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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



From Naming to Saying: The Unity of the Proposition by Martha I. Gibson (Blackwell Publishers) (Paperback) From Naming to Saying examines the classical question of the unity of the proposition: how the parts of the sentence which separately name an object and a property combine to say some single thing or express a proposition.

The volume presents and discusses three great historical theories: Frege's doctrine of concept and object, Russell's analysis of the sentence, and Wittgenstein's picture theory of meaning. It explores whether the semantic distinction between subject and predicate can be explained, as P. F. Strawson maintained, by the metaphysical distinction between the things named, particulars and universals. And it offers a novel solution, arguing that the utterance of a sentence expresses a unitary proposition because of the interlocking causal explanations of the constituent utterances that comprise the act of uttering a sentence.

This book is a study of the unity of the sentence. Part I presents and criticizes three classical theories: Frege's doctrine of concept and object, Russell's analysis of the sentence, and Wittgenstein's picture theory of meaning. Part II focuses on the relation between the semantic distinction between subject and predicate (referring vs. predicating) and the grammatical, logical, and metaphysical distinctions that are drawn between subjects and predicates. P. F. Strawson has elaborately defended the view that the difference in the kind of thing that is designated by subjects and predicates - the difference between particulars and universals - lies at the basis of the grammatical, semantic, and logical distinctions. Gibson questios whether a unified theory of predication can explain these various phenomena, and whether the metaphysical difference between particulars and universals does, in fact, explain the semantic function of subjects and predicates.

In Part III, Gibson develops a pragmatic explanation of the unity of the sentence, arguing that the utterance of a sentence expresses a proposition because of certain unity in the causal explanations of the constituent utterances that comprise the complex act of uttering a sentence. In particular, she arguse that the differing functional role of subject and predicate in virtue of which the sentence expresses a proposition can be traced to a distinctive, asymmetrical causal explanation of the tokening of the expression serving one role or another in the speech act. Gibson proposes that there is an interconnection and interdependence of the cause of the utterance of the predicate on the cause of the utterance of the subject that explains the unity of the sentence. The unity of the sentence is explained in terms of the unity of the act of the utterance and the pragmatic character of the expressions rather than by the ontology of what those expressions denote. The account has it roots in the pragmatic distinction between subject and predicate set out by John Cook Wilson and F. P. Ramsey, and in the idea, worked out in different ways in the writing of J. L. Austin and H. P. Grice, that the meaning of sentences is a function of what a speaker is doing in uttering words. The account Gibson provides was conceived within the framework of the kind of causal or information-based theories of meaning that have been developed by Dennis Stampe and Fred Dretske, among others. In the end, however, the view she proposes does not depend upon an acceptance of those views of meaning. This important work will be of interest to students of linguistics and semantics as well as philosophers.

Metaphysics in Ordinary Language by Stanley Rosen (Yale University Press) In this collection of philosophical writings, Stanley Rosen addresses a wide range of topics - from eros, poetry, and freedom to problems like negation and the epistemological status of sense perception. Though diverse in subject, Rosen's essays share two unifying principles: there can be no legitimate separation of textual hermeneutics from philosophical analysis, and philosophical investigation must be oriented in terms of everyday language and experience, although it cannot simply remain within these confines. Ordinary experience provides a minimal criterion for the assessment of extraordinary discourses, Rosen argues, and without such a criterion we would have no basis for evaluating conflicting discourses: philosophy would give way to poetry.

Stanley Rosen in this rich collection of philosophical writings, Stanley Rosen addresses a wide range of topics‑from eros, poetry, and freedom to problems like negation and the epistemological status of sense perception. Though diverse in subject, Rosen's essays share two unifying principles: there can be no legitimate separation of textual hermeneutics from philosophical analysis, and philosophical investigation must be oriented in terms of everyday language and experience, although it cannot simply remain within these confines. Ordinary experience provides a minimal criterion for the assessment of extraordinary discourses, Rosen argues, and without such a criterion we would have no basis for evaluating conflicting discourses: philosophy would give way to poetry.

Philosophical problems are not so deeply embedded in a specific historical context that they cannot be restated in terms as valid for us today as they were for those who formulated them, the author maintains. Rosen shows that the history of philosophy-a story of conflicting interpretations of human life and the structure of intelligibility-is a story that comes to life only when it is rethought in terms of the philosophical problems of our own personal and historical situation.

Twilight of the Literary: Figures of Thought in the Age of Print by Terry Cochran (Harvard University Press) In western thought, the modern period signals a break with stagnant social formations, the advent of a new rationalism, and the emergence of a truly secular order, all in the context of an overarching globalization. In Twilight of the Literary, Terry Cochran links these developments with the rise of the book as the dominant medium for recording, preserving, and disseminating thought. Consequently, his book explores the role that language plays in elaborating modern self‑understanding. It delves into what Cochran calls the "figures of thought" that have been an essential component of modern consciousness in the age of print technology‑and questions the relevance of this "print‑bound" thinking in a world where print no longer dominates.

Cochran begins by examining major efforts of the eighteenth century that proved decisive for modern conceptions of history, knowledge, and print. After tracing late medieval formulations of vernacular language that proved crucial to print, he analyzes the figures of thought in print culture as they proceed from the idea of the collective spirit (the "people"), an elaboration of modern history. Cochran reconsiders basic texts that, in his analysis, reveal the underpinnings of modernity's formation‑from Dante and Machiavelli to Antonio Gramsci and Walter Benjamin. Moving from premodern models for collective language to competing theories of history, his work offers unprecedented insight into the means by which modern consciousness has come to know itself.

The Gift of Language: Memory and Promise in Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger, and Rosenzweig by Alexander Garcia Duttmann, translated by Arline Lyons (Syracuse University Press)  starts with the assumption that proper names are not just conventional linguistic marks. They rather mark the singularity of language within language. Each time a proper name appears, language becomes other than a system of arbitrary signs. How are we to conceive of a name if it entails an experience of the singularity of language? This is a question raised by Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger, and Rosenzweig. Their thoughts revolve around the language, forming a constellation that can be read as a configuration of the name.

The book is composed of four texts which each follow a different thread (the path, translation, melancholy, the apparition of art) in order to develop a conception of language as gift, as a memory and promise of the other, as a memory- and promise offered to, the other. But what happens to language when a name appears whose singularity and otherness seems to ruin the very possibility of singularity and otherness? The name "Auschwitz" indicates, if it indicates anything at all, a caesura, as Adorno stresses again and again whilst also pointing to the difficulties that arise when one single name is privileged over others and thereby transformed into a kind of model. Within the constellation created by the promise and the memory of language, a terrifying symmetry places the name "Auschwitz" at the very opposite of the name which is called sacred or divine. This is what provokes the pathos of the constellation.

 Alexander Garcia Diittmann is Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University. Arline Lyons, the translator of this volume, holds an MA in Continental Philosophy from the University of Warwick and a BA in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. Excerpt:


In Negative Dialectics, Adorno says that language is more than a system of signs at the disposal of cognitive functions. Where it is essentially language, before or beyond the system and the sign, it becomes presentation or representation (Darstellung) and does not define its concepts. This does not mean that the thinking which Adorno calls negative dialectics, the intent of which is precisely not to be without language ('Hegelian dialectics was a dialectic without language'), renounces definition, quite the opposite: `A thought which in its own unfolding would not be capable of defining its object, a thought which would not let the thing itself appear intermittently by using the most concise language, would probably be as sterile as a thought gorged with verbal definitions.' Darstellung is language as constellation or configuration. It is in no way the representation of a sublating movement which reaches a result. Language designates here the non-negative other of speculation. lay definition, a constellation entails the chance of an apparition, Something allows itself to be thought through a constellation, something provokes thought in a constellation. But what is it that appears in the apparition? According to Adorno, the name presents itself as the `linguistic' prototype of thought without being thought itself: it is the prototype `at the cost of [thel cognitive function In other words, there is no immediate relation to the name for knowledge. The name appears only in a constellation of concepts. Thus, the constellation, language as constellation, is necessary. Thought is unable to name except by placing itself in a constellation, by traveling the path chat separates it from the name. This path is the path of Darstellung. In The Jargon of Authenticity, Adorno denounces (philosophical) language that denies the constellation and tries to name the name in an unthinkable immediacy. (Philosophical) language becomes jargon when it claims to be able to denominate without division. A definition takes the name's place and marks the distance between name and concept. The constellation, the necessity of a Darstellung which neither refuses definition nor reduces itself to a definition, is a sign of loss: the unity of the name and knowledge, knowledge through the name, the cognizing name that Benjamin speaks of, have been lost. The name appears, but its apparition is inseparable from the dispersion that all constellations presuppose. And what if the apparition of the name were nothing other than the gift of language, the memory and promise of that gift? What if the constellation were implicated in the very structure of the gift, thus transforming itself into a plural constellation, into a multiplicity of constellations whose number would not be limited beforehand by a horizon? What if the Darstellung in the sense of a constellation or a configurational language were originary?

At the end of his essay on the question of technology, Heidegger speaks of a `constellation of truth'. Concealment and unconcealment take place or come to pass as a constellation or in a constellation. The question is, therefore, the `question of the constellation'. It is the saying of art, the saying of the poet techne, poiesis - which speaks the truth, the constellation itself. And this saying only seeks to find the ever-obscure name, as Heidegger maintains in his interpretation of Holderlin, `Das Gedicht'. Thus the name, in its very obscurity, is the constellation of truth.

Benjamin defines truth as configuration, as a timeless constellation of ideas that, through concepts, divides and groups phenomena. Ideas are of the order of language: they `are displayed, without intention, in the act of naming, and they have to be renewed in philosophical contemplation. In this renewal the primordial mode of apprehending words is restored' (The Origin of German Tragic Drama). The relation to truth is also, and primarily, `without intention'. In this way philosophical restitution, the restitution of truth, the Darstelhung of the idea, manifests itself in an anamnesis, which gives the word its proper power of denomination. Later, in his theses on the philosophy of history, Benjamin takes up once again the concept of a constellation in order to point to the stopping of thought which allows the messianic trace in time and history to be grasped: that is to say, the trace of a restored language, of the language of names, of the name itself. The messianic world is the world in which language is shared absolutely and all translation is complete.

Isn't Rosenzweig's star, which makes its way, or which moves in an orbit, a constellation? Isn't it a constellation in its very unity, in the unity of its form or figure, since access to its truth is redoubled, since there is more than one uprooting, more than one displacement, more than one tearing away from a place? In a text on Rosenzweig entitled `Straying Root', Massimo Cacciari contrasts the authentic Entortung which defines Judaism with the global Entortung which characterizes the crisis of the nomos: `the path, the way of the destruction of the nomos is the meaning of Europe or of Christianity.' Isn't the name as `absolutely gathered speech' or `absolute gathering of speech' found inside a star affected by a certain exteriority? Doesn't it stand in the constellation of a double access, in the Judeo-Christian constellation?

Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger, Rosenzweig: despite the undeniable differences which constitute the philosophical and historical singularity of each of these thinkers and the challenge of their thought, they have all thought -thought - on the grounds of the name, the apparition of the name as the experience of a constellation.

We can then imagine the impossible dialogue between those who hold such a view of thought and language and those who think the relation to the name completely differently; Wittgenstein or Kripke, for example? How can we decipher this constellation? If we keep to the Philosophical Investigations, it is not too difficult to anticipate a Wittgensteinian counter-argument: those who treat the name as something which does not simply lend itself to an analysis of the usage of language or to a formal linguistic analysis would be accused of contributing to a glorification (Feier) of language and of creating, not solving, philosophical problems. The ones thus accused would probably reply saying: everything that you attempt to demonstrate with such rigor is certainly pertinent, but you are forgetting the originary experience of language, you remain at the level of a `conventional theory of language' without thinking the conditions of possibility of that theory, the passage from one level to another. The tales about the apparition of the name are probably fictions, but that doesn’t matter. What really interests us is the structural necessity of those tales ... And how can you not glorify an apparition, even if it is terrifying? You do not experience the name, the gift of language, always singular, always to be remembered. You start out from a hypothesis that is subsequently proven, you oppose one hypothesis to another, but we give you our word: that's not all, there's something completely different.

OUTLINE OF CLASSICAL CHINESE GRAMMAR by Edwin G. Pulleyblank ($25.99, paperback, University of British Columbia; ISBN: 0774805412)

Finally there is a, a comprehensive grammar of Wenyan in English. Here in one volume one has handy the major grammar references needed to approach Classical Chines texts. This useful book is the first comprehensive treatment of the grammar of the ancient form of Chinese used by the great philosophers like Confucius and Mencius. It uses modern grammar terminology and examples from the Classics to systematize this very complex language, making it useful to all students of Classical Chinese language and philosophy.

Francisco Varo's-Grammar of the Mandarin-Language: An English translation of 'Arte de la lengua Mandarina’ translated by W.South Coblin, and Joseph A Levi with an introduction by Sandra Breitenbach  

The present translation of Francisco Varo's Arte de la Lengua Mandarina is an outgrowth of the translators interests in early modern Chinese and Spanish and their mutual concern with 16th and 17th century European missionary texts dealing with China.

For its potential contributions to all these areas, the material translated worthy of wider dissemination for historical and lingusitic purposes. The introduction by Sandra Breitenbach, an expert on the life and work of Francisco Varo, places the Arte and its author in their historical and intellectual contexts in ways that make this volume especially useful.

Francisco Varo was a prolific writer who documented his fruitful mission in Fujian by means of numerous letters and reports. His texts are composed in Spanish and are in his own handwriting. Most of them still exist in original manuscripts. Some of his technical treatises about religious matters have been edited or translated into other European languages. The number, quantity, and quality of his writings are surprising, considering that he endured numerous and severe persecutions beginning within one year after he entered the Fujian mission in 1649. As Varo acknowledges in his reports, many of his manuscripts were not printed during his missionary period, mainly due to lack of funds

In 1662, the Qing government ordered the evacuation of the entire coastal region from Shandong to Guangdong in order to weaken Coxinga's power, which was increasing due to the support of the local people. However, this measure enabled the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch to obtain a stronger hold on the coast. Altogether, there were only a few clergymen present in Fujian. The Dominican friar Juan Peguero (d. 1691) has recorded that Varo dedicated himself to the study of local dialects and Mandarin during his time in Fuan, since his apostolic work was not restricted to Fuan, where he had many followers, but also extended to Funingfu and Fuzhou.

In his correspondence dated 11 February 1673, Varo himself stated confidently that he was also familiar with the dialect of Fuzhou. His knowledge of the Mandarin language was so impressive that his confreres praised his eloquence with genuine admiration. He is famous for his mastery of the difficult, highly formulaic style of discourse which was used by the mandarins in law courts and official audiences. Due to his excellent linguistic skills, Varo was chosen by his superiors as a language teacher for the new ministers. His promotion of the Christian religion finally led to his exile to Canton during 1671 and 1672. During his career as a missionary, he was designated Vicar Provincial several times. Shortly before his death on 31 January 1687, he was elected Vicar Apostolic of the provinces of Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi.

Varo’s writings are important for several reasons. His Spanish correspondence, as a first-hand source, gives detailed information about missionary life and the results of missionary activity at that time. Nevertheless, one must keep in mind Edward Said's critical remarks on the motivating factors that affected the European perception of the Orient, which was not entirely free from cultural bias and therefore must be contextualized in order to come to a more appropriate judgment. Bias could be seen, just to mention one example, in the fact that these reports were intended to convince the Papal Court to approve of and support the mission. In the present context, it will suffice to have briefly addressed these matters in an attempt to reveal the guiding factors that determined the nature of these language descriptions.

THE GIFT OF SPEECH: Readings in the Analysis of Speech and Voice by John Laver ($35.00, paper, 400 pages, references, indexes, Edinburgh University Press (Columbia University Press); 0-7486-8075-3 )


In this gem of a book we are allowed easy access to a body of significant research and conclusions. In these collected papers, gathered from a wide variety of books and journals, Laver explores two interdisciplinary then fundamental to his work - how the brain plans, controls, monitors and edits programs for speech (Part I), and how the quality of a speaker’s voice can be described (Part II). It is directed more towards the speech pathologist or those who want practical help in dealing with patients and speech disorders . His approach to the subject is wide-ranging and inclusive, covering many differ perspectives but choosing none: rather, he presents each area of study as an interesting problem or line of research.

He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and of the Royal Society Edinburgh, the Institute of Acoustics and the Royal Society of Arts. Professor Laver was President of the International Phonetic Association from 1991 until 1995, a. published widely on phonetics, including Phonetic Description of Voice Quality, Cambridge University Press (1980) and Principles of Phonetics, Cambridge University Press (1994).


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