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BOOK REVIEWS 351 revealing them was not theology, nor the philosophy that was the handmaid of theology, but rhetoric, the greatest instrument devised for the use of active, but neither contemplative nor redeemable, men. If it could present no more than opposed aspects of a reality and morality never to be reconciled, that was all that an unredeemed universe might contain. The limits of MachiaveUi 's rhetorical vision are therefore no accident. He was a sort of atheist Dante--the Asino was meant to be the satyr-play that followed the Commedia--but he did not aim at philosophy, whether ancient, Christian, or post-Christian (the word "modern" should be stricken from the triptych). Zeppi is not strong at handling the problem of relating The Prince to The Discourses. He will not see that the Prince is vulnerable to fortuna in part because he has interfered with stabilizing custom; and he will not see that the republic is concerned with social virtues rather than customs, because he succumbs in the end to the need to deny that the virtue of the republic stabilizes its civic relations. Machiavelli's paradox that the tensions between the classes have a stabilizing effect is not adequately dealt with, and Zeppi resorts--in the teeth of the evidence--to asserting that the plebeians of Machiavellian Rome are plastic and inert. They have swords in their hands. These weaknesses cause each of his two sections to end less strongly than it might have done. Studi su Machiavelli pensatore is published by Cesviet, an acronym denoting a Center for the Study of Vietnam and the Third World. Much good may it do them. The Ayatollah might read Machiavelli's chapter on ecclesiastical principalities. J. G. A. Pococ~ Johns Hopkins University Bernard Williams. Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1978. Pp. 320. Professor Williams's book is not an easy book; the argumentation is complex, and there are frequent digressions. The focus of the book is Descartes's epistemology and the assumptions and distinctions Descartes needs in order to make his theory of knowledge possible. In fact, the strength of Williams's book lies in his perception of what Descartes must implicitly assume to argue as he does. In the first chapter Williams undertakes a description of Descartes's project, especially in the Meditations. The project. Pure Enquiry, "is the undertaking of someone setting aside all externalities or contingent limitations on the pursuit of truth..." (p. 66). Thus, Williams wants sharply to distinguish his interpretation of Descartes from interpretations like Frankfurt's, which do not see Descartes as seeking truth so much as refuting skepticism (p. 199). More explicitly, Descartes's project is to find a way of producing beliefs that maximizes the "truth-ratio" of these beliefs (p. 55). Williams argues that if one truly believes something, and if that belief has the property of being "produced in a way such that beliefs produced in that way are generally true," then one has knowledge (p. 45). Williams's task, given that he has correctly described Descartes's project, is to characterize further this property which beliefs must have if we are to maximize their truthratio . The property Descartes seeks is certainty (or indubitability), an ambiguous and complex notion to which Williams devotes a substantial part of his analysis. Descartes's concept of certainty involves, but is not exhausted by, distinct concepts such as incorrigibility (a belief P is incorrigible if, and only if, if A believes P, P is true), being evident (a belief P is evident if, and only if, if P is true, then A believes P), and irresistibility (a belief P is irresistible if, and only if, if A thinks of P, then A believes P) (p. 86). In order to arrive at indubitable beliefs Descartes must have some acceptance rules such as: Accept as on-going beliefs just those propositions which are at any time clearly and distinctly perceived to be true (p. 203). Clarity and distinctness are under- 352 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY stood in terms of Williams's analysis of certainty. By using such acceptance rules one can know (I) that one exists and is a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 351-352
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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