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What Philosophy Is. Havi Carel and David Gamez, eds. New York: Continuum Press, 2004. Pp. xviii + 322.

I found this book expansive, well-argued and stimulating. It is informative without being dull, unusual in its breadth, and charged with original thoughts and reactions to the place of philosophy and the question of its future. Carel and Gamez have brought together the fruits of philosophy as living thought, and offer us a significant opportunity to think of philosophy at this present moment. The book is an honest exploration of where the discipline lies. It avoids treating philosophy as a sub-division of cultural studies, or a complement to gender studies. These and other disciplines sometimes seem to overwhelm the philosophical enterprise as a result of their more immediate and urgent aims. Here philosophy gains credibility. [End Page 848]

The novelty of this collection lies in a number of factors; we have, for example, authors such as Deleuze, Wallace Stevens and Borges placed alongside topics of unusual reach ("deep and shallow wisdom," "branding" and "the fantastic"). There are attempts at solving traditional problems (Lawson) without a reversion to traditional presuppositions. There are essays in this collection under the rubric of philosophy as science (Nanay) which one might expect to conflict with philosophy as poetry (Critchley). This does not leave us with an imbalance of philosophical flavoring. We are treated to more than one type, more than one location and more than one direction for philosophy. The collection overall gives the reader the impression that philosophy is a more wholesome practice than considerations of the unhelpful "Continental"/ "Analytic" divide would suggest. We are drawn closer to the original questions that concerned philosophy, and bound to current themes and re-evaluations of the notion of philosophy itself.

Another virtue of this book is the noticeable "lack" of the never-ending attempt to think either "the impossible" or "the political" without concrete or defined reactions. The section on politics and philosophy gives us a small sample of what can be achieved when more focused and pressing issues are raised in terms of particular philosophers and philosophy. I for one find this especially refreshing. The reader is not forced into the seemingly never-ending reflection on politics as ethics (or vice versa) that dominates recent attempts on the question of the political in thought. Instead a sharp, incisive reaction to American thought in Matravers's paper demonstrates what is often most lacking when we ask what philosophy can say about politics. Given the often hesitant approach taken by those attempting political philosophy today, this essay sparkles with the suggestion that "if you are buying stocks, buy them in Government House utilitarianism" (22). Liberal egalitarianism is endangered by the machines of government, which force the hand of voters. Thus readers of this work are asked to think around a precise and practical issue. The other essay in this section gives the currently not-so-credible postmodernism its day in the thought of philosophy as branding (Kuhlken). It is refreshing, once again, to see authors refuse the standard or popular responses to philosophy and politics, and give the margin its scope.

Yet other surprising aspects come forward—the collection's emphasis on wisdom gives the ancient idea new life. We find ourselves thinking again the richness and depth of philosophy. Philosophy once again becomes "a way of life" (Dorfman, Sayre). Dorfman's essay provides a center point of sorts for the entire collection. His "Philosophy as an 'As'" offers a comprehensive consideration of philosophy in its many orbits and revolutions. Following this tour of philosophy "as" many (creation, vision, speech, lack, distance, mourning, courage), and when we consider the healing potential of philosophy or philosophical method (Rosner), we may be driven to ask what exactly philosophy is not. Few areas of critical or creative thought remain untouched by philosophy—all are, at least potentially, intimately connected with philosophical practice. This impressive display of philosophy's dominance or extensiveness is contested in Gamez's reminder that philosophy also contains a "shallow" aspect—it allows us to live the "good" life, to "enhance our salaries, skinny-dip on Blackpool beach at midnight . . . " (266). The more serious...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6601
Print ISSN
1071-6068
Pages
pp. 848-850
Launched on MUSE
2005-01-05
Open Access
N
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