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BOOK REVIEWS 535 the consequent thinness and incompleteness which invest the author's discussion in this area. In fact, the omission leads Trinkaus to some misinterpretation regarding the nature and development of poetic theology and the relationships between the studia humanitatis and studia divinitatis. Thus he claims that Petrarch made the classic statement of the theologia poetica ("Poetic is not at all opposed to theology"), thereby inferring that he revived this insight for the Renaissance. But this interrelationship had already been fully and substantively developed by Dante (as Colish convincingly shows in her concluding chapter). Dante's own poetic epistemology grew out of medieval poetics and was explicitly linked to Augustine's (by Dante in the Convivio). In his letter on the Divine Comedy, furthermore, Dante shows that he has appropriated for himself as poet all the tasks, methods, and powers of theology. The Divine Comedy is to be read like Scripture; its purpose is to remove men from misery and bring them to beatitude. That it can do so, moreover, derives from the fact that, as he wrote in the Convivio, "words... are like the seeds of action." Speech, e.g., prayers, poems, confessions of faith, etc., can transform the behavior of the hearer. That is why Dante called himself a poet of rectitude, and why his epitaph described him as a theologian (Theologus Dantes). Yet Trinkaus asserts that Petrarch and especially Boccaccio revived this Augustinian theory of the relationship between the prisci poetae and the prisci theologi. If Boccaccio contributed to this process (and he did), it was less because of his interest in poetic legends about the gods, than because of his admiration for Dante, the subject of his public lectures and his biography. As he declared in his Li[e o[ Dante, it is perfectly clear "that not only is poetry theology but also that theology is poetry." And were it permitted, he allowed, "I should say he [Dante] would have become a god on earth." One misses the presence of Dante in Trinkaus' book; for he belongs--as Boccaccio and Bruni, and (much later) Burcldaardt made plain--at the heart of all Renaissance discussions of poetry and theology, of epistemology, of the employment of learning to civic, public, and moral purposes, and of human and humanistic attempts to reintegrate the soul and reconcile logic to life. He, too, possessed Fanstian dimensions, and like Petrarch, he inspired the humanistic enterprise that came after. Jo~ H. GEEatmN Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School Rhetoric and Truth in France. Descartes to Diderot. By Peter France. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1972. Pp. viii + 282. $16.25) Can a writer express the truth without relying upon rhetorical devices? A negative answer to this question provides the recurrent theme in a "series of linked essays" in which Peter France examines classical French rhetoric as represented in the writings of Descartes, Montesquieu, d'Alembert, Bossuet, Boileau, Racine, Diderot, and Rousseau. He begins with Descartes, who is symbolic of the traditional philosophical revulsion against rhetoric , and then examines the remaining authors who fall on a spectrum between Rousseau, who engages in the "desperate quest for the mirage of genuine, unmediated communication ," and Boileau, who was the self-conscious designer of a new style of rhetoric. While the focus is philosophical, the background of this book is largely historical in its illustration of the intellectual tools of a major part of French society over an extended period of time. Professor France is successful in having focus and background reinforce one another. In Part I, he begins with a description of rhetoric in the ancien r~gime. He reviews the classical and medieval roots of rhetoric; the influential Renaissance view of rhetoric as mere ornament, a view perpetuated by the work of Peter Ramus; and the role of rhetoric 536 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY in the ancien rJgime as it was taught in the schools and as a mark of social ascension. The conclusion of this review is that "all systems of verbal communication appear to contain an element of distortion." In interpreting Descartes, France relies heavily and admittedly upon the work of Goubier . One surprising comment is the assertion that Descartes refrained from publishing Le...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 535-537
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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