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Shorter Reviews243 with clarity and directness, merits not uniformly distributed in this collection. The problem, in its broadest statement, is that of exposing and assessing the contexts within which the arguments and discussions of philosophers reside. The contrast of rationalism and empiricism as philosophical contexts, for example, is in an essential way a contrast of rhetorics. A rhetoric is not just a vehicle for philosophical truths: "Rhetoric is discovery as well as presentation or persuasion" (p. 63). Continuing the second emphasis, Johnstone's essay, because of its separation of the internal and external properties of arguments, has the potential for the development of a kind of conceptual map on which it may be possible to locate, among other things, Natanson's account of indirection, Booth's analysis of irony, and Kenneth Burke's discussion of metaphor ("Rhetoric, Poetics, and Philosophy"). University of Michigan—DearbornEdward M. Sayles Conrad: The Moral World ofthe Novelist, by R. A. Gekoski; ix & 206 pp. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978, $19.50. Gekoski loves Conrad and can write movingly about his works and characters. This book is meant to protect Conrad, partly through focus on the term "obscure," from scholarly misunderstandings. Sometimes Gekoski's author strikes us as an intellectual Quixote who tilts at a dozen windmills—mechanism, libertarianism, egoism, altruism, etc.—as if they were just two Sphinxes. Nevertheless, the book does bring out handily several other faults in Conrad and makes an engaging case that they are faults of greatness. And all the cracker-barrel metaphysics (worthy of winter in DeCorby's Generat Store, Enilda, Alberta) cannot smother Gekoski's attractive style. But this book is full of confusions that a little philosophical discipline could have avoided. Its Library of Congress statement, its dust jacket and, especially, its first chapter express philosophical intentions. It mentions a number of philosophers, yet to what purpose? What is the book really about? Though we remain somewhat puzzled, at page 8 we have reread: "It is commonly recognized that Conrad's writings seem to assert two very different value systems. . . . On the one hand, he stresses the private and individual nature of man's existence . . . 'his vision of personal autonomy' . . . while on the other, he affirms the public and moral obligations of human existence . . . his 'vision of social responsibility'. . . . Although it is not logically necessary that a vision of man as an autonomous being must conflict with a vision of him as a social being, most commentators are agreed that it is very hard to see how Conrad reconciled them." At times, then, it seems to be Gekoski's main intention to establish that Conrad in his four best works (of 1900-1904) showed he could embrace both views (without logical contradiction and, also, with convincing 244Philosophy and Literature grace) through achieving balance, comprehensive understanding, and tension of a creative kind (passion). The remaining chapters, even the final one, are devoted to summaries of various superior and inferior works, and to discussions sometimes relevant to his point about proper balance in the best writings only. No systematic conclusions are duly worked out anywhere. Two quite different ideas of reconciliation-and-creative-tension seem to be conflated. One is philosophical, as promised, but we only find it at all clearly and appropriately pursued with regard to a few personal leanings at the end of the chapter on Lord Jim (pp. 106-107). Gekoski's second idea is not philosophical but "purely" literary: in Conrad's most moving and best crafted writings he seeks to describe situations of human beings in ways which are profound, but apparently opposed. A related, unphilosophical point is that, when Conrad drops the tensions and moralizes too conventionally without "existential" contrasts, his work, especially the work of his last decade, may deservedly bore us (cf. p. 137). Apart from confusing these objectives, the author in his surveys knocks into a baffling array of Philosophical Opposites. He talks either as if some of these were identical (!) with Conrad's two views of man, or as if members of each new set of opposites had been clearly identified and distinguished, so as to fit obviously into one or the other of those two (and only two) Conradian world views...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 243-244
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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