Thursday, August 21, 2014

If a cat could talk" and other articles on what the "otherness" of animals might reveal

First, Aeon magazine gives us "If a Cat Could Talk."  Highlights are below, link to the article HERE.  (If you are a "cat person" it is definitely worth reading the entire article.)

Second is "Not Just a Pretty Boy," about parrots and how these avians with the intelligence of a five year old child reveal complexities in pet-ownership that haven't been previously considered.  See HERE.

Both articles have forced me to think about how I see the reach of reason; of how communication exists within a continuum beginning with sensuous affectivity - aesthetic communication following intelligible semiotic form and information transfer - proceeding along to logical/mathematical  description and communication, a practice of reason that, although one step above the normative and ethical, still evidences the human beings' limitations in abiding to cosmic law.

Peirce was right in saying, I think, that the categories of the human understanding do not "reflect" reality (Kant) but are truly isomorphic to reality.  Thus he was closer to Hegel but moreso Schelling in seeing the universe as ultimately tending toward rationality though never completing succumbing to it.  Firstness is aesthetic qualitative feeling - communication is felt, aesthetic, and sensuous primarily.  Secondness is reaction, two singular items posed to each other form a relationship of contemporaneity from which ethical principles derived; and Thirdness is generality and law - it is the nature of generality as such, for one cannot proceed beyond a singular or particular itself unless a relation to another "can be" generalized.  This is what contemporary "particularists" I shall call them, or those oriented toward singular objects and objects alone, completely miss.  The power and reach of relation ensures communication in logical, rational, and mathematical form - that form itself is an ontology of this Third relation.  Nothing can go further, yet Thirdness generality is never complete.  Or, "The many are one and are increased by one" to put it in Whitehead's language.

It is important to state that Peirce's categories are not hierarchical but are instead co-given, each is dependent upon the other.  Mathematics and the copulas of logic have as much feeling present in them (James' "feeling" of the hesitancy in the logical copula of "but") as much as they possess an abstract and neutral precision in them, or a generality applicable to others.  There is a Firstness in Thirdness as much as there is a Thirdness present in Firstness.  One is nascent, the other blossomed.

When looking into an animal's eyes we often may see "the wheel's turning."  Intelligible form in the multiverse takes on an indefinite variety of shapes and magnitudes; the substratum of this intelligibility is, of course, aesthetic union in more general form.  It is how the varied and different species are able to communicate.

Look into the eyes of a cat for a moment. Your gaze will flicker between recognising another being, and staring into a void…
But if the glimpse of a cat can portend the uncanny, what should we make of the cat’s own glance at us? As Jacques Derrida wondered: ‘Say the animal responded?’ If his cat found him naked in the bathroom, staring at his private parts — as discussed in Derrida's 1997 lecture The Animal That Therefore I Am — who would be more naked: the unclothed human or the never clothed animal? To experience the animal looking back at us challenges the confidence of our own gaze — we lose our unquestioned privilege in the universe. Whatever we might think of our ability to subordinate the animal to our categories, all bets are off when we try to include the animal’s own perspective. That is not just another item to be included in our own world view. It is a distinctive point of view — a way of seeing that we have no reason to suppose we can seamlessly incorporate by some imaginative extension of our own perspective.
Each cat is a singular being — a pulsing centre of the universe — with this colour eyes, this length and density of fur, this palate of preferences, habits and dispositions. Each with his own idiosyncrasies….So often cats disturb us even as they enchant us. We stroke them, and they purr. We feel intimately connected to these creatures that seem to have abandoned themselves totally to the pleasures of the moment. Cats seem to have learnt enough of our ways to blend in. And yet, they never assimilate entirely. In a trice, in response to some invisible (to the human mind, at least) cue, they will leap off our lap and re-enter their own space, chasing a shadow. Lewis Carroll’s image of the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat, which remains even after the cat has vanished, nicely evokes such floating strangeness. Cats are beacons of the uncanny, shadows of something ‘other’ on the domestic scene.
Our relationship with cats is an eruption of the wild into the domestic: a reminder of the ‘far side’, by whose exclusion we define our own humanity. This is how Michel Foucault understood the construction of ‘madness’ in society — it’s no surprise then that he named his own cat Insanity. Cats, in this sense, are vehicles for our projections, misrecognition, and primitive recollection.