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Reviews209 if MacDiarmid expressed contradictory ideas in his work it was not in a spirit ofirresponsible eclecticism: "Contradictions emerged as he explored his world, his politics and metaphysics. He was not 'hopelessly contradictory' in the positions he took up: he was fuU ofhope" (p. 193). As McCarey remarks elsewhere, "MacDiarmid treated the word 'impossible' as seriously as did Robert de Luzarches , whose masons buUt Amiens cathedral with a plumb-line and a knotted rope" (p. 126). University of WaikatoAlan Riach Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event, by Jean-François Lyotard ; 1 12 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, $20.00. Where to locate the elusive Lyotard? Over the years, many have asked this question about the protean poststructuralist, and in 1986 the organizers of the WeUek Library Lectures at the University ofCalifornia at Irvine invited Lyotard himself to respond. His answer, contained in the three lectures collected in this volume, is that he is not on any phüosophical map, but off in the clouds—for "thoughts are clouds" (p. 5), fuzzy-edged, shifting, essentially temporal formations that summon us to their exploration. Lyotard calls that summons "law" and its proper response "probity": "Imagine the sky as a desert full of innumerable cumulus clouds slipping by and metamorphosing themselves, and into whose flood your thinking can or rather must fall and make contact with this or that unexpected aspect. Probity is being accessible to the singular request coming from each of the different aspects" (p. 8). Lyotard sees law, form, and event as the three unavoidable themes that have infused his thought as it has drifted above the traditional domains ofethics, esthetics, and politics. In Chapter One, he describes thought and law; in Chapter Two, the event as the object of artistic and political judgment; and in Chapter Three, the divergent ends of esthetic and political thought. To respond to an event, he claims, is "to be able to endure occurrences as 'direcdy' as possible without the mediation or protection of a 'pre-text' " (p. 18). The artist seeks to confront the singular "thisness" within data, the politician the manifold contingency of the historical situation. The political and the esthetic differ, however, in that political disputes can further moral progress by spreading republican principles, whereas there can "be no such thing as esthetic progress toward the formation of a repubüc of taste" (p. 39). (Unless, Lyotard adds, the postmodern sublime diat he has been delineating for the last few years aUows reason rather than imagination to be the faculty that responds to esthetic events.) 210Philosophy and Literature Most often in these essays Lyotard floats in clouds of Kant—as he does in such recent works as Le Différend, Aufuste, and LEnthousiasme—making use of the Second and Third Critiques to depart from die First Critique's domain of cognition and determinantjudgment. The results are hardly Kantian, save in the frequent insistence on the moral fact of duty or law, and it is here that I find Lyotard least convincing. Must we answer die call of clouds, as Lyotard asserts? Can an ethics of responsiveness to singularity and contingency signal more than a personal preference? Or is not Lyotard simply making a profession of faith and himself issuing the summons to the law? And even if we should answerthatsummons, can an ethics ofthe form ofthought keep from coUapsing into an aestheticism capable ofjustifying anything? It is a shame that in these lectures Lyotard does not choose to position himself in the field ofcurrent criticism, for it would be interesting to hear his assessment of his relation to such figures as Deleuze, BaudriUard, Foucault, and Derrida. But if he does not map today's critical terrain, he does provide an implicit narrative of his own peregrinations—from Marxist commitment through disUlusionment and demonic descent (Economie libidinale) to ethical recovery (Le Différend)—that might serve as an exemplary history ofa certain postwar destiny. These thoughtful and elegant essays are among Lyotard's finest productions, at once complex and informal, abstract, and personal. The afterword, a translation of a 1982 essay by Lyotard on his différend with Marxism, is a fitting complement to the three lectures. The volume's exhaustive...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 209-210
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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