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Review

Author(s): David Gallagher


Review by: David Gallagher
Source: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Sep., 1991), pp. 145-147
Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20129159
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The Review of Metaphysics

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SUMMARIES AND COMMENTS 145
the particulars of Descartes' physiology, which nonetheless were to
have been reached through deduction and certified by intuition. The
philosophy of any significant thinker will contain elements which are
"timeless" and others which are "dated": take for example Aristotle's
theory of virtue, and its application to men, women, and slaves. The
same is true of Reid; unfortunately, in his Practical Ethics the timeless
elements are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the dated.
Haakonssen believes that the "historical intelligibility" of Reid's
philosophy demands that we consider "the whole of Reid's oeuvre"
(p. 4), published and unpublished works alike. It is thus for the sake
of integrating the present collection of manuscripts into Reid's larger
philosophical and ethical perspective?indeed, into his life?that
Haakonssen begins the volume with a brief biographical sketch fol
lowed by a somewhat longer exposition of themes central to Reid's
ethical philosophy. His discussion of these matters is clear, orderly,
and insightful.
The commentary which Haakonssen includes can be contrasted (to
his favor) with the kind of commentary which Hamilton saw fit
to bestow upon his edition of Reid's works. While Hamilton
devoted the greater part of his efforts to "correcting" Reid's
(mis)interpretations of various figures in the history of philosophy
and flaunting his own misunderstanding of Reid's philosophical pro
ject, Haakonssen concerns himself primarily with tracing out the
probable seminal influences on the development of Reid's moral
thought, basing his suggestions largely on telling correspondences
between Reid's views and those of various predecessors whom Reid
mentions, or whom he can be presumed to have known. Also unlike
Hamilton, Haakonssen's comments have the virtue of appearing at
the rear of the book, not at the bottom of each page, thus constituting
less of a distraction if one wishes simply to burrow into the text itself.
Some of the Reid text is in smooth prose, some is choppy, and some
not text at all, but rather section headings that disclose nothing of
their normative content: what did Reid think of "the encroachments
of Europeans upon the hunting grounds of the Americans" (p. 149)?
Here as in hundreds of other instances, only the heading survived.
Still other parts are merely lists of cue words.
In brief, the introduction is excellently constructed, the commentary
impressively researched. My only reservation is that the central text
itself, while it may deepen our understanding of Reid, the eighteenth
century Scottish professor, it is not at all likely to increase anyone's
appreciation for Reid, the profoundly insightful philosopher.?James
W. Manns, University of Kentucky.

Salkever, Stephen G. Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aris


totelian Political Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1989. x + 287 pp. $35.00?With this book Salkever issues a timely
call for political and ethical theory to return to more classical modes
of theorizing. His central claim is that Aristotle's approach to social

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146 MATTHEW CUDDEBACK AND STAFF

science as presented in the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, an ap


proach which cuts across many modern dichotomies, is workable and
in fact provides a more adequate framework for understanding modern
political practice than any modern theory (Hobbes, Locke, Marx,
Rawls, and others). He looks to Aristotle not for the content of his
political theory, but for its "style" of theorizing. The book does not
pretend to explicate fully Aristotle's political philosophy, but rather
to encourage discussion of it (p. 158); it offers no theory of modern
politics, but simply urges us to theorize in the style of Aristotle
(p. 263).
In the first part ("From Practice to Theory") the author defends
Aristotle's theory from the main modern objections raised against it
and shows how it avoids the shortcomings of modern theory. Chapter
1 argues that Aristotle's ethics and politics are necessarily linked to
his teleological understanding of nature. It maintains (against L.
Strauss, A. Maclntyre, and I. Murdoch) that teleology is defensible
even in the light of modern science; Aristotelian final causes and mod
ern science are not opposed but complementary causal explanations.
For Aristotle causal explanations are at once explanatory and eval
uative, thereby bridging the fact/value gap which plagues contem
porary theory.
In chapter 2 the author locates Aristotelian social science as between
and inclusive of the currently opposed empiricist and interpretive
schools. By taking human beings as part of nature with "biologically
inherited" needs, Aristotle can approach human institutions empir
ically, yet with grounds for evaluation (the satisfaction of those needs)
and for guiding actual practice. Similarly he can be "interpretive"
without falling into cultural relativism. Both the natural needs and
the corresponding goods are many; consequently, the well-lived life,
one lived by deliberate choice, can take on a variety of forms. Te
leology does not entail determinism.
Chapter 3, on the relation of theory to practice in Aristotle, continues
this theme. The modern understanding of this relation is manifested
primarily in the predominance of rule morality, in which specific laws
are applied to particular actions without prudential deliberation. For
Aristotle, on the contrary, there are not rules but only ends in the
light of which morally mature agents make their specific choices.
Theory does not determine practice but guides it by uncovering its
underlying presuppositions and criticizing them in the light of natural
human needs. Hence, all political theory should start from the context
of actual practice and cannot be wholly abstract, as it is for someone
such as Hobbes. Here we have Salkever's main point with respect
to political theorizing.
In the second part ("Back Again"), Salkever takes up modern politics
in the form of American liberal democracy. Democracy, a generic
notion, allows for both good and bad instantiations. Liberal democ
racy, one which does not arbitrarily curtail individual freedoms, is
good. Nevertheless, its original justification (by Hobbes and Locke)
contains serious incoherences?incoherences often pointed out by its
critics. We can better understand and defend liberal democracy
within an Aristotelian framework. This forestalls demands for ex

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SUMMARIES AND COMMENTS 147

cessive precision (p. 207) and introduces a teleological notion of the


human good by which we can distinguish healthy from unhealthy
regimes. Moreover, such teleology manifests the need for virtue to
sustain a good regime (pp. 214-15).
The discussion of virtue is one of the most interesting aspects of
the book. The author (somewhat idiosyncratically) takes Aristotle
to reject the Periclean or civic republican understanding of virtue?
primarily devotion to the public good centered on virility and cour
age?and to replace it with a notion more suited to peaceful democracy,
one centered on temperance. This view is linked to the shortcomings
of liberal theory: what modern liberal theory lacks and what Aristotle
can supply is a notion of the virtues necessary for liberal democrats.
Seeing the true liberal virtues, those by which individuals properly
acquire wealth and seek comfort, arms us to counter the charge that
liberalism advocates mere private interest at the expense of virtue, a
charge which presupposes the republican understanding of virtue.
Ultimately, then, the greatest theoretical need of liberal democracy?
a very Aristotelian one?is consideration of the institutions that can
provide moral education for liberal citizenry.
The reading of the book is at times difficult due to a cumbersome
and complex style. In addition, while the author refers to and cites
a remarkably wide and rich variety of authors, in places the argument
would be more clear had the author simply explained the position
himself and reserved analysis of other authors for the notes. The
book, however, if only for the questions it raises, will surely be what
the author intended: a spark for fruitful speculation and discussion.?
David Gallagher, The Catholic University of America.

Seibt, Johanna. Properties as Process: A Synoptic Study of Wilfrid Sellars '


Nominalism. Acascaders, Cal.: Ridgeview Publishing Co., 1990. xiii
+ 337 pp. Cloth, $38.00; paper, $20.00?Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989)
was one of the most creative, systematic, and underappreciated Anglo
American philosophers of this century. His academic career carried
him from Iowa to Minnesota, to Yale, and finally to Pittsburgh,
spawning many devoted students who became distinguished philos
ophers in their own right. Sellar's philosophical orientation was per
vasively systematic and historical when these features were unfash
ionable, and his style proved to be impenetrable to the uninitiated.
As a result his thought was not accorded the prominence it merited.
It flourished for the most part only in the philosophizing of his
students.
Johanna Seibt was one of Sellars's last students and she has written
an excellent introduction to his thought through the window of "nom
inalism." It would be a mistake to think that this is a specific treat
ment of one narrow issue in Sellars's philosophy; Sellars was unre
lentingly systematic, and through her treatment of his nominalism
Seibt introduces the reader to almost the whole range of his thought.

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