Catty Behavior

I know my readers like cat stories, so I have a good one for you. Nearly a year ago I found a kitten in my garden, howling. I adopted him and called him Blackie, on account of his being jet black all over. He is a nice friendly non-violent cat. One of my other cats, Mabel, took an instant dislike to him, though she likes every other cat she has come into contact with. She would ruthlessly chase him intent on serious violence; his only escape was to slide under the chair where she was too big to follow him. He gave her a wide berth at all times. But he was growing bigger all the time and there had to come a day when he could fight back (fortunately he never got seriously hurt by her as a kitten, mainly because of his speed). One day I saw him in a corner unable to escape and he was forced to retaliate. Neither was injured in the encounter but an extraordinary reversal then ensued. Now Mabel became deadly afraid of Blackie! He never hurt her or even menaced her, but she completely reversed roles with him, treating him as an object of dire dread. I think he was puzzled, because he had been very afraid of her up to this point. It has become so bad that she won’t come into the house anymore: she gazes through the window to see if Blackie is there but she won’t venture inside even if she can’t see him. It’s a real problem. Is it that she remembers her own past aggressive behavior and projects it onto gentle Blackie? Who knows? Cats!


A lot has been said on this subject and no doubt it is a complete disaster in every way. To me one of the worst aspects of it will be the festering resentment created: within England, within Britain, and within Europe. There will be dislike and suspicion everywhere; ill feeling, anger, contempt. Even if it never comes about, though inefficiency or feet dragging, an awful lot of harm has already been done that cannot be rectified.

There really should be an explicit discipline called “political psychology” that deals with all aspects of the psyche that bear on politics (compare “economic psychology”). Political emotions would be a central area. Much of social science is still in thrall to behaviorism, but we need to recognize the full reality of the inner life in shaping behavior. In fact, most of political theory really is political psychology under another name. And the first law of political psychology is: People hate people with whom they disagree politically.

Philosophical Provocations

Readers may be interested to learn that I have signed a contract with MIT Press to publish a collection of my recently written papers, numbering 50 odd (the remaining 60 or so papers may be published in a later volume). The papers are on a great many subjects but they all aim to provoke–hence the title Philosophical Provocations.


I’ve been reading Hume’s Enquiry and am struck by how much I didn’t understand it before–and how little it is still understood. Several commentators have noted that Hume does not deny the existence of necessary connection, merely noting that our only knowledge of causation arises from experience of constant conjunction; but it is striking how much he assumes that causation resides in the single instance and that power is objectively real. His point about causation applies only to the epistemology of causation not its metaphysics. He thinks that necessary connection is real but that we can’t detect it in the individual events: he believes in objective causal necessity but he thinks that our human understanding is too limited to grasp it directly–so we fall back on constant conjunction. The cement exists in objects but we can’t sense it or form an adequate idea of it.