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Book Reviews The Giants ol PreoSophistiv Greek Philosophy. By Felix M. Cleve. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965.Two vols., pp. 580) Reading Felix M. Cleve's book, one has the feeling that the author should have lived in the sixth century B. C. Someone who obviously believes that he is a giant among blind men, who presents us with a huge collection of oracular utterances and pontifical pronouncements, and who is even clearly afraid of persecution for telling the truth in a wicked age, would have done very well to have survived only in fragments. Unfortunately, however, he has published two large volumes. But would even Heraclitus seem as brilliant as he does today if we possessed a nineteenvolume Kritische Gesamtausgabe? To be fair to Cleve, it must be said that he also has some of the virtues, as well as the (in their case excusable) vices of the people he is writing about. He is so disdainful of most of his predecessors and colleagues in the field that, though this sometimes leaves him free to be uniquely absurd, it also affords him room for occasional bursts of insightful originality. There is one comforting aspect to reading Cleve: one is always very clear about what he likes and what he doesn't like. He does not, e.g., think much of Parmenides, an eYample for him of what he calls "glossogon" philosophy. Glossogon philosophy, whose "menace to culture" is "horrifying," is the result of "the possibility of talking without thinking"; Parmenides, who, despite Cleve, is admired by so many philosophers today for his pioneering attempts at being logical and precise, is "the purest example of that kind of philosophy." "Glossomorphism," as this form of "partial idiocy" is also called, is, it seems, what happens when words outrun mental images, which results in "an overgrowth of actually empty speech movements which cannot be translated into imaginations at all." The unhappy outcome, Cleve informs us, is that according to the best estimate ninety percent of philosophers are mentally ill. Of all this miserable state of affairs, the great Eleatic is the Founding Father: "... Parmenides means the beginning of an evil that has been spreading ever since and ever more and more and is today still menacing all genuine philosophy with suffocation." Not only that, but "there is another pathological symptom in Parmenides: he gets angry about all those who would not agree. There seems to be indeed some slight kinship between glossomorphism and paranoia." Cleve, we must admit, probably deserves credit for making it clear that there is also some slight kinship between anti-glossomorphism and paranoia. And it can easily be imagined what a sympathetic treatment Cleve's attitude allows him to give of Parmenides. All of this is, of course, pitiful, and unfortunately not at all untypical of this study. Pitiful too is the almost unbelievably bad English which Cleve writes and which his publisher allows to be printed. But, when this has been said, it remains true that scholars seriously interested in this period would do well to read Cleve's work. When he writes about authors who are not in his opinion menaces to culture, he can, although nobody who has read the above citations can think him generally trustworthy, be suddenly illuminating. See, in particular, the chapter on his hero Anaxagoras. If you want a steady guide, go to Guthrie's excellent volumes. Guthrie, however, inspires such confidence that he can at times seem almost boringly judicious. Cleve is seldom boring, at least, and for those who, like this reviewer, can derive stimulation from being infuriated, I recommend a critical reading of this passionate work. HENRYL. SHAPIRO University o] Missouri, ,St. Louis ~; [392] ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
p. 392
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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