Tika picture of an adorable cattle doggee

Well, here she is. A fine, slightly pudgy red cattle dog who is now nine years old (birthdate: August 1, 1987), and four or five years older than she was when this photograph was taken. She lives with my family in Brisbane (and a cat who was the most neurotic cat I'd known until I met Charley and Dave). Her name is pronounced "Teeka" and is alternatively spelt "Tycha" ... as if it were a feminine form of "Tycho", as in "Tycho Brahe", but the latter spelling has been described as counter-intuitive.

Cattle dogs are a fine, noble, Australian breed, and possibly the toughest breed of dog in the world. The world record for canine longevity (27 years) belongs to a cattle dog.

A Word About Nominalism

"Nominalism" is the position of people who disbelieve in the existence of abstract entities. (I am as gung-ho a nominalist as has ever lived, with the possible exception of Ian Hinckfuss, who taught me at the University of Queensland.) Typical things which nominalists snort at the existence of are numbers, properties, states of affairs, the note C-sharp, propositions, classes, sets, and distances. Some take the further step of denying the existence of space and time. I certainly do.

Here is a guide to what nominalists typically accept and reject:

FALSE: The number of fingers I have, is ten.
TRUE: I have ten fingers.
FALSE: 2 + 2 = 4.
TRUE: If there are numbers, as described by Peano's axioms, then 2 + 2 = 4.
FALSE: Mary's illness is severe, and she must stay in bed for her own sake.
TRUE: Mary is severely ill, and she will be better off if she stays in bed.
FALSE: There's a lot of space in this room.
TRUE: This room can hold a lot of things, and it currently doesn't.

In every case, nominalists shun talk of abstract things (numbers, properties, space) in favour of concrete things (fingers, Mary, rooms): "Things you can bump into." If you want a clearer idea about nominalism, I have taken the trouble to prepare a Richard Rodgers version.

All dogs are nominalists. Dogs will have no truck with this high-flown Platonic guff about "the set of all properties instantiated by propositions of the following form". No, they're only interested in things you can bump into; things you can get your teeth into; at the very least, things you can urinate on. They are good, solid, dependable yeomen-like beasts who are very much a part of the real, physical world. They are interested in all and only the things they can physically interact with, preferably with their teeth, and scorn the possibility of there being anything else.

To a dog, the world is just one thing after another. (They resemble David Hume in this respect.) "Oh, look!" they say, as they are being walked. "It's a THING! And over here! ANOTHER thing!" Dogs regard their owners as one more type of thing, but given the place of honour that THINGS have in canine ontology, this should be taken as a compliment rather than otherwise.

Cats, On the Other Hand ...

Cats are Berkelian idealists. They think that the universe consists of minds (otherwise known as "cats"), and of sensory experiences which these minds have. Sometimes these collections of sensory experiences will feed you, and sometimes they will put you outside, and sometimes they will bark at you, but the points to be clear on are:

1. These collections of sensory experiences are not the fitting objects of emotion, and it is folly to try to communicate with them.

2. These sensory experiences only exist insofar as they can interact with you; certainly, they cannot interract with each other.

Naturally there are many problems with this sort of theory. For example, it often seems that the set of sensory experiences that is, say, a particular cat's backyard, goes through periods in which, to all appearances, no cats whatever are experiencing it. Yet this would mean that backyards pop in and out of existence depending on whether cats are in them or not. This is absurd. In order to get around this difficulty, cats postulate a GOD OF THE CATS, who is constantly observing everything in the universe. If you watch any cat closely you will see that it is perpetually terrified that THE GOD OF THE CATS might fall asleep, or something, thereby destroying all order in the world; and some particularly nervous cats interpret all sudden movements as a sign that THE GOD OF THE CATS has been momentarily distracted. Most cats die of stress-related illness.

Anyone wishing to hear the story from the other side of the dog/cat divide should visit either Cathy's cats or Deborah's cat. (The latter is an animal I have not yet met.) Since Cathy, at any rate, was courageous enough to include on that page an invitation for a response from the opposing camp, I can only follow suit: sharpen your claws, if you wish, on henry@coombs.anu.edu.au.

But Wait ...

As of April 9, 1997 ...
I know of the existence (so to speak - see above) of five different philsophers' animal pages, and including my own, and I thought it appropriate to provide links to all of them (including my own, which is a bit silly, but in the interests of completeness). Follow this link.

Recent Addition

Here is a photo taken in recent years. It cannot be denied that Tika has gained some weight; and perhaps lost some puppyhood cuteness as well:

doggee again, as described above

P.S.: I can vouch for the fact that she was alive when this photo was taken; or at least, I noticed that she was alive some time after this photo was taken.


Created: 6/9/1996
Last modified: 9/41997