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216Philosophy and Literature then seem appropriate. Unfortunately, Higgins, who begins this book with a brief review of The Birth of Tragedy and who estabUshes her work as an investigation into "the problem of tragic suffering" (p. 19), never concerns herself with Nietzsche's adoption ofthis seemingly illegitimate tragic issue; the opening chapter on tragedy is never brought into relation with the closing chapter on Menippean satire, even though the latter can only begin with the death of tragedy. At certain moments, Higgins complains that some phUosophers cannot read Zarathustra because they are taught only "to isolate the propositional content ofany argument" (p. 193). There are, however, other phUosophers who cannot read Zarathustra because the very challenge of the book to live and lose oneself in its strange configuration of detaUs—detaüs that do not embeUish an already constituted form and which therefore are not open to traditional "commentary "—is equally impossible. To lose oneselfin the text is, finally, not to project a telos of interpretation but rather to live on in its presence. University of Massachusetts at AmherstPeter Fenves On Interpretation: A Critical Analysis, by Annette Barnes; i& 171 pp. NewYork: Blackwell, 1988, $45.00cloth, $16.95 paper. This book is a valuable contribution—it touches all the bases, contains original and insightful arguments and is very clearly written. Barnes aims to show how critical practice both tolerates a plurality of interpretations of artworks and aUows significant debate to take place between critics. Barnes begins with a discussion ofobviousness and interpretation. She argues that interpretation presupposes the possibUity of error, so that interpreting ? as F for oneselfis incompatible with knowing that one knows that? is F, although interpreting xasFfo another is possible where one cannot interpret ? as F to oneself. Later on she takes up the difference between description and interpretation , concluding that the two are exclusive only on a narrow account of the nature of description. Chapters four and five attack Margolis's view that interpretations cannot be true of artworks since they impute emergent, culturaUy determined properties to works, and so do not discover properties in works. Barnes argues that Margolis 's distinction between imputing and discovering properties is too tighdy drawn. She claims that an interpretation of? as F is true only in the case where Reviews217 the artist intended that ? be F and successfuUy executed this intention. She denies (contra Matthews) that the avaUable evidence always underdetermines the truth of an interpretation. However, she aUows that interpretations which are known not to be true might be critically acceptable, for example because they make as much or more sense of the work as do the alternatives. Barnes also considers die views of Fish and Derrida, according to which interpretations are held not to be significandy defeasible—in the one case because a work might be viewed from the perspective of many, incommensurable discourses, and in the other case because the absence of determinate reference rules out critical standards of incorrectness. Against Fish she argues that even if an interpretive strategy determines what is to count as an interpretable fact, it cannot determine which of such types of facts are realized within the work, and so must concede the possibUity of interpretive error. Moreover, an interpretive strategy might be misapplied (relative to its other users). In either case, interpretations are defeasible. Against Derrida she points to the inconsistencies generated by the attempt meaningfuUy to describe all utterances as lacking determinate sense. Derrida cannot, on his own terms, defend his use ofconcepts in a way which undermines their use. Chapter seven characterizes the forms of interpretation as assertion, predication , the report of an experience-as, and prescription. Each form of interpretation is significandy defeasible; for example, a prescription which cannot be obeyed is defeated. Barnes argues that only assertion admits of defeat by relevant counterpossibüity. A relevant counterpossibUity defeats the critics' claims to know that they know the correctness of an interpretive remark, but does not falsify that remark; indeed, falsification is not generally possible with asserted interpretations and is inappropriate with other forms ofinterpretation. Defeat by counterpossibUity is consistent with multiple interpretations, both because it does not falsify the interpretation and because it does not affect the interpretation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 216-217
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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