Dana S Leslie:
Suppose that we were to discover that the beings we call “cats” are, in fact, disguised alien invaders, softening up humankind for the ‘Final Takeover;’ and that they do not belong at all to the terrestrial tree of evolution? Should we say that cats are not, and never were, feline animals; or that, despite what we were deceived into believing, there never really were any cats, at all?
You mean you didn’t know that about cats?
If that hypothetical were true, then felinity may be problematic, since that includes lions and tigers. Are those alien invaders too, or were cats imitating them? If the former, then alien-invaderhood is a fascinating quirk of all cats, one which makes them cattier than ever; if the latter, then indeed what we call house cats were frauds all along.
Of course, like anyone who has ever had more than a passing acquaintance with a cat, I have long suspected their alien origins and loyalties. but I’m talking about a hypothetical future situation in which that suspicion is finally empirically established as fact. but, is such a hypothetical future situation even logically possible; or would it, rather, be a situation in which we discover that there have never *really been any cats, at all, only alien pseudo-cats?
I think the original thought experiment that some philosopher or other (I forget who, exactly) propounded concerned only felinus domesticus. But, if you wish to extent the hypothetical to the entire genus, you are certainly welcome to do so.
I do think it makes something of a difference. If the entire genus came here from another planet, and the smaller members of the genus moved in with us in pursuit of mice, then kitty was never anything other than what kitty claimed to be; but if tigers and lions were Earth’s children, but kitty a squid-like Martian wearing a fur suit, then we’d have reason to call kitty an impostor. We wanted tiny tigers for our lazy overlords, not some interloper.
I see nothing wrong, philosophically, with retroactive reassignments of authenticity after disillusioning input. Nowadays there are no witches; back in the burning times there were witches everywhere. After age seven, there ain’t no Santa Claus. Phlogiston’s gone, so is the luminiferous ether. And I for one think that the destructive shenanigans of the American far right proves that they were never ‘conservative’; their so-called commitments to liberty, prosperity, national security, etc., were lies all along.
As for the cat’s final takeover, they could do it in an afternoon, but that would require that 1) they work for it, and 2) that they work together. Until then, they temporize, and are content with being fed, cleaned and pampered. Turnabout’s fair play; they’re the ones being softened up. In ten thousand years they’ll have no more dignity than dogs. Beware the Earth humans!