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106Philosophy and Literature Ifwe accept that the essays are, albeit loosely, centered around one main idea, we might proceed to read the book conscientiously from beginning to end. As the reviewer, I felt compelled to do just that, but too frequently for comfort found myselfbogged down in sentences like the following, chosen almost at random : "And the subject is pure not only in its manipulatory detachment from the object but also in its distance from the realm of togetherness with other subjects, which (bereft of an epistemological status of its own) has itself become 'objectified '" (p. 23). Interestingly enough, the three essays in the volume translated from Holdheim's original German text by one of his students read rather more lucidly than the others, although they too are by no means smooth and easy reading. Thus, while some pages and sections were stimulating (notably the "chapters" on Dostoyevsky, Gide, and "Poetic estrangement"), others had me painfully entangled in the coils of serpentine sentences and paragraphs, struggling in vain to cling to die main thread of argument. "The essay," we are told (p. 30), "is the hermeneutic genre par excellence." Agreed. And the word "hermeneutic" derives from the name of the god Hermes, whose principal task was to deliver messages. It is surely the hermeneutist's responsibility to ensure that his particular message is clear and that his critical comments on this or that writer, work or literary topic shed new light, not cast deeper darkness. In my more cynical moments I sometimes wonder if aposdes of "the hermeneutic mode" might be involuntary (or perhaps voluntary?) worshippers of another Hermes: Hermes Trismegistos, the thrice-greatest, the Greek version of the Egyptian deity Thoth, god of magic or alchemy, from which comes the word "hermetic." Professor Hondheim struck me as being radier more preoccupied widi the task of bewitching and enchanting his reader with verbal alchemy, blinding him with science, real or pseudo, dian widi mat of helping him clarify his own ideas on a literary text by writing in a lively, clear, and stimulating way. Thus die ideas in his book too often seem more hermetically sealed than hermeneutically revealed. University of Canterbury, New ZealandJohn Goodliffe Heidegger and the Question ofRenaissance Humanism, by Ernesto Grassi; 103 pp. Binghamton, New York: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1983, $12.00. Students of Heidegger and of Italian Renaissance humanism should not be put offby the apparently strangejuxtaposition of themes indicated by this book's title. Ernesto Grassi has been a creative and productive scholar regarding both Heidegger (with whom he studied at Freiburg) and of humanism, although because of die vagaries of translation and transatlantic reception he is probably Reviews107 best known to those who read only in English as an important commentator on Vico. The present book is a brief and clear version of theses that Grassi has developed in more detail in his many German publications. He challenges Heidegger's ambitious story ofthe history ofphilosophy, thinking part ofwhat is unthought in that brilliant but overly schematic account of the metaphysics of presence from Plato to NATO ("The Question Concerning Technology," and "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking"). Heidegger had attacked humanism and Sartrean existentialism in his 1946/47 "Letter on Humanism" (published, incidentally, by Grassi). Yet while identifying humanism — as exemplified by Hegel, Sartre, and the implicit voluntaristic metaphysics of die technological worldview — as the destiny and denouement of Western philosophy , Heidegger never mentioned Renaissance humanism. (As Grassi notes, Heidegger's view of Latin as a coarser, less profound language than Greek — or German— tells us much about the reasons for Heidegger's ignorance here.) Grassi argues two interrelated claims: (1) In Renaissance humanism's concept of poetry and metaphor as productive of the truth, one finds a significant movement of thought that does not fit Heidegger's version of philosophy's history as a continual rationalization and narrowing ofthe concept of the world; (2) Renaissance humanism suggests the possibility of a thought that is both informed by an attempt to draw on the poetic resources of language for philosophical illumination and sensitive to the radically historical character of human existence, while yet (in contrast to Heidegger...


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