Philosophers once aimed to teach us serenity. Buddha smiled as he contemplated the void and Socrates drank his dose of hemlock in the same spirit of wise acceptance. Philosophy today has a different agenda: its gift to us is a contagious fear, as it terrorises us into awareness of our world’s dangerous fragility. Even before you open John Gray’s book, its cover tells you to be afraid, to be very afraid. The design couples a black mass with a bloodbath. Ants pullulate in the mire and gore: the lord of the flies has unleashed an infestation of pests. Is this the plague of insects that overran Maoist China when the peasants, browbeaten into the defence of the leader’s agricultural regime, battered all the sparrows to death? Man, seeking to unseat God, imagines heaven is within his reach. Instead he creates hell on earth.
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