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200Philosophy and Literature large segments of the Comedie, how "plot systems" can be identified in these segments, and how Balzac's famous reappearing characters not only evoke other parts of an all-encompassing action but evolve in a manner that comments on the evolution of their sphere of operation. Whereas previous chapters concentrated on only a limited number of texts, Pasco's final chapter draws convincingly on the entire Comédie. He knows it well; he is fascinated by the diversity and the unity it evinces on every page. He wants to show that this unity is due to craft and artistic genius even more than "realistic vision or [the author's] philosophy." He is trying to convince readers that there is a great deal to be gained by following the order Balzac imposed on his creation, and he succeeds. State University of New York at BinghamtonAlex Fischler The Anatomy ofPhilosophical Style, by Berel Lang; 277 pp. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1990, $44.95 cloth, $16.95 paper. Conventional wisdom, or dogma, draws several sharp and uncompromising distinctions between literature and philosophy. Philosophy is supposed to be independent of literary style. Though written in a style, its content is thought to be unaffected thereby, to be abstractable from it and even from the language in which it is written. Similarly, philosophy is supposed to be independent of genre, of authorial point of view, and of history. It is thought to be characteristically literal, whereas literature is characteristically figurative. It is said to be concerned with facts or reality, whereas literature is fiction. Thus, philosophy's concern is with truth, literature's with what is imagined, or even, and worse, with itself. Berel Lang attacks all of these complacent views, if not systematically, at least with tenacity and persistence. He points out, firstly, that philosophy cannot be read or understood ifwe do not advert to its stylistic properties. We must adopt an interpretative stance appropriate to the genre, to the authorial point ofview, to the identity of the implied author, and to the relation of author to implied reader. Thus, we cannot read philosophical dialogues, aphorisms, essays, and treatises in the same way. Descartes's Meditations must be read, as Descartes wanted, by going through the steps of the argument in our own minds, by Reviews201 "performing" rather than "observing" Cartesian thought. A Platonic dialogue needs considerable subtlety if we are to determine Plato's own beliefs. When we read Locke's Essay, we do not ignore the author, as it were, in order to concentrate upon his thought alone; rather, we read it as a text in which Locke occupies a certain role, that of a suppressed or invisible author. Philosophical contents, in short, cannot be considered in abstraction from the verbal texts that contain them. Neither can they be considered in abstraction from history. To do so, Lang points out, is to ignore "the corporate nature of much philosophical work, the enacting of a project whose collective features outweigh the obvious fact that writing is physically the work of a single hand" (p. 92). He rather slyly takes D. W. Gotshalk's Art and tL· Social Order as a book that illustrates this point. For all its commitment to ahistoricism, it is a member of what Lang happily calls the "Kantian Corporation." Lang also makes the interesting claim that philosophical language, far from being literal, employs the figure of irony as its characteristic trope. The reason for this is that the historic function of philosophy is to discover a deeper reality underneath appearances, and irony seems the most appropriate verbal form to express the relation of appearance to reality. The argument is ingenious, but I am not wholly convinced by it. My own inclination is to explain irony in terms of meaning, as a certain kind of relation between sentence meaning and utterance meaning, rather than in terms of reference. However, the notion of a reality underlying appearances leads to the claim that philosophy, unlike literature, has a special interest in "facts" and "truth." Lang attacks this view with particular effectiveness, notably in a splendid chapter on autobiography. While I do not agree with everything that he has to say...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 200-201
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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