The author of Straw Dogs, famous for his provocative critiques of scientific hubris and the delusions of progress and humanism, turns his attention to cats—and what they reveal about humans' torturous relationship to the world and to themselves.
The history of philosophy has been a predictably tragic or comical succession of palliatives for human disquiet. Thinkers from Spinoza to Berdyaev have pursued the perennial questions of how to be happy, how to be good, how to be loved, and how to live in a world of change and loss. But perhaps we can learn more from cats--the animal that has most captured our imagination--than from the great thinkers of the world.
In Feline Philosophy, the philosopher John Gray discovers in cats a way of living that is unburdened by anxiety and self-consciousness, showing how they embody answers to the big questions of love and attachment, mortality, morality, and the Self: Montaigne's house cat, whose un-examined life may have been the one worth living; Meo, the Vietnam War survivor with an unshakable capacity for "fearless joy"; and Colette's Saha, the feline heroine of her subversive short story "The Cat", a parable about the pitfalls of human jealousy.
Exploring the nature of cats, and what we can learn from it, Gray offers a profound, thought-provoking meditation on the follies of human exceptionalism and our fundamentally vulnerable and lonely condition. He charts a path toward a life without illusions and delusions, revealing how we can endure both crisis and transformation, and adapt to a changed scene, as cats have always done.
About the Author
John Gray is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including The Silence of Animals, The Immortalization Commission, Black Mass, and Straw Dogs. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he has been a professor of politics at Oxford, a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale, and a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics. He now writes full-time.
"Curious and exploratory . . . Gray moves freely among writing modes, including several of the potted biographies that are common to popular works of philosophy. But he also tells stories of famous cats, dabbling in evolutionary history and showing a clear appreciation for his subject. Above all, the book is an ode to cats, and Gray gives the impression of having learned from them how to take pleasure where he finds it."
"Gray's work makes a strong case that our species is incorrigibly irrational, and it raises questions about humanist beliefs that should be particularly important for those of us on the political left to consider...Gray pursues the deep interest in the nonhuman world that makes his critique of humanism so shard in fang and claw."
—Oliver Hall, Dangerous Minds
"For philosophers and philosophical cat lovers. Lots of endnotes for further discovery."