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Reviews123 leagues, the two dabble in the logic of detection with scarcely a glance at the impressive body of theory and criticism on the detective story which has accrued in the last ten years. The casual "let's-see-what-happens" approach marks Sebeok's introduction: "A key question addressed, explicitly or implicitly, by most of die contributors to this volume, is whether any juxtapositions of the American polymath with the great English detective . . . are likely to vent esperable uberty?" Sebeok glosses "esperable uberty" as "hoped-for abundance," but aside from abundant typographical errors, the collection does not display the expected "rich growth." It reveals instead a quirky effort to transform enthusiasm for Holmes and Peirce into a book "important for epistemology and the history of science." However efforts to connect Peirce's abduction theory with the methods of Holmes finally prove pointless. In detective fiction, Eco at last concedes, abduction is really a display of"infallibility," having litde to do with the fallible process by which human beings construct clever hypotheses and run the risk of failure. Louisiana State UniversityJ. Gerald Kennedy The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, by Jean-François Lyotard; translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi; xxv & 110 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, $19.50 cloth, $8.95 paper. Do truth and justice have validity anymore? If so, what legitimates the narratives that sustain such fundamental notions? These are the momentous questions that constitute a framework for Lyotard's own narrative on the postmodern condition. Lyotard's essay — originally published in 1979, now expertly translated — is a welcome addition to the American critical scene. Lyotard's work takes up a particular strain of critical thinking that marked the structuralist era in France but was never allowed to develop fully in this country because of deconstruction's fashionable reign. Thus, by allowing that there exists a nontextual "real" that acts as a source of cognitive effects, Lyotard situates his writing at the intersection of aesthetic, ethical, political, and epistemological concerns: it is itself postmodern in its strategy. The postmodern condition is based on a paradox: it marks a moment in the very constitution of a modernity. In this sense, its tense is the future perfect because, instead of depending on categories or rules that exist already, it favors strategies that "formulate the rules of what will have been done" (p. 81). The postmodern condition is the anteriority of a cognitive threshold — its aims are realized in a search "for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable" (p. 81). The postmodern condition is also characterized by a sense of crisis due to a disbelief in all the dialectical, hermeneutic, or scientific metadiscourses that have 124Philosophy and Literature heretofore served to validate knowledge and to explain the human condition. The human has become both mechanized and marketable: human nature is information stored in data banks; human tendencies and needs are recognized and satisfied to the extent that these "tendencies and needs have purchasing power" (p. 76). The hegemony of computers in imposing its own special logic and knowledge has ceased to be an end in its own right, as it was in the humanistic tradition; its use value is determined by goals of performance and efficacity, by criteria relating to the production, storage, accessibility, and operativity of information. The power of knowledge is proportional to its deployment in industrial, commercial, and military activities. On an individual plane, the value of knowledge is related to a subject's socioeconomic status because, in a capitalist economy, knowledge follows "the flow of money in which some channels are used in decision making while others are good only for the payment of debts" (p. 6). If the current cultural paradigm — an amalgam of rationales valorizing humanism and enlightenment — is no longer able to justify social contracts and political responsibility, what a postmodern critique needs to elaborate first is a tactic for escaping the system of unifying and totalizing truths that serves the designs of those who are in charge. From a postmodern critical perspective, knowledge is a "savoir" understood as a totality of competencies that determines the situation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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