As I was writing it, my appellation of the audience shifted, from the Romanian Society (and academic philosophers in general) to two specific people: my friends Dave and Randy. That made for a pointed shift in style, from the academic to the profane (take that, Mircea Eliade!), as well as in content. I ended up writing several paragraphs comparing human and cat perception and human and cat worlds, for instance.
Randy wrote a lovely and generous reply to the goofy paper, and I'm still trying to digest it. In particular, I'm having trouble swallowing his assertion that, whatever else fate has in store for the goofy paper, I should get rid of the cats. (Not exactly. He told me I should get rid of the analysis of cats provided by an interlocutor in the goofy paper who shall for now remain nameless.)
The point in question: If one were to ascribe "meaningful experience" to cats, would that be a mere projection, or analogical reasoning, or is there, in our encounter with cats, enough of a "pairing synthesis" (to use Husserl's Cartesian Meditations lingo) with cats to institute authentic intersubjective empathy for us to intuit the meaningfulness of cat experience? To take all that out of the language of academic philosophy, what it boils down to is this: do we recognize cats as living in meaningful worlds?
My overwhelming personal conviction, based on years of
Let me offer a for instance.
Arthur (a.k.a. Arthur, King of the Kittons, a.k.a. Arturo, a.k.a. Arthur Tyrone Kittois [his New Orleans name]) is frequently disconsolate. He wanders around the place meowing his fool head off, clawing guitars, grabbing stuff from tabletops, smacking picture frames, and in general doing everything that earns him negative attention. He will do this continuously for an hour - which is a long time for a domestic cat to engage in any activity other than sleep. To help him out, and to stop the racket and destruction, we'll do most anything - pet him, feed him, throw him hair clips to bat around (his favorite toy), pick him up and stick him on his brother, give him catnip. Sometimes, it doesn't seem to matter, he just gets into the mood to be upset.
Can I not intuit in this display that, however vaguely, Arthur is projecting a meaning in the world, projecting a little Arthur-world where absolutely nothing is right, a world that we describe by ascribing to Arthur the expression, "What the crap, man?!" What would be missing from this encounter with Arthur that I do have with other human animals, that tells me unequivocally that other human animals live in meaningful worlds? Is there something not present in my encounter with Arthur?
The only thing I can see is that Arthur doesn't speak. Be they as robustly expressive as they may, Arthur's caterwauls are not a language. Is lack of language a valid basis to deny a critter the status of being-in-the-world? Isn't it inexcusably humanistic, prejudicial, dogmatic, and speciesist for us humans to say that?
There's a subtle dimension to this, and that's what I really want to explore. It strikes me as silly to make this a dichotomy. Why should I say "either cats have worlds or they don't"? Couldn't cats have cat-worlds while humans have human-worlds? What's really interesting to me about this would be the points of intersection and overlap - where cats and humans are not merely occupying adjoining meaningful worlds, and not merely concurrently constituting meaning in the world, but actually co-constituting it.