Black cat analogy

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The Black Cat Analogy is an analogy, accounting for the differences, mainly between science and religion, but also between others, such as philosophy and metaphysics.


The analogy can be described like this:

  • Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.
  • Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there.
  • Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there, and shouting "I found it!"
  • Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a switch. The light will reveal a cat... if there is one.

Critical Analysis

The Black Cat Analogy (BCA) is often meant as witticism of philosophy and theology, but rests on a number of fallacies that invalidate it as a sound analogy.

The first fallacy is the Straw Man fallacy, since it criticizes an oversimplified and distorted version of philosophy and theology. For example it assumes that philosophy (and metaphysics since it is a branch of philosophy) and theology are completely separated from science, while in reality both philosophers an theologians take often scientific knowledge ii applies. It also assumes that theology makes ad hoc claims, while theology often rests on a very wide philosophical framework and does not necessarily claim to have all the answers.

Since each discipline (or sub-discipline, since metaphysics is part of philosophy) seeks to discover the truth regarding not the same thing, but different things. Hence the 'black cat' in the analogy has a different meaning in each sentence. This leads to the second main fallacy: the Fallacy of Equivocation, since it assumes that all mentioned disciplines investigate the same thing, the same 'black cat', while the 'black cat' is something different for each discipline. Science self-limits its sphere of investigation to observable phenomena in the physical world. Philosophy researches a wide number of areas: for example through the field epistemology it researches the nature and scope of knowledge and truth, through Logic it researches the use of valid reasoning in some activity and through metaphysics it researches the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it. Theology searches for truths in morality, the existence and nature of God and often overlaps in many areas with philosophy. This leads to a third fallacy, the fallacy of Inconsistent comparison

A fourth error in the analogy is the faulty premise that science has no connection to philosophy. Metaphysics, epistemology and logic (three branches of philosophy as mentioned above) are the foundations upon which science and the scientific method itself are based. Such foundations however, are not subject themselves to scientific scrutiny, for example the axioms of logic (and mathematics). This leads to the fallacy of Incomplete comparison.

In conclusion the Black Cat Analogy is a witticism that rests on a wide set of logical fallacies, resulting into a resulting in a lack of validity and soundness of the analogy.