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Shorter Reviews125 triumph for sense or sensibility. And there are curious omissions; surely Godwin ought to have been mentioned. The larger question is whether Berger is not fighting a war that never was. Most of the developments in fiction which he cites in support of his claim that there is a war on are better construed as crises in the development of fiction itself than as attempts to supplant the social sciences. Surely the early English novel and the work of Zola demonstrate a frequent concern for near-scientific verisimilitude and an interest in social problems—but in large part arguments for and against literalness and verisimilitude stem from a concern about what makes for effective fiction qua fiction, not from concern about what fiction most effectively argues social issues. The same is true, I think, of the modern French novel, and even in the cases of Capote and Mailer. Even if there is a war on, claims like Berger's (pp. 249-50) that "Nonfiction works on social problems sell much better than novels on the same or any other subjects," display a kind of complaining tone and logical imprecision which might be tolerated in fiction, but which is out of place in the social sciences. Louisiana State UniversityMary Sirridge The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists, by Iris Murdoch; pp. 89. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977, $5.95. We are brought up to believe that it is important to distinguish works of philosophy from works of literature; and we imagine that we know, roughly, how to make that distinction. Pressed to articulate our intuitions, we might observe that literature tells stories that may or may not be true, while philosophy demands the truth; that literature aims at pleasure, while philosophy aims at understanding; that literature is particular, while philosophy is universal; that literature plays on the emotions, while philosophy addresses itself to reason alone; that literature simply presents scenes from life, while philosophy demands that writing give an account of itself, and reach its conclusions by acceptable modes of argument. Each one of these distinctions can be traced to Plato, who invented philosophy by inventing its distinctness from art. If we believe that philosophy cannot understand itself without reexamining the distinctions and asking what they presuppose about the nature of human rationality, we will be likely to want to turn to Plato's texts with our questions. Modern Plato criticism has given us little help here—perhaps because critics have not themselves been troubled enough about the separation to be curious about its origins. Iris Murdoch's book promised to remedy that defect. A novelist whose best work is deeply philosophical, a philosopher who has stressed (in The Sovereignty of Good) the 1 26Philosophy and Literature special role that beauty can play in motivating us to know the good, she is at once a sensitive thinker about these issues, a Platonist believer in human perfectability, and an artist. I approached this book with the hope that puzzling texts in the Republic and Phaedrus would find in Murdoch a lucid and sympathetic interpreter. For the most part, these hope were disappointed. Based on the 1976 Romanes Lecture, the essay has as its core an examination of Plato's arguments against art in major works of the middle period, and an attempt to provide an account of good art that will avoid his objections. It has been expanded for publication by the addition of long expository passages summarizing parts of other Platonic works. There are briefer discussions of Freud, Tolstoy, and Kant. It is unclear what the book's intended audience is. The style is relaxed and popular; there is a disappointing absence both of sustained argument and of close examination of particular texts. But no reader not already well versed in Plato could derive much benefit from Murdoch's casual summaries of difficult metaphysical passages, or her breezy account of the theory of forms. And no reader who does not know The Sovereignty of Good is likely to see what motivates some of the elliptical remarks about moral growth and egoism; but for those who do know it, little is added. One also misses any attempt to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 125-126
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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