Ethical problems associated with the buttered cat paradox, with parsnips

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/30 12:59 -04:00, original URI:

I'll admit that the logical argument here is incredibly flawed.

The first principle is easy enough to state:

Cats always land on their feet1.

And the second principle is also easily stated:

Buttered toast always lands butter side down.

Combined together, these two principles form the basis of the buttered cat paradox, which combines these two bits of wisdom by attaching a piece of toast atop the torso of a cat with the butter side up, and then dropping them from some height to see which bit of folk wisdom takes precedence.

The third bit is probably not as exalted as a principle or even a bit of wisdom, but is an old expression -- namely, that

There are more ways to kill a cat than buttering it with parsnips.

The imputation might be that the resolution of the buttered cat paradox might be the untimely the death of said cat, via yet another paradox (the whole irresistible forcing meeting an immovable object idea), to the extent that intentionally fashioning a toast overcoat for a feline and dropping both of them from a height could cause such a fatality to be considered "untimely".

Beyond the obvious problems related to animal cruelty implicit in both act of attaching the toast (super-glue? paper clips? Velcro?) and dropping the feline from a height of any significance, there is the underlying problem of the ethicallity of proceeding with any experiment involving buttering a cat with or without parsnips if on has knowledge that it could indeed result in the feline's death -- something that no one would hopefully want to happen.

I had originally thought the title might make an excellent Ph.D. dissertation, but was forced to abandon it for ethical reasons....


1 - In the course of my life I have only had one cat that did not, in fact, land on her feet. It was a decidedly odd situation where she fell off the radiator she was climbing to get the windowsill. She fell,and landed on her side. Quickly getting up and seeing that I witnessed this violation of that which many cat owners (and many more cats!) consider to be a natural law, I don't think she was ever quite the same after that. But let us think of dear Kristina Michelle of blessed memory as the exception that proves this time honored rule.

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# Jon on 30 Jul 2007 2:18 PM:

Well, you cant violate *TWO* physical laws at once.  I would suggest the result would be that the cat/toast combo would not fall, but remain stationary within any gravitational field.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Jul 2007 2:24 PM:

Ah, but there is that other law -- gravity!

# Gwyn on 30 Jul 2007 3:24 PM:

My guess is it's really Scroedinger's cat. So long as you don't look too closely, it should be safe.

# Gwyn on 30 Jul 2007 3:24 PM:

By the way, I think I misspelled Schroedinger

# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Jul 2007 9:15 PM:

You mean Schrödinger? Nah, the "oe" vs. "ö" thing is acceptable. :-)

# Zach Glazer on 31 Jul 2007 10:23 AM:

Similarly excellent arguments:

Stevie Wonder is God.
    A: God is Love
    B: Love is Blind
    C: Stevie Wonder is Blind
Ergo: Stevie Wonder is God.

Also:  A ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness.
    A: Nothing is better than eternal happiness.
    B: A Ham Sandwich is better than nothing.
Ergo: A Ham Sandwich is better than eternal happiness.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 31 Jul 2007 11:27 AM:

Ah, but first of all Stevie Wonder is God, and second of all a ham sandwich may well be better than eternal happiness (it seems like I am destined for neither of them!).

So you may have proved that the logic runs true! :-)

# Igor on 12 Aug 2007 8:00 PM:

I vote for:

1. Cat being busy eating the toast and forgetting to fall. Forgetting to fall is the key enabler for flying in humans and other non-flying animals.

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