Analysis of “First Notebook” in Michéle Le Doeuff’s Hipparchia’s Choice: An Essay Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc.
The first premise of an interesting argument presented by the Le Doeuff in the “First Notebook” is the following: “It wouldbe extremely unjust that women who might have had a penchant for philosophy have long been kept away from it” (2007, p. 2). The conclusion for the argument is represented by the following statement: “I am convincedthat this recognition of the always incomplete and limited character of philosophical effort has advantages, if only that of the hope of finding a new way of thinking philosophically” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 8). The author’s evidence for the premise stated above includes the acknowledgement of the various reasons why a book such as Hipparchia’s Choice: An Essay Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc. will not be written by a philosopher in the past. She recognized that the first “intellectual obstacle” to the idea of writing such a book would be “radical discontinuity between the past and present” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 5). The author notes that this “discontinuity” is exaggerated by “disproportion” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 5). The experience or motivation underlying this argument, as highlighted by Le Doeuff, is the fact that in the past the “classical pantheon” or the familiar group of “‘great philosophers’” was depicted as a primarily “masculine community” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 5). Therefore, such a portrayal of the “classical pantheon” will cause one to assume that “philosophical rationality is essentially masculine” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 5). The writer then concludes that both men and women have taken that intellectual step (Le Doeuff, 2007). This argument is problematic because it ignores the fact that female philosophers could have very well existed during ancient times but records of their writing have not been preserved. Furthermore, although the presentation of philosophical works by men suggests that philosophy is a masculine discipline, this assumption is not true because both women and men have the ability to rationalize. Women have the freedom to rationalize or reason, and formulate theories in the same manner as men. Therefore, in actuality, there is nothing which presents a woman from thinking and formulating theories within the discipline of philosophy, that is, if she has the perseverance and self-motivation to critically evaluate concepts and ideas, and to educate herself to record such theories. Consequently, philosophy in and of itself cannot be considered as a sexist discipline if the woman has these options available to her.
Second Premise of a Fascinating Argument Highlighted in Le Doeuff’s “ First Notebook”
The second premise of a fascinating argument highlighted in Le Doeuff’s “First Notebook” is indicated by the following: “the exercise of thought is sometimes very joyful, or at least ordinarily pleasant activity” (2007, p. 8). The conclusion of the argument is underscored by the following: “Philosophy as it is practiced here and now is academic and marked by a history of philosophy; for better or worse, it is from here that I grew” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 11). The author’s evidence for the above mentioned premise is highlighted by the following: “I have gained enough pleasure from [philosophy] to think that making my living reading, teaching and writing philosophy is the finest job in the world” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 9). The author explains further, based on her personal experience and motivation, that her desire to study philosophy stemmed from for her passion for Shakespeare’s and his characterization of the jesters or fools in his plays (Le Doeuff, 2007). Le Doeuff had a desire to become one of the jesters illustrated by Shakespeare’s plays (Le Doeuff, 2007). She later found out that the world was a difficult place to live for a fool so she chose to focus her energies on studying philosophy instead so that she could be wise like the female characters that were disguised as men in Shakespeare’s plays, such as Rosalind and Portia (Le Doeuff, 2007). The author also noted that the language of philosophy was close to the “language of fools” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 9). This argument is problematic because philosophy cannot be considered the language of fools because true philosophical thought is based on deductive reasoning. On the hand, the language of fools or jesters, as depicted in Shakespearian plays, deals primarily with wit, sarcasm, and irony. Philosophy allows one to arrive at a conclusion in a logical or coherent manner by breaking down an idea or concept into manageable parts. Each part is then critically evaluated in light of the evidence which is presented to support an idea or concept. If the evidence presented is insufficient, not credible, irrelevant and is not representative of a large group then the argument presented is illogical, unfair, and invalid. Therefore, when the author describes philosophy as a “language of fools,” she is indeed incorrect in describing the discipline in such a manner. Moreover, Le Doeuff only used her experience to illustrate why someone would have a desire to study philosophy. The author did not use a variety of experiences to depict why someone would have the desire to study philosophy besides herself; therefore, her argument is one-sided or biased.
Third Premise of an Interesting Argument Underscored in “First Notebook”
The third premise of a fascinating argument indicated in Le Doeuff’s “First Notebook” is the following: “if the value of philosophy cannot be totally put into thought, this is because in philosophical work essential values come first, before even thought itself” (2007, p. 11). The conclusion of this argument is depicted by the following: “there is a link between the images with which philosophical texts are studdedand an author’s ‘fundamental thinking’” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 13). The evidence which is used by the author to support the above premise is the following: “A set of values, which are simply assumed, structures the theoretical enterprise [such as philosophy], providing at least its governing rules and meaning” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 11). The writer makes the suggestion that if a particular piece of writing does not adhere to certain principles or set of values then that writing is “not worthy” to be a part of the discipline of philosophy. The experience or motivation underlying this argument is Le Doeuff’s experience while reading the classics she might come across words which are “malevolent, contemptuous or stupid” as it pertains to women (2007, p. 12). The author expresses that she is “doubly shocked” for the several reasons (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 12). Firstly, Le Doeuff notes that “people” should not be writing “debasing things about women” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 12). Secondly, the author notes that when philosophy uses insults to express an argument then it goes beneath its own “validatory standards” (Le Doeuff, 2007, p. 12). She then uses Hegel’s anti-Semitic remarks as an example (Le Doeuff, 2007). This argument is problematic because Le Doeuff does not use adequate examples of sexist writings written by philosophers to support her point. She has no quotes illustrating instances of sexism in philosophical writings. She mentions Hegel’s writings in passing but that only relates to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a form of discrimination but it does not pertain to sexism. In addition, Le Doeuff does not provide sufficient evidence to support her point that sexism or saying degrading things about women goes beneath the “validatory standards” of philosophy. A mere assumption is made by the author that implies that making sexist comments goes beneath the values of philosophy. However, Le Doeuff does not provide sufficient evidence, such as the quotes of classical philosophers, that sexism goes against the principles of philosophy.
Le Doeuff, M. (2007). First Notebook. In Hipparchia’s choice: An essay concerning women philosophy, Etc. New York: Colombia University Press.