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262 BOOK KEVIEWS

point of view, the later Plato's essays into logical analysis do not indicate a move away
from the metaphysic of Forms. On the contrary, it might be argued t h a t his logical
dissections of Being, Non-being and Falsity actually help to support the theory of
Forms. For it is by means of these dissections t h a t Plato defends the intelligibility of
all discourse, and it is this intelligibility t h a t Forms are postulated to explain. Thus it
follows t h a t whatever method vindicates intelligibility thereby vindicates Plato's
ground for claiming Forms.
To this major theme, as to every topic he handles, Guthrie brings a vast store of
integrated knowledge, and a finely balanced judgement. All students of Plato, whether
historians or philosophers, have reason to be grateful for this monumental work.
SARAH W A T E R L O W

Plato's Meno: A Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive. By ROBERT STERNTELD and HAROLD


ZYSKIND. (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press. 1978. Price
$11.85.)

The authors of this work offer a new interpretation of the Meno which is supposed
to show, in the light of dramatic and structural as well as logical aspects of this dialogue,
that modern scholars have been misled in finding its earlier parts the most interesting
and fruitful. Stress should rather be laid on the political questions raised principally in
the final sections. The discussions of definition, of Meno's paradox and of the hypo-
thetical method are detours providing a background for the new philosophical approach
—paragenics—which the authors discern in this work.
What is paragenics? The authors nowhere expound this philosophy very clearly,
but grandiose claims are made for it in the final chapter. On p. 126 it is said to be "a
total philosophy concerned with the full range of practical problems", to have "a pur-
gativo effect, ridding philosophy of ideologically generated entities" and its virtue is
that it combines "novelty (openness) with hardness (cognitive certifiability)". Insights
belonging to this approach are to be found in many recent and contemporary philo-
sophers. On p. 141, the authors give a list of such insights, attributed to Hussorl, James,
Bradley, Whitehead, Dewey, Bergmann, Popper, Wittgenstein, Strawson and Existen-
tialism.
P u t in plain English, the nub of the philosophy seems to be that we cannot, from
an antecedent viewpoint, know any general principles for the solution of practical
probloms, but when we look back wo can understand how we arrived at answers. All
problems, including scientific ones, are thought to come to us piecemeal, and to contain
their own solutions which cannot be reached by the use of general principles. This is
supposed to reflect an attitude of common sense.
I find convincing neither the philosophy nor much of the interpretation of the Meno
nor the authors' arguments, so far as I can discern them. Certainly, a t the end of the
Meno Socrates is made to assert t h a t correct belief is as good a guide to action as know-
lodge is, and t h a t traditional excellence consists in the possession of such belief, acquired
by divino gift. He should be taken as supposing that such successful political leaders
as Pericles did not arrive a t their beliefs as a result of reasoning, and could not justify
them in that way. But this does not show that such beliefs form an entirely different
class from those which can be so justified. I n this dialogue, no distinction is made
between the objects of belief and knowledge, and it is claimed t h a t beliefs can be con-
verted into knowledge (98a). The authors suggest t h a t there is a difference between
beliefs about past and future, but no mention is made in the Meno of any such distinction.
A great deal of the interpretation goes a long way beyond anything t h a t could
plausibly bo rogarded as present in the text. Much stress is laid upon dramatic and
structural aspocts of the work. The authors suggest t h a t the three model definitions
BOOK R E V I E W S 263

offered a t 75-6 are analogous to Meno's three attempted definitions of excellence: further-
more, that the last of these, although explicitly rejected as inferior, provides a systematic
model for the later part of the dialogue: it is thought to match Meno's restricted philo-
sophical abilities. Such an interpretation requires the eye of faith rather than of reason,
and the effect of the authors' argument would be to suggest that Plato could not have
been engaged with t h e problems of t h e latter part of t h e dialogue, which he would
have regarded as misplaced. They are thus given importance only b y the authors'
belief that, presumably unwittingly, Plato introduces what they regard as a useful
approach. Philosophically, this would be interesting if the approach itself wore: other-
wise it serves only t o support the view t h a t from the point of view of Platonic scholar-
ship the earlier sections of the dialogue are the more important.
J A N E T SISSON

Descartes. B y MABGARBT D A I I L E E W I L S O N . (London: Routlodgo & Kogan Paul. 1978.


P p . xviii + 255. Price £7.95.)
Professor Wilson's study of Descartes is in Routledge's Arguments of the Philo-
sophers series. The particular arguments of Descartes under scrutiny are those of the
Meditations. Indeed, the six chapters of the book form a commentary on each Medita-
tion, although not a commentary on every issue of every Meditation.
What Wilson is interested in doing is presenting an overall reading of Doscartos'
philosophy which is rather different from that of other commentators. The error, as
she sees it, of most Cartesian studios is to place opistemological issues above Doscartes'
scientific and metaphysical concerns. Of course, this is how history has seen Descartes:
as the figure who, above all, placed epistomology a t the centre of t h e philosophical
arena. B u t was this Descartes' intention? Wilson quotes Descartes as saying that tho
Meditations contain t h e foundation of his physics a n d t h a t what thoy lead to is t h e
overthrow of Aristotelian science—with its basis in common sense empiricism. Cartesian
physics, b y contrast, is abstract, mathematical, Platonic. I n addition to his scienco,
narrowly conceived, Descartes was proud of his achievement in establishing conclusions
about God and t h e soul. Wilson sees tho opistemological elements of the Meditations
as subserving Descartes' overall aim of constructing a correct view of reality as a whole:
God, the soul and the world. She therefore attempts to analyse tho individual elements
of the Meditations as part of this larger plan.
This perspective n o t only makes sense itsolf. I t also loads t o a more intolligible
reading of some of the individual themes of the Meditations, above all that of systematic
doubt. For the doubt is no longer to be objected to on common-senso grounds as purely
factitious: for it is just the common-senso view of reality that it is aimod against. Nor
is the hypothesis of the all-poworful deceiver an arbitrary invention. For a rationalistic
physics and mathematics itself might soom to mo to bo indubitable without actually
being veridical. Wilson is able to show that Descartes understood the distinction be-
tween what is inconceivable for me and what might actually be tho case, and that ho
was closer to contemporary views on necessary truth than critics such as Loibniz. Tho
doctrine that God created the eternal truths can usefully bo seen as a way of drawing
attention to t h e possible limitations of human concoivability and intelligence, and the
malevolont deceiver comes in to drive home the implications of this point. The principal
sources of Cartesian doubt, then, are Doscartos' scientific realism and tho doctrine of
the divine creation of eternal truths. The doubt is resolved b y examination of m y
current mental processes, which are not affected b y t h e implications of eithor of these
aspects of Descartes' thought.
Even though Wilson is concerned with a n overall reading of Descartes' thought (and
one which is plausible a n d illuminating a t many points), she does, of course, have t o
consider in detail familiar Cartesian doctrines and problems. I n some cases what she