Black cat analogy
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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.
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.
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.