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426Philosophy and Literature PhUosophical Rhetoric: TL· Function ofIndirection in PhUosophical Writing, by Jeff Mason; xiii & 170 pp. London: Roudedge, 1989, $45.00 clodi, $13.95 paper. According to a well-known tradition rhetoric is of negligible phUosophical importance, for phUosophy is like geometry—governed by strict logical arguments . According to another, phUosophy is essentiaUy rhetorical and tropical, die idealization of geometric "strictness" a rhetorical ploy, and phUosophical "truth" whoUy determined by our interpretative schemata. Jeff Mason seeks to defend a middle ground: phUosophy's concern with truth is to be distinguished from rhetoric's with persuasion, but neither can be adequately conceived of widiout reference to the other; in particular, "truth must be made persuasive to declare itself to others" (pp. x-xi, 1, 63-65, 73, 91, 152). There is an echo of Plato's Phaedrus here; we can distinguish between "strict phUosophical argumentation " and other means of producing phUosophical "effects" (pp. 23— 24), and "phUosophical rhetoric ... is oriented toward promoting the truth which its phUosophy seeks or recommends" (p. 93). PhUosophy's rhetorical dimension is not always foregrounded (p. 26), but even the "plain style" of the phUosophical logicians has its own rhetorical history and distinctive perlocutionary effects (p. 129); phUosophical argument takes place within a rhetorical arena and lack of rhetorical awareness can be disabling when that arena itself comes under chaUenge (pp. 14-17). PhUosophical rhetoric operates, we are told, through "techniques of indirection " which have to do "widi what is indicated by the text but not spelled out or made explicit in it" (p. xi). These techniques are analyzed in terms of perlocutionary force for whUe illocutionary acts "can be made explicit with no loss of success" die perlocutionary "are not as transparent" (p. 36); "perlocutionary actions are those which aim at effects in the audience which cannot be accomplished dirough die possession of linguistic competence alone" (p. 42). The effects aimed at are typically concerned with changing or reinforcing "die way die audience looks and feels about things" (p. 95), and are standardly achieved dirough "the use ofsuch devices as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony" (p. 46); metaphor is "the most powerful" (p. 53) and is analyzed in a Davidsonian way which sharply separates meaning from use, thereby facUitating the condusion that "the effect ofmetaphor is indirect and perlocutionary and outside the conscious or unconscious intention of the author" (pp. 1 19— 21). This overaU account is related to die Platonic critique of rhetoric and poetry, and thumbnaU sketches are provided of the workings of phUosophical rhetoric in a number ofphUosophers from Descartes to Wittgenstein; the latter's very different reception by "analytic" and "recent French" phUosophers is a function ofdifferent aspects ofhis rhetoric; as these are perlocutionary effects, "there is no right or wrong here" (p. 148). Reviews427 So much for the official version; inteUigent, suggestive, refreshingly sane, but limited. That Mason is uneasy with it comes out at various points. He maintains, for example, that Wittgenstein "is a 'hot' phUosopher taken to be 'cool' " (p. 145), which suggests that error is possible in interpreting a phUosopher 's rhetoric. More seriously, we are told diat die flaws in Plato's "direct phUosophical argument" for die Forms do not matter since "understanding the Forms is . . . like die appropriation of the meaning of a poem" (p. 113); a little later we find diat "strict phUosophical argument is only part of the process of rational persuasion" (p. 122). But this suggests diat phUosophical endeavors to influence die ways an "audience looks and feels about tilings" do not neady divide into "strict" argument and rhetorical attempts to promote "die trutii which its phüosophy seeks or recommends" dirough somewhat uncontroUable perlocutionary effects. Mason's reluctance to acknowledge diis appears to stem from the suspicion that to do so would be to coUapse the distinction between rhetoric and phUosophy in a deconstructive manner, but this unease is Ul grounded; the Derridean assault depends on the positing of some such neat division in order to deconstructit. An investigation ofmore intimate connections between forms of rational argument and the tropes and other "devices" than that ofperlocutionary "indirection" appears to be called for (perhaps metaphor has also an Ulocutionary aspect) but that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 426-427
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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