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.
... 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.