THE PHILOSOPHER'S DOG: Friendships with Animals

Raimond Gaita, Author . Random $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6110-5

Offering entertaining animal stories and delicate philosophical reflections on them, University of London philosopher Gaita (Romulus, My Father ) begins with stories of animals from his rural childhood (Jack the cockatoo, Orloff the greyhound) and his adult life (Gypsy the German shepherd, Tosca the cat). As the book progresses, the stories become less dominant as serious philosophy takes the fore. On whether dogs feel sensations, for example, Gaita argues (on Wittgensteinian grounds) that "there is no room for serious doubt" that they do. Why we should pay respect to dead animals or care about butterflies and bees; the common "creatureliness" of people and animals; and how someone who loves animals can kill and eat them—all are issues that are raised at a leisurely pace. Throughout, Gaita develops the concept of a "realm of meaning" rooted in "the understanding of the heart." Literature, including stories, he argues, affords special access to this realm (and thus provides a rationale for the plan of the book). The premise and pace may lose some readers, and others may be alarmed by Gaita's dismissal of the doctrine of animal rights in preference for "[a]ttachment to animals and a disinterested love of nature." But what comes through most clearly is Gaita's appreciation for "the generosity with which animals give themselves to us... and the grace they bring to our lives." Agent, Witherspoon Associates. (On sale July 20)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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