Cats and the Good Life

Paul J. D’Ambrosio in the LA Review of Books:

ACADEMIA PUTS SCHOLARS through the wringer. Few — very few, in fact — come out willing or even able to express complex ideas in ways appealing to non-academics. John Gray is one of those rare intellectuals.

Professors tend to scoff at books written for more general audiences. Anything that becomes popular is taken as potentially not serious. But the truth is, most professors simply cannot write, talk, and perhaps even think in a manner which can engage non-academics. Having gone through years of rigorous, specialized training, scholars find it hard to communicate their insights to anyone outside their narrow fields. Gray does not. Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life is broadly appealing. Even more impressive, it has readers seriously consider radical ideas.

It is difficult to speak about the myth of human progress, the navel-gazing silliness of autonomy and reason, the pompous attitude of the righteous, and the associated paradoxical nature of morality, accepting that neither love nor death are really such a big deal and — this is the real point of the book — the meaninglessness of the meaning of life. 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.

More here.