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The Soul of the Marionette

A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom

John Gray

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Soul of the Marionette Download image

ISBN10: 0374536236
ISBN13: 9780374536237

Trade Paperback

192 Pages



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In his new book, John Gray draws together the religious, philosophic, and fantastical traditions that question the very idea of human freedom. We flatter ourselves about the nature of free will and yet the most enormous forces—logical, physical, metaphysical—constrain our every action. Many writers and intellectuals have always understood this, but instead of embracing our condition we battle against it, with everyone from world conquerors to modern scientists dreaming of a "human dominion" almost comically at odds with our true state. Filled with examples and drawing on reading that ranges from the Gnostics to Philip K. Dick, The Soul of the Marionette is a meditation on everything from cybernetics to the fairground marionettes of the title.


Praise for The Soul of the Marionette

“[The Soul of the Marionette] is pervaded by the signature skepticism of its author, a British philosopher. Trapped in bodies, burdened by mortality, and ‘cursed with self-reflective thought,’ we are limited in our freedom. Gray dismisses modern rationalism, with its faith in human progress, as a kind of Gnosticism made from ‘scraps of decayed Christianity,’ whose central myth is that knowledge will set us free. Spirited tours through the lives and work of various artists add texture to his provocative arguments.”The New Yorker

“Gray connects the dots among science fiction (including that of Stanislaw Lem), Borges, the human-sacrificing Aztecs, global warming, and the loss of privacy (and freedom) that the cyber revolution has wrought, challenging readers to make some leaps of logic and come to counterintuitive conclusions.”Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


The Faith of Puppets

In the first centuries of our era, the Gnostics disputed with the Christians. They were annihilated, but we can imagine their possible victory.

Jorge Luis Borges, 'A Defense...

About the author

John Gray

John Gray is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including The Silence of Animals, The Immortalization Commission, Black Mass, and Straw Dogs. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he has been a professor of politics at Oxford, visiting professor at Harvard and Yale, and professor of European thought at the London School of Economics. He now writes full-time.

© Justine Stoddart

John Gray

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