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This review is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

PEACE OR A SWORD FRANK CIOFFI, Wittgenstein on Freud and Frazer (Cambridge University Press) £40, £14.95 pb

There is a study to be written on the uses of Wittgenstein - the multiplicity of ways in which his work, his ideas, his memorable phrasing, his self-construction as an idiosyncratic enigma, have been taken up in the twentieth century. His influence has extended far beyond philosophy in any narrow sense into such areas as aesthetics, anthropology, psychoanalysis and literary criticism (that activity which he famously told F.R. Leavis to 'give up'). Frank Cioffi's essays do not comprise one of the more spectacular uses of Wittgenstein, but they are more important than their unassuming title might suggest. Cioffi is a lucid, sometimes amusing writer whose primary orientation is philosophical but who has a wide range of literary and cultural reference; and the major topic of his collection is significant for all those concerned with cultural phenomena, not least for those who want to talk, think and write about literature.

This topic is the distinction between explanation, which seeks to identify the history, causes and conditions of a phenomenon, and clarification, which seeks to give greater clarity to the impression which a phenomenon makes on us, not by providing more information, but by offering further descriptions of that phenomenon and by setting in order what we already know but have not fully articulated - by helping to release what Wittgenstein himself, in a characteristically striking metaphor, called '[t]he crush of thoughts that do not get out because they all press forward and are wedged in the door'. Wittgenstein's ...


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