Black cat analogy

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The Black Cat Analogy is an analogy, accounting for the differences, mainly between science and religion, but also between others, such as philosophy and metaphysics.

Description[edit]

The analogy can be described like this:

  • Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.
  • Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there.
  • Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there, and shouting "I found it!"
  • Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a switch. The light will reveal a cat... if there is one.

It can also be applied to other bodies of knowledge or learning, e.g. by Ernest Gellner to Marxism.[1]

Explanation[edit]

Vincent Barry explains the difference between philosophy and theology as lying in the fact that philosophy is scientific and open-minded, concerned with proof, while theologians "have found their final truth" before they begin the search.[2]

Origin[edit]

Wendy Doniger relates it to a French and English proverb: "In the dark, all cats are grey." Hegel criticised naive ideas of the Absolute, which he ridiculed as "like a night, as people say, in which all cats are black." Dashiell Hammett in The Dain Curse (1929) referred to a "blind man in a dark room hunting for a black hat that wasn't there". Ernest Gellner referred to an East European joke about science, philosophy, and Marxism as looking for a cat in a dark room with various consequences: with science the cat is present, with philosophy absent, and with Marxism absent but found.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Doniger, Wendy (2011). The Implied Spider. Columbia University Press. pp. 31–33. 
  2. ^ Barry, Vincent (2011). Bioethics in a Cultural Context. Cengage. p. 65.