Published Humanitas, Volume XII, No. 2, 1999

The Enlightenment Project in the Analytic Conversation, by Nicholas Capaldi. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998. xiv + 532 pp. $176.

Since some humanistic readers might be somewhat puzzled as to exactly what analytic philosophy is, it seems appropriate to begin this review with an illustrative image. If one imagines that the truth is like a big Water Buffalo, then analytic philosophers are sort of like a pride of lions hunting it down. And indeed the best hunters, the most clever among analytic philosophers, brought down a Water Buffalo at the beginning of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, what remains to us today are the scrawnier lions quarreling over the privilege of gnawing on a bit of bone, long since picked clean of anything digestible.

One might well call into question the hunt itself, as Capaldi does throughout the book, remarking that truth never was a Water Buffalo, but one might as well tell a lion to be an owl. Analytic philosophers are what they are, and the wise humanist leaves them to their hunting. Their search is barbarous, but it is at least an honest barbarism, expressing the genuine nature of the beast.

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