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Reviews195 The End ofModernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Postmodern Culture, by Gianni Vattimo; translated with an introduction by Jon R. Synder; Iviii & 190 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988, $27.50. This collection ofessays is the first book to appear in English by one of Italy's most popular philosophers. Vattimo has hosted a regular series of television shows in Italy and has ten books to his credit on figures as diverse as Aristode, Schleiermacher, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Indeed, it is Nietschze and Heidegger —together with Gadamer, with whom he studied and whose Truth and Method he has translated into Italian—that provide the philosophical sources in his own exploration of postmodernism. In a useful introduction, the translator takes us through some of the background to postwar Italian philosophy, which has been characterized principally by a commitment either to Marxism, especially in Gramsci's distinctive interpretation, or to phenomenology and existentialism. Although Vattimo evidendy began in the early 1960s by flirting with a form of Heideggerian existentialism, he soon moved to a philosophical nihilism, and this view is distinctive of the essays translated here, which were written between 1980 and 1984. Nihilism is not easy to characterize, but basically it consists in the project of collapsing objective truth into subjective value, a project which, in its Nietzschian version, is associated with a perspectival view of knowledge, morality, politics, etc. What Nietzsche had in mind as the target for his nihilism is, however, an open question, and it is debatable whether it extended much beyond Christian morality and those philosophical systems which in one way or another attempt to "rationalize" that morality, or which can be seen as providing its sources (e.g., Stoicism). To complement Nietzsche's vision with Heidegger's project of overcoming the metaphysical preoccupation with Being certainly gives it the appearance of something altogether more universal, but readers doubtful as to whether this is anything more than an appearance will not find much in these essays to convince them otherwise. This is not to say that Vattimo simply grafts Heidegger onto Nietzsche; on the contrary, in his introduction he spends some time spelling out their similarities and differences. The central theme that they share, he believes, is the impossibility of overcoming Western metaphysics , since the provision of such a means could itself only be a move within metaphysics. Such an argument is, of course, very familiar diese days, from the writings of Derrida and others, and Vattimo adds nothing new. The most problematic part ofVattimo's project is his association ofmodernity with secularization, an association that seems to lie at the heart of his advocacy of postmodernism. That the modern era (the era from roughly die end of the sixteenth century onwards) is characterized by a wholesale secularization of religious values, standards, and conceptions is a thesis which has a wide currency 196Philosophy and Literature in the German tradition of philosophical anthropology to which Vattimo owes so much. If one accepts this thesis, developed in most detail by Vattimo's early teacher Karl Lowith, together with Nietzsche's criticism ofChristian values, and an appreciation of the difficulty any mere secularization is going to have in trying to go beyond the religious values it takes as its raw material, then the path to postmodernism seems assured. But why should we accept the secularization thesis? Vattimo seems unaware of the debates surrounding the thesis, and especially the very detailed (and to my mind decisive) objections to the idea that modernity is to be characterized in terms of a secularization raised by Hans Blumenberg in his Legitimacy of tL· Modern Age, a book which is not even mentioned, despite its central relevance to what Vattimo wants to argue. There is litde in Vattimo's book to challenge modernists, or to inspire postmodernists , and while some of the discussion of hermeneutics is interesting, even here we find nothing novel or especially engaging. University of SydneyStephen Gaukroger Redrawing the Lines: Analytic PhUosophy, Deconstruction, and Literary Theory, edited by Reed Way Dasenbrock; 263 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, $35.00 cloth, $14.95 paper. The Anglo-American analytic tradition has been coming into increasing "contact " with Continental philosophy, often by means...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 195-196
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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