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The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A…
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The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror

by Thomas Ligotti

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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329649,521 (4.27)16
  1. 20
    Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development 4 by Robin James Mackay (arnzen)
    arnzen: Collapse IV (a ltd. edition literary journal) includes an early excerpt from Ligotti's book "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" alongside articles of a similar philosophical nature. The essay in Collapse is intercut with an artistic photogallery of dead monkeys, which adds to the reading experience in a stunning way (and I wish they would have used one of these on the cover of the Hippocampus book...which otherwise is excellent).… (more)
  2. 00
    The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson (CarlosMcRey)
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
The book is a goldmine of truths that one needs to be reminded of regularly as they can be easily forgotten in a stop-gap happy world. To find out that it's not just the world that is in chaos, but even our selves are a chaotic fabrication of lies being tugged at by some all-permeating invisible force, is a crushing blow to any hope still left. The only real self-help book ever written or that you'll ever need. ( )
  sunil_kumar | Feb 12, 2019 |
(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. ( )
1 vote jasonpettus | Apr 25, 2017 |
Reading this tract about the accident of the human being, an error spat into existence by an indifferent and disconnected nature, is like being on a really bad drug trip. Your mind actively seeks to fight the words on these pages as you read them. Reading this book was so uncomfortable for me that in my sweltering dreams last night I began digging into the side of my neck, perhaps trying to dismantle the human puppet, the intoxicated animate that I am. The gut reaction of most people who hear about the basic premise of this book, or who begin to read it, would be, "Well, if anybody thinks life is so meaningless, why do they bother writing about it, why do they bother living at all?" The answer being that this book can be executed as a philosophical exercise, but simply because one knows something doesn't mean he will act on it. Our perverted will to survival, distorted from that of the apes and the wolves into a humanoid pipe dream of inane complexity, insists that our being here has to mean something. The religious get their God prescription, and their way out of this horror is the first that comes to mind. Others may adopt the dictum of Camus that we should create our own meaning in a meaningless world, or the transcendent affirmations of Nietzschean Will to Power. We all have some way to trick ourselves into believing that our existence matters, and the force of our ridiculous ego makes the trick inescapable to all except those with a stomach for suicide. However, who commits suicide to rebel against theorized ontology alone? Perhaps though, the man who glimpses the horror of nothingness is a little better off than he who thinks meaning is inherent and that life is alright. The former has glimpsed the cruel joke and can laugh as the black maw of entropy laughs along with him. ( )
2 vote poetontheone | Jun 11, 2015 |
Ligotti's first story in his first collection is "The Frolic," features a serial killer who seems to have supernatural abilities. Yet, in contrast to most psychopaths, real-world and fictional, he has no sense of grandiosity but an awareness of his own insignificance. Conspiracy reminds me of that story, in that Ligotti sets out to slay every illusion that one might hold about life, about mankind, about the universe, yet seems to realize the futility of this mission. A fascinating work of disillusionment. ( )
  CarlosMcRey | May 22, 2013 |
Philosophy for sentient puppets: The source of horror resides in consciousness itself.

I've been reading books loosely associated with the group known as Speculative Realists (a group of thinkers who critique 'correlationism', the view that we can never reach what is real beneath our language systems, our means for perception, or our finite manner of being-in-the-world) and came upon this book whose forward is written by Ray Brassier. The alignment between Speculative Realism and Ligotti lies in the realization that humans are sentient puppets who have effloresced out of a mindless material universe and will one day disappear without a trace. As Ray Brassier write in [Nihil Unbound] "...earth will be incinerated by the sun 4 billion years hence; all the stars in the universe will stop shining in 100 trillion years; and eventually, one trillion, trillion, trillion years from now, all matter in the cosmos will disintegrate.” Ligotti writes, "There will come a day for each of us—and then for all of us—when the future will be done with. Until then, humanity will acclimate itself to every new horror that comes knocking, as it has done from the very beginning. It will go on and on until it stops. And the horror will go on, as day follows day and generations fall into the future like so many bodies into open graves."

In his book, Ligotti starts by discussing a short essay, "The Last Messiah", written by an obscure Norwegian philosopher, Peter Zapffe whose dissertation, _On the Tragic_ has never been translated into English.

According to Zapffe, we have evolved an excess of consciousness, which makes us aware that we will someday die. Consciously or unconsciously we deploy all sorts of techniques to ignore and mask this uncomfortable fact. At some point though, when these techniques fail, and the soporific effects of the Abrahamic faiths have worn off, when religion, alcohol, drugs, sex and a personal relationship with Jesus no longer mask this painful truth, you come face to face with the realization that you are just a gene copying bio-robot, a puppet of nature who thinks he has control of the strings, a being towards death. You grasp desperately at your only consolation: life after death. However, you've realized that this is just one of the futile techniques used to make life livable. Besides, you've already realized what an eternity of consciousness means. It means eventually doing the same things over and over again an infinite number of times, having the same conversations with the same people an infinite number of times, having sex with everyone who ever lived or ever will live an infinite number of times. It is then you realize your only salvation lies in the extinction of consciousness. You realize that consciousness itself is the real supernatural horror that has intruded unexpectedly into nature. The source of horror lies in human consciousness itself.

If you have followed me thus far, then you have a taste of what is in store for you when you open the covers of this book.

After discussing Zapffe, he goes on to discuss other philosophers of pessimism eventually exploring these themes in relation to other authors in the horror genre.

The book serves as a hermeneutic key, or Rosetta Stone as it were, to unlocking the meaning of Ligotti's own works of horror. If you are interested in these themes or have realized, to paraphrase Ray Brassier, in Nihil Unbound, that nature is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the `values' and `meanings' which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable, pick up a copy.

You can check out philosophy books in the Speculative Realism by searching that tag in my library. ( )
3 vote PedrBran | Dec 30, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 098242969X, Hardcover)

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.
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2010 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction. 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.… (more)

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