TCB: Lit Crit

Some of you will have seen this before–it appeared on Facebook a while ago–but I think it deserves a second outing: this is–I am afraid to say–Ptolemy’s reaction to my book, Philosophic Pride.

It’s been charitably suggested that he isn’t so much yawning as roaring his approval, but when the photo was taken the only vocalisation that Ptolemy could really produce was a still-surprisingly-kittenish “mew!” (though he now has a noise which I first thought meant, “I am dissatisfied”, but I now realise means, quite specifically, “I am disappointed in you”).

Perfectible Apes in Decadent Cultures

As well as my own book, Philosophic Pride, the same press (Princeton) on the same day (8 April) will be publishing a posthumous volume by Robert Wokler, Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and their Legacies, for which I wrote the introduction. (And a very fine collection it is, too.) This is just to note that the publisher has posted a pdf of the first chapter on the website, and since it’s the chapter on orang-utans, I thought I’d copy the link here.

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.