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Reviews405 Here Freudian theory engages with the thought of Plato, Hobbes, Kant, and J. S. Mill. Wallwork is remarkably successful in bringing together Freud's scattered reflections on freedom, autonomy, and moral responsibility, and in weaving them into a coherent account. Elegandy written and carefully argued, this book exposes the shallowness of the view that psychoanalysis is relendessly relativistic, amoral, deterministic, and egoistic. By demonstrating that moral considerations are inscribed in the texts that form the basis of psychoanalytic theory, itbridges the gap that has existed for far too longbetween psychoanalysis and ethics. Ohio State UniversityRobert D. Cottrell The Logical Basis ofMetaphysics, by Michael Dummett; xi & 355 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991, $34.95. Among contemporary philosophers of language, Michael Dummett's only peers may be Willard Quine and Donald Davidson. If his ideas have been less widely familiar or influential than theirs, this is due in part to the fact that his writing style, complex and diffuse, has proven forbidding to many; also, in large part, it is because to date Dummett has presented his thoughts about language primarily in the submerged form of a voluminous series of books and essays of commentary on the philosophy of Gotdob Frege. In some of the essays gathered in his Truth and OtherEnigmas (1978), and in subsequent writings yet uncollected, segments and aspects of the subtle tapestry of Dummett's philosophy of language have become visible; but only with the publication of these 1976 William James lectures—expanded into fifteen chapters in the intervening years—have students of his thought had the chance to survey the larger design, relatively complete and unobscured. The prospect of a comprehensive statement by a major philosopher must arouse large expectations and, from this point of view, it has to be said that the book is not fully satisfactory. Though Dummett has made more effort than usual to signpost the steps and sequences of his argument with subheads and the like, his presentation remains difficult; on the other hand, his introduction to this volume, on the value of philosophic inquiry, stands as the best thing he has written, and should become a touchstone in its own right. A more serious flaw is that Dummett has organized his material without regard for his readers' familiarity with formal logic. Highly technical material on formal semantics 406Philosophy and Literature pervades the first three chapters, and it is to be feared that nonspecialists will not find their way through to the next four chapters, which discuss topics in the theory ofmeaning that should hold profound interest for anyone concerned with the nature and workings of language. The idea that a systematic general account of linguistic meaning and understanding is possible, organized around the semantic concepts of truth, reference , and assertion in the manner first suggested (if in a narrower philosophical context) by Frege, represents Dummett's chief claim to the attention of all those in the humanities—literary critics and linguists among them—for whom language has come to seem not only the key to many mysteries facing inquirers in these fields, but also a mystery in its own right. In this relation, Dummett has evolved a fascinating synthesis and critique of ideas from Frege, Wittgenstein, Quine, and Davidson, which offers an alternative to the intellectual impasses created by over-reliance, of a kind very common in critical theory, on models of language that are exclusively formalistic (roughly, structuralist and semiotic) or psychologistic (phenomenological or hermeneutic). Dummett himselfdoes not make such claims—his interests lie elsewhere. But a better general description than is now available in the humanities of the basic mechanisms of linguistic communication can only improve our uncertain grasp of such inherently linguistic phenomena as fictionality, figurative language, and interpretation . Chapters 4—7, then, along with chapter 14, oudine the requirements and the difficulties involved in a theory of meaning ofthe kind Dummett contemplates, and are nontechnical if not easy reading, which will amply repay any amount of study. The intervening chapters turn to the more technical question of what would justify—or count against—laws of deductive inference. Though it may seem arcane, this topic is fundamental to Dummett's philosophy of language, and the problem with this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 405-406
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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