Review: Socrates' Children

Socrates' Children
Socrates' Children: Thinking and Knowing in the Western Tradition
Trudy Govier
Broadview Press, Peterborough, Canada, 1997

Review Copyright © 1999 Garret Wilson — January 9, 1999, 3:00pm

Socrates’ Children is a delicious introduction to Western philosophy. Having first read The Phenomenally Phrank History of Philosophy, I was especially aware of a number of this book’s strengths. In contrast to Phrank History, Trudy Govier chooses a limited number of philosophers to deal with. Although she admits at the outset that "including every worthwhile thinker was just not possible," she’s quite true in her assessment that "the book had to be kept to a reasonable size" (xi).

Limiting the number of philosophers covered then gives Govier the opportunity to cover each one in much more depth than she otherwise would, and the knowledge one will gain from the book is many times over what one gains from Phrank History, which flits from one philosopher to another on almost every page. Socrates' Children directly covers only 10 philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Hegel, Beauvoir, and Wittgenstein.

Govier is an excellent writer, and given the opportunity to devote a lot of space to a few philosophers, she is able to present the ideas of these thinkers at an easygoing pace. Her explanations are effective — she manages to pack the pages with content, yet her attitude is casual and relaxing, so that (most) explanations don’t even get boring. Best of all, she demonstrates how the ideas of each philosophers relate to that of others, showing whether one philosopher used previous ideas, modified previous concepts, liked earlier philosophers or despised colleges. The strength of the book is in its living up to its subtitle: documenting the process of Thinking and Knowing in the Western Tradition.

Something should be said of the choices Govier made of philosophers to include. While even the most uninitiated will have heard of the majority of philosophers here (e.g. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume), I can’t say that I have ever heard of Mary Wollstonecraft, although it is interesting to know that her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, was to become the novelist Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein (137). But what important ideas did Mary Wollstonecraft bring to the world?

After reading more about Wollstonecraft, it seemed that her ideas were very similar to those of her friend, Richard Price (150). Why then did Govier not have a chapter on Price instead of Wollstonecraft? Although Govier seems to imply that Wollstonecraft is important because, while Price "wrote rather abstractly and used few examples," this at first seemed rather artificial. Looking at the cover of the book confirmed my suspicions: sure enough, the author is female.

After reading the chapter on Simone de Beauvoir, my suspicions that some of the choices were made for feminist reasons were upheld. Most of Beauvoir’s ideas, after all, were actually published by Jean Paul Sartre, with whom she had a lifelong relationship. Govier seems quite defensive describing the actual origin of the ideas, as if attempting to justify her choice of Beauvoir over Sartre: "Beauvoir is sometimes labeled as a disciple of Sartre's rather than as an original philosophical thinker in her own right. She did rely heavily in all of her writings on the existentialist ideas described in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, but this is not to say that she was merely Sartre's disciple... Beauvoir was no disciple; she was Sartre's partner and colleaugue" (224).

Although I always welcome the inclusion of previously-ignored viewpoints (in this case, the ideas of philosophers who have not been traditionally championed because of their sex), I nevertheless felt somewhat cheated; if Price and Sartre, in these cases, were the true sources of certain philosophical movements, and Govier instead chose to include Wollstonecraft and Beauvoir, repectively, for purely feminist-related reasons, it would seem to me that this would provide one of the only faults to be found in the work.

After finishing Socrates’ Children, however, my sentiments changed somewhat. In the last chapter Govier presented herself as a "proponent of critical thinking as a means to enlightenment" (293), something with which I would strongly agree. In light of this and the fact that the "influential textbook about practical argument assessment" (294) is actually her own A Practical Study of Argument, Govier’s reasoning become more evident.

It is for a reason that the subtitle of the book is Thinking and Knowing in the Western Tradition. Govier is not only concerned with how philosophy has evolved through the years, she is also interested in how philosophy has come to permeate the actual process of reasoning in the West. In this light, it is perfectly reasonable, if not appropriate, that Govier include two philosophers who have both not only been influenced by philosophy but have influenced modern life not only through their original philosophical thinking but through their application of philosophy. Wollstonecraft, for example, was able to apply her version of Price’s ideas to social conditions, and the fact that she "showed considerable originality in applying philosophical conceptions to the troubled social world in which she lived" (150) no longer seems to be an artificial reason for being included.

One other strength of the book is quite important: Govier doesn’t just write about philosophers, she allows us to read what the philosophers actually say. Granted, the work of most philosophers have created are quite large, and any reading in a philosophy introduction is inevitably cursory, but Govier helps to create more in depth images of the actual philosophy by sprinkling her text with excerpts from the philosopher she is discussing. After the quotation, she patiently explains, in the context of the current discussion, what (to the best of our knowledge) the philosopher in question meant — another thing that makes this an excellent introduction to western philosophical thought.

Govier begins her review of philosophy with Socrates (469-399 B.C.) (1). The "Socratic Method" is based upon Socrates' way of repeatedly asking questions to explore a particular line of thinking (2). Socrates used questions to establish definitions and ensure an argument was sound. He was selective, however; some things he accepted, yet other things he questioned. If Socrates had met someone like himself, that person could probably have torn down many of Socrates' assumptions using Socrates' own techniques (20).

As Socrates kept questioning people to find out whether their beliefs were valid or not, one thing he kept coming back to was whether or not something was a definition or an example. For example, a person might try to define honor by what a person would do, but inadvertently give an example of honor instead of its definition. Plato (427-347 B.C.) took this up and said in effect that there are no definitions, but everything is an imperfect example of a perfect Form (25). Plato believed that all these ideas of Forms were already present, and we find them by questioning, just like asking the boy about geometry (24). Govier notes that some argue that Plato's Forms themselves necessitate other Forms of Forms, making an infinite number of levels of Forms (e.g. Beauty 1, Beauty 2, etc.) (39).

I would say that Plato's argument is only valid in the way you define things, though. True, there is no such thing as a perfect circle, but that's because we've defined a circle to be perfect. If we were to define a circle as one of the imperfect circles we see (e.g. one with a bump on it), then the real circle would be perfect and its Form would be imperfect. If we are to define a dog as the certain genetic makeup of a certain dog, then that dog is perfect and all others (even the dog Form) are imperfect. There would then be no need for a Form. Isn’t a Form then only necessary because we define things imperfectly on purpose?

Plato's Analogy of the Cave (37) would seem very relevant in modern discussions of multidimensional universes, when all we see and know are three dimensions. Recent discussions of multidimensional universes, such as those by Michio Kaku and Steven Hawking, concerning our inability to see things in other dimensions, sound very much like the arguments of Plato.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) thought that the objects we see have qualities of Forms that we can perceive (49). He therefore puts a lot of stock in learning things by the senses. We can learn about Forms through our senses, and learn about these general ideas by looking at specific ones (induction). He therefore likes dividing things up into categories (genus, species, etc.) (50). He divides things into substance and form. He sees general public opinion (endoxa) as a starting point to inquiry. Aristotle doesn't go for Plato's forms, however (52).

Aristotle came up with the syllogism (e.g. all B are A, all C are B, so all C are A) (64). This was looked at as the only form of logic for a long while. Aristotle also came up with the principles of non-contradiction (A cannot be B and not be B at the same time) and the principle of the excluded middle (A either is B or is not B -- there is no middle option) (66). While things like the syllogism are demonstration, Aristotle distinguished this from dialectic, reasoning about abstract questions such as "Should we pursue pleasure" (72)?

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) rejected Aristotle's starting point of endoxa (79). Descartes didn't trust the senses, since everything he learned through them were suspect (83). There could even be an Evil Genius, for example, who was fooling him. So he thought one should toss out all ideas and examine each one, individually checking so see which ones were correct — like dumping a basket of apples on the floor to find the rotten one(s).

Descartes arrived at the Cogito (cogito ergo sum or, "je pense, donc je suis:" "I think, therefore I am,") because he reasoned that he knew he must exist because he was contemplating everything (84). Everything must stem from that. He tried to say that a God exists because one can imagine a perfect being, and that since the being is perfect it can't deceive, so one can trust the senses (88). People have pointed out that Descartes is reasoning in a circle, using reason to justify God's existence, and then using God's existence to prove that we can trust our reasoning (91). We're therefore basically left back at the Cogito.

Overall, Descartes ideas shifted thought to a more mechanistic view of the world, although Govier states that more recent scientific discoveries (e.g. quantum physics) have stressed the importance of the observer in some experiments (98).

David Hume (1711-1776) pointed out that every idea we have of a substance is derived from our senses (111). We could not even think of a substance if it weren't for our senses. A Platonic idea of a Form, then, is meaningless, because there is no way to imagine a universal representation of substance without referring to its physical properties that we perceive through the senses. Instead of an idea of a Form such as equality being present before and an individual recalling such a concept (as Plato would have said), Hume argues that the concept of equality is a fiction the mind creates as it compares objects (113).

Hume says that there is no guarantee that the future will be like that past -- we have just come to believe it will be. (e.g. the sun will come up tomorrow like it has before) (115). Similarly, there is no basis for a necessity of cause and effect (116). Although we have become used to the idea that striking a billiard ball will make the second ball roll in a particular direction, our feeling of necessity for this to happen is simply from repetition of past experiences. "Contemplate the subject on all sides; you will never find any other origin of that idea" (117).

Hume seems to agree with Descartes in that everything we sense could very well not exist. Hume sees a dichotomy between what we do naturally (live in this world and see and interact with objects) and how we think rationally (we have no proof that any of this exists) (118). Hume rejected Descartes' Cogito because Hume found no one concept of self or thinking thing (120). The self instead was a changing mixture of different impressions of the self, experienced through the senses, and were each in themselves suspect. We can't therefore even trust the Cogito. Reid asked if it was the impressions reflecting on the reflections or vice versa, and Hume admitted once that he wasn't satisfied with his concept of the mind (122).

While Descartes believed that an individual could suspend belief on a subject (i.e. the individual could control beliefs), Hume believed that our beliefs are out of our control (124). Hume's recommending ways of believing things and of thinking, then, seem contradictory (132).

Hume's main point seems to be that we can only believe things based upon experience, so we should restrict our beliefs to such things as we can experience, which leaves out such things as whether there is a God or how the world began (130).

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) "is best remembered today for her Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (135). Govier illustrates the then-current thinking on the status of women by a quote from Rousseau, a philosopher who is otherwise hardly mentioned in the book:

The education of women should be always relative to [that of] men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to education us when young, and take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable: these are the duties of women at all time, and what they should be taught in their infancy (143).

(In her discussion, I was somewhat disappointed that Govier confuses "helpmate" with "help meet for him," or "help appropriate for him" in Genesis (143), a mistake Wollstonecraft, writing in the 18th century, would probably not have made.)

Wollstonecraft acknowledged that many women were emotional, incompetent, and the like, but stressed that they were this way because of society, not because of their intrinsic nature (145). Surprisingly, the 18th century woman didn't necessarily spend more time with her children, but instead employed wet-nurses, servants, governesses, and tutors, and Wollstonecraft argued for a mother spending more quality time with her children -- something her education would help her to do (147). Education would help a woman's children, her husband, and society. But most of all women should be educated for themselves, as rational creatures.

The violence in the latter part of the French Revolution brounght about Romanticism -- less of an emphasis on reason and a celebration of feeling and emotion (153). Kant, toward the end of the 18th century, talked about the definitions and limitations of reason.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) didn't like the rationalism of Descartes (and Leibniz) or the empericism of Hume (161). (Leibniz, by the way, believed that our world is the best of all possible worlds, because if a better world had been possible, God would have created that one instead.) Kant says that "...though our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience" (163). This at first seem contradictory, but Kant believed that everything we know begins with experience, but we interpret our experiences according to a priori concepts in our minds.

The perceptions we have (phenomena) are different from the things-in-themselves (noumena), of which we can have no knowledge. Kant compare his ideas to the Copernican Revolution, because, "instead of asking how, in knowledge, our minds can conform to objects outside themselves, Kant asked how and why those objects conform to the structures in our minds" (164). Kant therefore made room for faith (166). We can only prove things about which we have experience, and other ideas (the existence of God, the supernatural, and all other metaphysical ideas) must be taken on faith and can never be proven.

Besides the distinction between the empirical and the a priori, Kant made a distinction (166) between the analytic (ideas, such as "all mothers are female," which involve an extension of concepts), "judgements which we do not have to go outside concepts in order to connect the subject and the predicate" (167), and synthetic (for example, "all mothers are patient,"), in which the predicate isn't necessarily derived from the subject. There are therefore four possible combinations:

  1. analytic a priori judgements. Example: A table is in space.
  2. analytic a posteriori [empirical] judgements. Example: probably none.
  3. synthetic a priori judgements. Example: Every event has a cause.
  4. synthetic a posteriori judgements. Example: Grass is green.

It is the third category gory that Kant was interested in... (168) Kant believed that mathematics was synthetic a priori, because you must calculate to find answers, even though those answers are predetermined (169).

A transcendental argument is in the form of, "K exists. K presupposes, or requires, that P is true. Therefore, P is true". "Presupposes" is ambiguous; one form of this is deductive: "K exists. P's being true is a necessary condition of the existence of K. Therefore, P is true." Another form is psychological: "K exists. P's being true explains why K exists. Therefore, it is a reasonable hypothesis that P is true" (170).

Kant had a list of certain a priori concepts (unity, plurality, totality, reality, negation, limitation, substance, cause, community, impossibility, and existence) which he called Categories (172). These were the a priori concepts that help form our ideas from experiences.

Kant believed that concepts of space and time are a priori, and provide the X that links the subject and predicate to make mathematics and geometry synthetic a priori (171). But I think that recent understanding would say that mathematics presupposes time, space, and geometry; multidimensional space/time affect geometry and can be calculated using mathematics, even though we have no experience of anything other than three-dimensional space.

Unlike Newton, who believed that space and time were eternal (171), and Leibniz, who believed that space and time were just relations between objects, Kant believed in a third possibility, that "space and time are innate ordering structures of the human mind" (172). It seems to me that Kant's First Antimony, in which he tries to show how one could argue both for and against the idea that "the world had a beginning in time" (176) (this was meant to show that we don't have experience of the world as a whole, so we can't answer the question) is made invalid because of recent understandings of space/time as relative.

With Kant's Third Antimony, he tried to show that, on the surface (in our experience) everything is determined by natural laws, but under the surface (looking as the self as a thing-in-itself, as noumena), we have free will (179). Govier shows that this seems contradictory with his idea that we can't know things-in-themselves, or if they even exist, and that we can't know ourselves as noumena.

Kant believes that one can determine if something is moral or not by considering whether or not that action could be made into a universal law (180).

Govier on the whole doesn't seem to delve very deeply into the thoughts of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Basically, "Hegel believed that human history in general, and the history of philosophy in particular, were working toward a final goal in which ultimately Spirit will become fully aware of itself. The Hegelian Spirit is all the human minds in inter-relation with each other in communities" (190).

Govier says Hegel believed that "Often concepts or phenomena can be understood only when we are also aware of their opposite. For example, to understand a part we have to understand that there is a whole of which it is a part" (191). The same way with inner and outer. Isn't this similar to the ideas of Heraclitus, according to The Phenomenally Phrank History Philosophy (6)?

Although Govier mentions that some have recently used the phrase "end of history" (193), she doesn't really explain (or misrepresents) their point, and doesn't mention Francis Fukuyama by name.

Hegel saw all of the history of philosophy as leading in one direction, with each philosopher's (e.g. Descartes) thoughts and ideas based upon and formed by earlier philosophers (194). Hegel thought that, although the "Aristotelian syllogism was a brilliant discovery in its own time," it "cannot lead us to truth..." (196). "According to Hegel, Descartes' work marked the beginning of modern philosophy," but he "had little good to say about Hume the empiricist" (196). "Hegel saw [Kant] as the first in the great tradition of German Idealism" (197).

Hegel's dialectic is that one finds "contradictions" (or imperfections) with an idea, amends that idea, finds more contradictions, and forms a third, different idea that incorporates versions of the the previous two, albeit with possibly changed definitions (198). The terminology of "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" in referring to this process was popularized by Marx (199).

After reading Govier’s explanation of Hegel, it seems plausible that certain end results, through Hegel's dialectic, may be inevitable (199), but I don't believe the routes are inevitable. Certain "chance" happenings may change the line of reasoning. Communism may have seemed inevitable under the conditions of 19th Century Europe, but rapid social and technological changes means that the "communism stage" was rendered no longer necessary.

When we reach the object of our desire, Hegel sees that we lose the impulse that got us to our desire (205). Hegel saw each consciousness as desiring to discover itself and to join other self-consciousnesses (206). But does this naturally arise from just consciousness itself, or do we see this in humans merely because evolution has created a mind that searches out others in the entire survival/reproduction process?

As Govier says, "Self-consciousness is possible only when there is recognition by another self-consciousness," and "...consciousness of oneself is necessarily tied to consciousness of others" (206). Hegel's dialectic of the lord and the bondsman (or the Master and Slave) says that there are relationships in which one consciousness dominates the other (207). The "lord," however, is really dependent on the "bondsman," because the lord "cannot in the full sense get the recognition as a self from another self," the bondsman. Govier gives a good example of the lord writing a poem and the bondsman claiming that it was a good poem simply because of the latter's servitude.

The bondsman, according to Hegel, "realizes that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to have only an alienated existence that he acquires a mind of his own" (208), or, as Govier states, "From servitude, the bondsman moves on to develop an independent consciousness." There seems to be some profound point lurking behind this, but if Hegel had one Govier doesn't really bring it out.

Govier explains hypostatization as "the mistake of speaking and thinking of an abstraction as if it were an independently existing and acting thing in its own right," such as thinking of Hegel's "Spirit" as an entity moving on its own (209). "Hegel believed that the synthesis would, of necessity, incorporate the best elements of earlier stages and would thus of necessity be an improvement on earlier stages" (210). He believed that progress in thought and history was inevitable.

(212) Govier says that, "Although the Hegelian conception of progress is extremely appealing and comforting from an emotional point of view, it has no solid intellectual foundation and is rendered implausible by the brutal realities of twentieth-century history." She gives no reason for her statement that it has "no solid intellectual foundation," and "rendered implausible" doesn't seem to me to inevitably follow from events in the twentieth century.

Existentialists made a distinction between beings-in-themselves (etres-en-soi) and beings-for-themselves (etres-pour-soi) — that is, between objects and people with consciousness. Sartre worried about the always-present possibility of pour-soi falling into en-soi, of people thinking of themselves as defined and constrained, just as objects are (217). People have choices, and they are never victims of circumstance (218). If they think they are not free or are stuck by external events, they deceive themselves; this is bad faith. "Human beings are a blend of ‘facticity’ (the world of things, the world as it is) and transcendence (the ability to go beyond the facts to create something new)" (218).

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) said that humans are not naturally good or bad, but have the freedom to choose. "Facts are facts, nothing more, and what matters is the way in which men and women emerge from their situation" (219). Sartre claims that nothing is the foundation of the values a person has — these values are created by the person. Sartre claims people fall into bad faith at times and see themselves confined by situations. "We discover ourselves, then, in a world peopled with requirements, in the heart of projects ‘in the course of realization.’ I write. I am going to smoke. I have an appointment this evening with Peter. I must not forget to reply to Simon" (220). He thinks these are all circumstances which we sometimes think we are constrained to, but we should realize we are free and don't have to do any of them. Many of the instances mentioned are specific and dependent issues, though. I would remind Sartre that sometimes when one freely makes one choice, it by its nature constrains us in other ways. For example, if I freely decide to make money, that may inherently constrain me to be on time at a certain business appointment where I will sign a business contract that will allow me to realize my freely made choice of being rich. However, there is a lot to think about in his statement that, "All these trivial passive expectations of the real, all these commonplace, everyday values, derive their meaning from an original projection of myself which is my choice of myself in the world."

"Following the early stages of Hegel's Master/Slave dialectic, Sartre described encounters with other people as confrontational; each self triles to dominate or destroy the other" (222). Since the presence of another person would mean that the universe somehow appears to the other in a particular way, somehow Sartre believed that this took away from the freedom of the first person.

While Sartre saw nature as mere objects and feared that people were always in danger of becoming objects, Beauvoir saw the beauty of nature being used by people, even though it is separate with no consciousness or freedom: "It remains foreign, forbidden, but I take delight in this very offort towards an impossible possession. I experience it as a triumph, not a defeat" (225). "Unlike Sartre, [Beauvoir] emphasized the importance of relationships" (226). Beauvoir also stressed transcendence, making something new, and said that moral codes cannot free people, but humans must constantly create values based upon the situation. "Great moralists... have created a new universe of values from words which were acts, from acts which criticized the world..."(227). Appreciating beauty and owning property, according to Beauvoir, presupposes the acknowledgment of other consciousnesses (228).

Beauvoir doesn't like the Stoic idea of ignoring things out of one's control, because she believes that things can be in one's control if they bind together with other people (e.g. controlling poverty or resisting Hitler) (229). Beauvoir saw that woman was being defined in relation to man, and that she was constantly regarded as the Other (231). Biology isn't responsible for the position of women, nor is it Freud's idea of penis envy. Rather, it is society which give meaning to biological conditions (232).

Govier seems to stress that Beauvoir was reacting to the condition of women then, not now: "Many men want a woman in the role of wife (Beauvoir was writing in the late forties) to be both servant and companion" (231), and "In the older ideology of marriage, the woman is a thing to be transferred, to be possessed" (234).

Beauvoir didn't appreciate marriage or housework as an occupation (234). Beauvoir said that "The fact is that the traditional woman is a bamboozled conscious being and a practitioner of bamboozlement; she attempts to disguise her dependence from herself, which is a way of consenting to it" (236). But after realizing her plight and seeking freedom, she must go on: "Woman exhausts her courage dissipating mirages and she stops in terror at the threshold of reality." By going on she can produce art, literature, philosophy, etc. (237).

Beauvoir seems to back away from existentialism a bit when she recognizes that in the society of her time women were actually limited in some ways by their culture, and did not have complete freedom (237). As Govier notes, "In The Second Sex Beauvoir acknowledged that socio-economic factors and myths about women did serve to hold women back, that men had assumed the power to define women, that women had been oppressed by male-defined institutions and ideologies, and that they were handicapped by their history and position in society. Given such circumstances, women are nevertheless thinking beings, capable of reflecting and posing questions about the world, and able to make some choices. But, to be sure, they are not able to define their own situations or to transcend the world in freedom in quite the way that Beauvoir and Sartre had suggested in their early writings, when they spoke so grandly of people being able to transcend the world of facts to establish their own values and determine their own future" (242).

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Wittgenstein wrote Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (245) and Philosophical Investigations (246). He at first believed, according to Govier, that "implicit in everyday language there must be a language" which uses signs to represent objects, making the signs symbols (249).

Govier says that Wittgenstein invented the truth table (250). He believed that since tautologies are always true and contradictions are always false, they tell us nothing about the world (251). Govier explains that, "Thought and language cannot depict logic itself, because logic is a matter of pictoral form and no picture can depict its own pictoral form. The proposition, 'The cat is on the mat' says that the cat is on the mat. It shows this... [S]entences of logic, mathematics, ethics, and philosophy... do not in this way have a 'sense.' They are attempts to SAY what can only be SHOWN" (252).

Since there are no actual objects that religion, art, and metaphysics represent, "what we want to say cannot be said, because there are no facts to be pictured; it can only be shown." Therefore, "in ethics, there are no true or false propositions, because ethics do not deal with facts. Ethics is about the significance of facts, and this is inexpressible." In fact, although like Beauvoir, Sartre, and other existentialists, Wittgenstein "did not believe that values were to be found in facts," he "did not believe that values could be created by human choices" as the existentialists did (253).

"The Vienna Circle was a group of scientists, mathemeticians, and philosophers based in Vienna during the twenties" (256). They believed in logical positivism, that "knowledge was either logico-mathematical or emperical and scientific... [with] nothing in between" (257). "...[T]he philosophy of the Tractatus is not that of logical positivism," though (258).

Wittgenstein later abandoned his idea that language is a simple correlation between symbols and objects (259). In fact, he eventually said that we can only think because of language, even going so far as to say that deaf-mutes cannot contemplate certain complicated subjects because they have no language with which to contemplate them (267).

Are the adding examples (e.g. 3+5) from Wittgenstein or from Govier (263)? Stating that the meaning of the "+" sign because a student could count from 1-1000 and then start counting by fours is purely ridiculous. Sure, each number is socially related to a certain number that exists independently of social construction. But once these numbers are designated, the "+" symbol represents a mathematical process which, given the basis (any number being represented, combined with the number represented by "1") of the process can provide any answer, even if that certain problem had never been worked before. The rules of mathematics dictate this, not social construction. The only social construction is the relationship of the symbols to their corresponding actual numbers. Furthermore, the idea of "+" is not that different from the idea of "and" from the Tractatus (251), and Wittgenstein seemed to think that "and" had meaning apart from social construction.

Wittgenstein argued that we cannot be solitary minds (the possibility of which was raised by Descartes), because our language requires other consciousnesses; the idea of a "private language" is meaningless (266). I think Wittgenstein's mistake here is that he didn't realize that only our thought process requires others to have a language; this is only one possible world. It is possible that my mind is the only one existing, and has created a world in which the other imagined consciousnesses are needed in order for language to exist.

Govier notes that Wittgenstein made good use of analogies. The comparison of a language to an old city is very appropriate (276). Wittgenstein also had a good illustration involving a beetle in a box. If everyone had a beetle in a box, but couldn't see each other's boxes, the actual beetle would be meaningless, because "beetle" would mean "what is in the box," which could be a beetle, a turtle, a bird, or even nothing. As Wittgenstein says, "if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of 'object and designation' the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant" (277).

Wittgenstein didn't seem to think that philosophy needed a complete overarching theory (280).

In the last chapter, Govier gives an intriguing view of recent developments related to philosophy. She describes work in the realm of artificial intelligence using computers (287). She explains the Critical Thinking - Informal Logic movement, of which she seems to be a part, which encourages students to think for themselves by studying "arguments as they appear in ordinary writing and speech" (293). She attempts to give some insight into the deconstructivist philosophy of the recent French philosopher Jacques Derrida (298) and helps the reader to become more informed about feminist epistemology (303).

Govier’s work is very effectual in that, after reading it, the reader comes away with a much greater understanding than when he/she started. She does a great job of explaining about the history of philosophy and how it relates to current knowledge and thinking. She also lets us know a little about ourselves: in one instance, she proclaims, "I am a philosopher; I am a mother; I am a peace activist; I am the author of four books,..." (220). She feels strongly about gender issues, having a policy of using "daughter," "female descendants," and "female ancestors" instead of the more usual male-oriented labels (178).

Govier herself has been influenced by philosophers throughout time, something she lets us know by the treatment of Wollstonecraft and Beauvoir. She lets us know that all of us have been influenced by earlier thinkers, a concept that itself is reminiscent of the ideas of Hegel. When we "think and know" in the Western tradition, Govier wants us to be well aware that we are all ultimately the children of Socrates.