|Photo taken by my son, Andrei.|
I belong to that category of people who do not want to have animals in the house. Before you judge me, please consider that I have a cat. Or, as I like to say it, my family has a cat; I don’t. Mishu, the cat, lives at my place, but he is not really mine. However, even if I am not particularly an animal person (and much less a cat person), I do like Mishu. I grew fond of him. This makes me wonder: can one dislike cats and like one cat?
The fact that I like Mishu, a cat, and I dislike cats comes as a surprise in Aristotelian logic. We could say that it is easier to accept the other option: one may like cats, but dislike a particular cat. It may be the cat of the neighbor, who always poops on your lawn, or a cat that seems always in a bad mood. This cat is disliked not in virtue of its catness–this would ensure my liking of it–but rather in virtue of its participating to activities which I abhor. Thus, regardless of the essential features it has due to its catness, a cat may be disliked because the strong unfavorable particular characters that it has. After all, the same is the case with people: we easily claim that some guy gets on our nerves, or that we even hate some individual, but it would be really hard to claim that we dislike humanity.
The question that began this text was different, though, and this is because liking Mishu, growing fond of him, is not due to any feature it has. I do not like him because he “participates” in categories that are much more important to me than his participation in “catness.” I actually like him in spite of being a cat, in spite of waking me up in the morning, in spite of leaving hair everywhere. I grew fond of him because somehow my life is connected to his. I grew fond of him in virtue of him being a presence that I cannot dismiss.
If we apply this love/hate example to humans, it could sound this way: I hate humanity, but I love Sonya (the Dostoevsky lovers know why; by the way, nothing new in what I say here, but Crime and Punishment is a gem). But do I really love a human being without also loving humanity? Or can I really love Mishu without also loving cats?
I think the answer is, “yes and no.” I will begin with yes.
YES, I can love Mishu without loving cats, but this does not mean that I love certain features of Mishu. If this is the reason why I like him, then I do not really like Mishu, but I rather describe my preference for certain things over other things. Liking him without liking cats means acknowledging my weaknesses, my personal dislikes, my failures of embracing creation with my whole heart. It means confessing my preference for various things in life (not the description of these preferences, but their confession).
Since I mentioned Sonya, let me just give a quote from Crime and Punishment:
“But he was restored to life and he knew it and felt to the full all his renewed being, and she–she lived only in his life!
“The same evening, after the barrack was locked, Raskolnikov lay on his plank-bed and thought. Today it had even seemed to him that the other convicts, formerly so hostile, were already looking at him differently […] but after all, that was how it must be: ought not everything to be changed now?
“Life had taken the place of logic, and something quite different must be worked out in his mind.”