“Feline Philosophy by John Gray — the wisdom of cats” (Robert Armstrong)

FINANCIAL TIMES, 8 January 2021

A serious polemic that attacks the western tradition of moral thought and links the feline good life to the ethics of Spinoza and the Taoists

Feline Philosophy, a slim book with a cute cover picture, might appear to be a bit of light amusement for cat lovers: a collection of quotes from great thinkers about their furry companions, perhaps. It is not. John Gray has written a short but serious polemic attacking much of the western tradition of moral thought. It’s worth a read even if — perhaps especially if — you hate cats.

Gray joins an honourable tradition of philosophers who are, paradoxically, suspicious of philosophical thought. They consider philosophy a symptom of a mental disorder, or even to be the disorder itself. The best philosophy, then, is one that cures itself, leaving nothing to philosophise about and the world appearing exactly as it did before the philosophical illness took hold. In Wittgenstein’s famous phrase, philosophy is a ladder we throw away once we’ve climbed it.

Cats do not fall into philosophical distress because they are not self-conscious in the way people are. They are engaged in their lives completely without forming an image of themselves doing so. Humans, by contrast, are doomed by self-consciousness to be “self-divided creatures whose lives are spent mostly in displacement activity.” Our normal animal sufferings are doubled when we contemplate ourselves in the mirror. Far better to mimic cats, who accept life as it comes, and walk past mirrors with indifference… [+]


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