Cat sitting staring.

Wild Cat

...the real table, if there is one, is not the same as what we immediately experience by sight or touch or hearing. The real table, if there is one, is not immediately known to us at all, but must be an inference from what is known.

Bertrand Russell (1912)

The last page featured dragons to illustrate Hume’s dichotomy of ideas and impressions, so by comparison an image of a table would seem drab. This wild cat serves Russell’s point just as well, for tables can be thumped, and wild cats may screech at us; both objects seemingly establishing their independence from us. Yet we do not seem to encounter directly those independent objects. The cat we perceive, as Russell has been explaining, is largely a human composition, as the colour, texture, and its voice are all composed by our relevant modes of perception. Here we can see a new dichotomy opening: an opposition between what we perceive, as against the ‘real’ object. So now we have: ideas, impressions, and ‘objects’ that we know only by inference. Hume's dichotomy has become Russell's trichotomy.


The Problems of Philosophy p. 1/2 Oxford University Press. The cat pictured was captive and not wild. He was known as Mr Hiss, and lived in the Kirkcudbright Wildlife Park; so wild in breed and nature, rather than way of life.


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