A sense of uneasiness about their place in the world seems innate in humans, whereas contentment is the default condition of cats.
Philosophy has served many human impulses. Contrary to what is commonly supposed, an interest in truth has rarely been dominant. In its western variant, the subject seems to have begun as a search for ataraxia — a state of mental equilibrium that cannot be disturbed by the accidents of life. In other words, philosophy is used as a calmative throughout much of its history. There is some evidence that the ancient Greek Sceptics may have been influenced by contact with Indian practitioners of meditation they called gymnosophists (“naked sages”); the Epicureans and the Stoics followed the Sceptics in making tranquillity the endpoint of philosophising.
That philosophy originated as a search for mental quietude tells us something important about human beings and how they differ from cats. A sense of uneasiness about their place in the world seems innate in humans, whereas contentment is the default condition of cats. The evident satisfaction with which cats inhabit their skins is one reason — possibly the main reason — that so many human beings enjoy being with them. It is also why some people hate them. Nothing is more aggravating to those who creep through their days in misery than knowing that other creatures are not unhappy. Medieval and early modern fairs in which cats were chased, tortured and roasted alive were festivals of the depressed. Cats have as their birth-right the freedom from unrest that philosophers have vainly tried to achieve.
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