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John Gray is coming to The School of Life to reveal how humans may only truly be free when we abandon our quest for knowledge.

John Gray is considered by many as the pre-eminent philosopher of our time. Having had a hugely successful academic career he entered the public consciousness with his book Straw Dogs, a worldwide best seller described as ‘That rarest of things, a contemporary work of philosophy, wholly accessible, and profoundly relevant to the rapidly evolving world' (Will Self). John shows us that it is possible to live well – and even to flourish – when we turn away from the modern world’s myths. He is coming to The School of Life to reveal how humans may only truly be free when we abandon our quest for knowledge.

The belief that knowledge is intrinsically liberating goes all the way back to the founder of western philosophy Socrates, and beyond that to ancient religions and mystery cults--especially Gnosticism. Today this belief is expressed in the idea that science can enable humankind to leave behind immemorial evils such as illness, poverty and even (according to some thinkers) mortality. A third version of this belief can be found in psychoanalysis, not in the form that was theorised by Freud but as the practice now exists in our culture, which promises that self-knowledge can enable us to overcome our inner conflicts.

John Gray suggests that knowledge can't set us free in any of these three ways. Instead, freedom for humans, lies in what the poet Keats called negative capability: being at peace with the world’s mystery.

Joining John will be the philosopher Alain de Botton, founder of the School of Life.

The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We offer a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.


Professor John Gray | talks


Date and Time:

19 March 2015 at 6:30 pm


2 hours 30 minutes



Emmanuel Centre
9-23 Marsham Street

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The School of Life
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