PHILOSOPHICAL WRITING: Locke, Berkeley, Hume by John J. Richetti


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Philosophical texts in their rhetorical context: an artful combination of broad analysis and close reading. Prof. Richetti (English, Rutgers) has chosen three notably stylish thinkers, ""not to expose philosophy's unwitting dependence on the stabilizing assumptions hidden within language itself,"" but to study the ""delicate and deliberate"" ways it tries to adjust the claims of strict demonstration and shapely persuasion. And Locke, Berkeley, and Hume make an ideal trio for Richetti's purposes: their work appeared after the abstruse, heavily theological later Scholastics and before the fiercely technical professional philosphers (e.g., Kant); they spoke as laymen to laymen (though this was a sort of dramatic conceit), constantly disparaging the tricks and delusions of language--even while being self-conscious and self-assured literary performers. Richetti is especially adept at tracing the dialectical tension between the revolutionary, subversive tenor of Locke and Hume's radical empiricism and their suavely conventional authorial presence (radiating urbanity, humility, and charm). In a similar vein he explores the ""troubling and fascinating contrast"" between Berkeley's cool, clear, elegantly simple style and the explosive, daredevil conclusions of his subjective idealism. Richetti repeatedly disclaims any philosophical expertise, but this is, at least in part, an ironic Humean pleasantry: readers expecting mere aesthetic appreciation here will be rudely jolted. Free of mystification and arcane structuralist terminology yet often difficult nonetheless: a careful, perceptive study for advanced students of literature and philosophy.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press