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Pragmata: Festschrift für Klaus Oehler (review)
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Reviewed by
Kai-Michael Hingst and Maria Liatsi. (eds.) Pragmata: Festschrift für Klaus Oehler Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2008. 380pp.

Chiefly in German, this handsomely produced volume, occasioned by the 80th birthday of Hamburg philosopher Klaus Oehler, assembles 31 papers, divided among four sections, successively devoted to ancient philosophy, semiotics, pragmatism, and topics in modernity. One of the papers appears in French, "La philosophie de la musique dans l'ancien stoicisme," by Evanghelos Moutsopoulos of the University of Athens. The book also contains five papers in English, concentrated in the sections on semiotics and pragmatism, including authors familiar in these pages, such as Richard Robin, "Charles Sanders Peirce Then and Now," and Sandra Rosenthal writing on Peirce's "neglected argument." Several of the authors writing in German are also familiar to readers of these pages, including Helmut Pape, Hans Joas and Ludwig Nagl. The book is filled out with a short preface by the editors, a catalogue of the writings of Klaus Oehler from 1989 to 2008 (including mention of recent attention to William James), a comprehensive index of names and information on the contributing authors. The overall design of the book gives the impression of Peircean semiotics and pragmatism mediating between the ancients and modern problems.

The editors note some of Oehler's honors: He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens (1993), was the first German President of the C.S. Peirce Society (1982) and in 1998 was awarded the International Prize of the Antonio Iannone Foundation in Rome. The title "Pragmata" is understood to stand for thought's needed reference to facts and reality, and it expresses concern with relevance (Sachbezug). It is indicative of Oehler's rejection of "all idealistic speculation," and his "radical critique of idealism and utopian thinking" (Hingst and Liatsi, p. 9). One may sense Peirce-inspired echoes of the nineteenth century, neo-Kantian flight from Hegel: "Zu der Sache."

The ten papers of the initial section, exclusively in German and French and devoted to ancient philosophy, are chiefly concerned with topics from the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The emphasis on ancient Greek philosophy in the present volume is a good reflection of [End Page 707] the similar emphasis in the titles of Oehler's writings from the past 20 years. For example, along with Oehler's books, Charles Sanders Peirce (1993) and Sachen und Zeichen [Things and Signs] (1993), one finds in the appended publications-list two other books: Subjektivität und Selbstbewußtsein in der Antike [Subjectivity and Self-consciousness in the Ancient World] (1997) and Oehler's annotated German translation of Aristotle's Categories, 2006. Of special interest in the initial section is Thomas A. Szlezak's "Was in vierzig Jahren Bedeutung hat …" a look back at an early work of Oehler's from 1965, concerned with the overall interpretation of Plato and Oehler's evaluation of the previous literature on the interpretation of Plato. The initial section of the present book also contains contributions concerned with the interpretation of Aristotle on metaphor, the topic of dialogue, in relation to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Plato's metaphor of the cave, and the relation of Boethius' Consolations to Aristotle's theory of categories. Aristotle is of deep significance in Oehler's writings.

Three of the volume's five essays in English are concentrated in the second section devoted to semiotics, including "Natural Signs from a Synechistic Perspective" by Winfried Nöth of the University of Kassel, "Where America Takes its Pictures," by Philipp W. Rosemann of the University of Dallas, and "Peirce, Habermas, Rawls and the Democracy of Signs," by John Stopford, writer on political philosophy and the philosophy of culture. The section also contains essays by Helmut Pape (University of Bamberg) "Die Logik der Bilder und die Objektivität des Geistes" and Hermann Deuser (University of Frankfurt) "Unmittelbares Selbstbewusstsein." The range of authors and essays in this section demonstrates theological interest in Peircean semiotics, and also the relationship of semiotics to the interpretation of culture, including even culinary arts, as is shown by "Kulinaristik als Kultursemiotik," by Roland Posner (Technical University of Berlin) and Nicole M. Wilk (University of Paderborn). There is...