jobbing world is broken up, its spent hopes and empty duties left behind for a time. (Location 2106)

humankind it stands for a dream of freedom. (Location 2107)

Among bored consumers in rich post-military societies, it has become another entertainment. As for real war, that is like smoking, a habit of the poor. (Location 2108)

We can dream of a world in which a greatly reduced human population lives in a partially restored paradise; (Location 2112)

their needs met by new technologies that leave little mark on the Earth; where life is given over to curiosity, pleasure and play. (Location 2114)

Microchips allow technology to be partially dematerialised, (Location 2116)

Solar power allows (Location 2117)

A high-tech Green utopia, in which a few humans live happily in balance with the rest of life, is scientifically feasible; but it is humanly unimaginable. (Location 2119)

progress will consist in labouring to keep up with it. (Location 2121)

But limiting human numbers clashes with powerful human needs. (Location 2122)

Zero population growth could be enforced only by a global authority with draconian powers and unwavering determination. (Location 2124)

Humans are no more masters of machines than they are of fire or the wheel. The forms of artificial life and intelligence they are constructing today will elude human control just as naturally occurring forms of life have done. (Location 2132)

Natural life forms have no built-in evolutionary advantage over organisms that began their life as artefacts. (Location 2134)

According to Mark Ward, ‘once a system is handed over to living, breeding software there is no turning back’. (Location 2138)

The replacement of humanity by its own artefacts is a curious prospect. (Location 2143)

Almost inevitably, they will seek to remodel themselves, the better to survive in the wasteland they have made. (Location 2145)

the primordial feeling for other living things that links humans with their evolutionary home. (Location 2146)

Those who fear conscious machines do so because they think that consciousness is the most valuable feature of humans (Location 2151)

As machines slip from human control they will do more than become conscious. (Location 2153)

Not only will they think and have emotions, they will develop the errors and illusions that go with self-awareness. (Location 2155)

Like us, the talking machines of the future will find themselves saying more than they can ever tell. (Location 2161)

Scientists searching for extra-terrestrial life ponder anxiously whether mankind is alone in the universe. (Location 2163)

The digital world was invented as an extension of human consciousness, but it soon transcended it. In future, the digital world will outreach even the minds of machines. (Location 2167)

For those for whom life means action, the world is a stage on which to enact their dreams. (Location 2185)

The idea that the aim of life is not action but contemplation has almost disappeared. (Location 2188)

At bottom, their faith that the world can be transformed by human will is a denial of their own mortality. (Location 2190)

Progress promises release from time – the hope that, in the spiralling ascent of the species, we can somehow preserve ourselves from oblivion. (Location 2193)

Today the good life means making full use of science and technology – without succumbing to the illusion that they can make us free, reasonable, or even sane. (Location 2196)

in the knowledge that it is an interval between anarchy and tyranny. (Location 2198)

Nothing is more alien to the present age than idleness. (Location 2203)

Progress condemns idleness. (Location 2209)

up. Of course this is only a mirage; but the worst of progress is not that it is an illusion. It is that it is endless. (Location 2210)

Gamblers wager for the sake of playing. Among those who fish for pleasure, the best fisherman is not the one who catches the most fish but the one who enjoys fishing the most. (Location 2219)

In our eyes, Homo ludens lives a life without purpose. (Location 2221)

Since play is beyond us, we have given ourselves over to a life of purposeless work instead. To labour as Sisyphus does is our fate. (Location 2221)

The new technologies that are springing up around us seem to be inventions that serve our ends, when they and we are moves in a game that has no end. (Location 2224)

Spiritual life is not a search for meaning but a release from it. (Location 2229)

Through fasting, concentration and prayer, mystics shut out the shifting world of the senses in order to reach a timeless reality. (Location 2240)

Infinite progress … infinite tedium. (Location 2244)

Not moral hopes or mystical dreams but groundless facts are the true objects of contemplation. (Location 2250)