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Reviews149 One of the few motifs that does recur dirough Schlant's analysis is that of dissolution, which she links to the strong sense ofdecline experienced in Vienna and to the "rise-and-fall" theories of Nietzsche and Spengler. Although Schlant claims that "Broch's intellectual struggles . . . can be viewed as an attempt to rid himself of these powerful conditionings" (p. 24), Broch appears litde interested in forsaking those cultural traditions. Even Schlant tells us that "The Sleepwalkers showed the disintegration of values in three successive stages" (p. 78). And she identifies as the centerpiece of his unfinished mass psychology a cyclical theory of history that saw this century in decline. The one major work of Broch's which Schlant discusses only briefly, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Ms Time, possibly provides the key for Broch's concerns. That study, which Broch described as concerned more with an era than with Hofmannsthal, portrays an age of decline in which one can talk of "art and its non-style." The book offers an acerbic picture of the age of Broch's youth. And appropriately, the book concludes not with Hofmannsthal but with Karl Kraus, for it is finally in the tradition of Kraus that Broch is writing: both his fiction and his philosophy partake of the Viennese cultural Cassandra. There remains, however, the theme of literature, which Schlant leaves relatively untouched. In discussing TL· Death of Virgil, she describes Broch's Virgil in the hallucinatory last twenty-four hours of his life, a man who "sees the failure of his art" and wants his Aeneid put to flames. Schlant does not go much further than to suggest Broch's skepticism about art, when one should recognize The Death of Virgil as a novel overdetermined by literary diematics and problematics thatdemand close attention. The very choice ofVirgil suggests a literary world diat is part of Broch's identity. In her study of Hermann Broch, Schlant has attempted to right a wrong by paying attention to a partofBroch's intellectual production undervalued during his life. With great economy she discusses a large number of important themes and insights, showing excellent command over difficult material. But she might have given more coherence to Broch's concerns and truly confronted his literary achievement. University of California, BerkeleyCarl Landauer Plato's Socratic Conversations: Drama and Dialectic in Three Dialogues, by Michael C. Stokes; xiii & 520 pp. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, $35.00. This book promises more than it delivers. It promises to further the inte- 150Philosophy and Literature gration of philosophical and literary approaches to Plato. It delivers vast quantities of intricate analysis and argument of a kind not uncommon in the Plato industry. Plato himself did not believe that analysis and argument were the only tools that the philosopher should use in his pursuit of wisdom. Socrates might, however, have believed this and Stokes seems to believe it too. The main thesis of his book is that the dialectical character of the dialogues must be taken seriously, if we are to understand the philosophical discourses they contain. This is a plausible thesis: the Socratic dialogues are conversations, not lectures, and we need to think carefully about the nature of a discourse which is the product, not of one, but of two or more interacting speakers. Stokes is surely right to take this seriously. But his tide refers also to drama, and there is far more to drama than just conversation of a discursive sort. There is not really anything about drama in Stokes's book. What is distinctive about the dialectical approach? The most naïve method of reading Plato's early dialogues is to assume that Socrates participates in the discussions in the humanly normal way: that is, that he has views of his own which he desires to explain and defend, and that he is concerned also to elicit and (where appropriate) to criticize the views of his interlocutors. Given this method of reading, Socrates' own beliefs can be gathered from his explicit assertions, are implicit in his questions, and are present in the premises of arguments he deploys. The first lesson to learn in reading Plato is that these natural assumptions are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 149-151
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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