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182 :SOOK nEVIEWS authorising. The final section of the book is a lucid and perceptive discussion of the history of epistemology in the United States. Central to the author's claim is his definition of knowledge as justified (true) belief and its dependence upon self-authorization for the account of justification. Here the reviewer finds two disquieting difficulties. Firstly, in the author's view whatever is known has a non-defective evidence base appropriately related to it. For an evidence base to be nondefective in the author's sense, it can make evident no falsehoods which might mar its power to confer warrant. Yet it may be questioned whether any evidence base does not authorise the acceptance of some such falsehoods save in the case of what is, in the author's sense, directly evident. Descartes optimistically thought not and blamed doxastic error on the will. But neither he nor the author offers a proof, and so the question remains, in the reviewer's opinion, an open one. Secondly, if the author's special account of knowledge is correct, then the belief we all hold of our own persistence through time cannot be certain -i.e., cannot possess the author's highest degree of epistemic warrant -unless we assume that whatever exists persists through time; and surely God on the traditional theistic view would be a counterexample here. Yet if we cannot be certain of our own persistence, what can it mean for us to be certain, as the author allows, that we are now in given affective or sensory states, or that specific a priori axioms are true? Otherwise the volume is well written and a model of concision. Occasionally the (publisher's?) convention of alternating gender in personal pronouns seems confusing but, on the whole, the text suffers no violence from it. Providence College Providence, RI NICHOLAS INGHAM, O.P. The Philosophy of Histo1·y with Relftections and Aphorisms. By JOHN WILLIAM MILLER. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1981. Pp.192. $17.95. In academic circles, the question "What has he published'" is often an mquiry about a colleague's worth as a thinker and as a scholar. Yet it should be obvious that publication may be a defective measure of thought and scholarship. John William Miller published relatively little during his 36 years as professor of philosophy at Williams College. By the standard of publication, he was a minor figure. However, shortly before his death in 1978, he got The Pa,radox of CatUse and other Essays BOOK REVIEWS 183 (Norton, 1978) into print; and two years later The Definition of the Thing (Norton, 1980) was published. Both books revealed him to have been a philosopher of depth and learning and a writer of grace and subtlety. The present volume on the philosophy of history was drawn from notes and letters assembled after his death, and it takes up many issues discussed in the other two. Miller argues in The Definition of the Thing that the main work of the philosopher is indeed defining the thing, the object of both everyday knowledge and science. At first glance, it is an assignment which narrows the scope of philosophy in a manner familiar from linguistic analysis. But defining, for him, is " associating without stint or limit " and to be a thing is to have explicitness, distinctness, and specificity. Since the associations are temporal and cultural, the definitions and the thing itself are necessarily historical. The philosopher can, then, hardly avoid the philosophy of history. Philosophy, though, has more often than not been the pursuit of an ahistoric ideal of explanation; and Miller devotes considerable attention in all three works to the history of this pursuit from Parmenides and Plato through Augustine and the medievals to the Freudians and the behaviorists. He himself argues that there are no such ahistoric explanations, no unchanging patterns, no abiding essences or natures, and that Ortega y Gasset was perfectly right in saying " man has no nature, only a history." Consequently, the patterns of history are unpredictable. What is more, predictability and scientific law are themselves the results of the "free act proposing systematic consequences." This free proposal of systematic consequences is enough...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 132-134
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
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