Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom, by John Gray

Staff review by Chris Saliba


English philosopher John Gray examines the notion of freedom in an age of technology and progress. 

Gnosticism is the belief that the world was not created by God, but by a demiurge, a malign or incompetent deity. Gnostics also hold great faith in knowledge: once the world is fully understood, humans can emancipate themselves. This is the starting point for philosopher John Gray’s new book The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom. Gray  suggests that many of us today are Gnostics without realising it. We believe scientific knowledge will help us escape the limitations that shape our natural condition. In science’s most ambitious scenarios, Gray says, human beings become marionettes, puppets on genetic strings.

The Soul of the Marionette is very much a freewheeling essay that meditates on freedom, using examples from a broad range of writers, such as Heinrich von Kleist and science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Gray doesn’t hold back on his typical gloominess about technology and progress, suggesting the best way to free ourselves is by accepting our ignorance and simply letting meaning come and go. “A wholly examined life - if such a life were possible - might be wholly worthless,” he writes, perhaps with unintended humour. Despite Gray’s pessimism, this is a book full of unexpected and uncanny insights.

The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom, by John Gray. Published by Allen Lane. ISBN: 9781846144493 RRP: $35 

To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.