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142Philosophy and Literature interest, Cavell's talk about happiness in these movies is surpassed in depdi and interest by very litde contemporary writing. Swarthmore CollegeRichard Eldridge The Nature ofCriticism, by Colin Radford and Sally Minogue; ? & 180 pp. Adantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1981, $30.00. The Nature of Criticism is packed with arguments, many of which are concerned widi investigating die precise nature of specific critical claims advanced by well-known writers such as René Wellek and F. R. Leavis. Radford and Minogue know both literature and criticism better than many phUosophers of art, and, unlike most uieorists, are wdling themselves to engage in criticism and to chide critics for mistedcen readings and Ulsupported interpretations. Because of its unusual — and largely successful — "case study" approach, its willingness to consider diverse aspects of criticism, its detaUed, fine-grained examination of the logic of critical judgments and arguments, and its philosophically sophisticated but accessible treatment of its topics, The Nature of Criticism is well worth reading. The first chapter, "The Complexities of Critical Judgements," attempts to show that even such banal classificatory judgments as "Hamlet is a tragedy" harbor hidden moral assumptions emd "cem be evaluative in various complex ways" (pp. 9- 10). It also examines the presuppositions of representative interpretive claims in order to determine the critical admissibility of information external to the text. This leads naturally to a discussion ofdie nature of critical arguments, with the relation between a feature cited by a critic in an argument, and its effect (on the critic and on us, as readers of the text and die criticism in question) being die primary object of attention. Differences between scientific and critical arguments are noted (p. 49), and it is urged that the basis for the objective idiom in criticism is agreement in our critical responses. The case study method is at its best in the extensive, detaUed analysis of Christopher Ricks's interpretation of part of Tennyson's In Memoriam. Many of die ideas previously introduced — many not noted above — are put to work here, and other new ideas, such as die view diat die normative dimension of critical arguments does not preclude but radier presupposes a causal dimension, are advanced and argued for. If anydiing can serve to demonstrate diat "critical arguments are frequently complex, elusive and rhetorically misleading as to their true nature, very diverse, and often dubious" (p. 1 14), it is Radford and Minogue's long, complicated, and subde discussion. Anodier question taken up by Radford and Minogue asks whether diere are any necessary conditions for excellence in eirt. Both Clive Bell's and Monroe Beardsle/s views are considered, dien rejected, and Beardsley^ definition of aesthetic experience is also objected to, being criticized as both too narrow emd "eccentric." Radford and Minogue conclude that it is unlikely that there are any substantive criteria of excellence in art. Reviews143 But Radford and Minogue aren't done with Beardsley yet. His General Criterion Theory — that the criteria of criticism are implicitly general — is rejected, as is Arnold Isenberg^ opposing view, that critical remarks — that is, reasons — are logically singular. What Isenberg did not realize, according to Radford and Minogue, is that "cause and target [roughly, the intentional object of our aesthetic responses and the logically proper subject of criticism] may and characteristically do coincide in aesthetic responses" (p. 157). Criticism, diey conclude, is "enormously various . . . highly complex and problematic , [and] cannot be treated as a science, [even] a faded one, with a normative dimension tagged on. [But] neither can it be treated as something sui generis, mysterious, whose truths are only apprehended, never proved" (p. 157). There is much that can be disagreed with in 7Ae Nature of Criticism, but diat, I think, is oflitde moment, all things considered. A book that provokes as much as this one does well deserves a reading by philosophers of art, by critics, and by all persons interested in literature and literary criticism. Philadelphia College of ArtMichael Wreen ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 142-143
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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