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The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2010)

by Thomas Ligotti

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6221330,462 (3.96)17
'There is a signature motif discernible in both works of philosophical pessimism and supernatural horror. It may be stated thus- Behind the scenes of life lurks something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world.' His fiction is known to be some of the most terrifying in the genre of supernatural horror, but Thomas Ligotti's first nonfiction book may be even scarier. Drawing on philosophy, literature, neuroscience, and other fields of study, Ligotti takes the penetrating lens of his imagination and turns it on his audience, causing them to grapple with the brutal reality that they are living a meaningless nightmare, and anyone who feels otherwise is simply acting out an optimistic fallacy. At once a guidebook to pessimistic thought and a relentless critique of humanity's employment of self-deception to cope with the pervasive suffering of their existence, The Conspiracy against the Human Racemay just convince readers that there is more than a measure of truth in the despairing yet unexpectedly liberating negativity that is widely considered a hallmark of Ligotti's work.… (more)
  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 Ego Trick by Julian Baggini (cmc)
    cmc: The Ego Trick and The Conspiracy Against the Human Race overlap a great deal, although Baggini has a rather more positive view of human consciousness than the one Ligotti lays out. (Honestly, I think that Ligotti is mostly kidding: he’s right in many ways, but since everything is meaningless, what does it matter if we stick around to see what happens? Might as well.)… (more)
  3. 00
    The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson (CarlosMcRey)
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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Didn't finish, so I won't rate it. I tend to agree with Ligotti's contention that it might be better if the human race ceased to exist, but day-to-day there are always a few pleasures to look forward to--pick your poison--sex, drugs, alcohol, rock 'n' roll. However, listening to this book isn't one of them, although the narrator does a good job. I am reading The Anatomy of Melancholy, and I have to say it is a lot more interesting--and humorous.
  datrappert | May 21, 2022 |
Ligotti is primarily an author of supernatural horror. In this book of philosophy he reveals his ideas and sources about the necessity of horror that consciousness brings about. That is, horror comes from consciousness, making our awareness not a benefit but a detriment; a conspiracy against us.

In search of this conspiracy, Ligotti finds himself enamored by an obscure pessimistic philosopher, Peter Wessel Zapffe, and spends much of the early portions of this book expanding the ideas Zappfe laid out in "The Last Messiah". Later Ligotti branches out to other philosophers, mystics, and neuroscientists to round out many of the claims that he treats axiomatically in this work.

One of my first criticisms of this work is that consciousness is presented as a human exceptionalism, limited to only homo sapiens. Plenty of research continually suggests otherwise. This does little to deter the arguments put forth in this book, as conscious life is deemed a horror, and thus would only expand the horror.

Ligotti advocates for a pessimistic totality, often celebrating philosophers who took their own lives. While many philosophers, mystical systems, and scientists treat such nihilism as a starting point, Ligotti doesn't want to hear it. Pessimism is alpha and omega here, and any attempts to deviate are a heresy.

This leads to perhaps a more robust criticism of this work. While Ligotti certainly understands many of the works he cites, his treatment of any deviation from this full-tilt rocket into the abyss shows an inability to engage with or present counter arguments to anything outside of such dogma. Schopenhauer's Will-to-Live and mystical concepts of ego-death are mocked and simplistically dismissed, yet never engaged with, among others.

In a philosophical work I would be much more critical about such an error, however, Ligotti readily admits that he is not a trained philosopher, and that this is more of his version of Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature". The last chapter reveals this method quite well as various literary devices are explained via the concepts presented earlier in the book, with a focus on supernatural horror as a guiding genre. The way Ligotti weaves philosophy into storytelling is a great example of just how highbrow horror can be.

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race also functions well as an overview of pessimistic philosophy and related currents. At times this becomes redundant, but this is due to Ligotti deftly showing the relationship between disparate paradigms and consistently reinforcing the arguments that he starts the book with. Same abysmal destination, many rockets to choose from. The only real choice available in this book is the decision to hang around this planet much longer or catch a ride. ( )
1 vote Ophiphos | Apr 28, 2021 |
While the writing style is clear and engaging, it tends to circle back on itself a little. And although I particularly found the discussions of the philosophy of horror to be very interesting, I was less impressed by the philosophical sections. There are some worthwhile insights to be sure, and he himself more or less offers the disclaimer that this is not philosophy proper, but more like reflection on life from a particular philosophical perspective, so in that vein it was successful. ( )
  exhypothesi | Mar 7, 2021 |
I at times was going to rate a 5 for those "ah ha" moments where Ligotti hits just right and adds words or reveals another author who put words to exactly what I've felt. At times I thought 3 for an almost repetitive and overly affected writing style. 4 seems right.

I recently mentioned a feeling I've had to a friend and his immediate response was "you should read Ligotti, he basically says just that." This is often a depressing realization (there is nothing new to say or think) but also an electrifying edification (It's not just ME that feels this way!).

Ligotti covers many thinkers that I knew and were familiar with, and many that I didn't and wasn't.
For that alone I was grateful for the recommendation.
Many new writers to discover...

If you've ever thought consciousness - whatever it turns out to be - is a straight up curse.

If you've ever sighed for the hundredth time that day and looked around and thought, "There is no inherent meaning to existence."

If you've ever thought it's not our fault, we accidentally evolved into a painful cul-de-sac.

If you've ever wanted someone as pessimistic as you're feeling to come up and say, "Hey, me too."

Ligotti is your kindred spirit. ( )
  23Goatboy23 | Jan 17, 2020 |
Surprisingly accessible--more so than his fiction, which was surprising, and bizarrely, more cheerful and even-handed? Good read. ( )
  Shaun_Hamill | Oct 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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Brassier, RayForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'There is a signature motif discernible in both works of philosophical pessimism and supernatural horror. It may be stated thus- Behind the scenes of life lurks something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world.' His fiction is known to be some of the most terrifying in the genre of supernatural horror, but Thomas Ligotti's first nonfiction book may be even scarier. Drawing on philosophy, literature, neuroscience, and other fields of study, Ligotti takes the penetrating lens of his imagination and turns it on his audience, causing them to grapple with the brutal reality that they are living a meaningless nightmare, and anyone who feels otherwise is simply acting out an optimistic fallacy. At once a guidebook to pessimistic thought and a relentless critique of humanity's employment of self-deception to cope with the pervasive suffering of their existence, The Conspiracy against the Human Racemay just convince readers that there is more than a measure of truth in the despairing yet unexpectedly liberating negativity that is widely considered a hallmark of Ligotti's work.

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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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