Dogs: A Philosophical Guide To Our Best Friends by Mark Alizart

The Blurb On The Back:

Man’s best friend, domesticated since pre-historic times, a travelling companion for explorers and artists, thinkers and walkers, equally happy curled up by the fire and bounding through the great outdoors: dogs matter to us because we love them.  But is that all there is to the canine’s good-natured voracity and affectionate dependency?

Mark Alizart dispenses with the well-worn cliches concerning dogs and their masters, seeing them not as submissive pets but rather as unexpected life coaches, ready to teach us the elusive recipes for contentment and joy.  Dogs have faced their fate in life with a certain detachment that is not easy to understand.  Unlike other animals in a similar situation, they have not become hardened, nor have they let themselves die a little inside.  On the contrary, they seem to have softened.  This book is devoted to understanding this miracle, the miracle of the joy of dogs – to understanding it and, if at all possible, learning how it’s done.

Weaving elegantly and eruditely between historical myth and pop-culture anecdote, between the peculiar views of philosophers and the even more bizarre findings of science, Alizart offers us a surprising new portrait of the dog as thinker – a thinker who may perhaps know the true secret of our humanity. 

You can order Dogs: A Philosophical Guide To Our Best Friends by Mark Alizart from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Mark Alizart is a journalist, philosopher and dog owner.  In this peculiar book (translated from French by Robin MacKay) he looks at the evolution of the dog and its representation through mythology and religion with some musing on why women are compared to bitches.  There’s interesting material here but its overt intellectualism is quite alienating and I’m not sure it has the heart or enthusiasm to appeal to average dog lovers.  

There’s a lot going on in this book with Alizart opening with the emotions and behaviours we ascribe to dogs (such as shame, loyalty and subservience) and then going on a whistle stop tour of mythology and religion to examine the role of dogs and the place they have in our stories and history.  There’s a lot of interesting information here – e.g. the symbolism in the story of Persephone and Hades, the role of Mary Magdalene as a remnant of nine myths, the association of vampires and menstral bloody – so I can’t say that I didn’t learn anything.  But for a book that wants to understand “the miracle of the joy of dogs” I never got a sense of what that joy of dogs is.  Everything is reduced to an intellectual or philosophical point – there’s no heart to this book and I think that’s a real shame.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a dog-related curiosity, then this book may be worth your time but while Alizart makes an interesting intellectual points, he never really gets to the soul of the link between humans and dogs.

DOGS: A PHILOSOPHICAL GUIDE TO OUR BEST FRIENDS was released in the United Kingdom on 11th October 2019.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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