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Shorter Reviews267 refuses to identify with his own motives, reasons, and non-capricious actions provides not only an effective introduction to Bergmann's theoretical stance, but, incidentally, a new perspective for interpreting Dostoyevsky's novella. Aside from such references, On Being Free has a literary life of its own. Without sacrificing either clarity or precision, Bergmann incorporates within his argument a remarkable number of bright metaphors, similes, analogies, and parables. The result is more than entertaining, for Bergmann's aim is to displace the metaphorical imagery bequeathed to us by older theories of freedom. Like most philosophy worth reading, On Being Free leaves ample room for significant debate. The problem of determinism, for example, is consigned to an appendix where a briefcritique of indeterminacy (similar toJohn Hospers's) is followed by a declaration that Bergmann's idea of freedom is compatible with causality. But something is missing. The inadequacy of mere indeterminism does not clear the way for understanding how a causally inevitable process of identification with a causally inevitable set of personal qualities can constitute "real" freedom. The standard complaint that original philosophy is becoming increasingly inaccessible to readers outside the discipline has elicited some very cogent explanations from professional philosophers. But Bergmann's response is better. The accessibility of his text never falters. On Being Free should be read by everyone interested in freedom. Susquehanna UniversityRichard Kamber Tolstoy's Major Fiction, by Edward Wasiolek; pp. 255. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978, $12.00. In steering a path between the deconstructive ecstasies of Derridian criticism and the humanist lights of traditional scholarship, Wasiolek's fine new study of Tolstoy makes an interesting case for critical theory as something more than a spinning-out of abstract ingenuities. One is struck by the amount of implicit theorizing which stands behind his practical judgments. Wasiolek has absorbed a great deal of what other critics, notably the Russian Formalists, have had to say about Tolstoy. His approach takes account of their strengths and weaknesses, by way of building up an argument to the effect that the novelist's breadth of vision transcends the puzzles and contradictions discovered by his critics. The result is a book which splendidly vindicates the grandeur and consistency of Tolstoy's fiction, while meeting his commentators on problematic grounds of their own choosing. In a sense it takes up the structuralist issue of authorial vision versus the ruses and obliquities of interpretation. However, the strength of Wasiolek's reading lies in its disciplined adherence to the shape and logic of Tolstoy's fictional world. The point of departure is often a problem of 268Philosophy and Literature critical understanding, located somewhere in the history of Tolstoy's modern reception. Where the argument comes out, on the other hand, is always in the sphere of Tolstoy's realized intentions, where everything serves to exemplify the unity and purpose of his writing. The chapters on War and Peace and Anna Karenina are naturally the heart of Wasiolek's reading, and bring out the objectives of his critical approach. He is anxious to defend War and Peace against those more or less hostile critics (Henry James in particular) who regard the novel as an outsized chunk of unmediated "life," and deny it the qualities of organized "art." This simplified distinction merely represents, as Wasiolek goes on to argue, the evasive tactics of a criticism balked and bewildered by Tolstoy's narrative scale. Even its admirers, with the best of intentions, have mostly reduced War and Peace to a series of binary oppositions, from which Wasiolek selects just a few—"illusion and reality," "the country and the city," "the rational and the irrational"—to show up their obvious inadequacy. What is needed is an organizing center of attention which answers to Tolstoy's irreducibly manifold creation, without either giving up the quest for its sources of coherence, or pinning it down too neatly in abstract categories. In his readiness to see both sides of the equation—Tolstoy's belief in a unified, harmonious human life and his sense of the forces which constantly threaten it—Wasiolek faithfully enacts the struggling many-sidedness of Tolstoy's fiction. If he appeals in the end to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 267-269
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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