How to tell if the cutest, sweetest little kitty you just got has moved from a full embrace of logical positivism to a more nuanced study of philosophical pessimism

4 Aug

So you got the cutest, sweetest little kitty and you named her Snowball because she’s white and fluffy. She likes to play peekaboo, she loves to chase string, and every morning when you wake up one of her felt mice is sitting on the pillow next to you!

“Mew,” she says, from a fold in your comforter. It’s as if to say, I adhere to the correspondence theory of truth! Things have meaning-in-themselves.

“Silly Snowball!” you giggle, rolling around in the covers as she jumps and bats at you. “Silly, silly Snowball! Snowball is silly!”

Snowball, you know, sees you as an individual, an “autonomous agent,” and by presenting you with a felt mouse she reaffirms Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which established the groundwork for distinguishing between intelligible and nonsensical discourse.

“We understand each other, don’t we Snowball?” you say, scratching her little ears, and poking her tiny nose. “You’re an empiricist, yes you are! You’re a scientist in the mold of Alfred North Whitehead! None of this Thomas Kuhn crap for you!”

That was three weeks ago. Now, she’s taken to moping about the house and chain-smoking Gitanes.

Dear god, you think, has she sublimated her reason to her will?

It would certainly appear so. Instead of chasing string she now only contemplates it. She listens to Wagner while lying on her back and staring at the ceiling.

“Mew,” she says, when you ask her if everything’s all right. It’s as if to say, I have relieved myself of making a decision. Choices are not made freely. Our actions are necessary and determined.

Schopenhauer! You should have known. Your copy of The World as Will and Representation is all scratched up.

Sweet little Snowball! A pessimist!

So, for the next three years you take Snowball traveling. You go to Venice and Greece. You see the ruins of Angkor Wat, and marvel at the Zen Garden of Kyoto. You trek in Nepal, and watch the aurora borealis in Reykjavik.

“This is real, isn’t it, Snowball?” you ask, quietly, as you share a sunset Mai Tai from the Galle Face Hotel in Sri Lanka. “Tell me this is real.”

“Mew,” she says, picking at her claws with a penknife you bought from a tuk-tuk driver. It’s as if to say, real or not – the world is basically indifferent to the individual. Our freedom to act is basically useless because our will is inscrutable: noumenal as opposed to phenomenal.

“Yes, Snowball, but we bring ourselves to the world, just as other objects and people bring themselves to the world. We experience each other!”


“I have to side with the phenomenologists,” you say, shaking your head. “And you have to admit, Snowball, that knowing comes first. It precedes all subjective interpretations.”


“What about synchronicity?”


“I just – “


“Thank you, Snowball,” you say. “Thank you for being honest. And I finally know why I named you Snowball. It’s not for your white fluffy coat. It’s because you have a cold, cold heart.”

Without looking at your cat, you throw a few rupees on the table and walk out.

You will never see Snowball again.


2 Responses to “How to tell if the cutest, sweetest little kitty you just got has moved from a full embrace of logical positivism to a more nuanced study of philosophical pessimism”

  1. Pammy August 20, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    poor snowball! she probably got smashed by a vegetable cart in sri lanka, thanks to you.

  2. Tim the Mexican, late of White Center June 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    I agree with Snowball. All is bleakness and non-being. I will try to find your Snowball and together we will navigate this globe we know as The Other and I will show her the true nausea which is the reality of this perpetual Dark Night of the soul. Excruciatingly yours, Jean-Paul Startre

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