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GEORGE STEINER 451 mistaken, and not because of my language; and he who thinks there is does in a rather straightforward way possess the truth, regardless of the language in which he is conditioned to express the proposition. Rorty is correct in holding that truth is not 'out there' and also in holding, as the late A.J. Ayer tirelessly demonstrated, that there are indeed many different but extensionally equivalent sentences representing the same proposition. But he is mistaken in supposing that this entails that a true proposition is merely one which sits comfortably within our matrix of historically conditioned beliefs. For even on Rorty's pragmatic conception oftruth it is possible for one to be mistaken about the expediency ofone's own beliefs. Such mistakes are generally not difficult to trace to false propositions held regarding the ways of the world. And with the possibility of holding false propositions goes the possibility of correcting these and holding true ones. What does Rorty recommend to one released from the arduous task of truth seeking? Something he calls'self-creation' or 'private perfection.' Rorty offers as paradigms of self-created individuality Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Proust, Heidegger, and Nabokov. This is indeed an odd pantheon. Since Rorty denies that there is such a thing as human nature and such a thing as objective truth, what makes these men admirable is evidently their novel 'vocabularies' or redescriptions of the world. The exaltation of novelty for the sake of novelty may stand as Rorty's valediction to philosophy. Karl or Roland? George Steiner's Epistle to the Parisians SAM SOLECKI George Steiner. Real Presences University of Chicago Press 1989. 236. us $27.95 Within the context of George Steiner's body of work, Real Presences should be read as the companion piece to After Babel (1975). Where the latter, in its concern with theories of language, translation, and a hermeneutics of reading, was a prolegomena to poetics, Steiner's new book tries both to explain the origins of the artistic impulse and to indicate what should be the ultimate goal of any critical engagement with a work of art. The point of departure for Steiner's argument is a critique of deconstruction. Thus the 'presences' of the title are precisely those traditional ones 'put in question' - and therefore dismissed - by deconstruction: the author, origin, presence, intentionality, meaning, logocentrism, metaphysics , Being, and God. UnlikeJohn M. Ellis, whose Against Deconstruction engages in a detailed and telling argument with both Derrida and his epigones, Steiner, as one would expect, goes to the source and conducts the debate directly with Derrida at a predictably abstract level. It is worth noting that in Steiner's version Derrida is a tough-minded philosopher (like Nietzsche, one of the 'masters of nothingness') with more ofa nihilistic side than allowed byJonathan Culler, Terry Eagleton, or Richard Rorty. In contrast to Ellis, who concedes nothing at the outset to deconstruction's 452 SAM SOLECKI language and claims and concludes by seeing almost nothing of value in them, Steiner concedes that'On its own terms, terms by no means trivial ifonly in respect of their bracing acceptance of ephemerality and self-dissolution, the challenge of deconstruction does seem to me irrefutable. It embodies, it ironizes into eloquence, the underlying nihilistic findings of literacy, of understanding or rather in-comprehension, as these must be stated and faced in the time of epilogue.' Ironically, Steiner's version of the genesis of 'the time of epilogue' (modernity or the sceptical era of 'the after-Word') is, as readers of his earlier books know, not much different from Derrida's. Both make the obligatory stops at the expected academic stations of the cross - Nietzsche, Mallarme, Rimbaud, Freud, Heidegger - and both raise some of the same basic critical issues in philosophy and language (though, characteristically, Derrida focuses on Saussure and Hussed, and Steiner on Saussure and Wittgenstein). At times, Steiner even seems to be writing an admiring pastiche of Derrida, especially when the style becomes playful and figural or the tone apocalyptic. (Conversely there are moments when the early Derrida could be mistaken for the Steiner of Real Presences; Derrida's comment that the 'structuralist passion' is only possible...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 451-453
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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