Cultural transactions : nature, self, society /

Main Author: Hernadi, Paul, 1936-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1995.
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Review by Choice Review

Hernadi (Univ. of California at Santa Barbara) explores the interplay of nature, self, and society by examining the intertwined acts of doing, making, and meaning. This is not the usual accounting for cultural and social development, nor is it an explanation of how to make sense of various worlds. Rather, it is a critical/philosophical treatise on ways of being with, of, and toward the world. The author draws on his training in music, languages, and world literature to argue that all human activity is dynamic, ongoing, backward looking, forward predicting discourse that continually realigns the I, the you, the we, and the us with nature, society, and individuality. He is determined to oust the present intersubjectivist bias in philosophy and literature and to replace entrenched dualities (subjective/objective, mind/body, public/private) with a more complex triadic version (society/nature/self, doing/making/meaning, action/production/signification, justice/beauty/truth, culture/existence/experience) in order to convince the reader that the human world is dynamically complex and unfathomably diverse. In making his case he draws on such thinkers as Plato, Cicero, Longinus, Descarte, Kant, Buber, Barthes, Baudrillard, Goffman, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida, some for support and some for attack. The writing is clear, thought-provoking, and exciting, but the book is cluttered with footnotes. Though the author decries existing systems of philosophy, he cannot escape the dilemma that all categories, whether dual or triadic, are circular. He ends where he began: we cannot know reality, and if we could we would have no objective way of proving it. Graduate; researchers. R. Cathcart; Queens College, CUNY

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.