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HUMANITIES 355 substitute for the reader's wrestling with it directly, and Zeitlin offers compelling evidence that the texts he admires are indeed classics. His careful treatment of them whets one's appetite for further study, and his observations point readers to some of the more urgent questions that should guide their investigations. (MICHAEL RABIEH) James Richard Mensch. Knowing and Being: A Postmodem Reversal Penruylvania State University Press 1996. 232. us$4s.oo cloth, us$17.95 paper In The Crisis of the European Sciences, Husserllocated 'the spirit of modernity ' in the turn towards the subject as the ground or foundation for objects. While rejecting Husserl's attempt to radicalize this tum, Mensch does retain Husserl's critical view of modern philosophy and science. Following Husserl, Men┬Ěsch claims that modernity essentially consists in an epistemological paradigm that appeals to subjectivity as the 'norm' for 'being.' At the same time, Mensch goes wellbeyond Husserl by endeavouring to reverse this paradigm. Rather than grounding being on a temporalizing subject, Mensch tries to show how being grounds knowing by 'timing' the subject. In 'its activities and performances,' Mensch's 'postmodern' subject fis grounded by the world in which it functions.' Mensch nnwittingly adopts a Foucauldian view of the modem subject as an untenable 'empirico-transcendental doublet.' Simultaneously assuming the incompatible positions of object known and of the condition of the possibility for objectsf the modem subject ultimately collapses. For Mensch, the second, 'normative,' position is especially problematic in its own right because, as norm, the subject 'seems to disappear under the weight of the requirements placed upon it.' In attempting to overturn this conflictive paradigm, Mensch implicitly subscribes to Adorno's thesis of the preponderance of the object (and, by extension, to Marx's thesis of the primacy of being over consciousness). But Mensch's work is more existential in character than these thinkers': his subject is an embodied being receptive to the worldly goals that orient its activity teleologically. Rather than using contemporary sources as springboards for his postmodem reversal, Mensch claims that the way forwards leads backwards to the 'master of all who know': Aristotle. Citing the Physics, Metaphysics, and De Arzima, Mensch discusses Aristotle's views about space and time, actuality and potentiality, and perception in order to illustrate his central premise: that the subject is constituted by the world. Curiously, given his controversial attempt to advance by retreating, Mensch is concerned to defend Aristotle only against critics (like Heidegger) who claim that 'Aristotle's position involves the same circularity of reasoning as we saw in the epistemological paradigm.' Unfortunately, Mensch pays little or no attention to other logical and theoretical difficulties in Aristotle's work. 356 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Despitehis generallyuncritical understanding ofAristotle, Mensch does succeed in developing a fertile conception of the 'animate subject' as 'flesh': 'embodied material that manifests the purposes of life.' Drawing not only on Aristotle but also on Kant and Husserl, Mensch outlines a theory of perception as temporalized interpretation in which objects embody themselves in goal-driven intentions. On this view, 'the world acts in and through me insofar as it imparts to me its goals.' Conversely, the knowing subject is ~oth a cause in the teleological sense of being motivated by ... goals' and is 'caused in a material, physical sense.' (Here, material causation itself involves 'laws for processes that are future directed.') Still, notwithstanding its obvious fecundity, this largely Aristotelian conception of knowing and being should have been enriched with ideas derived from other, more contemporary, thinkers- especially perplexing in this regard is the lack of any reference to Merleau-Ponty's post-Cartesian phenomenology of perception and to his later conception of la chair. The strategy of returning to Aristotle -to construct a postmodern philosophy is questionable. Equally questionable is Mensch's identification of modernity with an epistemological paradigm and, correlatively, of the postrnodem with the project of standing this paradigm on its head. Yet it must also be said that Knowing and Being is the imposing project of a thinker who has long engaged in philosophical thinking. This may explain why Mensch's prose is so lucid; his book is a pleasure to read. In addition, Mensch raises...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 355-356
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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