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1 1 8 Philosophy and Literature intimate acquaintance with and broad knowledge of the dialogues. He shows convincingly that Plato was aware of the inconclusiveness of dialectic in the quest for philosophical truth, especially in the areas of metaphysics and epistemology. And, as Elias propounds, illustrates, and tests his thesis, he throws light in passing on many of the major problems ofPlatonic scholarship. This is unsurprising, given the organic and closely structured, even "poetic" nature, of Plato's dialogues. Especially interesting are his comments on Plato's supposed mistrust and contempt for the physical world and Plato's real mistrust of die written word as a valid medium for philosophical exchange. Elias is consistently instructive, lively, and perceptive; in an area of scholarship where accepted doctrines of criticism, naively transmitted, swiftly achieve the status of dogma, Elias is most refreshing. This is true also ofhis demolition of the more excessive effusions of his predecessors in the field. For example he writes of Crossman that his "background in classics before he stumbled into politics gave him a thorough grounding in the texts, but he is betrayed in this book into a by-now dated topicalism. . . ." Crossman's book is now of interest "only because, after a steady diet of religious mysticism it is refreshing to be reminded that Plato was a political thinker of the first rank" (p. 101). He also presents a stinging rebuttal of Popper: "Plato is too complex and elusive to be captured in these few phrases. There is a tragic vision, but it is lightened and redeemed by a comic sense that expresses itself in the most exquisite irony, parody and good-humored banter. Popper's device for handling this, where he notices it, is to give the good bits to Socrates and the bad bits to Plato" (p. 110). It is open to doubt whether Elias is totally successful in sustaining his thesis. One might argue that his definitions of"poetry" and "myth" require too much special pleading, that Plato would have been explicit rather than implicit in his defense of poetry. The final chapter seems a little thin by comparison with the preceding riches. The constant striving for epigram sometimes strains the clarity of expression, but this was a book on Plato which did not put me to sleep. The following quotation shows why: "Plato's hostility to the flute always startles the modern reader, who thinks of the flute as a chaste, long, thin instrument with hardly any protruberances played by a girl of approximately the same description " (p. 21). University of Canterbury, New ZealandR. P. Bond The Object ofLiterary Criticism, by Richard Shusterman; 237 pp. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1984, $23.00. The ontological status, identity, interpretation, and evaluation of the literary work are the four issues for "analysis and resolution" in this book. Given that Reviews119 Richard Shusterman is unashamedly Wittgensteinian, it comes as no surprise that little is resolved on these issues. The issues are claimed to be interdependent . What is argued is that they are often so. A new answer is given to the ontological question. Thereafter much is canvassed in a wholesome Wittgensteinian way but there are no answers. The book becomes a (useful) compendium of the various positions. Pluralism is the order of the day but by adoption, not argumentation. It is not for the philosopher to settle which position is right (if any). That is for the critics. We must "rely on the survival ofthe fittest" (p. 169)! Accustomed emblems in the form of quotations from Wittgenstein are held aloft. Shusterman does take a position on the ontological status of the literary work. It is ontologically complex in that it is an entity which has various aspects belonging to different ontological categories. Crucially, it exists both as manifestation and that which is manifested. It would seem this entity is ontologically suigeneris: it is not an abstract entity, nor a universal, nor a type, nor is it a compound of different entities. Reluctantly a positive account is offered: the literary work is a verbal formula (pattern). However, this seems more a label than anything else. Obviously links from that formulation to the views ofKendall Walton, Richard...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 118-120
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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