Rousseau and Boswell on Cats

The subject was cats: when Boswell said he didn’t care for them, Rousseau pounced. Men who disliked cats were tyrannical: “They do not like cats because the cat is free and will never consent to become a slave. He will do nothing to your order, as the other animals do.” “Nor a hen, either,” Boswell objected. “A hen would obey your orders if you could make her understand them,” the philosopher rejoined, “but a cat will understand you perfectly and not obey them.” Rousseau seems to have been in earnest with this theory of feline independence, for the frontispiece of The Social Contract features Lady Liberty accompanied by a cat.

— Robert Zaretsky & John T. Scott, The Philosophers’ Quarrel, p. 36.

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