Mary Furness

Conundrums that will not go away

Nicholas Fearn has arrayed before us in his latest book a procession of Western philosophers, dead and alive, hailing from the dawn of rational thought in the ancient world to the present day. In the manner of a polite and cultivated ringmaster he impartially introduces, compares and sums up, giving all his characters a say,

What makes us unique?

What does it mean to be human? The many possible answers to this question and their rejection form the cornucopian content of this book. Is language, for example, a defining characteristic of being human? It can’t be because other species have forms of communication which qualify as a sort of language; dolphins whistle, bees dance,