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378Philosophy and Literature positions that need to enter into general social and cultural discourse, a discourse that the phenomenally best-selling books by E. D. Hirsch and Allan Bloom have narrowly defined and come to rule. "No matter how magisterially delivered," Smith concludes, "and with what attendant claims or convictions ofuniversality, unconditionality, impersonality, or objectivity, any assertion of 'die value' of some object can always be unpacked as a judgment of its contingent value and appropriated accordingly" (p. 97). "Since the contingency of all value," she further emphasizes, "cannot be evaded, whoever does the urging cannot ultimately suppress, or ultimately evade taking responsibility for, the particularity of the perspective from which he does so" (p. 160). Such sentences, and the exacting arguments that lie behind them, pose sharp challenges to Bloom in particular, but perhaps their power tends to get muted by the specialized, rather abstract idiom to which Smith adheres. Her book's great strength is its meticulous , subde scrutiny of terms and assessment of arguments; its limitation is that its mode ofaddress and technical procedures may prevent it from exerting an even more potent impact on general cultural debate. Wellesley CollegeWilliam E. Cain The Philosopher as Writer: The Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert Ginsberg; 245 pp. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania: Susquehanna University Press, 1987, $32.50. This volume contains nine essays on literary aspects of eighteenth-century philosophical writing. The subjects of these include both major and minor philosophical figures (Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Hume, Pope, Herder, and WoIlstonecraft ), while the contributors represent several disciplines including philosophy , intellectual history, and literary studies. As is common with such collections , there is a certain lack ofunity to the volume as a whole, notwithstanding die merits of the individual essays. This is exacerbated by the disproportionate philosophical statures of the authors discussed and by the different academic backgrounds of die contributors. Nevertheless there is at least one theme that unites several of the essays: the status of philosophical rhetoric. A familiar tradition proceeding from Plato opposes philosophy to rhetoric: the former is concerned with truth, the latter with persuasion. Lester G. Crocker's contribution is firmly in this tradition. Crocker presents a close rhetorical analysis of Rousseau's two Discourses to show how Rousseau seeks to persuade the reader of what he cannot demonstrate and then goes on sternly to distance genuine philosophy from such sophistry. But this traditional division between rhetorical form and philosophical content fails to dojustice to much eighteenth-century philosophical writing: notably the major British empiricists, whose writing styles self-consciously attempted a Reviews379 balance between rational demonstration and persuasiveness. Hume, that selfavowed "man of letters," is an obvious case in point and two interesting essays are devoted to texts by him. Donald T. Siebert's is on the manner of the Treatise and argues that style and meaning are not neady separable in that work, for there we see Hume in theprocessofdiscoveringhis philosophy. RobertGinsberg's detailed analysis of the essay "Of the Standard of Taste" shows how Hume's literary strategy there is to cause the reader to experience what the author is talking about. Mary Wollstonecraft's rhetorical situation was, according to Laurie A. Finke's interpretation, even more intricate. For she was forced to address men on die issue of women's liberation in a language created by men for the oppression of women. On this reading some of her apparent infelicities of style can be explained as part of her challenge to the patriarchal rhetoric of her time. The picture Finke presents of eighteenth-century male philosophers as uniformly elevating reason (masculine) over the passions (feminine) is historically oversimplified ; consider Hume's position, for instance. But the general argument is stimulating and helps us better understand Wollstonecraft's achievement. Kant is not an obvious candidate for literary analysis (though John A. McCarthy's essay cites him as seminal for the development of the philosophical essay as a German genre). However, a fine piece by Stephen F. Barker provides a succinct account of Kant's philosophical project in the first Critique and its connection with several aspects of his expository style, including an amusing and illuminating representation of the faculties of the mind as protagonists in a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 378-379
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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