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Should the human race voluntarily put an end to its existence? Do we even know what it means to be human? And what if we are nothing like we suppose ourselves to be? In this challenging philosophical work, celebrated supernatural writer Thomas Ligotti broaches these and other issues in an unflinching and penetrating manner that brings to mind some of his own imperishable h Should the human race voluntarily put an end to its existence? Do we even know what it means to be human? And what if we are nothing like we suppose ourselves to be? In this challenging philosophical work, celebrated supernatural writer Thomas Ligotti broaches these and other issues in an unflinching and penetrating manner that brings to mind some of his own imperishable horror fiction. For Ligotti, there is no refuge from our existence as conscious beings who must suppress their awareness of what horrors life holds in store for them. Yet try as we may, our consciousness may at any time rise up against our defenses against it, whispering to us things we would rather not hear: Religion is a transparent fantasy, optimism an exercise in delusional wish-fulfillment, and even the quest for pleasure an ultimately doomed enterprise. Drawing upon the work of such pessimistic philosophers as Arthur Schopenhauer and Peter Wessel Zapffe, as well as the findings of various fields of study such as neuroscience, moral philosophy, Terror Management Psychology, the sociology of self-deception, and the theory of uncanny experience, Ligotti presents a compelling contrivance of horror for the consideration of his reader. Perhaps most provocatively, Ligotti sees in the literature of supernatural fiction a confirmation of the cheerless vision he is propounding, dovetailing into his book the overarching theme that, having been ousted by evolution from the natural world, the human race has been effectively translated to a supernatural order of being. In this state of existence, we are denied slumber in nature s arms and must exist in a waking nightmare in which we are taunted by hints of our true nature. Written with the pungency and panache we expect from a master of English prose, The Conspiracy against the Human Race is a hypnotic guide to the darker regions of one of the most interesting minds of our time. "The Conspiracy against the Human Race is renowned horror writer Thomas Ligotti's first work of nonfiction. Through impressively wide-ranging discussions of and reflections on literary and philosophical works of a pessimistic bent, he shows that the greatest horrors are not the products of our imagination. The worst and most plentiful horrors are instead to be found in reality. Mr. Ligotti's calm, but often bloodcurdling turns of phrase, evoke the dreadfulness of the human condition. Those who cannot bear the truth will pretend this is another work of fiction, but in doing so they perpetuate the conspiracy of the book's title." --David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence; Department of Philosophy, University of Cape Town, South Africa


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Should the human race voluntarily put an end to its existence? Do we even know what it means to be human? And what if we are nothing like we suppose ourselves to be? In this challenging philosophical work, celebrated supernatural writer Thomas Ligotti broaches these and other issues in an unflinching and penetrating manner that brings to mind some of his own imperishable h Should the human race voluntarily put an end to its existence? Do we even know what it means to be human? And what if we are nothing like we suppose ourselves to be? In this challenging philosophical work, celebrated supernatural writer Thomas Ligotti broaches these and other issues in an unflinching and penetrating manner that brings to mind some of his own imperishable horror fiction. For Ligotti, there is no refuge from our existence as conscious beings who must suppress their awareness of what horrors life holds in store for them. Yet try as we may, our consciousness may at any time rise up against our defenses against it, whispering to us things we would rather not hear: Religion is a transparent fantasy, optimism an exercise in delusional wish-fulfillment, and even the quest for pleasure an ultimately doomed enterprise. Drawing upon the work of such pessimistic philosophers as Arthur Schopenhauer and Peter Wessel Zapffe, as well as the findings of various fields of study such as neuroscience, moral philosophy, Terror Management Psychology, the sociology of self-deception, and the theory of uncanny experience, Ligotti presents a compelling contrivance of horror for the consideration of his reader. Perhaps most provocatively, Ligotti sees in the literature of supernatural fiction a confirmation of the cheerless vision he is propounding, dovetailing into his book the overarching theme that, having been ousted by evolution from the natural world, the human race has been effectively translated to a supernatural order of being. In this state of existence, we are denied slumber in nature s arms and must exist in a waking nightmare in which we are taunted by hints of our true nature. Written with the pungency and panache we expect from a master of English prose, The Conspiracy against the Human Race is a hypnotic guide to the darker regions of one of the most interesting minds of our time. "The Conspiracy against the Human Race is renowned horror writer Thomas Ligotti's first work of nonfiction. Through impressively wide-ranging discussions of and reflections on literary and philosophical works of a pessimistic bent, he shows that the greatest horrors are not the products of our imagination. The worst and most plentiful horrors are instead to be found in reality. Mr. Ligotti's calm, but often bloodcurdling turns of phrase, evoke the dreadfulness of the human condition. Those who cannot bear the truth will pretend this is another work of fiction, but in doing so they perpetuate the conspiracy of the book's title." --David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence; Department of Philosophy, University of Cape Town, South Africa

30 review for The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Are you one of those hardcore True Detective fans held in thrall by Detective Rust Cohle's rants about the bleakness of the universe? Did you wonder where all that weird stuff was coming from? Here. From this book. That's where it was coming from. Sometimes even verbatim. This is an impressionistic survey by weird fiction writer Thomas Ligotti of the bleakest practitioners of modern philosophy, the guys who make Cioran look like a stand-up comic and Schopenhauer and Camus like irresponsible polly Are you one of those hardcore True Detective fans held in thrall by Detective Rust Cohle's rants about the bleakness of the universe? Did you wonder where all that weird stuff was coming from? Here. From this book. That's where it was coming from. Sometimes even verbatim. This is an impressionistic survey by weird fiction writer Thomas Ligotti of the bleakest practitioners of modern philosophy, the guys who make Cioran look like a stand-up comic and Schopenhauer and Camus like irresponsible pollyannas. If you've ever wondered whether we are nothing but cosmic puppets and human consciousness nothing but illusion, if you have ever suspected we are mere bags of skin crammed full of sequential sensations imagining themselves to be human, if you have ever guessed that the creation of the universe may be nothing but God's desperate attempt to commit suicide by shattering himself into a trillion pieces, or if you have concluded that the perpetuation of humanity is in itself a wrongheaded enterprise, only partially absolved by negative population growth, then this book may be just the thing for you. I wouldn't call this a philosophical treatise exactly, since Ligotti's intention seems to be to disturb and to alienate rather than to enlighten. It is really more an example of what they used to call "belles lettres" (if this traditionally light-weight category may admit a work so profoundly pessimistic), an attempt by Ligotti to extend the aims and rhetorical techniques of weird fiction into the realm of expository prose. The book is loosely organized, and my favorite chapter is perhaps the most tangential: an analysis of the supernatural in literature which presents--among other things--an extremely illuminating comparison between the very different uses of the supernatural in "Hamlet" and "Macbeth." So, True Detective fans, enjoy! (If "enjoy" is indeed the right word.) But don't expect Rust to chime in at the end and tell you that "The Light is winning."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Ligotti is a pessimist—and not some namby-pamby, equivocating, of course it will rain every day of my vacation! kind of doubting dude: Ligotti's pessimism is old school, pure, richly endowed with the ichor of nullity. Ligotti believes, firmly and avowedly, that, as the human race would have been better off never having come into existence in the first place, the most beneficial and sensible outcome for our species, as constituted at this particular point in the space/time continuum, would be to Ligotti is a pessimist—and not some namby-pamby, equivocating, of course it will rain every day of my vacation! kind of doubting dude: Ligotti's pessimism is old school, pure, richly endowed with the ichor of nullity. Ligotti believes, firmly and avowedly, that, as the human race would have been better off never having come into existence in the first place, the most beneficial and sensible outcome for our species, as constituted at this particular point in the space/time continuum, would be to voluntarily abstain, to a single man and woman, from producing anymore offspring; and thus extinguish our brutal ontological dilemma with a self-enforced and -executed extinction. What, exactly, comprises this dilemma, to such a degree that a willingly undertaken mass-snuffout seems a sensible solution? It is consciousness, that horrible awareness bestowed upon our otherwise animal and natural fleshly bodies that divides us from ourselves, irreparably separates us from the physical world from which we were sprung. Whether this horrible gift was endowed by a supernatural agency or evolutionary development, it long ago metastasized, inflating itself to absurd proportions that cannot be reconciled to the bestial beings in which it is forced to reside. The result is endless torment and suffering, as this consciousness can contemplate both itself and the world, and can anticipate such inevitable mental excruciations as pain, terror, loss, forgetfulness and—the end point ineluctably awaiting on the horizon—death. Alone in nature do we have the capacity to reflect upon the past and contemplate the future—and, thus, we are aware of the futility and ephemerality of our hopes and desires, in both what has and what will crumble to dust. Though we may experience pleasures and fulfillments, can pass along a portion of our inner-selves through our genetically-generated offspring, our individualities cannot be reconciled to the temporality of our allotted time and the fact that death awaits us, if not in the next second, then at some point in the days ahead; and this, along with a thousand other cuts, are what perpetuate the torment that comprises the centre of our conscious existence. We have established individual, societal, and mental edifices and constructions—illusionary all—in an effort to conceal these bald truths and allow us to proceed with the business of getting on getting on; but it is all a thinly-veiled chimera. We isolate this unpleasant reality where it can be ignored; we anchor ourselves within structures such as religion, families, and ideologies; we distract ourselves through our work, our hobbies, our immersion in mediums such as television and the internet; and we sublimate the truth we have dealt with by these previous methods within that which we create ourselves. It would take but the slightest of perspective alterations for the true and unadulterated horror of our reality to burst forth in all its macabre might: we are puppets, drawn away from the verity of our contingent nature by the charade of freedom that we have so powerfully enacted; fleshly vessels possessed of nothing at all like the self that we so stubbornly continue to believe comprises our wonderfully unique and individualized persons; and then madness—perhaps the truest state in which we can be rendered—would perforce overwhelm all of our controls. We are insane, string-operated, death-bound creatures threaded daily through the needle of suffering—and there is no respite in store for us in any direction, from any quarter. Thus, we would be better off with non-existence: painless, non-conscious, nothingness. So sayeth the pessimist. Ligotti freely admits that, throughout history, this has been a position held by a tiny minority of the population, surrounded by a wealth of optimists who believe that it is better to be alive than to be dead, that every day, in some way, we are getting better, and that hope springs eternal. These optimists have constructed religions, philosophies, political theories, and cultures to reflect this belief that life is worth living; what's more, they cannot abide that which the pessimist says, sensing the discomfiting viability of their bleak outlooks—and so such dark individuals are exiled from the commonality of popular and accepted thought. To pessimists such as Ligotti, however, these magnificently grim and sober naysayers produced the only type of food for thought that provides the necessary nourishment; and the author takes us upon tours of the output of these profound pessimists who have filled him with the emptiness of their ontological negation. These are names we have all heard of—Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Cioran, Lovecraft—and those dredged from the deepest obscurity—Zapffe, Mainländer, Saltus. Some have qualified their pessimism, such that human extinction forms no part of their solution; the majority advocate our termination, seeing it as the reasonable response to our paradoxical existence. The state of our bifurcation has been attributed to a suicidal deity self-rent into a billion awarenesses in order to dilute and destroy itself; to a nature that ripened consciousness to an absurd degree, in order to endgender beings who would perforce, through alienation, destroy their creational environment; and to a simple evolutionary progression that exceeded itself by the grossest of over-exuberant mutations; in any event, all of these outlooks point towards a singular reality: that we inhabit a universe which, together with every single thing contained therein, can only be regarded as MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Of course, Ligotti declares from the very start that such pessimism is unprovable—you either believe it to be so, or—as a majority does—you don't. It is unlikely that such arguments will persuade those not innately inclined to such bleak conclusions. What's more, so pervasively has the desirability of living been engendered within us by our consciousness, and the illusionary frameworks it has empowered us to fabricate, that even the most unshakeable of pessimists will often live out their lives until some manner of death extinguishes their flame. Whilst the undesirability of a continued existence for humanity may have made itself perfectly clear in one's mind, it is quite another thing to wield this belief in the manner that logic dictates it be so used; this consciousness is powerful stuff indeed. This was a great read—Ligotti is a perfect writer for such a topic: his prose style, so sober and deadpan and inexorable, is yet propelled by an undercurrent of the darkest and driest of humor. Laughing out loud while reading a work of such implacable and relentless negativity is an amazing state of affairs; the highest of compliments should be paid to an author who can so skillfully render such a result from razor-blade ruminations. What's more, his analysis of the uncanny and our fleeting awareness of its presence in the quotidian, and the way in which it has been explored in literature and film, philosophy and thought, was very good, as was his exploration of the supernatural and how it functions as a form of the sublimation that he—and thinkers like Zapffe—hold to be one of the principal measures of our ability to hold off the starkly overwhelming reality of our existential predicament, doing so in works ranging from Shakespeare to Lovecraft, from Radcliffe to James. Other than the occasional tendency to melodramatic and overblown phrasing, a nod to his origins as a penner of horror fiction, Ligotti delivers such material with keen insights and an assured touch. I enjoyed his takes, and his reproduction of the takes of others, on such subjects very much. I am what Ligotti would refer to as an optimistic pessimist: I have no hope; I awake each day with a heightened horror, shaken by the quenching afterimages of that wasteland which I espy so clearly with sleep-lidded eyes; I am riven again and anew by the contemplation of all the impossible angles that abound in this scratchy, acrylic absurdity called my existence, the anile and awkward measures I enact in order to endure through to another sunset; and yet, within this internal darkness, I have access to an ineradicable source of light and laughter and belief in this crazy, irrational species with which I share my ridiculous existence on this planet. I have little hope for mankind, abundant hope for man. I dread the interminability of my remaining days upon this earth, with the bleakscape shuttered away I thrill with each dawn at the possibilities inherent within that particular day. Whereas Ligotti looks at our reality and sees no reason to exist, I look from a similar vantage point and cannot see any reason not to. Certainly we operate behind a palimpsest of barriers and shields that we have concocted in order to draw our attention away from a naked and morbid obsession with our unique status within this existence—the conspiracy overseen by our perverted consciousness—but so what? Such a determined and enduring struggle against a universe ever revealing itself in its infinite wonder, and reducing our status within it to that of motes of wholly insignificant dust, strikes me as impressive and worthy of admiration, not a mad folly to be discontinued with malice as we take stock of exactly how utterly alone and determined we are. It is the refusal to bow to what seems inevitable that has always comprised the most valuable part of what constitutes that which we label the spirit of humanity. It is our knowledge of suffering that has allowed us to produce works of art, in such a wide variety of mediums, that have so profoundly and deeply and inspiringly touched and moved one another; allowed us to cross the seemingly infinite and eternal spaces that separate us and given us enough of the touches of the other to fortify us for another day. It is that flip-side of hatred, the passionate attachment to another doomed being that we call love, which exposes us to so much that enriches and enhances our brief passage through a world irreconcilable with a mind that cannot endure this core conflict between materiality and awareness. I am inherently inclined to accept a considerable proportion of Ligotti's diagnosis—and I am also inherently inclined to reject the majority of his proposed cure. With that said, this is a book whose contents I appreciate taking inside, with all of the enlightening, engaging, discomfiting, and enjoyable directness that comprised it; and I must say, that to reap such positive benefits from a work of unequivocal negation makes for a surprising but pleasant experience.

  3. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Neither Positive Nor Equivocal: The Malignant Uselessness of Being Fear is an instinctual response to threat common to all animals. Horror, the self-generation of fear without threat, is unique to human beings. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race is an extended meditation on this remarkable fact. And its conclusions are even more remarkable: that the faculty we call consciousness, and consider as the apotheosis of evolutionary genetics, is profoundly destructive, not because we possess it but b Neither Positive Nor Equivocal: The Malignant Uselessness of Being Fear is an instinctual response to threat common to all animals. Horror, the self-generation of fear without threat, is unique to human beings. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race is an extended meditation on this remarkable fact. And its conclusions are even more remarkable: that the faculty we call consciousness, and consider as the apotheosis of evolutionary genetics, is profoundly destructive, not because we possess it but because we attempt to temper it through delusion. (While at least half of Ligotti’s book is written tongue-in-cheek, it isn’t obvious which half that is. Therefore, in my remarks here I have chosen to ignore his irony entirely). Ligotti is perfectly clear: “Consciousness has forced us into the paradoxical position of striving to be unself-conscious of what we are—hunks of spoiling flesh on disintegrating bones.” The conspiracy is one of humanity against itself. We limit our consciousness in order to survive in a world of unbearable suffering, both ours and other creatures. Consciousness exposes each of us to a “too clear vision of what we do not wish to see” and therefore must be hampered and downplayed lest it threaten our own survival through the horror it reveals. That we are a threat to ourselves is factually incontrovertible. That we pose this threat because we are potentially aware of the overwhelming reality of existence, is the surprising but plausible significance in the Genesis tale of eating from the tree of knowledge. Through that metaphorical act, we became “a biological paradox that cannot live with its consciousness and cannot live without it. And in so living and not living, you take your place with the undead.” We must deny what we are in order to be what we are. Ligotti’s book is therefore a useful counterpoint to the likes of Yuval Harari’s rather more optimistic Sapiens (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). Harari credits the genetic mutation that promoted representational language, essentially gossip, as the climactic breakthrough of our species. Presuming the close evolutionary connection between representational language and consciousness, Ligotti turns this triumph into a disaster. For him, “we live in a habitat of unrealities,” called stories. We are an evolutionary mistake which we have been trying as a species to overcome by minimising its influence both personally and socially through story-telling - literature as neurotic malady rather than therapy. Ligotti‘s argument is neither tendentious or brash. He knows that the condition he is describing prevents acceptance of his entire line of thought. We want desperately to repress our knowledge of reality. But despite his originality in expression and his self-confessed minority view, his ideas have a long and intellectually sound pedigree. Ligotti has demythologised and established on a purely rational footing the ancient philosophical tendency of Gnosticism. His claim is not that Gnosticism is a superior view of the world, merely that it is respectable. And that its current lack of intellectual respectability is a consequence of the potentially disruptive power of the Gnostic position. Gnosticism has always been the recurrent heresy of the intellectual in the Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is a heresy because it denies the essential goodness of creation upon which each of these traditions insist. But it denies this with good reasons that are supplied by the traditions themselves, primarily the acknowledged existence of evil in the world, both natural and that of human corruption. Where can such evil originate? And why is it not eliminated by the all-powerful force which created the world in which it exists? The Gnostic answer to these awkward questions is that in fact the force which created our world is itself evil. There may be some higher divinity but our souls have been separated from this entity and enslaved in material bodies created by a Demi-God for precisely this purpose. Our real duty as human beings is to escape this materiality in order to be re-united with, re-integrated into, that higher divinity. Of course another way of stating this is that our real fate is to lose our own consciousness by being absorbed in the cosmic consciousness of the divine. Gnostic influence has always been strong in the Western religions. The battle of the angels led by Lucifer and Michael, Satan taunting God in the book of Job, the competition in Egypt between Aaron and the Pharaoh’s magicians are examples of the assimilation of Gnostic ideas in biblical traditions common to all three Religions of the Book. From time to time Gnosticism has posed a real threat to established doctrinal order - from the Manicheans of Jewish and Christian antiquity, to the Bogomils and Cathars of the Middle Ages, to the Calvinists and Jansenists of the 16th and 17th centuries, to the Shakers of the industrial era, and to the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Camus among others in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Gnostic influence, its fabricated stories, has been persistent and insistent in its expression. Ligotti‘s innovation is to establish Gnosticism as more than religious poetry or esoteric philosophy. Like Harari, he speculates not about the divine origin or metaphysics but the genetic evolution of the human species. By radicalising it, he turns Gnosticism on its head. Consciousness is not a quality of the divine that points to our origin and to our real home in some spiritual haven. It is the work of the satanic Demi-God within creation itself not above it, which dooms us to an overwhelming awareness of our inevitable fate and the pain to be endured along the way. There is nowhere to run, no safe haven. This bleak fate is in our genes not our souls. And we are aware of this in our saner, that is to say, more pessimistic, moments. Neither Ligotti nor Harari can provide a good evolutionary reason for the emergence of language and consciousness. In fact even Harari considers that the development of his Cognitive Revolution was likely to have been initially unhelpful to the species. Indeed like all evolutionary changes, it must have been a mere blunder, a shot in the genetic dark. But what Harari thinks of as a fortunate accident in the long term, Ligotti sees as an eventual evolutionary dead end in the even longer term. Neither view, of course, can be proven. This is Ligotti’s point. What he is really demonstrating is that the presumption, both culturally and scientifically, of anthropic evolutionary dominance is itself mythical. It is a conceit that is employed in various ways to justify exploitation of things and other people. It is also intellectually a means to justify power, the need for coercion, even evil, all in the name of the good. This is the ethical importance of Ligotti’s case, a case that is “neither positive nor equivocal” about how bad things really are. Postscript: Ligotti was inspired largely by this man: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Postscript 8May19: And in terms of how bad things really are: Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction' https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-en...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Lighten up, Francis. I was very tempted to leave it at that, but I do have more to say. I should be the perfect audience for this book. I love Lovecraft's work, my worldview could best be summed up as "life is mostly pain, punctuated by moments of joy," and I'm congenitally pessimistic as was my father before me. At least, by the standard definition, but that's not far enough for Ligotti, who restricts the ranks of the true pessimist to those who believe that life is fundamentally not worth living Lighten up, Francis. I was very tempted to leave it at that, but I do have more to say. I should be the perfect audience for this book. I love Lovecraft's work, my worldview could best be summed up as "life is mostly pain, punctuated by moments of joy," and I'm congenitally pessimistic as was my father before me. At least, by the standard definition, but that's not far enough for Ligotti, who restricts the ranks of the true pessimist to those who believe that life is fundamentally not worth living. His main argument for this is that consciousness is a kind of cosmic mistake--MALIGNANTLY USELESS, in his repeated words--because it makes us aware that we will inevitably suffer and die, causing us to come up with any number of delusions to escape this knowledge. The young's sense that they will live forever. The very young's non-understanding of death. Religion. That kind of thing. As well, consciousness seems to demand meaning to life, but life itself merely is and has no greater purpose, thus requiring us to place a layer of false meaning over life to find a reason to go on. Because life thus requires delusion to live, and because of the suffering all of us will inevitably experience at the end of life, Ligotti concludes that "being alive is not alright." Furthermore, our humanity is inextricably bound up in our biology. The urge to procreate, to satisfy hunger, thirst, tiredness and sexual desire, and the fact that our reason is contaminated with constant hormonal buffetings all combine to mean that the "us" we imagine as being in control of our lives is merely an illusion. We cannot choose our choices, because that implies some kind of Cartesian homunculous with all the problems that leads to, but as another example of the failure of consciousness to deal with reality, we feel like we have free will, so any kind of deterministic argument gets short shrift with most people. Due to all this, he determines that having children is a fundamentally...hmm. Not evil, because "good" and "evil" are just more delusions placed on the uncaring universe by a humanity who is unable to survive without imbuing worthless things with unnecessary meaning, but perhaps it could be phrased as being fundamentally MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Ligotti makes the point that very few of us would be willing to be born in the past because of conditions there, but none of us take the viewpoint of the future and spare our child from being born now rather than, say, in a hundred years when suffering might be less. Since all people will suffer and die, creating a new human life is dooming them to suffering and death, which is hardly the compassionate act that raising a child is usually considered to be. It might even be thought of as incredibly selfish--creating new life just because of one's own desires when the child will inevitably suffer and die. And if you think all this repetition in my review is bad, you should read the book. Okay, sure. Those are reasonable arguments, but I have problems with the central point here because Ligotti is just as prey to the innate failings of the human mind as anyone else. He repeatedly makes the point that the suffering at the end of one's life is one of the major reasons why being alive is not alright, but that's just the Peak End Rule, where he's judging the entirety of someone's life by what happens at the end rather than a reasoned examination of the totality of their existence. And indeed, the fundamental flaws of human consciousness might make that nearly impossible, but Ligotti doesn't even make a pretense of trying. He just assumes a priori that the suffering at the end of life outweighs anything good that could possibly happen. He reasonably points out that we can't say that nonexistence is worse than existence since we don't have any nonexistent people to ask, but then assumes that nonexistence is better than existence when suffering is involved. But if joy were involved, would a nonexistent person say that existence is better? That's just as reasonable a question to ask, and just as unanswerable, but unlike Ligotti I'm not going to base a part of my argument on it. And finally, and most fundamental of my complaints, is that he assumes some kind of perfected human template that we deviate from in his arguments. Consciousness damaging and deluded and MALIGNANTLY USELESS...compared to what? When talking about transhumanism, he correctly points out that it's mostly ridiculous pipe dreaming because transhumanists talk about overcoming the limits of the human form and mind when all of their ideas are defined by those same limits and nothing they create can escape them, but when talking about how terrible consciousness is he's implicitly comparing us to some kind of purely rational and truthful Übermensch who is able to face reality without flinching and isn't just a human puppet strung up by their own biology. There's a part of the book where he implies that people in the grip of extreme depression approach this perfect being, since they understand that life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS and there's no point to anything, but aren't they just as driven by hormones as everyone else? Casting hormones as some kind of separate factor influencing our behavior is just another homunculus argument, since it implies a part of us that would make perfectly rational decisions without those emotions, instead of the truth that decision without emotion is simply impossible. If you think that a perfectly rational human is the end goal, that is pretty depressing news, but it's not something The Conspiracy Against the Human Race touches on. Perhaps that's my main problem with it. It's a somewhat-rambling treatise on philosophy, horror fiction, and neuroscience, but I think that focusing on the neuroscience would have been a much better way to make the point. Talk about depressive realism, for example, which is an actual psychological term but is never mentioned at all in the book. Mention all the various cognitive fallacies that humans fall prey to--in this regard, Thinking Fast and Slow is a far better explanation of why consciousness is MALIGNANTLY USELESS than this book is. How about mentioning that the biggest determinant of whether a prisoner will be paroled is how long it's been since the judge's last meal, thus showing that "justice" is a lie we tell ourselves to feel good about making others suffer? What about examining how we retreat into delusion when confronted with evidence against our deeply-held beliefs, showing the futility of so-called "rationality"? What about how hindsight bias means that victim-blaming and the attendant cruelty in the case of crime is an innate part of human psychology? All of that would have been a lot more convincing than endless talking about how life is not alright. As it is, the book is mostly a non-fiction philosopher's version of Blindsight. But Blindsight is more entertaining and Thinking, Fast and Slow is more convincing, leaving The Conspiracy Against the Human Race stuck in the MALIGNANTLY USELESS middle. I had high hopes for it, but left with the taste of ashes in my mouth. Perhaps that's a triumph, in a way. All is vanity, and especially this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Cushing

    Darkest book I've ever read; and perhaps the most convincing. Highly recommended for all readers, except those with sanity or self-delusions left to lose.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    A remarkable if sometimes exasperating work of philosophy. Let me begin by saying that I agree with essentially all of the core assumptions of this book. As a Buddhist practitioner, I was especially moved by his treatment of suffering and of the Buddhist tradition, which I feel is mostly very perceptive, even if far from the platitudes of contemporary Buddhism. Further, the book spoke very directly to the sense of profundity I have occasionally experienced in the horror genre (HP Lovecraft and L A remarkable if sometimes exasperating work of philosophy. Let me begin by saying that I agree with essentially all of the core assumptions of this book. As a Buddhist practitioner, I was especially moved by his treatment of suffering and of the Buddhist tradition, which I feel is mostly very perceptive, even if far from the platitudes of contemporary Buddhism. Further, the book spoke very directly to the sense of profundity I have occasionally experienced in the horror genre (HP Lovecraft and Ligotti's own fiction come to mind), particularly in it's exploration of the uncanny, which I have often felt is a much overlooked mind state in the Buddhist tradition. I do not disagree with the facts of life as Mr. Ligotti has posed them. Samsara (the Buddhist name for the world) is indeed a thin and unsatisfactory veneer spread over a canyon filled with bones. However, I simply do not agree with the implications he has drawn from them. If we abandon all illusions, why die? Why would you want to die? It seems to me there is a fear lingering here, an attachment, a clinging to the negative space created by the removal of illusions. Ligotti seems to appreciate that while he has made short work of so many of the commonplaces of life and the illusions of religion, Buddhism requires a different tack. His argument against the Buddhist conception of emptiness comes down to 1) most of the Buddhist tradition is consolation or at worst sort of a confidence game, 2) the realization of emptiness (enlightenment) is exceptionally rare and 3) the realization of emptiness is not directly produced, in a causal sense, by the practices of Buddhism. I disagree with none of the ideas, but fail to see how they constitute a refutation of the Buddhist understanding of and path towards emptiness. Ultimately, at the risk of being reductionist, my experience of the book is that it's many deep and dark insights are afflicted by a fearful and subtle attachment to negativity that drives it from unblinking realism to an overstated pessimism. Altogether, a haunting, brilliant and brave book. If it is not perfect, it is still more true than almost everything else. I will do doubt return to it again and again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Exasperating. DNF so far. I'll back, though.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    The pessimist’s credo, or one of them, is that nonexistence never hurt anyone and existence hurts everyone. Remember when you were 16 and you thought too much about life and its implications that you wound up in a "dark valley", got so depressed and borderline-suicidal that you decided to leave the "valley" and never look back? Thomas Ligotti has built himself a nice house in that valley. To summarize the thesis of this non-fiction book/treatise: being alive is not alright, optimists are deceiving The pessimist’s credo, or one of them, is that nonexistence never hurt anyone and existence hurts everyone. Remember when you were 16 and you thought too much about life and its implications that you wound up in a "dark valley", got so depressed and borderline-suicidal that you decided to leave the "valley" and never look back? Thomas Ligotti has built himself a nice house in that valley. To summarize the thesis of this non-fiction book/treatise: being alive is not alright, optimists are deceiving themselves and others, the future will not be better, the creation of consciousness was a huge mistake, life is useless and painful to boot, and humanity would do itself a favor by collectively deciding to not have children anymore: to stop perpetuate this madness. To quote: Consciousness makes it seem as if (1) there is something to do; (2) there is somewhere to go; (3) there is something to be; (4) there is someone to know. This is what makes consciousness the parent of all horrors, the thing that makes us try to do something, go somewhere, be something, and know someone, such as ourselves, so that we can escape our MALIGNANTLY USELESS being and think that being alive is all right rather than that which should not be. (yes, MALIGNANTLY USELESS is always capitalized) or Beef, pork, sometimes goat—they go into us and come out of us. This is part of the regimen of nonsense that nature forced upon us. But it is not all the nonsense we must endure as we go to and fro on the earth and walk up and down upon it. The nature nonsense, the God nonsense. How much nonsense can we take in our lives? And is there any way we can escape it? No, there is not. We are doomed to all kinds of nonsense: the pain nonsense, the nightmare nonsense, the sweat and slave nonsense, and many other shapes and sizes of insufferable nonsense. It is brought to us on a plate, and we must eat it up or face the death nonsense. He quotes extensively from Zapffe, Schopenhauer, Mainländer, Lovecraft (awesome) and others to make his case - sometimes, the book feels more like an expansion of Zapffe's ideas... Neither Zapffe nor Mainländer were known to me before; I guess both are reasonably unknown, since the majority of Zapffe's work remains untranslated. But: there is a dark strange form of humor at work here; reading the book I couldn't help but think that getting drunk with Ligotti must be great fun. You do see that he's got a background as a horror writer: We are aberrations—beings born undead, neither one thing nor another, or two things at once … uncanny things that have nothing to do with the rest of creation, horrors that poison the world by sowing our madness everywhere we go, glutting daylight and darkness with incorporeal obscenities. Recommended for: Remember the Nietzsche quote, "when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you"? This book is for people who love getting into staring contests with the abyss. Not recommended for: Psychologically labile people. Teddy Daniels from Shutter Island. Me at age 16.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    A disappointment but perhaps not an unexpected one. Thomas Ligotti happens to be one of the greatest exponents of uncanny fiction, equal to his earlier masters Poe and Lovecraft - but in small doses. We have already reviewed some of his short stories which are magnificently disturbing and thought-provoking but have also noted that he has difficulty in developing them to novella length. His art is that of the short story. This foray into non-fiction is little more than an opinionated, often repeti A disappointment but perhaps not an unexpected one. Thomas Ligotti happens to be one of the greatest exponents of uncanny fiction, equal to his earlier masters Poe and Lovecraft - but in small doses. We have already reviewed some of his short stories which are magnificently disturbing and thought-provoking but have also noted that he has difficulty in developing them to novella length. His art is that of the short story. This foray into non-fiction is little more than an opinionated, often repetitive, often very dull, literary rant, bad philosophy and weak literary criticism. But perhaps it serves a purpose because it takes existential pessimism to such absolute extremes that, if even the argument is not accepted, it manages to demolish all lesser forms of the death instinct on the way. The nearest analogy I can find is a book that appeared on the shelves briefly some years ago - a pseudo-existentialist rant by a child murderer, Ian Brady, one of the two notorious Moors Murders. According to the Daily Mail of January 21st, Mr. Brady (77) wished he had taken his own life many years ago (poor bunny!) and the same negativity about life infects this philosophical pot boiler. The quality of thinking is exemplified by the amount of time taken up by literary figures and by an obscure Norwegian post-Schopenhauerian merchant of gloom, one Peter Wessel Zapffe. The writing is uninspiring and the 'narrative' incoherent - others have liked it less even than I have done. There is too much repetition of both themes and language ('vehicular misadventure'!). At times, it appears to swerve away from the major theme to be a disjointed essay on supernatural fiction and on his favourite short story theme of the uncanny puppet. Nietzsche, the ignorant excuse for the crimes of Brady and the Nazis but actually a force for Life and defiance of the death instinct, gets a few dismissive paragraphs. The major existentialists ... nothing! Zapffe was the depressive exponent of something called antinatalism which assigned a negative valuation to the very fact of being born. The implication is that the human race should eventually genocide itself through non-procreation. This is a mentality that can be found amongst a certain class of life-negative conservative thinkers whose political heirs are the deep green planet lovers who think of us humans are mere scum on their Gaia. But Ligotti goes further than this - future specicide, implicit in his callous and unemotional view of the world, is presented as a rational claim that should have the security state checking out anyone found marking the margins of a copy in green ink. Let us be frank. The human condition is one of considerable variation and it is no surpise that, within that variation, there should be highly articulate and literary extreme self-hating pessimists. This is their book - and that of adolescents going through a temporary Goth phase, those sinking into black and irreversible clinical depression and those facing a death they cannot come to terms with. If this book gives them 'comfort' (and does not result in some dim-witted nut trying to bring forward human extinction by a few millennia), then it is simply (ironically) part of life's rich pattern. And the book has its uses even to us who think its thesis to be absurd and silly - just another literary confection by someone trying to fight above their intellectual weight. The sheer extremity of the analysis - which contains a legitimate position on the meaninglessness of existence which even us optimists can share - usefully smashes to pieces lesser pessimisms. The knife job done on Buddhism - the most life negative of religions - is decisive: no sane person could be a Buddhist after this and confirmation that Pope John Paul II could get at least one thing right. Similarly, Ligotti is prepared to face off the nature of evolved human consciousness and be 'logical' about it. He pins down that point where choices between Life and Death are made. On the one hand, we have apparently suffered horribly because we can think yet (it would seem) thinking suggests that we can end that suffering with suicide in the short and specicide in the long term. It has to be said that his arguments for euthanasia stand up in this context. For those who really are this clinically depressed, then perhaps a voluntary removal is fair to them and the gene pool. On the other, his is still merely a stance based on chance and biochemistry. He has no right to impute negative value to meaninglessness if someone can accept lack of meaning and live well. For him and Zapffe, self awareness, the Self itself and consciousness are horrors that make life unbearable. He accuses the rest of us who do not share this view of evasion and delusion. This is part of that fashionable philosophical negativity that insists on ego death as a good, that there is no Self really and that we have no self determination - a fashionable petit-bourgeois stance. This is the province of a certain type of over-thinking continental philosopher, new age users of 'mind-expanding' (ho, hum!) drugs and people who crave non-duality as substitute for reality. To be fair, he gives short shrift to such fools which makes his position at least one of some integrity but the same seed of denial of our evolved nature is there but as Reason murdered by Reason. But, as he admits, he cannot prove his point any more than we optimists can prove ours. The stance of being depressed about meaninglessness is merely that - a stance, a temperamental sentiment. He has his unjustified normative stand against the alleged evasions of the masses yet seems not to consider it possible that a person can accept the fact of meaninglessness and still choose Life. The problem strikes me as this. Given the condition of things on which we both agree, there is no reason to choose radical pessimism if a positive optimism is equally valid with the same shared facts. The only difference between us is that my life and that of optimists is happy while it can be happy and he and his pessimists is carried out in a blue funk until extinction. You choose, matey! My world takes life as it is - with all its chance and necessity - and makes the best of it, far nearer to his praised animal state than he can manage. But he seems to want a final Ragnarok, the destruction of creation itself. Here, tolerance is in danger of collapsing as much as it does with Ian Brady. If he is serious, then he is my enemy or at least his followers may be, so perhaps, all things being equal, Ligotti delenda est I would not go so far as this because his efforts are for armchair depressives whose greatest act is to reach for the whisky bottle yet this book should be on the reading list of our security services. Why? Because, as we have seen in the case of Breivik (another gloomy Norwegian), the death instinct is a material factor in the near-infinite variation to be found within the species and it can act. To understand where this death instinct might go in the hands of less literary hands, this book should be studied much as one would study the work of Ian Brady for the underpinnings of child murder. After all, a cursory reading of some of the very Deep Green lunacy on the internet or the radical reaches of occult fascism indicate levels of pessimism that make Schopenhauer look like Pollyanna. This is not ever to say that Mr. Ligotti means in any way to do bad things in the world - he is probably far too pessimistic to do anything actively. He is a litterateur. Such types do nothing. But that there are radical pessimists who present themselves in these terms, far beyond all previous forms of radical pessimism, unleavened by Buddhist evasions or literary tropes, should be watched. The book has its purpose as part of the radical liberal literature of extremity. It will continue to be read not by philosophers but by those interested in the psychology of weird fiction. It is a necessary excrescence on the decadent corpse of late liberal capitalist culture, that point where everything must be said and freedom insisted upon to permit all to be said. I am tempted to upset liberal sensibilities by burning this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Krapp

    Thomas Ligotti is currently the best writer of English prose. Cormac McCarthy was better till the detestable Border Trilogy, and maybe The Road is up there with his best. Until McCarthy tops The Road, however, the honor goes to Thomas Ligotti. It doesn't matter at all you've never heard of him: I believe he prefers it that way. I do not agree with the ... what? ... the anti-metaphysics of this, Ligotti's first nonfiction book. The fact I don't agree does not diminish the dark grandeur of this boo Thomas Ligotti is currently the best writer of English prose. Cormac McCarthy was better till the detestable Border Trilogy, and maybe The Road is up there with his best. Until McCarthy tops The Road, however, the honor goes to Thomas Ligotti. It doesn't matter at all you've never heard of him: I believe he prefers it that way. I do not agree with the ... what? ... the anti-metaphysics of this, Ligotti's first nonfiction book. The fact I don't agree does not diminish the dark grandeur of this book on tittle or jot. When I say "grandeur" and "best writer of English prose" don't think that The Conspiracy Against the Human Race comes off as high-brow. This is no absurd sophisticate such as you find in the pages of New Yorker magazine and who bloat today's university libraries with verbal constipation. This is a plain man whose erudition is as unobtrusive as it is deep. His argumentation is without flaw, given his initial premises, the givens and axioms of his world. He happens to have the audacity to believe that "everything is not all right" as he dryly put its it, and sets out to prove it. That is no innocuous phrase: it's pure poison. Unless you have a lot of heavy-duty lived experience under your belt that says he's wrong--felt experience lived within some traditional faith, or some other kind of non-ordinary yet still very real experience--you'll wind up dismissing The Conspiracy Against the Human Race only you'll do so without a leg to stand on: you'll do this, else you'll join him in the ranks of Nihilists (Ligotti uses the term Pessimists) out of simple honesty. Ligotti himself would regard you (as he would me) as wishful thinkers. I can only counter that hypothetical argument of his by saying nobody knows anything but what they've experienced, even if it's all in their heads--whether it was read in a book or an original product of precise ratiocination or something perceived as an external phenomenon, like a rock, but perhaps not something explicable by a devotee of Science and Reason. In the end, for all it's wonders The Conspiracy Against the Human Race is the product of one who happens to be a True Believer in those things: because that's all he knows. He doesn't think Science and Reason will ever "save" anybody in any way: this book uses Reason to convince you of the lack of Reason in all things, including your life and the lives of those you love. It needs to be said that that isn't the eponymous Conspiracy Against the Human Race. The Conspiracy is consciousness itself: by our natures we are unnatural, we are puppets who have come to life, manikins who possess consciousness, who think we're more than puppets or manikins, but we are emphatically not more. We are the Conspirators against ourselves, Ligotti argues (read his book, try to prove him wrong with argumentation) because we are the meaningless bearers of meaningless consciousness, meaning-making machines in a universe that is entirely nonsensical and without meaning. I can't do the man or his thought justice. The sheer experience of reading Ligotti borders on the non-ordinary. It is a harrowing kind of initiation: will you survive? It's like he's some post-human creature who manages to live (not comfortably but still alive) in a world without any hint of any kind of hope or comfort. That's he's an ordinary man with an ordinary job (admittedly one that requires a lot of technical expertise and education) makes his accomplishment all the more amazing. If you're up to the task, read this book. It's not hard to read. It still may kill you (or kill your illusions and delusions and comfort) if you dare to hear the man who wrote it and to understand his thoughts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Håkon

    The fundamental thesis of Ligotti's philosophical work, is that life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS. The words malignantly and useless are capitalized because this is the most obvious reality, an absolute truth. Once the banal masks of idealized religiosity and morality are taken off, the real germ of life reveals itself. this germ is that life truly is MALIGNANTLY USELESS. We are essentially clockwork automatons, devoid of free will. Consciousness is an absurd mistake. Life is a deadly paradox. Our onl The fundamental thesis of Ligotti's philosophical work, is that life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS. The words malignantly and useless are capitalized because this is the most obvious reality, an absolute truth. Once the banal masks of idealized religiosity and morality are taken off, the real germ of life reveals itself. this germ is that life truly is MALIGNANTLY USELESS. We are essentially clockwork automatons, devoid of free will. Consciousness is an absurd mistake. Life is a deadly paradox. Our only right given at birth is the right to die. We should all stop procreating, because life is essentially characterized by suffering. If it is not characterized by suffering, it is still characterized by its MALIGNANT USELESSNESS. At least this is Ligotti's analysis. All of these things might be true, yet I have not killed myself, and neither has Ligotti. The question of suicide is an important one in Ligotti's book, because of course, there is in inherent irony in conjuring up a philosophical work about the malignant uselessness of human life; to emphasize the fact that we should commit collective suicide, and yet remain alive to experience the publishing of said philosophical work. To be fair, this is a strawman on my side. Ligotti says so himself in the book. One can rationalize oneself to the stance that life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS, and that one should kill oneself, but to actually do so in practice is a much more difficult task. This is a much more difficult task because human beings aren't inherently rational. Even though many of us agree that life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS, we are also extremely afraid of dying. Ligotti backs his fundamental assertations by citing the Norwegian philosopher, Peter Wessel Zapffe. He also cites a number of other philosophers. One of them, Philipp Mainländer, attempted to rationalize collective suicide. Mainländer killed himself after writing a philosophical work about the death of god by cosmic suicide. Mainländer's philosophy of collective suicide was based in a christian metaphysics. Ligotti's isn't. In all fairness, Ligotti only really advocates for collective suicide insofar as he actually believes it is possible, which is to say that he does not really advocate for it at all. What he does advocate for is that human beings stop procreating (though this could be considered a form of collective suicide). Ligotti writes well. At times, his analysis is empirical and entirely objective. At other times, he incorporates his horror aesthetic into his writing. Ligotti believes that horror, and horror writing, in the form of writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, is the only kind of writing that truly reveals the realities of life. Horror is the expression of a human being reacting to that which hides behind the idealized platitudes of life. For example, zombies are extremely popular in horror films and tv-shows, because they reveal the true mechanisms of a human body. Zombies are scary because they are essentially a human being without consciousness. They are essentially an organic machine. Ligotti would argue that we too are essentially zombies. Perhaps zombies are scary, because they reveal who we actually are behind the veneer of consciousness. Calling human beings organic machines without free will, might function as a metaphor, but as an objective truth, it really loses its believability. This is part of a slight problem I have with Ligotti. Ligotti is essentially a hyper-determinist. For example, he essentially believes that the only reason human beings do anything is because of an inherent drive to reproduce. There isn't really a good reason to believe that this is objectively true, but Ligotti makes it sound like it is, and he does this several times. Human consciousness, action and meaning are a lot more complex than Ligotti makes it seem. That is not to say that I don't respect what Ligotti has done in this book at all. I think his analysis of existential nihilism as a philosophical branch is extremely coherent. His evocation of Zapffes philosophy is excellent, and the references to Mainländer's philosophy are very interesting. His analysis of horror films and novels, is if nothing else, very interesting. He writes with a pessimistic voice that still manages to engage. Ligotti's writing is at times horror incarnate, and this is probably because the world of Ligotti's internal landscapes, are characterized by a disgust of life and human consciousness. Ligotti is a critic of life, but he is not a destroyer of it, even though he might want to be. That being said, my eyes have been opened to the field of existential nihilism, and this book has allowed me to take a more abstract view of my own existence and place in the world. Perhaps I'm not entirely convinced by Ligotti because I'm one of those irrational optimist, living a life of illusion. But I suppose that's fine. Sometimes, it's a good illusion. More for some people than others. Or perhaps it's not an illusion at all. Ligotti seems to know that it is, but I'm not entirely convinced.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Wow, I enjoyed this way more a second time! Even though I haven't touched it since this time last year (or since I threw it in this short film I made!) somehow Ligotti's writing flowed much more easily for me this time. I mean last year was just not a good year for me. Still recovering from grief (it takes a loooooooong time), my brain was running a loop of precisely the type of ideas that fill this book. It wasn't the time to read something that told me, "You're actually one of the few non-crazy Wow, I enjoyed this way more a second time! Even though I haven't touched it since this time last year (or since I threw it in this short film I made!) somehow Ligotti's writing flowed much more easily for me this time. I mean last year was just not a good year for me. Still recovering from grief (it takes a loooooooong time), my brain was running a loop of precisely the type of ideas that fill this book. It wasn't the time to read something that told me, "You're actually one of the few non-crazy ones. Life before feeling this way was an illusion which, now shattered, shall never return. Thinking this way is your new life now." And that was an unbearable interpretation of how I felt. Though I remember looking up an article on Tolstoy's "Confession"—and though I have still not read it, I was somewhat reassured to discover that even he—perhaps especially he—succumbed to the exact same pessimism I had, while objectively living a lovely life. Because it's painful enough to have that narrative running through your mind, but coupled with the ungratefulness of it, it's just too much. (I won't read my previous review, available below, but I suspect I was talking to myself at this time also.) But I don't think my interpretation was accurate. Ligotti seems to have found a weird type of peace in his resignation about the state of the universe—but there was nothing peaceful about how I felt. I found this Maya Angelou quote that turned out to be quite prophetic, and that you may also find useful: "[I]t's going to be better...If it's bad, it might get worse, but I know that it's going to be better. And you have to know that. There's a country song out now, which I wish I'd written, that says, 'Every storm runs out of rain.' I'd make a sign of that if I were you. Put that on your writing pad. No matter how dull and seemingly unpromising life is right now, it's going to change. It's going to be better. But you have to keep working." Even the most miserable states of affairs exhaust themselves. And I will read Tolstoy's Confession soon, but I think it needs to be understood in context. Okay so the guy lost faith in everything and flipped his absolute shit. So the lesson is, "Could (nay, does!) happen to everybody." I've definitely suffered long enough to have written a whole negative thesis on existence during—though luckily for everyone, I didn't! But there's no reason to believe that that attitude is the truth of the matter and whatever else you feel is the lie. Why would that be true? (I mean, as Ligotti points out, "Why wouldn't that be true?" But as he admits on several occasions, neither of us will ever be proven or disproven.) Ligotti's intentions are pretty clear with this book. He doesn't expect to convert anyone, he knows his attitude is going to sound weird and not even sell very well. But perhaps these ideas are worth presenting anyway. I totally agree. It is humbling—and has since been of immense value to me—to consider that, no one does or ever will know the answers to life's ultimate question: if it's even worth it in the first place. Don't you also find that oddly reassuring? Maybe madness is sanity and vice versa. Maybe ingratitude is reasonable instead of scold-worthy. Maybe, through the argument for determinism, you are far less responsible for your failures (and, sure, your successes)—than you once thought. As someone who has this weird golden boy thing going on, a need to please and perform 100%, to take on all responsibilities etc, it's hugely alleviating to consider this. And what does it matter what you achieve or don't? We'll all get forgotten. If I (whatever it means for me to have a self :P) truly cared about being remembered, why would I spend so much time indoors away from people anyway? The people I used to care about preserving me in memory—eg, people I've never met who read my books—are even less important to me than loved ones, whom I seem to avoid most of the time! Am I really sure I care that much about my/everyone's ultimate fate? And, as I've pointed out regarding similar texts (Better Never to Have Been by David Benatar), behaviourally speaking, being an optimist or pessimist doesn't change anything, really. Even a pessimist would argue that, if life contains too much suffering and I agree not to have kids anyway, then I can be happy, right? Even the pessimists win! I guess I should also contribute somehow to their cause—well if Ligotti thinks writing this book is a good enough demonstration of his dedication to it, then I can simply say, “Read this book! I recommend it!” and that should keep the pessimists off my back. All three of them—a fact which is neither damning nor accrediting :P FIRST REVIEW: Ugh, this was such a slog, as it is reading any tedious ideology. Something about almost being told the truth always has that stultifying, soporific feel to it. I obviously won't be able to contend with all of this book's points simply in a review, so I will just give my main thoughts having recently tossed it aside. (They're for my own records—I have no interest in debating this bullshit with anyone.) That consciousness is a mistake and life is not worth living strikes me as a profoundly ungrateful take. If there's no more evidence that this is true than that it isn't (which, as far as I understand it, the book confesses), then I dismiss it on grounds of ingratitude alone. Shit take. What on earth is the rationale/logic/etc of choosing to believe life isn't worth living? The idea that pessimists aren't active, and keep to themselves, and don't engage in discourse as a result of their beliefs, sounds like the excuse of a wee lonely guy who likes to entertain the belief that there surely are more who agree with him than it appears—they just, uh, don't write. Because of pessimism. Even the title smacks of extremist paranoia. None of this is a truth that people fail to learn; it just isn't conventional wisdom. (We're going through a crackpot renaissance at the moment because politics is being decided by YouTube comments or whatever, but that can't go on.) Who could look at evolution, at humans, and be like, "Why you so proud? All kinds of stuff has evolved." Like, yeah, over epic spans of time nature has continuously optimised itself and everything is better than ever. That's awesome. It didn't just "happen"—it was effort and survival and all that, and we're actively engaged in that today. I've also always maintained that it's an insanely dangerous take that "depression = facts." Depression may be the absence of emotion. I don't understand why it's "clarity" on that basis. Is a person truer as a corpse because they lack life? Like, what? Humanity is largely proceeding in a suffering-minimising direction, and for centuries people have found reasons to live and even enjoyed life in worse circumstances, and (no I can't prove but) I sincerely doubt that the only source of this joy is self-delusion. Surely there's no better time to bring in the next generation! (I won't be doing it personally, but I'm all for it.) As for love: I love love. There's absolutely no need for the following two fallacies to be true in order for people to enjoy relationships: 1) You are my soulmate. 2) I couldn't live without you. 1) You spend enough time with someone, they become an inextricable part of your life, self and history, such that you can't just ditch them as if you're rolling out of an Avis rental car at the end of a package holiday and sending it off a cliff. You have built something with this person, and this someone may become—what I, for all intents and purposes understand to be—your soulmate. Very few people believe there is someone for everyone, and there probably are multiple someones for some people who are committed to supposed soulmates (more people saying, "Great! Add them to the mix too!")—but it feels like this person is your person, and that's why people speak of it that way. For all intents and purposes, it's definitely a thing. 2) You don't have to need someone to want them in your life forever. Life just needs to be demonstrably worse without them. And if you love someone, life probably is worse without them. (If you stop loving each other you can leave, but that doesn't make it a waste.) It's like the rite of passage of every fifteen-year-old boy to pick at these ideas because, I don't know, he saw them in a fifteen-year-old girl's blog post, and he goes about talking about how they're not true because it feels good, and he tells himself most people believe in these ideas literally because the more people to whom he can feel superior, the better it feels. Look to Alain de Botton's Essays in Love for a better deconstruction of this notion—and the much kinder take of, "Best not to point this stuff out to those enjoying themselves." It's true that there has been a lot of harm done by people believing in things that cannot be proven or located. But just because it can't be proven or located, doesn't mean it isn't there, nor that believing in it is inherently harmful. I don't know who it was who discovered that life is inherently meaningless and that all meaning is simply applied onto life—Sartre with existence precedes essence? A whole bunch of folk agree. As do I! This is the unusual source of all meaning, but it's meaning nonetheless. This guy David Benatar, who wrote Better Never to Have Been, he said he didn't want people to focus on his life because he wanted them to contend with his ideas. But all humans have some personal basis for the way they choose to see the world. Personally, I like to collect reasons that I could descend into nihilism if I felt like it, and then not do that. For example, having lost both my parents, seemingly before their time in both instances, I probably have more reason—than some imagined control subject, say—to think, "Finding someone you love, having kids with them, only for it to amount to that—what's the point in that, then? And why make someone to then put them through a trauma like that?" (I'm okay btw—there's pizza in the fridge and so on, but ooft, grief double whammy, do not recommend it!) Through no desire of my own to do so, I've had to ruminate on thoughts like that for a really long time. But! I now get up each morning thrilled at the idea that the facts of my life, coupled with the positive attitude I have chosen to take about them regardless, maximally pisses off those who are trying to use such basic adversity as "simply existing" as an excuse to denounce existence!! :) (I don't need it to be true that my parents are somewhere now—they did a great job of being here. And they poured an insane amount of time and energy to me, so I have mad respect for that and desire to do it justice. No, I don't think they got to stick around long enough to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and I'm not sure I would have been satisfied with either of their lives as a sum total—but they definitely both were of the opinion that yes, it was all worth it. And that's their call, because it was their lives.) Jordan Peterson—whose book helped curb a number of my bad habits and set myself up better as an adult, by the way—is on some mission to find an overarching truth, which is quite bleak and involves a lot of suffering. It almost seems like, "Who could willingly adopt a narrative that dark? It must simply be the truth!" Men, mostly, is the answer. Men could adopt a narrative that dark even though it's not exactly true. They want to believe that life is tough and they are big and strong for conquering it. It's a compelling narrative, paradoxical though that seems. Why do you assume it's a nightmare lurking behind the scenes? Like, why would love be just biochemistry but feelings of doom wouldn't? Why is doom the clarity and love isn't? Why do you have to make yourself forget the feeling of depression, to consciously lock it out in order to survive, but you forget the feeling of new love even if you'd rather not? Is the latter an accident and the former a necessary self-delusion? ALSO! If you come out of a bout of depression, and you survived it, evidently you don't need to lock out those thoughts or be afraid of them—because you survived with them. And you could do it again (hopefully you don't have to of course, but still.) As for fear of death: another young man pastime. I find it helpful to think that there's more going on than just you. You participate in life and make connections and you'll inevitably live on. And you yourself are made of those who came before, in so many ways, and who will perish before you (if you're lucky...) And during this process you'll see some cool stuff and eat lovely dinners. What is it you're gasping to do beyond eighty anyway? Go to New Zealand? Ach. There's trees and stuff there like there is anywhere else. Live long enough and you'll get the point, I say. If you choose to be grateful to be here at all, you can draw focus away from your fear of it ending and make the best of the time you do get—and since you can choose to do that, I don't see why you wouldn't. To give this book its due: I'm glad these thoughts are laid out somewhere, as they will surely comfort those who think the world mad for not acknowledging that this argument could be made. I agree up to an extent that this argument could be made—I just don't choose to make it. Just because you can't prove it, doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true. And if a series of thoughts hurts the most to consider, that just means it hurts the most to consider. It means absolutely nothing in terms of its veracity. Most extreme pretty cover/bad book combo I've come across as well! (I hope Ligotti has a wee wife who pads into his writing room sometimes, and he says, "You know that it's impossible that we are soulmates? That love is simply a delusion, a fallacy masking the true horror of existence?" And she puts a wee blanket over his shoulders, kisses him on the head and says "That's very profound, honey, now don't catch a chill.")

  13. 5 out of 5

    James Curcio

    Years of meditating and reading books on philosophy, psychology, years of lucid dreams and night terrors, do not make a person unique. But it is singularly unique to find what feels like your own thoughts reflected back at you when you didn't pen them. As I read The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, I had a strange feeling, as if Deja vu and vertigo had somehow been blended together. Had I read this before, if I hadn't written it? Yet that disturbing familiarity regards an utterly useless proce Years of meditating and reading books on philosophy, psychology, years of lucid dreams and night terrors, do not make a person unique. But it is singularly unique to find what feels like your own thoughts reflected back at you when you didn't pen them. As I read The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, I had a strange feeling, as if Deja vu and vertigo had somehow been blended together. Had I read this before, if I hadn't written it? Yet that disturbing familiarity regards an utterly useless process. Reading or writing about philosophy has long had a negative connotation in the United States, thanks to a long anti-intellectual culture in some corners. But here the useless, and indeed the negative, have an absolutely finality that have nothing to do with anti-intellectualism. This is ontological uselessness, the nightmare of being. Ligotti's core thesis — the self as we know it is a contrivance of evolution, self consciousness an accident. To be deceived into thinking we are a self, that's the situation we find ourselves in, without hope of reprieve or reprisal. Of course, he isn't the first pessimist to set pen to paper, but he is the first to do so starkly, with such uncompromising clarity, without back pedaling or that ultimate cop out, the happy ending, "it was all a dream." There is a certain intentional irony here, as indeed our waking lives are a type of dream, and the self we grant some sense of ultimate reality is nothing other than a character in that dream. But to the extent anything is real, that dream character's suffering is legitimate. Our choice as he sees it is simple — self deception, or insanity. He shows us the basis of horror, rooted not in the supernatural beyond, but much closer to home. It stares back at us in the mirror. The supernatural in a sense gives us a glimpse of our own uncanny ghoulishness, without requiring identification with the absolute truth of the matter. We can close the book, and shake off that chill, for after all, it was just a story. But this is not merely a thought experiment. It isn't satirical hyperbole, like A Modest Proposal. There is no hope or happy ending to soften the blow. Because the game of life is all fixed anyway, it couldn't matter less if you deceive yourself and write this book off as pessimistic belly aching. Whatever it takes to get you through another day, and prop up the illusion that you are a self in the first place. Although some may argue about what constitutes "serious philosophy" — as Ligotti himself says, he eschews the circuitous argumentation that generally grants a work that unapproachable aura of seriousness — I would argue that this book belongs within any introductory study of nihilism and even post-modernism. To do so I'd like to demonstrate what I mean. Those purely interested in The Conspiracy Against The Human Race may as well stop here, but I believe this claim demands a little context and backtracking. You'll forgive me if I need to broaden the scope to come back to task. Post modernism and nihilism both are subjects of derision. So many people wave off, dismiss it, or make fun of it, because what? Reason "can't" merely delineate the contours of our prison cell? Our psychology "can't" be the determining factor in our philosophical theories? The world as we know it "can't" just be the product of our narratives about it? Suffice it to say, I'm not convinced. And neither is Ligotti. According to him, these dismissals are rooted in an underlying fear of pessimism. Even further, that fear may cover up the very existential terror that these theories hope to lay bare, even if it will quickly become clear to any ‘student’ that the effort itself is probably entirely counter-productive. Another barrier is a sort of pop-cultural understanding of nihilism that throws most people off the scent. For this I need to turn to Vattimo, in a passage of The End of Modernity where he more or less paraphrases Nietzsche, "The project of nihilism is to unmask all systems of reason as systems of persuasion, and to show that logic — the very basis of metaphysical thought -- is in fact a kind of rhetoric. All thought that pretends to discover truth is but an expression of the will to power ... of those making the truth-claims over those being addressed by them; in particular, the disinterested, scientific, rational search for the objective, neutral truth of a proposition is an illusion produced by metaphysical thought for its own benefit." I would actually specify here that it is the narrative doing this, and it is in the process of making narrative ("sense ") from " pure" data / research that this comes about. It's not that there is no objective world or neutral facts, it's that humans are incapable of direct interaction. Everything is mediated. And mediation is where myth/narrative is king. Lyotard defined postmodernism as “skepticism toward all meta-narratives,” and this bookends all these points on the subject, by saying, in essence, that it recognizes we only understand the world through narratives, and it demands we be skeptical of them all. (My own little mea culpa: this is what I've dedicated like 10 years of work/research to, so I guess you could say I've got some skin in the game.) The critique of logic that is perhaps most damning comes from Wittgenstein's commentary and later disavowal of his own Tractatus, and how it kind of turned the tables on logical positivism. There is a terrific accounting of that in "Wittgenstein's Vienna," possibly one of my favorite works of philosophical history. More prosaically, it was the project of Enlightenment Reason that postulates "progress", which underlies all our technology (see Heidegger's essays on tech, such as “The Questions Concerning Technology,” which are even more damning in hindsight of where we are now), technology is the proverbial case in point of pure logic, at least in itself as a matter of engineering. If not so much how we interact with it, which remains more or less sociological and psychological, logic playing much less of a role in that engagement. So, we might say nihilism is inherently skeptical of Enlightenment Reason as a project, of progress as a given — and in this regards there's some overlap with many stated postmodern "projects" (objectives). All are critical of logic as an end in itself, especially as a cultural project, and in this regard Conspiracy fits in quite well. There’s much to be found on this subject in Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, though he'll also wander off topic and rant about jazz music. But he has some good points, despite all that. These projects are not themselves outside of time, which is maybe one of the ironies of post-modernism as a term. This is the subject of many lengthy works, but in short, nihilism and postmodernism both got much of their manna from the second world war, though the first had really already set that in motion-- the massive projects that had promised an idealized Utopian future brought instead war, death, genocide, and then after, the process of man being turned into machine. So the apparent obsession with critique and even, as some have claimed, pessimism within nihilistic and post-modernist philosophies comes as much from the lives of those that created it as any other philosophy. Again, we come to know and interact with the world only through the meditation of our narratives, and much recent neurological research backs this up. Ligotti deals with this directly, without getting sidetracked in “philosophical quibbling,” and indeed this work stands shoulder to shoulder with other works of this nature. But it seeks to one up them all — because they, and indeed this work as well, are ultimately nothing more than sublimation. Conspiracy will show us the truth, but only by dint of demonstrating that it doesn’t actually matter. My own issue with much postmodern theory, especially the most pessimistic like Ligotti, is it's much easier to tear down an idea than build a new one. Years of working with this sort of material have left me essentially skeptical of everything, including my own memories. The cost of absolute honesty is ultimately paralysis. Only by having faith in the things we can't know, even in blatant fictions, can we take any action. This too he predicts. But he insists we must distance ourselves with denials or false narratives. There seems little room for Kierkegaardian leaps of faith. Getting out of bed is an act of faith. And, given all the things that might happen, possibly a stupid one. But I still take it. And that's the only place where we might take some issue with Ligotti’s certainty, one may even call it faith, in futility. And that human, all too human trait is curiosity. I grant nearly every single premise in Conspiracy, but at the end of day sheer curiosity at what lies behind the next rock keeps us going. This fits into his schema well enough as a form of sublimation, or perhaps mere distraction from the existential truth that we are puppets dancing at the call of some invisible master. Picture Sisyphus happy? Perhaps not. But we can imagine him wandering off to the horizon, just to see what happens next. The only certainty — death — does not undermine the great wealth of uncertainties life gives us along the way. Reviewed by http://www.ModernMythology.net

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    Mr. Ligotti has generously compiled his unexpurgated liner-notes to Titannica’s maxi-single “Try Suicide” and “Try Again (Adam’s Song)” in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, a trade paper edition released on the Hippocampus imprint. (I’ve customized my own copy with an embedded sound-chip that plays S & G’s 59th Street Bridge Song each time I turn the page.) So throw away those useless orange bottles of Paxil and Lexapro and let Happy Tom’s magic rainbow swirl of antihumanist glee explode out Mr. Ligotti has generously compiled his unexpurgated liner-notes to Titannica’s maxi-single “Try Suicide” and “Try Again (Adam’s Song)” in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, a trade paper edition released on the Hippocampus imprint. (I’ve customized my own copy with an embedded sound-chip that plays S & G’s 59th Street Bridge Song each time I turn the page.) So throw away those useless orange bottles of Paxil and Lexapro and let Happy Tom’s magic rainbow swirl of antihumanist glee explode out of your f#@&ing chest cavity like a sparkly Giger xenomorph. “I’m a biological puppet in a deterministic cosmos barreling towards an abyss of eternal nothingness. Yaaaaaay!” –Adam Jimmy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    I read this because Nic Pizzolatto mentioned it in one of his interviews about books that influenced his writing for TRUE DETECTIVE. To be accurate, I should write that I "read" it. I found Ligotti's book to be unreadable: haranguing, desperate, and bloated. Once I realized that I couldn't stand to read the book cover-to-cover, I tried to read each section separately. Each time I started another section, I was simultaneously bored and irritated by the style, the cynicism, and the constant insiste I read this because Nic Pizzolatto mentioned it in one of his interviews about books that influenced his writing for TRUE DETECTIVE. To be accurate, I should write that I "read" it. I found Ligotti's book to be unreadable: haranguing, desperate, and bloated. Once I realized that I couldn't stand to read the book cover-to-cover, I tried to read each section separately. Each time I started another section, I was simultaneously bored and irritated by the style, the cynicism, and the constant insistence that the sadness, disgust, horror, and existential dread the author described was universal and inarguable. So my "date I finished this book" is actually "date I stopped trying to read this book." I am clearly not the audience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aung Sett Kyaw Min

    I found myself basically agreeing with Ligotti's fulminations against the cult of affirmationism, with one exception. I don't think the carnival has been going on quite long enough. I mean, have we really seen everything? Who among us really has the guts to say that they aren't at least remotely excited by the prospect of plumbing the ever more irredeemable depths of depravity that the future holds for our race? This book is not out to convert you, but it will leave profound lacerations on your I found myself basically agreeing with Ligotti's fulminations against the cult of affirmationism, with one exception. I don't think the carnival has been going on quite long enough. I mean, have we really seen everything? Who among us really has the guts to say that they aren't at least remotely excited by the prospect of plumbing the ever more irredeemable depths of depravity that the future holds for our race? This book is not out to convert you, but it will leave profound lacerations on your consciousness. We human beings enjoy the tragic double fate of being both the victims and the perpetrators of possibly the most damning conspiracy ever concocted, namely, the affirmationist consensus that "it is alright to be alive". The tragedy of our predicament is that even when we can, by dint of strenous existential effort, come to entertain a clear and distinct idea of our own situation as SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT BE, an evolutionary mishap, we cannot confront it. Our bio-psycho-cognitive-cultural apparatus (the Human Security System) is innately programmed to rationalize, repress, and sublimate it away. So the meat machines keep on breathing, shitting and fucking and making more of their kind to feed to the organ grinder, each generation inheriting the cardinal sin of its progenitors (the curse of consciousness). It's better to have never been. So pernicious is the stranglehold of the Human Security System that even the sharpest minds like Nietzsche who saw through the whole charade could not help but lapse but into affirmationism in the last instance, inscribing sublimity or transcendence into the very futility of persisting in the endless cycle (eternal recurrence). Iconoclasts they were, they could not bring themselves to smash the last and the most cherished idol. Against Nietzsche's Zarathustra, Ligotti elevates the somber figure of the Last Messiah who makes the following solemn pronouncement--even the idol of SELF, life or self-consciousness, must see its twilight. Voluntary self-extinction is ultimate privilege of our species. But this messiah's fame will be cut short; society is naturally biased towards natalism and does not appreciate pessimists.

  17. 4 out of 5

    knig

    Consider the following postulation: ‘Schopenhauer concurs that hypothesizing a thing-in-itself as the cause of our sensations amounts to a constitutive application and projection of the concept of causality beyond its legitimate scope, for the concept of causality only supplies knowledge when it is applied within the field of possible experience’. Now, imagine this psycho-babble oops, sorry, this aesthetic perception as a mode of transcendence, spread over 500 pages, and try reading it through. Consider the following postulation: ‘Schopenhauer concurs that hypothesizing a thing-in-itself as the cause of our sensations amounts to a constitutive application and projection of the concept of causality beyond its legitimate scope, for the concept of causality only supplies knowledge when it is applied within the field of possible experience’. Now, imagine this psycho-babble oops, sorry, this aesthetic perception as a mode of transcendence, spread over 500 pages, and try reading it through. Or, pick up Ligotti’s Conspiracy where Schopenhauer’s Will-to-live is beautifully detailed in accessible terms and contextually clarified for those of us who are destined to feed off the fringes of philosophy, mostly from the Dummy editions. Ligotti has, in essence, compiled a huge reading list of notable names in the field of Pessimism vs. Optimism philosophical debate, and diligently extracts the leitmotif and central premise of said philosopher/scientists. The end result is a smorgasbord offering of essential concepts and theories which underpin the rendering of existence. Ligotti particularly appeals as he is careful not to (overtly anyway) weigh in definitively on either side of the argument. Inevitably with a compilation such as this, some theories will seem familiar, others are entirely novel and many are, of course, controversial. Below are some of the ideas that stirred up my imagination. I had not previously been aware of Mainlander’s ‘Philosophy of Redemption’ (but my excuse is that it has never been translated into English), however his beautiful premise that the Big Bang is actually God suiciding himself, as He could not bear his own existence, and that in seeking to nullify himself, god’s death (the big bang) brought about ‘life’. This must be the most flawlessly lyrical and novel interpretation of our ‘beginning’ that I know. Zapffe, whom I was not acquainted with before, posits that we deliberately ‘limit’ our consciousness in order to cope with the terror and dread of the unknown, as well as the knowledge that our existence is futile. This makes perfect sense although I would say our self-limiting exercises are in no way a conscious activity at all. We do not, I think, knowingly impose self limits: this is done on a sub level which is probably informed by more mundane factors such as biological and physical capacity of the brain to constantly keep processing new information. If I were to consciously question and second guess every move I make during the day I’d never get even out of bed. And so, the debate whether life is worth living rages on. Ligotti acknowledges that most people by default find life enjoyable and good and worth living, because believing otherwise would lead to madness. How disappointing then his chapter on Buddhism: which he equates with the pessimism. 130 million people have accepted that suffering is a way of life, but in the West our home grown pessimists have no such following. Why is that, he asks? Well, for goodness sakes, man. On yer bike, as the going says, and get ye to southern India, China and Sri Lanka: I can recommend some good hotels. Whilst I was there it became evident to me that regardless what Buddhist THEORY may postulate, the population on the ground has most certainly not accepted suffering as a way of life at all. Whilst they are good to repeat some of the tenets as mantra, this is more an affirmation of knowing rather than accepting. I found a complete dichotomy between doing and saying on the ground. Which would seem to reaffirm Zapffe (and Ligotti’s ) premise that otherwise would be following the road to madness. At a certain point it becomes apparent, that non partisan as he tries to be, Ligotti does not believe it is possible to assume that Sisyphus (of The myth of Sisyphus by Camus) was ultimately happy, meaning that we can’t assume a view of life that can content us with the tragedy, nightmare and meaninglessness of human existence. This thought gave me pause, but in the end I must reject it. As an aside, it is quite possible not to have to assume any such view at all, if you’re not aware of the nightmare of your life. I was exposed to unimaginable deprivation and horror in a village in Malaysia, but the inhabitants, isolated from the world, had no basis for comparison and thus did not assume their life was horrific. Not knowing anything else, they took their lot in stride and imagined that this is how it was for all and sundry, not a fate to lament but just the status quo. And even when faced with the futility of our existence, we still find a way to adjust, accept, and assume happiness: this even Ligotti acknowledges later in his book. Perhaps because in the absence of underlying psychological issues, the human mind simply isn’t geared (biologically)for prolonged periods of depression. Much is made of the human interpretation and obsession with horror, and how this may translate into creating ‘an ominous state of affairs’ in literature which alludes to underlying horror. I’m not sure that an ominous state of affairs is a philosophically valid term. In as much as a state of affairs can only be a neutral state onto which we project our subjective interpretations, it would not necessarily be ominous to one and all. What I believe to be the underlying issue here is the concept of a differentiating factor: where a state of affairs appears to deviate from conventional norm, this very difference: whether ominous or not, is enough to provoke consternation. Not necessarily because, as Ligotti stipulates, that without the consciousness of death there would never have been a supernatural horror story written, but because fear of the unknown (and not just death) is a coping mechanism on a subconscious level which activates instinctually to protect us from danger. Ligotti claims vampires and zombis as carriers, nay embodiments of supernatural horror. Puppets who appropriate human characteristics are also singled out as ‘horrorful’. All tied in supposedly with our consciousness of death. However, a film such as ‘Planet of the Apes’ embodies no less ‘supernatural’ horror (in the classic definition of the latter), ; its ending does not allude to imminent death but the horror is very real: the horror of having to accept the complete and final loss of humanity. The horror of the unknown. This book will have something for everyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    If you're anything like me, Ligotti's tone in this peculiar nihilistic screed will creep into daily life. Your girlfriend's listening to celebrity gossip Youtube videos in bed? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Having to wait for three trains before you can finally cram onto the subway? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. The difference in your pool skills between your second and your fourth beer? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Is Ligotti a profoundly elegant writer? Yes. Does he successfully defend philosophical pessimism? Yes. Does If you're anything like me, Ligotti's tone in this peculiar nihilistic screed will creep into daily life. Your girlfriend's listening to celebrity gossip Youtube videos in bed? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Having to wait for three trains before you can finally cram onto the subway? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. The difference in your pool skills between your second and your fourth beer? MALIGNANTLY USELESS. Is Ligotti a profoundly elegant writer? Yes. Does he successfully defend philosophical pessimism? Yes. Does he make it compelling? No. And I'm the sort of person who usually has to strain for reasons to get out bed in the morning. If he can't win me over, there aren't many others. But that isn't to say I didn't enjoy reading it. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and got a lot of good book recs out of it. In fact, I consider it BENIGNLY USEFUL. Probably missed the point, didn't I?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Nudged up to five stars just for how damn readable it was....We are not ad idem on everything, not least because where he sees horror, I see the hilariously absurd, but he provides an excellent overview of the more extreme pessimistic position, and has introduced me to some very interesting thinkers of whose work I was unaware... Well worth a gander...

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Mcangus

    Whenever I have the misfortune of turning the television on and coming across Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss or another of their pop atheist peers. I hope that instead of again arguing their materialistic perspective by denouncing religion, they might actually get to the heart of the matter of what that denouncement means. They don't however. Instead, like all humans (materialistic and religious alike) they try to force their subjective experience on the objective and call it a day. The first Whenever I have the misfortune of turning the television on and coming across Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss or another of their pop atheist peers. I hope that instead of again arguing their materialistic perspective by denouncing religion, they might actually get to the heart of the matter of what that denouncement means. They don't however. Instead, like all humans (materialistic and religious alike) they try to force their subjective experience on the objective and call it a day. The first person I came across who did deal with the ramifications of an existence from a true materialistic perspective, was Peter Watts with his novel Blindsight. In that novel, he accurately challenges the human assumption that consciousness is good thing, with the suggestion that it could very well have been a mistake in evolution and should never have come to exist. In this book, Ligotti shares this perspective but takes it several steps further. Logically arguing that if human consciousness is an anomaly in the known universe and largely comprises perpetual suffering, why allow it to exist at all? He examines this argument from multiple perspectives and brings in an admirable amount of research to back it up. When these arguments are fresh they shoulder his perspective very well. But about 3/4 of the way through he does start repeating himself and relying on ranting diatribes, which, while enjoyable to read if you share his opinion of the innate hypocrisy of society, doesn't add much to the thesis he lays out in the early chapters. If approached from a materialistic perspective there is a lot of material here that can lead one to be in agreement towards Ligotti's views. A lot of which I found very hard to argue, the most important being the question of whether something is inherently better than nothing simply because it is something. I myself, holding a religious perspective disagree on the conclusions he arrives at, particularly on the static reality of nature. But even with this perspective, I still found myself nodding in the affirmative to many of his arguments.

  21. 5 out of 5

    C. Varn

    Ligotti's anti-humanism is far more profound that the utilitarian influenced anti-natalism it is often naively linked to. Ligotti explores the anti-human and cosmic perspective that has often been expressed in weird fiction, and not just his own, but he may be its most articulate and interesting spokesperson. Ligotti themes around the terror of nihilism and the inability to accept a lesser role in the universe after wrapped in delicious aphorism and almost jet black humor: "Life is a confidence Ligotti's anti-humanism is far more profound that the utilitarian influenced anti-natalism it is often naively linked to. Ligotti explores the anti-human and cosmic perspective that has often been expressed in weird fiction, and not just his own, but he may be its most articulate and interesting spokesperson. Ligotti themes around the terror of nihilism and the inability to accept a lesser role in the universe after wrapped in delicious aphorism and almost jet black humor: "Life is a confidence trick we must run on ourselves, hoping we do not catch on to any monkey business that would have us stripped of our defense mechanisms and standing stark naked before the silent, starring void" and "This would be for the good of all, for even those who know nothing about the conspiracy against the human race are among its injured parties.” Now sometimes philosophical precision is lost for tone and character, but Ligotti is one of the more profound thinkers on the ennui of modern nihilism, the silliness of the assumption of an anthro-centric world view, and the relationship between knowledge and depression. Ligotti's scalpel can have a light touch and a compression where he has cut out a key part of the reader's ego without the reader first noticing. This does not mean we should embrace Ligotti's cosmic anti-humanism, but this book shows the seriousness of that vision which is often wrapped in Lovecraftian cults and alien gods. Indeed, the weight of a world that is not built around us must be dealt with by any serious thinker. Philosophers and theorists such as Ray Brassier and Eugene Thacker, regardless of what you think of their work, do illustrate that one should talke Ligotti seriously, even when he is expressing it in pure fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    How do you rate a book like this? A brilliant exposition of Ligotti's philosophy and the most credible description of what the uncanny and horror are about. But I reject the ultimate life-view in the end and Ligotti would ridicule me for it. So be it. The difference between the optimist and the pessimist. I couldn't go on living if I embraced his philosophy. It would be illogical. Maybe I am a coward. So be it. Ultimately I embrace my short journey here as a worthwhile endeavor as far as my self How do you rate a book like this? A brilliant exposition of Ligotti's philosophy and the most credible description of what the uncanny and horror are about. But I reject the ultimate life-view in the end and Ligotti would ridicule me for it. So be it. The difference between the optimist and the pessimist. I couldn't go on living if I embraced his philosophy. It would be illogical. Maybe I am a coward. So be it. Ultimately I embrace my short journey here as a worthwhile endeavor as far as my self is concerned even as I realize it most likely has little or no lasting meaning for this universe.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Literatures Movies

    Still not enough brain cells to handle reading philosophy on a lengthy amount of time. I'll come back when I'm older and wiser –– and have picked up an interest on philosophy. Until then, my happy ass is outta here. Blog : I vomit out words here Youtube : and talk about weird nonsense here IG : and post firstworld problem Instagram stories here Still not enough brain cells to handle reading philosophy on a lengthy amount of time. I'll come back when I'm older and wiser –– and have picked up an interest on philosophy. Until then, my happy ass is outta here. Blog : I vomit out words here Youtube : and talk about weird nonsense here IG : and post firstworld problem Instagram stories here

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Before reading this book I came to terms with, and embraced the implications of the following: We are merely collections of matter, given temporary animation via various bio-chemical processes which will decay, return to the earth, and be forgotten forever. Because of this I really found I agreed with most of what Ligotti has to say in this book, and unlike most readers I didn't find the book depressing, not even a little! I've experienced depression, and to me what Ligotti is doing is stripping Before reading this book I came to terms with, and embraced the implications of the following: We are merely collections of matter, given temporary animation via various bio-chemical processes which will decay, return to the earth, and be forgotten forever. Because of this I really found I agreed with most of what Ligotti has to say in this book, and unlike most readers I didn't find the book depressing, not even a little! I've experienced depression, and to me what Ligotti is doing is stripping away our illusions of what we think a human life is. This is as honest a book as you'll ever read. Ligotti surveys pessimistic philosophers throughout history, along with scientists, neuroscientists, sociologists, with some interesting looks at horror fiction, and how it relates to the "nightmare of being." Ligotti's problem isn't with the failings of humanity, because he doesn't see us as being in control in the first place. We're merely puppets animated by a force beyond our control with an illusion of a self, and can only get through the day by having delusions, distracting ourselves, anchoring to religion, etc. In our world where nothing is sacred anymore, this might be the last taboo, dangerous ideal -- that life isn't worth living. Ligotti is reaching all the way to the bottom. I would disagree slightly with Ligotti in a couple areas. First, a minor point, while I can admire his arguments for anti-natalism, I'm not concerned with a social view of this issue. If someone wants to bring ten children in the world to suffer and die, I don't care because I won't be the one suffering and dying, they will. So maybe I'm taking a heartless view of it. Secondly, I don't think I'm actually as horrified by the implications of what Ligotti is saying as he thinks I ought to be. And I still find life worth living, sometimes I think even at it's worst, it was better to have been conscious for a while, than not. Just for the experience, as worthless as I know it comes to in the end. As Bill Hicks said, "It's just a ride." I'm presenting my notes here unedited (some quotes to follow), raw, so excuse grammar and spelling... Intro A blind will drives all of life. People don't want to hear this philosophy, it's useless to argue it with them. Evolutionary development of consciousness is the calamitous event. Horror is often presented as a paradox which we are forced to confront -- living dead, animate puppets, etc. A human puppet would mistakenly believe it has it's own will. Supernaturalism is horrific because it contradicts the rules we have set for the world. The Nightmare of Being Humans evolved consciousness, now make their own movements, have their own thoughts and see themselves separate from everything else. We have illusions about rights and expectations in life, but the only one is death. Pessimistic philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe sees man having an overabundance of consciousness which has separated him from the world. We limit our consciousness for our own mental health, we both downplay suffering to get on with our lives, and we ignore that we are just animate meat bags. Arthur Schopenhauer spoke of the Will, but his system leaves room for argument, so people can ignore the implications of it. We minimize consciousness by 1) ignoring the facts, 2) anchoring with religion, patriotism, 3) distraction with entertainment, politics, careers, with 4) sublimination -- the portrayal of horrors openly to subliminate/banalize fears. Avoidance of breeding -- advocated by Zapffe, philosopher Philipp Mainlander believed that we would wish for death after obtaining every good in life, seeing death as preferable -- a will to die overcoming Schopenhauer's Will. We engage in self-hypnosis, positive thinking, self-help who want life to have a meaning when we suffer, but life has no meaning. We would be better off talking about having an "existence" rather than a "life." All of our lives are spent with one distraction or another from this fact that we are no one. The pessimist will say nonexistence is preferable even in good moments, and are immune to the flattery of religion, family or country which makes people feel superior. Nature breeds out pessimism for survival. With human progress we always live in the best, least miserable time, so people continue to procreate. Examination of "heroic pessimists" who see existence as undesirable but still think it is necessary to live, even with illusions -- they sort of romanticize it. Camus is in a similar camp, seeing the tragedy of existence, but being content in it. People tell pessimists to kill themselves or be a hypocrite, but a pessimist is just one who has decided it is better to not have been born, not a person who is suicidal necessarily. Nature proceeds by blunders -- human consciousness is one of these. We live according to a blind will, sacrificing all of our life to it. The FORCE is real, not the THINGS activated by it, even conscious ones which mistakenly believe themselves as self-driven. The Will in supernatural fiction, unseen "Force" in Blackwood's "The Willows" -- all of horror is driven by something outre making it's presence known, then withdrawing. Exploration of Lovecraft's fascination with the cosmic -- cosmic fascination as a solace. Lovecraft sought to horrify by pulling our illusions apart -- but he too distracted his own pessimism with a nostalgia for bygone New England. Ligotti's own writings "On Morbidity" -- a man who shuts himself away to focus on the morbid seen as in violation of some agreed-upon morality. Most people feel happiness exceeds unhappiness and continue to procreate. Pessimists focus on the hurt of life, which they believe is in excess of the happiness -- William James said humans imagine reasons to justify the sufferings of life; religion. Overview of studies on self-deception -- living without lies is something to be treated. Zapffe believes this is all consciously done. But people don't want to hear this, and adapt to new, worse circumstances. Philosophers rarely talk on suffering itself -- the logical conclusion to eliminate it is to end human life. Suffering will exist regardless what we do, yet we consider avoidance of death as the greatest achievement, not avoidance of suffering. Introduction of phrase MALIGNANTLY USELESS. We live in frameworks where things have usefulness, but existence itself is useless. The Buddhists realize the world is inter-connected -- they hope to be liberated from suffering via an enlightenment about reality, but are no better off than another religion. Zapffe could be called an environmentalist, however nature created us, and why should we save something that gave us this suffering life to begin with? We would be better to destroy it once we leave this planet. Anti-natalism could be carried out painlessly by having fewer children, who would live better as scarcity decreased -- but this idea is opposed. Neuroscientists and geneticists are proving day-by-day that our thoughts and actions are "attributal to neural wiring and heredity rather than to personal control." Yet they, and everyone else is able to ignore their puppet nature, and get on with their lives. Who Goes There? Question of "Why something instead of nothing?" displays our unease with Something which can imply the uncanny, things which violate our conceptions of right/wrong. One can look at everyday objects and see it as a lump of matter and ask this -- then look at oneself and ask the same. Ernst Jentsch essay on the uncanny, how certain diseases can expose our clockwork nature where we believed they were conscious beings. Horror fiction takes this up with the undead (vampires, zombies) by exposing that we humans too are mere animate, clockwork beings. Films such as The Thing expose these fears -- the characters are transformed, but in truth they are already "things." Supernaturalism is where we put fears which will scare us, but do not approach the natural horrors of the world we endure which are far worse. Determinism -- we do not choose to choose things, if we don't want X we can't make ourselves into someone who doesn't want X. We reject determinism because it makes us puppets, and it contradicts moral responsibility for actions. In certain cases, such as insanity we absolve people of responsibility, acknowledging the "human puppet." We cannot believe or say that we are pre-determined, but a reasoned look at cause and effect in the world makes it so. We FEEL we have a self, and think it responsible for thoughts, actions -- such as we feel responsible if we call someone to come to our house and they die on the way over. In reality we aren't responsible, but still FEEL such. Sensory perceptions within a body give the illusion of a self. But this illusion will be the last to go, after gods, countries and families. Consciousness is at the heart of this, and gives us humans our arrogance. Neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger's theory that our brain stimulates the illusion of being a self, which we cannot detect, we essentially see "through" it. He offers false consolation by saying that no one was ever born and no one ever dies. He also believes truths revealed by science will ultimately help mankind, but these truths could make us "vulgar materialists" or drive us insane. Depression causes a sense of meaninglessness -- one gets a sense of self from our string of memories, but if these do not have meaning, feeling we lose our sense of self. "Emotions are the substrate for the illusion of being a somebody among somebodies as well as for the substance we see, or think we see, in the world." Depression drains the emotion out of the world -- love, beauty are exposed as merely arrangements of objects, we "impart meaning" onto things that have none. If we are not careful, if we recover we can discover our depressed/sick self was our real self. Freaks of Salvation We fear depression and disillusionment, not madness. "Meaning?" -- this question is asked when one's assumptions are threatened, usually supplied with ready answers by society. For a select few mystery supplies meaning, expectancy of revelation and aesthetics. Once it is revealed however, the mystery crumbles -- this is why religion, being overexplained today is collapsing. Schopenhauer vs Nietzsche -- former says after death we return to the personless Will, Nietzsche he posits the idea of reliving one's life. Schopenhauer never said we were special in nature, Nietzsche said we were and celebrated goal-achieving, meaning and tragedy. Because of this Nietzsche is celebrated, Schopenhauer often forgotten. Belief in a better future, transhumanism -- cannot make a better human, we "were made" we do what we are ordered to do by nature. Transhumanism is an Eden fantasy. What if the ideal human finds nonexistence preferable? What if their discoveries are damaging to our mental well-being? Religion makes man special and provides hope for a earth-bound life. Buddhism is pessimistic -- sees life as suffering and tries to deny the will. It offers to those who are sensitive enough to life's suffering "enlightenment" where their cravings will cease to exist. It dangles this reward in front of people, but trying to get it is as difficult as achieving heaven in Christianity. It's an ever-elusive thing few have achieved, like a shell game. Several quotes from U. G. Krishnamurti who was enlightened after a near-death experience; who restates much of what has been said -- we are subjects of nature, there is no self, we are puppets. But when approached, he reviled all human institutions and said there is no help to offer, he was enlightened by mere chance. All experiencers of NDE's have a sort of ego-death, and see themselves as a mere body, functioning according to it's nature. Most people don't want this to begin with and find the idea troubling. The ego-dead OBEY nature's orders and do not take suffering "personally." Idea that we are the universe becoming conscious of itself. Sick to Death Pessimists seek solace in bleak works of literature, but sometimes the writer pulls the rug out from under one, as in the case of Tolstoy's "A Confession." He found in regard to his hopelessness one could ignore it, acknowledge but be merry, suicide or the inability to commit suicide. Ultimately Tolstoy found relief only in distraction from his distressing questions. Few works truly END bleakly, they perform a bait-and-switch on the reader. Too often we wish to extend life as much as possible, regardless of the suffering it entails. Humans find meaning in frameworks, but these are fragile and can break down -- the ultimate framework is that of dying one day. To die without pain would take the worry out of it -- we worry more about the pain of death than we will probably ever experience in death itself. Terror Management Theory researchers said we spend our whole lives, and have institutions devoted to telling us we will live forever, somehow. Ex. Dr. Strangelove -- will to survive regardless the conditions or insanity it entails. Fear of death means people may kill others with differing views which threaten theirs, and thus their belief in immortality. Many suicides would like to destroy all of life if they could, but most only want to escape pain. Strife comes from difference of motivation, opinion, yet without it we would be terribly bored, and we need the distraction. Exploration of tragedy and Sweeny Todd, a nihilistic story of murder and cannibalism. We all end up as food for worms, tragedy though romanticizes it. We must endure all manner of nonsense -- eating, shitting, work. Ideas of compassion, justice only increase, not decrease our sense of horror because they aren't in line with reality. The horrors of life make some turn to liking the macabre. The Cult of the Grinning Martyrs Optimism is celebrated, but is a mockery of the human condition. People merely want to feel good, satisfy desires. Nature gives us enough pleasure to justify working, but not so much we are able to avoid work. Pessimists will be dismissed, told to get back in line, pretend happiness, take medication or drink if you need too, but don't expose the conspiracy. Disillusionment creeps into humanity, but we adapt as long as no one tries to disillusion us too quickly. The more wasteful, brainless and delusive will help hide our disillusionment. E. M. Cioran saw life as a mistake, animation of the inanimate and full of pain. Should humanity continue to exist? Pro-natalists see procreation as a good in itself, regardless that all will suffer and die. People are pressured to reproduce, and see it as a door to immortality and it is how one becomes truly integrated into society. One day even if we can live forever, or close to it -- will we ask "why?" Is the answer harmful? Existence is horrific, it is our punishment for existing. Autopsy on a Puppet With consciousness we came to imagine other worlds, atmosphere comes from these imaginings, and is tied to horror. Lovecraft emphasized atmosphere above all else in weird fiction. It is escapist, yet the characters die horribly. Radcliffe's novels are excellent in generation of atmospherics, these are effective even though the supernatural elements are logically explained in the end. But she did have her novels end happily. Poe's tales are genuinely gloomy, beginning to end. His stories are like dreams, self-contained with nothing outside of their worlds. In Lovecraft horror comes from knowing too much of reality, and our place in it. Consciousness generates horror, and isolates us from the rest of the world. Separation of authors into insiders/outsiders, depends on how they resolve themes. In one novel, a man comes to see his body as an almost alien thing, and decides he has many selves, but he makes peace with this, it is resolved optimistically. In an opposing novel, The Tenant a man is persecuted for his ethnicity, explores how realities are imposed by people onto others. The persecutors are no bodies as well, or they would not need to persecute. They persecute all who don't emulate THEM. Comparison of Blatty's Exorcist vs. Lovecraft's Charles Dexter Ward where readers want to see good win over evil, Lovecraft saw humans are irrelevant in the equation. Puppets appear in horror and reflect a horror that we may be such ourselves. In Heart of Darkness the natural world itself is depicted as a horror, Kurtz is not just a man who has turned wicked, he has discovered the wickedness of the nature of existence itself. Conrad saw us as victims of nature, but conscious ones. Supernatural in Hamlet vs Macbeth. Drama played out in fiction reflects the natural world, whether it's nature, war, etc. But we want more than this, which is where the supernatural comes in. If we knew how/when we were to die, could we live? Along with conscious awareness of it -- death is required for artistic creation. Imagination results from our impotence. Ex: Veering into a car crash you experience horror because this is not what our consciousness informs us SHOULD be, it wasn't in our plans. Consciousness will not let us just accept what IS. In this way we are alien to the world, conscious of death we imbue the world with a supernaturalism which only exists in our minds. A hallucinogenic episode on what it means to die, and what one leaves behind. Despite all of this knowledge, humans will go on, they get use to any horrors until humanity itself is erased in time. A couple quotes I liked: "For Bahnsen, a purposeless force breathes a black life into everything and feasts upon it part by part, regurgitating itself into itself, ever-renewing the throbbing forms of its repast. For all others who suspect that something is amiss in the lifeblood of being, something they cannot verbalize, there are the malformed shades of suffering and death that chase them into the false light of contenting lies." "Sensory perceptions, memories, aches, ecstasies: Because these phenomena occur inside the same sack of skin, we suppose that we are enduring, continuous entities, things that serve as the infrastructure for war, romance, athletic competition, and every other genre of human activity." "One of Metzinger’s fears is that some people will sink into what he contemns as “vulgar materialism” and will conclude there is nothing for them in this life but survival, reproduction, and death, with the wise guys of the world saying to themselves in Metzinger’s imagined soliloquy: “I don’t understand what all these neuroexperts and consciousness philosophers are talking about, but the upshot seems pretty clear to me. The cat is out of the bag: We are gene-copying bio-robots, living out here on a lonely planet in a cold and empty physical universe. … I get the message, and you had better believe I will adjust my behavior to it.”"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ville Johannes Pajala

    This book was a weird experience. One of the most pessimistic reads of my life, yet written so well that the text kept mesmerizing me. I haven't yet read any Ligotti's fiction but I'm already impressed with his ability to use words and guide the reader effortlessly through this 'negative' journey. I got the feeling that the point of the book was to show that although we deny the existence of supernatural horror and only enjoy it as fiction, the real horror lives in reality. He also shows that the This book was a weird experience. One of the most pessimistic reads of my life, yet written so well that the text kept mesmerizing me. I haven't yet read any Ligotti's fiction but I'm already impressed with his ability to use words and guide the reader effortlessly through this 'negative' journey. I got the feeling that the point of the book was to show that although we deny the existence of supernatural horror and only enjoy it as fiction, the real horror lives in reality. He also shows that there's nothing 'natural' about human beings, claiming that the very thing that makes us humans is in fact seriously questionable quality making the world burn: consciousness. WE are supernatural horror. And he is right; every attempt in out lives toward happiness is some form of action aimed to limit consciousnesness. We live of illusions and there is no other way to live. Consciousness is the perfect conspiracy against the human race. To find salvation from it is a life-long work. Animals begin where we may end up if we're lucky. Definately worth the read but this book may be a bit too much for the most sensitive. Ligotti isn't hinting at life possibly being empty. He's logically building his case and claims that life IS meaningless. And even further, life is MALIGNANTLY USELESS. He claims that the concept of positivity is only a biological survival mechanism to keep us going on surviving and reproducing. And through neuroscience he even shows that the self is an illusion; truth which all buddhist already know of course. Maybe not the best read for everyone, but a must for open minded fellow psychonauts. Excellent mindtrip.

  26. 4 out of 5

    J

    This philosophical treatise is written with gusto and humor. At times it is biting, hard to swallow. But to discuss Ligotti's style and skill has been done to death. His writing is atmospheric, strangely beautiful in a very singular way. To read his fiction, or nonfiction, is to visit a different world, an uncanny place that makes one feel uncomfortable; yet it is a place where one can return and enjoy the eeriness. What to discuss here is the main idea, that life is more bad than good. While muc This philosophical treatise is written with gusto and humor. At times it is biting, hard to swallow. But to discuss Ligotti's style and skill has been done to death. His writing is atmospheric, strangely beautiful in a very singular way. To read his fiction, or nonfiction, is to visit a different world, an uncanny place that makes one feel uncomfortable; yet it is a place where one can return and enjoy the eeriness. What to discuss here is the main idea, that life is more bad than good. While much of the book is an expansion of Schopenhauer (beyond merely promoting pessimism, both see optimism as not only foolish but nefarious), Ligotti touches on lesser-known pessimists: Mainlander, Zapffe, Michelstaedter, and others. He goes farther than Ecclesiastes, than The Last Messiah, even farther than Mainlander's 'will to die.' At the heart of this book is Ligotti's malignant 'force' (similar to Schopenhauer's Will). The force that causes all action, that makes things move and live and breath and die. And this force, far from being some benevolent deity or karmic justice, is not even indifferent, as many have said before. This force is pernicious. We see why Ligotti is the supreme horror writer of his generation. The force of all life is evil--it leads us down a road of strife, only to end in total obliteration. Few books have the ability to change lives. Only an already staunch pessimist or a blockhead could read this one without at least a better understanding of those who long for nihility.

  27. 4 out of 5

    poorvi cowkur

    Too preoccupied with striving to achieve a good life, we are all too resolute in repressing any dreadful thoughts that can potentially threaten our intrinsic belief that being alive is alright. Ligotti is a genius in his writing and expounds a powerful argument about the bleakness of human existence and its unremitting struggle with consciousness, the mother of all horrors.Being a novice in the field of philosophical pessimism, this book was- while a little difficult at times to wrap my head aro Too preoccupied with striving to achieve a good life, we are all too resolute in repressing any dreadful thoughts that can potentially threaten our intrinsic belief that being alive is alright. Ligotti is a genius in his writing and expounds a powerful argument about the bleakness of human existence and its unremitting struggle with consciousness, the mother of all horrors.Being a novice in the field of philosophical pessimism, this book was- while a little difficult at times to wrap my head around some of the ideas and theories propounded,a great introductory read nonetheless and gave me an incentive to delve deeper into this field of study.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Regular readers will remember that I recently read the new In the Mountains of Madness by W. Scott Poole, which is not just a biography of horror writer HP Lovecraft but also an examination of the "Lovecraftian" culture that has built up around his work since his death; and that got me interested not o (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Regular readers will remember that I recently read the new In the Mountains of Madness by W. Scott Poole, which is not just a biography of horror writer HP Lovecraft but also an examination of the "Lovecraftian" culture that has built up around his work since his death; and that got me interested not only in reading the entire oeuvre of Lovecraft for the first time (a process I'm in the middle of right now), but also checking out some of the contemporary authors who write in Lovecraft's vein, and who are helping to carry and extend the "Cthulhu Mythos" into the 21st century. So for advice with that I turned to an acquaintance of mine, Chicago horror author Richard Thomas; and among the other contemporary writers he encouraged me to sample was Thomas Ligotti, who I had already vaguely heard of as, alternatively, "The best horror writer you've never heard of" and "the horror writer all the other horror writers wished they were." Several of his fictional works struck my fancy when first looking through his bibliography; but what stuck out much more in my mind when coming across it, and what I ended up taking on first, was actually a nonfiction book he wrote back in 2011 with the intriguing title The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. It's essentially a Philosophy 101 survey of all the various deep thinkers throughout history who have espoused what Ligotti calls a "philosophy of pessimism," which he then examines and weaves together to present a sort of unified narrative story about what all these philosophers had in common, and the 3,000-year-old lesson they've been trying to teach us the whole time. It essentially starts with the idea that no living creatures in the universe were ever meant to have self-sentient consciousness, and that the fact that humans do is actually an aberration and a curse, not some sort of gift from a benevolent god; because with this self-sentient consciousness, we're then compelled to spend our lives searching for a meaning to our existence, but are saddled with the knowledge that there is no meaning to existence, that the universe is quite simply an infinitely large void of constant chaos and random violence, bereft of any human-invented quality like "equality" or "fairness," and that each of our lives are nothing but insignificant specks in the cosmic scale, in which we change not a single thing about the universe in our lifetimes and then are promptly forgotten by the human race a mere generation or two after our deaths. That's the "conspiracy" of the book's title, the idea that someone is perpetrating a grand cruel joke on humanity at all our expenses; for anyone who looks too closely at this unvarnished truth about the universe, one that we were born with the ability to easily see, ends up going violently insane (or in other words, suicide victims and serial killers are simply the people who see the universe as it really is), which means that to stay sane, productive members of society, we must literally spend our entire lives making up pretty little lies about existence (that there is a cosmic order to it, that there is an inherent sense of justice, that we were purposely born on this planet for a specific reason), and then spend every ounce of our energy brainwashing ourselves into believing these lies, despite the fact that we can quite easily see with our rational minds just how much we're deluding ourselves when we tell ourselves these things. That's essentially the basis behind every horror story ever written, Ligotti argues, the schism between the lies we tell ourselves about an orderly, fair universe and the unending parade of chaos and violence that we glimpse when we stop telling ourselves these lies; and he then spends the length of his book hopping from one famous thinker to another over the course of written history, showing how there have always been select philosophers and authors around, from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance to the Victorian Age to now, who have used this same basic set of principles as the basis behind every treatise and manifesto they ever wrote. Yeah, pretty dark and heady stuff, making it no surprise that True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has admitted in interviews that he based Matthew McConaughey's season 1 antihero Rush Cohle directly on the theories being discussed in this book; and it also goes a long way towards explaining why a genre writer like Ligotti cites as some of his favorite authors such surprising non-horror people as Arthur Schopenhauer, Vladimir Nabokov, and Samuel Beckett. So after this, then, I jumped right into the only book-length fictional piece Ligotti has ever written, 2002's My Work Is Not Yet Done, republished in 2009 for a larger audience by hipster British press Virgin Books (all the rest of his books are short-story collections), which unsurprisingly reads like a fictional version of all the nonfiction theories being banded about in Conspiracy. It's essentially the tale of an intellectual malcontent and mentally imbalanced loner working a faceless middle-management job at a blandly nondescript corporation; when he's railroaded by scheming co-workers into getting unfairly fired, he makes plans to launch into the violent act of retribution you would expect from such a person, but then a sudden dark cloud that envelops the city that night imbues him with a malevolent supernatural spirit that suddenly makes the story go in a much different and weirder direction. I'll let the rest of this delightfully crackpot story remain a surprise, although I will mention that the scope of the narrative gets a lot bigger and grander than you would expect by the time the story is over, and that it's also obvious in this book why so many people call Ligotti the natural heir to Lovecraft and his obsession for all-powerful creatures who regard humans as little more than gnats to be flicked at in annoyance. What may be the most clever thing of all about about My Work, however, is that it's also an astute examination of the former industrial powerhouses of the American Midwest, and the ignoble corrosion they have faced in the post-Industrial age (Ligotti was born and raised in Detroit, and the unnamed city where My Work takes place feels an awful lot like it, although you could also substitute in such cities as Cleveland, Indianapolis or St. Louis), as well as a gleefully cynical takedown of the misguided attempts to transform these cities in the 21st century into shining creative-class destinations full of coffeehouses, bike paths and loft condos. (In fact, in a way you can see the main theme in My Work manifested as the question, "What if literal demons were behind the urban gentrification movement?") It's been a darkly exhilarating experience for the last few weeks, being stuck so deep in Ligotti's unrelentingly nihilistic universe, a writer who after thirty years of professional publishing just now seems to be starting to come into his own as a popular public figure. (He's one of only ten living writers on the planet who's been republished by Penguin Classics, a feat which only happened a year and a half ago, at which point the Washington Post called him "the best-kept secret in contemporary horror fiction.") If you yourself are looking for a refreshingly chilling alternative to the played-out "ghosts in the suburbs" trope of Stephen King and other Postmodernist horror authors, I suggest you give Ligotti a whirl yourself.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    Life stinks and so do you, the Penetrators sang (look them up, they’re the best we can hope for in this hopeless existence). That sort of sums it up for me, and yet I still consider myself an optimist. What can I say, I don’t think much. I figure that things could always be worse. Life’s not so bad. It's better than the alternative. Thomas Ligotti thinks a lot more than me. He’s a horror writer and I picked up his first book of nonfiction, THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE, to maybe get some Life stinks and so do you, the Penetrators sang (look them up, they’re the best we can hope for in this hopeless existence). That sort of sums it up for me, and yet I still consider myself an optimist. What can I say, I don’t think much. I figure that things could always be worse. Life’s not so bad. It's better than the alternative. Thomas Ligotti thinks a lot more than me. He’s a horror writer and I picked up his first book of nonfiction, THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE, to maybe get some recommendations on good horror to read or how he crafts his works. What I didn’t expect was philosophy. I’m sick of philosophy. I mean even beyond the fact that I don’t think, which would put me at odds with most philosophers. It’s not that they think, though, that has got me down on the discipline, but that they’re thinking is like taking a trip on an Exercycle: it might be good for you, but you get nowhere. Ligotti mines a less storied branch of philosophic thought: pessimism. He tends to agree with the great minds that lay all our problems on the evolution of consciousness, which gave us knowledge of our death — bummer. It’s a prison we can’t escape from except by death, making voluntary human extinction the most heroic act we can enact. But nature doesn’t get off any better than us, and should take a graceful exit, too. Of course, that’s the pessimistic view. Optimists choose a different path. But there is no way to say whose is best. It’s really a matter of temperament. Which finally leads the book to horror, which is the perfect expression of the pessimistic view that life is malignantly meaningless. Horror is like a poetry of pure pessimism. It’s hard to argue that if life is suffering, then the only true out is to end life. It was overcast the week I read this and I found myself napping a lot. I didn’t have much energy, but I was getting over a cold. Then I got off the couch and cleaned the house. It made me feel better. Then the house got dirty again. The cure is worse than the disease. So, I found solace in the source of Ligotti’s dark ethics, though I’m too much of a thoughtless optimist to fully apply them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Do not read this book. It's the most negative thing you'll read and might make you cry. I picked up a copy based solely on the grotesque cover art and the interesting note on the back about the nightmare of existence. It's basically a philosophical work on the meaning of life written by a horror writer who probably thinks that Stephen King is a hopeless romantic. King always seemed to have so much hope that things would work out. The good guy wins, but a skeleton hand would pop out of the ground Do not read this book. It's the most negative thing you'll read and might make you cry. I picked up a copy based solely on the grotesque cover art and the interesting note on the back about the nightmare of existence. It's basically a philosophical work on the meaning of life written by a horror writer who probably thinks that Stephen King is a hopeless romantic. King always seemed to have so much hope that things would work out. The good guy wins, but a skeleton hand would pop out of the ground to show you that the battle wasn't over. Nietzsche? Another cute optimist. I do tend to be somewhat optimistic, but Ligotti would argue that I'm just denying the true nature on humanity, rotting meat on decaying bones. He references many obscure thinkers (many of whom I tried to buy books from on Amazon but found NO English translations available like Norwegian antinatalist Peter Wessel Zapffe) and defends the indefensible in a wonderful way. People seem to look at the horror of existence and (a) isolate the facts by putting them gently into the remote recesses of our minds where we only pay the consequences in our nightmares, or (b) anchor our beliefs by clamping down on ideas like 'nation' or 'god' or 'traditional family values' to keep our eyes on the ball, or (c) distracting ourselves with TV or facebook or the latest Marvel Comics {trademarked} adventure, or sublimating by some postmodern method of winking at life's absurdities with movies or books that make open display of depravity to make ourselves think we are in on the joke. So maybe the Sisyphus of Albert Camus really didn't need to imagine his protagonist as happy, and that's ok... So I can't say I agree with the nightmare that this book is, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone (particularly people struggling with depression) but I sure had fun reading it. 5 horrible stars.

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