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Reviews353 blurs somewhatamidsta recitation ofPercy's professional and personal activities, and a cautious discretion governs his discussion of Percy's spiritual crises in die 1970s. One wishes Toison had included more observations from Percy's friends and intellectual associates to deepen the study. On the other hand, Toison provides lucid and frequendy trenchant summaries of Percy's philosophical and religious views, and judiciously assesses his strengths and weaknesses as a novelist. But his discussion of the novels themselves is uneven, with only scant attention given to TL· Second Coming and TL· Thanatos Syndrome. Tolson's is the first of what will surely be many full-length biographies of Percy. It is a useful and valuable beginning, written with clarity and generosity and full of astute insights. Perhaps its greatest virtue is Tolson's demonstration that, even in this century, a person can accept Pascal's challenge, sit in a room with hope and courage, and win a measured victory. Whitman CollegeJohn F. Desmond The Adventure ofDifference: Philosophy after Nietzsche and Heidegger, by Gianni Vattimo; 192 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993, $29.95. This book collects seven densely argued yet astonishingly lucid essays written in the 1970s and published in Italian in 1980. It thus precedes by halfa decade the Italian original of TL· End ofModernity (1988), the book by which Vattimo has so far become known to readers of English. Yet the reader intrigued by Vattimo's very accessible rendering of postmodernism in TL· End ofModernity will certainly want to imbibe these earlier essays. They add litde regarding his advocacy of pensiero debole or "weak thought" (where weak means both modest and minimal in its claims, as well as gende in its mode ofmaking them), but theyoffer more sustained discussions ofNietzsche and Heidegger than did The End ofModernity, thus more fully illuminating the roots of philosophy in those thinkers. Still more importandy, they reveal his relationship to competing contemporary perspectives within this tradition— especially those of Gadamer and Derrida, the latter having been entirely neglected in the earlier translated work. Fundamentally, Vattimo's critique of Gadamer and Derrida is the same: neither takes the meaning of Heidegger's concept of ontological difference with sufficient urgency. Gadamer's dictum that "Being, which can be understood , is language," forgets die deeply problematic relation of Being and language ; his hermeneutics becomes a sterile academic exercise in conceiving the 354Philosophy and Literature historiographical act as dialogical, rather than as a practical guide to meaningful historical action in a world in which the model of dialectical historicism is exhausted. Similarly, Derrida is faulted forerasing "allcontent from difference," for being too concerned with the mere play of difference and insufficiendy attentive to remembering the problem of difference, which is less a matter of the human tendency to identify Being with beings than with our tendency to forget that this identification is tL· basic human problem. Thus Vattimo styles himself the radical Heideggerean against die revisionist epigoni. Yet in one respect he agrees with Derrida against Heidegger and that is in his evaluation of Nietzsche as no less antimetaphysical than Heidegger. Indeed, Vattimo argues that Nietzsche's concepts of eternal return and will to power are no less radical in their ability to get us out of the quagmire of metaphysics than is Heidegger's own concept (also very much favored by Vattimo ) of Andenken. What the two strategies have in common is their antifoundationalism and tiieir ability to think rigorously without foundations. Yet what is it precisely that is gained when we learn to think in this way? Here Vattimo appears unsure. He admits that the triumph of Andenken over metaphysics and the technological world would not "achieve anything like a global transformation of 'culture,' " yet he still thinks it would not be "without implications and effects at that level" (p. 131). Yet, beyond the suggestion that it would push the human sciences away from a natural-scientific and technological direction, he fails to indicate what such effects might be. Indeed he appears more concerned with proving thatAndenken is a realistic oudook capable oftaking hold culturally (by showing that it can be reached through technology rather than against it) than with explaining why we...


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pp. 353-354
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