Back in December, I mentioned Michel Onfray's Traité d'Athéologie (Grasset). Well, it seems that Serpent's Tail will be publishing what I understand is the first of Onfray's titles (he is only 46 and has already written thirty books!) to be translated into English.

Onfray sounds like a fascinating thinker and writer. This is (just some of) what Doug Ireland has to say:

A radical libertarian socialist, a self-described 'Nietzschian of the Left', Onfray's philosophical project is to define an ethical hedonism, a joyous utilitarianism, and a generalized aesthetic of sensual materialism that explores how to use the brain's and the body's capacities to their fullest extent - while restoring philosophy to a useful role in art, politics and everyday life and decisions. All this presupposes, in Onfray's philosophy, a militant atheism and the demasking of false gods.

Readers Comments

  1. Onfray has done a few interesting thing, but to call him "fascinating" is far-fetched. He has a lot success among people who feel hatred for any sort of monotheism, but unfortunately, once you have more than a passing knowledge of theology or history of religion, you begin to spot an incredible amount of factual errors. At least three books were written by philosophers or theologists to correct some of the claims he made in his "Traité d'athéologie". In a conference in Brussels, he went as far as to claim than nazism ultimate aim was that of a catholic dictatorship -doesn't sound like a serious thinker.
    More trivially, he has become a sort of media darling in France, which I can understand since he knows how to speak. Sad thing is he quite often refuses to appear in programs he knows will feature people who will react to some of his assertions, such is his contempt for criticism - and especially constructive criticism.
    I expect him to be praised by radicals in the US and in the UK once is book is translated - but you really should take his writing with a pinch of salt.

  2. Hi Fausto,

    Thanks for this. Good to get a bit more context.

    As I said, Onfray "sounds fascinating", but I've not had the chance to read any of his work. I await the translation of "Traité d'athéologie" with interest -- and the responses (both negative and positive) that will come with it.


  3. We should also take what Fausto says with a pinch of salt, if his hysterical misreading of my recent blog on Martin Amis is any guide.

  4. Stephen, how nice of you... You read one comment of mine on your blog, not about a whole post of yours, but about half-a-paragraph -which I have to say still doesn't make any sense-, and you cannot refrain from bringing the thing here... Jesus, this is sad -or, to quote you, "hysterical". Do you only accept comments that tackle the entirety of your post, or is commenting single sentence only allowed when agreeing with your views? Let's leave this kind of quarrel where they belong -ie not on this particular blog, which makes for great reading. Please do note that I, at least, am quite acquainted with Onfray's work. He is the kind of thinker that gives atheism a bad name - and I am atheist. By all means, wait until you read the actual book before passing such trivial judgement on my comment. You might still find out I was right -or not.

  5. Thanks for confirming my initial judgement Fausto! Is saying one should take your views with a pinch of salt "passing judgement" or just re-applying your opinion?

    Your hysterical misreading was to leap to the conclusion that I was defending or advocating communism when I criticised Martin Amis for concentrating on the crimes of Mao.

    Your comment on Onfray indicates you're a dab hand at spin. You might be right about Onfray as you were right about Mao. Only, you're missing the point.

  6. Stephen, do we really have to go over this here? I was not implying you were "defending or advocating communism", or at least not anymore than you were implying capitalism is more of a criminal system than maoism. The gist of my reaction was that I cannot understand why anyone criticizing Mao should also advise his readers that other systems are criminal. What does capitalism have to do with Mao's criminal record? For what it's worth, I didn't comment on the rest of the post because I happen to think Amis' take on Islamism is extremely simplistic.
    I fail to see how I can be "missing the point" on Onfray. I merely passed some background info on the man - and Mark's answer shows he didn't need your input to do what any sane man would do: wait to get the occasion of making his own mind up.
    Do you have anything to say about Onfray, or is this just going to be about me, you, Amis and your blog?

  7. Goodness! Well, you boys can stop this right now! No more fighting here -- and if either of you try to post any more comments on this thread, I'll delete it. Enough already!

  8. well, I read this book in french and really really liked it. Now of course, everything must be debatted.....everything but the religions because as we know, religions and especially religions from the book CAN NOT be wrong or containing any error, right ?! ;)

  9. I read almost all books of Onfray, and they're just fantastic...

    A philosophy for life...

  10. Hmm, having just stumbled across this while looking Onfray up, I thought this point was worth responding to "Sad thing is he quite often refuses to appear in programs he knows will feature people who will react to some of his assertions, such is his contempt for criticism - and especially constructive criticism." I rather doubt he actually ever gets any constructive criticism given the subject matter at hand, but debating a panel of Catholic theologians on national television sounds like a strange form of refusal to me.

  11. Mark Chandler Saturday 14 June 2008

    Fausto, Stephen etc.,

    I too have come to this blog via an enquiry into Mr. Onfray, and after just finished reading his book A Defence of Atheism (not that I have a hatred of monotheism I should point out). I suppose I can frame this particular work (having not read anything else) in the context of other likeminded atheists doing the rounds at the moment (and for which I've read most if not all). The scope of A Defence of Atheism is doubtless open to easy scrutiny and point scoring critique, as the work is more of an overview than an in-depth analysis; for which it's hardly worth ruffling one's feathers over such an obvious fact. Maybe the same can be asserted with other work? The very argument that the book I've just read, other work, or the man himself, lacks depth, academic credibility, is the same assertion as saying he doesn't turn up to this event or that event because of unverifiable claims stated here - which I suspect to be the case. Ontologically dodgy ground, I'd suggest. The facts remain thus: stylistically Onfray is winning material, that much cannot be argued with; as for a view of philosophical hedonism (loosely translated as part and parcel of the atheistic manifesto) and touched on in the book, who cares what snippet of monotheism falls short in terms of absolute accuracy text-by-text, the three monotheisms are riddled with contradictions and slight of hand anyway and any argument posited here I'd find easy enough to contest. Go and read Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, to see that the fundamental issues remain unchanged: fairies at the bottom of the garden no less. I'll take my chances with Mr. Onfray's stylistic coda and see what develops in terms of a working philosophy stacked against the greatest threat of our times. Don't forget religion has always argued on the spurious and inconsequential and to let oneself take up the same position is equal idiocy. I've recently returned from Hay-on-Wye and listened to Christopher Hitchens destroy organised religion and anyone brave enough to contest his claims in the audience. Noteably, both these men are singing the same tune - we're back to fairies again. It's worth no losing sight of that. Think Russell's Celestial Tea Pot and one isn't wide of the mark.


  12. Michael Currie Monday 20 April 2009

    I am 61 yrs. old. I have been reading about the human condition for many of those yrs. My readings have included some of the leading lights of the atheist/materialist/humanist/darwinist/progressive movements. Mr.Onfray is the latest in my attempts to get a handle on what you guys are about.As near as I can tell you are very angry with a very long memory and an unbridled confidence in the bright new world you propose, that is when you actually take time to propose it. My goodness you guys have a seemingly endless list of the evils of all things deisticish and while I'm sure that what I've read is not exhaustive it certainly exhausts me. One could think that nothing else has happened in history except for these godawful deeds. As for Mr. Onfrays manifesto I actually found the beginning to be evocative and sympathetic to the human conumdrum but then the list tick kicked in. Since the attempts at organized atheism have been exposed as colossal orgies of murder and mayhem its newest incarnation is as a non-systemic atheism shorn of the structural excesses of the past, no longer tempted by mans seemingly organic need for structure and order. Boy, glad that's in the past.

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