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Reviews391 Given the amount of scholarly ink that has been spilled of late by writers such as Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Nagel, and Harry Frankfurt, to name only a few examples, I'm inclined to say that the shift has already taken place, and that dialectic loses its revolutionary status in this regard. Another instance of this seeming inattentiveness to others' efforts is Davis's statement that "the analytic tradition is dominated by the question of how an essentially passive mind . . . comes to know Objects' and is shaped by them . . ." (p. 320). The statement ceases to be altogether accurate once we take into account the directions analytic philosophy has taken since the late work of Wittgenstein. The more global claims Davis makes in this book—from which all the names I've mentioned are conspicuously absent—would have gained depth from having engaged more fully with these "other ways of thinking " in the course of the self-criticism that he says dialectical thinking must continually undergo. Davis indicates that the book grew out of disagreements with the late Richard McKeon, R. S. Crane, and Robert Marsh over the value of dialectical method. This choice of interlocutors no doubt explains why this helpful book occasionally had me wondering why its author did not discuss the more recent work of writers who share his concerns. University of ChicagoDavid M. Thompson After Principles, by Garrett Barden; ? & 273 pp. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990, $19.95. "Writing ... is an ethical activity. It has its own specific character but it shares with all ethical activity the attempt to create, from within the tradition and within the particular situation in which the writer finds him- or herself, a future for which the author takes responsibility" (p. viii). So Barden claims in his preface. Central to this study is a broadening of the scope of ethics to include everything about which human beings deliberate and choose—from the seemingly trivial ("whether to take a second chocolate," his example) to global policy issues. He believes that construing the field ofethics so widely is more coherent than the tendency to ignore much of what we usually consider trivial and hence nonethical. Indeed, such distinctions—as matters for deliberation and choiceare themselves ethical concerns. As such, he claims, they are not invariant or "given"; they are subject to revision. Within the ethical field so widely construed, the daily question, "What should I do here, now?" recurringly arises to confront us. It is important for Barden that we go about answering this question, and eventually taking ethical action, all the time, without needing to resort to ethical 392Philosophy and Literature theory. Nevertheless, as beings who recurringly question our own practices, resorting to theory—writing theoretically about ethics—is one of the ethical practices in which we characteristically engage. In fact, the pervasive operation ofquestioning, Barden claims, is not only at the source ofour ethics, our values (our valuing), but also provides the hope of having an authentic conversation about ethics and finding common ground. After critiquing long-standing traditions in Western ethics, as least as old as Occam, for their emphasis on propositions, logical systems, and extrinsic norms (such as God's command, the command of the secular Sovereign, or natural law), Barden seeks to shift the emphasis to operations. In a nutshell, this is his argument: There are "no given or innate propositions." Our "traditions place us in different, and, at least sometimes, mutually incompatible horizons; but . . . our traditions . . . are themselves not ultimate." Rather, "a set of operations that give rise to traditions" is ultimate, and this set is common to us as human beings. So, we are "not irredeemably confined within the limits of our present selves" (p. vii). Criticism of our own views as well as those of others is possible. What are these common operations? They are processes such as asking, wondering, determining, reflecting, deciding. They never occur in a vacuum, but always in a "tradition," which, as we noted, is not fixed or immutable but itself the object of choice, something for which we ourselves are responsible. Through the "dialectic" ofcomparison and the "rhetoric" ofquestions, feelings, and images we may be moved—or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 391-392
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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