Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (review)
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156Philosophy and Literature Prince discusses, by Sartre (La Nausée), Simon (La Route des Flandres), and Modiano . A surprising aspect of Prince's work is the degree to which thematic study hinges on brilliant observation of minute grammatical features. In his chapter on Voltaire's Candide, the critic shows the interplay between competing narratives that are constructed out of the same events. The philosopher Pangloss, the naïve Candide, and the primary narrator (Dr. Ralph or the "translator"?) are all engaged in explaining what happens. Prince analyzes in detail the explanatory clauses and the conjunctions that introduce them to show differences in the principles and scope of the explanatory systems. Similarly, for Simon's novel, Prince shows that among the "repair terms" with which the narrator adjusts and corrects what has been told, c'est-à-dire ("that is to say") is privileged as marker of an indeterminate voice, formulator of a "ruptured discourse" in which the possibilities of historical narration are severely limited and criticized. Although about half of the studies collected here have appeared in some other form, Narrative as tteme is a unified, readable work in which the juxtaposition of narratives over three centuries leads to intriguing comparative possibilities . Prince's simple, pragmatic, and convincing definition of the "theme" (as opposed to topic and plot) is useful and his applications of this concept are exemplary. University of VirginiaJohn D. Lyons Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism, by Stanley Cavell; xxxix & 151 pp. Chicago: UniversityofChicago Press, 1990, $10.95. Stanley Cavell says early on what he means by perfectionism, an uncommon word in philosophical discussions ofethics these days, even though many words are being said by people who are still in the prewithdrawal stage of their ethics habit. "Perfectionism, as I think of it, is not a competing theory of the moral life, but something like a dimension or tradition of the moral life that spans the course of Western thought and concerns what used to be called the state of one's soul . . ." (p. 2). This is a large claim in a small book, but one should remember that it connects up with the course of Cavell's thinking. His concentration on this matter stretches back at least to Must We Mean What We Say?, written between 1957 and 1967. This book marks a return to direct engagement (not followed by marriage) with some recent and well-known texts in AngloAmerican analytic philosophy. Reviews157 Conditions (the 1988 Carus Lectures) has a tripartite structure. The first chapter takes up Cavell's rehabilitation of Emerson, showing Emerson's links to Nietzsche and Heidegger in particular. The second deals with Wittgenstein, another figure of perennial interest for Cavell. Saul Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (1982) motivates the discussion in that section. In the final chapter, one finds Cavell working his way through John Rawls's A Theory ofJustice (1971), the touchstone for almost anyone who wants to talk with analytic philosophers about ethics. As an immigrant in many disciplines, Cavell often speaks to audiences that wonder how to take him, since he seems to be too literary for some philosophers' tastes, too philosophical for some literary critics, insufficiently psychological for some Freudians, perhaps not qualified enough for some feminist film theorists. Sometimes Cavell has not been met with the hospitality travelers used to receive, nor has he always found the openness among groups who claim to have open arms for the Other. Cavell wastes no time in provoking. Already on page 7 he presents a list of readings related to perfectionism, the sort of list that provides fodder for canon skeptics. This is no ordinary list of Great Western texts, for he includes Zen Master Bankei, Veblen's Theory oftheLeisure Class, and Now, Voyager. The products of popular culture attract Cavell's attention as much as Plato, Kant, or Heidegger . He sees a "wild intelligence" in American popular culture. Still, Cavell's point does not rise or fall with his list, and one needs to go back to Emerson's individualism to understand. "Emerson is not suggesting that we add more books and concerts and galleries to our lives, nor speaking of any thing open only...