Fish comes dangerously close to identifying the meaning of a statement with its illocutionary force. At one point he says that "the meaning of a sentence is a function of its illocutionary force". At another he says that a move from a situation in which "I have to study for an exam" is heard as a statement to one in which it is heard as a rejection of a proposal is a move "from one meaning that emerges in a set (...) of circumstances to another meaning that emerges in another set of circumstances". Since "meaning" is so tricky a term, it may be well to remind ourselves that in a situation in which the sentences "I have to tie my shoes," "I have to eat popcorn," and "I hate movies" would all be understood as rejections of an invitation to the movies, no one would mistake the meaning of one for that of either of the other two. The three sentences make different statements, convey different information, and offer different reasons for not going to the movies. There is a sense in which Y's saying "I hate movies" means that he rejects the proposal. But even in that situation, the meaning of "I hate movies" isn't reducible to "I reject your proposal." JohnReichert, chairman of the English department at Williams College, is the author of Making Sense of Literature. He has contributed "Making Sense of Interpretation" to Critical Inquiry. (shrink)
If we are capable of changing our minds—of rejecting, that is, one hypothesis for another—the issue becomes one of the criteria which govern our choices. Are they, as [Stanley] Fish would argue, dependent on "beliefs" and "assumptions"? Perhaps, at some very fundamental level, they are. But I do not think Fish has succeeded in showing them to be so. Certainly the criteria are independent of anything so specific as beliefs about the nature of literature or the human mind. Who among (...) us, for example, whatever the object of interpretation, would choose one on the grounds of its greater inconsistency, or on the grounds of its accounting for fewer of the facts that we want to explain, or on the grounds of its being unnecessarily complicated? On the contrary, do we not tend to argue, as Fish does so effectively, as if counterexamples and inconsistencies tell against an hypothesis? It may be the case that our cherished beliefs often make it difficult in practice even to formulate our questions in ways that allow such criteria as I have hinted at to come into play. But why should hard work discourage us? JohnReichert is the chairman of the English department at Williams College and the author of Making Sense of Literature. He has contributed "But That Was in Another Ball Park: A Reply to Stanley Fish" to Critical Inquiry. (shrink)
Review Articles : The Redemption of Modernity Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity ; John F. Rundell, origins of Modernity: The Origins of Modern Social Theory from Kant to Hegel to Marx.
This reply to John F Catherwood's criticism of brain-related criteria for death argues that brainstem criteria are neither reductionist nor do they presuppose a materialist theory of mind. Furthermore, it is argued that brain-related criteria are compatible with the majority of religious views concerning death.
The theology of God in the scholarship of John Haught exemplifies rigor, resourcefulness, and creativity in response to ever-evolving worldviews. Haught presents insightful and plausible ways in which to speak about the mystery of God in a variety of contexts while remaining steadfastly grounded in the Christian tradition. This essay explores Haught's proposals through three of his selected lenses—human experience, the informed universe, and evolutionary cosmology—and highlights two areas for further theological development.
In the past twenty years, scholarly interest in John Dewey's later writings has surged. While later works such as Art as Experience (1934), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), and Freedom and Culture (1939) have received considerable attention, Knowing and the Known (1949), Dewey's late-in-life collaboration with Arthur F. Bentley, has been largely neglected. A common bias among Dewey scholars is that this work, instead of developing Dewey's Logic, departs from its spirit, reflects the overbearing influence of Bentley on (...) Dewey (who was at the time an octogenarian), and, therefore, merits little serious scholarly consideration. However, Dewey and Bentley engaged in an extended correspondence, collected in John .. (shrink)
I discuss John Henry Newman's correspondence with William Froude, F.R.S., (1810–79) and his family. Froude remained an unbeliever, and I argue that Newman's disputes with him about the ethics of belief and the relationship between religion and science not only reveal important aspects of his thought, but also anticipate modern discussions on foundationalism, the ethics of beliefs and scientism.
JohnReichert and Stanley Fish, in their discussion of the finding of different "meanings" in Samson Agonistes,1 do not seem to recognize what is really in dispute between them. Certainly they step in to further confusions along the way. It is true that, as Fish reiterates, the "meaning" which is to be cumulatively grasped from a total work of art, such as a long dramatic poem or novel, is open in principle to unlimited divergencies of interpretation on the (...) basis of either external facts that can be brought to bear on the work or hypotheses that can be counted or presented as potentially relevant. This is so not only because people differ in their understandings in a great variety of ways but also because the fundamental indeterminacy of language—as distinct from the ambiguity of particular statements2—is capable of being understood as such. · 1. JohnReichert, "But That Was in Another Ball Park: A Reply to Stanley Fish," Critical Inquiry 6 : 164-72; Stanley E. Fish, "A Reply to JohnReichert; or, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Interpretation," Critical Inquiry 6 : 173-78. Fish's original essay, "Normal Circumstances . . . and Other Special Cases," appeared in the Summer 1978 issue.· 2. See for this distinction my remarks in "On the Recognition and Identification of Objects in Paintings," Critical Inquiry 3 : 702. Mark Roskill, professor of art history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is the author of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and the Impressionist Circle, and What is Art History? He has contributed "On the Recognition and Identification of Objects in Paintings" to the Summer 1977 issue of Critical Inquiry. (shrink)
There is a bewildering variety of claims connecting Darwin to nineteenth-century philosophy of science – including to Herschel, Whewell, Lyell, German Romanticism, Comte, and others. I argue here that Herschel's influence on Darwin is undeniable. The form of this influence, however, is often misunderstood. Darwin was not merely taking the concept of "analogy" from Herschel, nor was he combining such an analogy with a consilience as argued for by Whewell. On the contrary, Darwin's Origin is written in precisely the manner (...) that one would expect were Darwin attempting to model his work on the precepts found in Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on Natural Science. While Hodge has worked out a careful interpretation of both Darwin and Herschel, drawing similar conclusions, his interpretation misreads Herschel's use of the vera causa principle, as well as the role of hypotheses in scientific theory construction. The new reading that I present here resolves this trouble, combining Hodge's careful treatment of the structure of the Origin with a more cautious understanding of Herschel's philosophy of science. This interpretation lets us understand why Darwin laid out the Origin in the way that he did, and also why Herschel so strongly disagreed. (shrink)