Philosopher, John Gray joins us at BRLSI to discuss 'The New Leviathans.'


John Gray, one of Britain’s leading thinkers, will be giving a lecture at The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution on Tuesday 19th March, discussing some of the ideas from his latest book, The New Leviathans.

Gray is a political philosopher, whose books include Seven Types of Atheism, Straw Dogs, Black Mass, The Soul of the Marionette, The Silence of Animals and Feline Philosophy. Since the release of his book Straw Dogs 20 years ago, which has subsequently gone on to achieve something of cult status, Gray’s work and reputation have come to occupy a space in contemporary culture few philosophers share.

His writing has been widely championed by cultural figures such as JG Ballard &Will Self, while philosophers as high-profile as Chomsky & Zizek outwardly respond to the sting of his book reviews. A regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘A Point of View’ and a columnist for The New Statesman, you might still be familiar with some of Professor Gray’s opinions even if you are yet to discover his books.

Author, JG Ballard once claimed that Gray was a thinker who ‘challenged assumptions and exposed delusions’, and in his latest book The New Leviathans, John Gray enables us to understand the world of the 2020s with all its contradictions, moral horrors and disappointments through a fresh reading of Thomas Hobbes’ classic work.

In Gray’s view the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in an era of near-apocalyptic triumphalism in the West: a genuine belief that a rational, liberal, well-managed future now awaited humankind and that tyranny, nationalism and unreason lay in the past. Yet, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many terrible events have occurred and so many poisonous ideas have flourished, we should perhaps be questioning our liberal certainties which often treat these events as historical aberrations which will somehow dissolve away.

Sohrab Ahmar from the New Statesman described The New Leviathans as ‘A timely meditation on the passing of the liberal age, and on the life and afterlives of its grandfather, Thomas Hobbes. Composed with Gray’s characteristic erudition and taste for the ironies of intellectual history, The New Leviathans is a provocative delight, even as the author’s premonitions about the world to come are thoroughly discomfiting.’

Filled with fascinating and challenging perceptions, The New Leviathans is a powerful meditation on historical and present-day folly. As a species, Gray asserts, humans always seem to be ‘struggling to face the reality of base and delusive human instincts’. He asks, might a more self-aware, realistic and disabused ethics help us all?

John Gray is a thinker famed for his stark philosophical standpoint, yet whatever your take on the perfectibility of human beings or the dark potential of technology, he is a thinker you simply cannot afford to ignore, and the BRLSI are delighted to be joined by one of the world’s most foremost intellectuals for what promises to be one of the highlights of their regular talks programme.

Tuesday 19th March 7.30pm £4 – £8

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