“This is poison, isn’t it?” said our pet rabbit, as he chewed on the leafy part.
I’d had the accusation before. “It’s Swiss chard again. There wasn’t anything poisonous about it last time either.”
He hopped up and shook out a little, which is the sort of happy thing rabbits do and didn’t match his tone at all. “Why are you trying to poison me?” He sniffed and then chewed some more at the leaf.
“Why on Earth would I even want to poison you? You’re too darling to poison.”
He pulled his head up, which is some new behavior he’s picked up and exposes this adorable dark-colored patch in the middle of the white-colored patches of his chin, and it’s only his quick reflexes that keep it from being tickled. “I can’t know your motivations. If I make the a priori assumption you’re a rational agent I could expect you to inevitably come to a sufficient moral awareness to keep you from choosing to poison me, but for all I know you’ve had a partial or a defective moral upbringing. And I know you’re not fully rational because I heard that awful movie you watched Saturday.”
So this explained why the bookmarks in my Beloved’s books of Kant keep getting moved around, and maybe why there was a nibbled corner of the Critique of the Power of Judgement. I should probably mention here that not all pets kept by philosophers end up acting like. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, famously kept a pet squirrel who did little but kick the him in the shins, less because of the squirrel’s treatise on the origins of ethics and more because Wittgenstein was the sort of person who inspired people to kick him. Also in my defense I was watching Foodfight extremely ironically and felt a little bad for even doing that.
“I can’t prove to you that I’ve got a functioning moral compass” — and he interrupted with a sharp HA! — “but if you really suspect the chard is poison you don’t have to eat it.”
He stopped chewing and looked up indignantly. “You yelled and laughed when I ate that dog food!”
“We didn’t think you’d really eat it! We thought you’d sniff at it and refuse. That stuff contains meat, you know.”
“Then why’d you put a kibble out for me?”
“Well, it’s cute seeing you sniff at things you rear back from.”
“Because you figure I won’t eat poison!”
“Again, though, you haven’t suggested a reason for me to poison you. And just saying I’m irrational doesn’t excuse the need for a reason. You need an irrational reason.”
He huffed a bit, the way he does when he realizes he’s being pulled into the pet carrier. “You envy my superior lifestyle. I can just hop around the house and eat and nap all day.”
“That argument won’t obtain,” which sounds like a smart thing to say, because it’s a weird use of the word “obtain”, one I’m not sure is defensible. “I’m a telecommuter. Functionally we’re equivalent.”
“If you’re not envious then why don’t you ever name me when you write about me on the Internet?”
Ah, that. Probably best to go with the honest answer. “I don’t want people getting your name and ringing up fraudulent credit card charges. It protects you.”
“Oh.” And he started chewing on the stalk of the chard. “You could give me a stage name.”
“I can’t think of any that could capture your personality.”
And he did that little shaking hop.
“You know, when I bought that chard, the cashier asked if red or white tasted better.”
He let the stalk of the chard drop. “What did you tell him?”
“I told her I didn’t know. We just buy it for you.”
“And she asked why you’re poisoning me?” He picked the stalk back up and started inhaling it, like a log disappearing into a buzz saw.
“She asked whether you liked it.”
“And you said?”
“I said you were still working out your policy regarding Swiss chard” — he snorted again — “but you look so adorable chewing the stalk that we couldn’t resist.” And he finished the last of it.
“I name you when I write about you on the Internet.”
“If this isn’t poison why don’t you eat some?”
“The last time we ate any vegetables we bought for you you called it the end of the world.”
“Well, that’s honest at least,” and he flopped out on his side.