Reasons and felines

“Like my cat, I often simply do what I want to do.”

This sentence begins Derek Parfit’s book Reasons and Persons, a lengthy series of philosophical arguments examining the validity of the self-interest theory, examinations of hedonistic and altruistic behavior, among others,  as rational responses to life, and why people choose to do what is against their own or their community’s best interests (i.e., behave “irrationally”)–as well as whether irrational behavior is ever justified and why.

At right, my favorite cat, Topsy. He does what he wants to do.

Parfit’s book has been a good refresher course for me in how philosophers actually work, devise their analogies, create and endeavor to solve dilemmas, clarify and limit their claims, etc.

But frankly, my brain hurts. (See Monty Python skit, below).

There are times one simply wants to think less about the things that matter, and that desire may not be rational but is certainly human. So while humans do have the opportunity to be reasoning creatures, they also have the opportunity to be like cats: to do what they want to do.

Or not to do, as the case may be.

At present, I’m assessing student work for final grades. This work is rational and should be carried out as objectively as possible against specific criteria. This work is one of the jobs teachers do, besides the job of endeavoring to impart information and to encourage critical thinking on the part of the students. It’s my job, I get paid to do it, and I take it seriously. Nevertheless, today I find myself tired of being the reasoning person.

And so, because I cannot slink over to the sofa and curl up on a pile of blankets, I am posting this:



2 comments on “Reasons and felines

  1. […] Parfit’s Reasons & Persons suggests some of the same conclusions through a more traditional philosophical approach (harder to […]


  2. […] thought experiment on personhood (and consciousness/mind) than Derek Parfit posits in his book Reasons and Persons. Those readers who are interested in how a thought experiment can argue for the existence of a […]


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