... broadly appealing. Even more impressive, it has readers seriously consider radical ideas ... It is difficult to speak about the myth of human progress ... Gray does so without strong arguments, logical deductions, or other conventional philosophical tools. Big-name philosophers are referenced, but mostly on the back of novels about cats. Intertwining stories and facts about cats with philosophy, Gray invites serious reflection without telling readers how to reason or what to think ... Borrowing heavily from Spinoza, Daoism (Daodejing/Tao Te Ching), and Zen Buddhism, Gray eloquently dances through attacks on morality, rationalism, agency, and the self ... Gray eventually gives us Ten Feline Hints on How to Live Well. They are concise and eloquent lessons we might learn from thinking about a 'feline philosophy,' or even from an honest reflection on life ... The real joy of Feline Philosophy comes from the very experience of reading it.
... engaging ... a good example of writing what you know ... the notion that there are distinctively human characteristics that somehow elevate us above all other animals is a pervasive and tenacious one. In Feline Philosophy, Gray attacks this idea with originality and dexterity, through the medium of the cat ... He brings to life what he sees as the essential nature, or soul, of the cat, through an examination of the lives of individual cats – fictional, historical and mythological ... I do wonder, however, whether the idea of self-awareness is really at the heart of the issues with which Gray grapples and, if it is, whether it is not a symptom of something deeper. I am pretty sure that Gray’s cats are self-aware. I’m almost as sure that Gray believes they are self-aware, too. A form of self-awareness goes hand in hand with having any conscious experience ... it does make one wonder how Gray’s arguments might have differed had his choice of companion animal been a more social creature. I wonder, too, how much of the exceptional work Gray has produced in the preceding decades has been entangled with his choice of animal companion. Rereading Gray in this light, we might find not only an engaging subversion of contemporary mores and unquestioned sacred cows, but also a portal into another world and another way of being, alien to us yet comprehensible to those with sufficient familiarity – 30 years of familiarity in Gray’s case – with its denizens ... engaging, amusing, perceptive and untimely, in the most admirable Nietzschean sense. This is a history of human thought and civilisation as it might have been written by a feline philosopher – if cats had ever discovered a need for philosophy.
Feline Philosophy shares a core with those previous books, but its advice is offered with a lighter touch than the very serious, Cassandra-like pronouncements he usually favors. This time he makes reference to essays by Mary Gaitskill, Pascal and Montaigne, among others, and reflects on some cat-centric fiction by Patricia Highsmith and Colette. His literary treatments are appropriately fleet-footed; he hops from text to text, never alighting on any one for very long ... Gray has written so brilliantly about the perils of anthropomorphism in his other books that it’s surprising to see the rank anthropomorphism he deploys in this one — only instead of projecting human qualities onto cats, he projects the qualities he wants humans to have.
Predictably, this new account of what cats can teach us about how to live corresponds closely with what the philosopher John Gray has been teaching us about how to live for the past few decades. Although his previous works contain occasional hints about what he considers to be the good life, this is his most direct pounce at the subject. If, like me, you consider him to be one of the most important thinkers alive, you will be eager to know what he has to say (although you can probably guess at the book’s thrust) ... The book is full of anecdotes about various loveable and impressive cats, but they are most compelling to the reader (well, this reader) as symbols of a life lived without illusions. And you know Gray: whenever he sees someone clinging to an illusion he goes and stamps on their fingers ... In our pious age his attack on the cheap solace of moral convictions is invigorating ... It’s a mark of the book’s subtlety that you’re not quite sure how seriously to take him.
... not as cute as it first appears ... To demonstrate the superiority of the feline disposition, Gray must first dismantle the foolish notions we have of how to live — a task he’s always taken a sour kind of pleasure in ... These well-trodden arguments are where Gray is in his pomp. Other, more spurious claims — about the nature of cats themselves — may give readers pause. Anyone who’s learned to apply Gray’s own supple, contrary brand of thinking will question suppositions like 'cats are never bored,' 'cats are happy being themselves,' and 'cats do not need to divert themselves from the fact that they will some day cease to exist,' for which he offers little to no empirical evidence ... how much of this alleged contentment is sentimental projection? ... Cats are a perfectly adequate MacGuffin for this pleasant ramble through what philosophy can and can’t help us with. And it’s hard to resist the usual pleasures of reading Gray. His discursive style is always beguiling. His wide reading yields lovely digressions in the company of Colette, Patricia Highsmith and Mary Gaitskill, among others. Cat lovers will enjoy the celebration of feline mythos, from the cat gods of ancient Egypt to purring contemporary domestics, while hardcore Gray fans will be reassured by the usual references to immortality cults, Hobbes, the gulags and so on ... The heat-seeking aphorisms that characterize his best work are also in evidence ... This is the Gray many know and love (or hate), the undaunted Gray who bows neither to the gods nor thinkers who came before him ... The book ends with a surprisingly declarative statement. Whether you agree perhaps doesn’t matter: The objective is contemplation. Besides, if you’d learned anything by the end of the book, it’s surely that to pursue meaning is to chase a mouse that isn’t there.
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 ... The mistake of most western moral thought, from Aristotle to contemporary utilitarians, is to make self-awareness and rationality the highest good, when in fact they are the cause of all the trouble ... There is a lot to be said for this view. The power of it is made vivid in Gray’s touching chapter on the difference between the simplicity and directness of feline love and the human version, which is frequently tainted with toxic egoism ... What I found missing from Gray’s argument was reflection on the possibility that self-consciousness, which causes so much misery, also gives rise to what is most beautiful and exciting in human life: art, science, sport, conversation and so on. More to the point, books such as Feline Philosophy exist because we cannot help scratching at the itch of consciousness. If Gray was able to follow his own advice, this muscular little volume would not have been written at all—which would be a shame.
Readers may wonder: should we be more like cats, then? Gray won’t tip his hand, except to say, catlike, that the good life is the one you already have. For philosophers and philosophical cat lovers. Lots of endnotes for further discovery.
Anyone who has spiraled into the depths of self-consciousness will recognize the truth in Gray’s position, even at its most forceful articulation ... 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 ... A playful philosophy encouraging us to philosophize less and play more. The paradoxes are only part of the fun.
Gray takes an unconventional, not entirely successful, feline-focused work to exploring a wide array of philosophical concepts, from morality to death and the afterlife ... This intriguing premise falls flat, though, as Gray spends considerable space on such philosophical heavyweights as Montaigne and Spinoza rather than on elucidating 'the nature of cats, and what we can learn from it.' Gray does entertain with his anecdotes of cat-inspired thinkers ... this intermittently witty and intriguing work likely won’t be enough to keep cat-loving readers from prowling elsewhere for more satisfying insight into their four-legged companions.