This is so not in spite of the fact that conscious agential beings like humans act, [End Page 77] but actually because of it. As Kramnick writes, in an apothegmatic formulation that runs like a motif through the book, "actions extend mind into the world" 3. I situate Kramnick's book in this fashion because he himself declines to do so, preferring in the main small claims to grand ones. His expository style, which purposefully imitates that of the Anglo-American philosophy that helps to orient him, backgrounds cultural history so that the field of conceptual problems comes more sharply into focus, and this can mislead the reader into missing how thoroughly historical many of his claims are.
Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson
Though nowhere in the book does Kramnick mention either "modernity" or "enlightenment" such terms are buried in the bibliography , his book may turn out to be intelligible as a contribution, less modest than it seems, to recent revaluations of those two key terms. For the story he tells is not just the history of some philosophical problems.
More importantly, it is about how personhood, identity, culpability, consciousness and consent went from being the subject matter of relatively elite discourses—the kinds of thing jurists and theologians disputed about—to lived categories, and how ways of representing those categories in writing helped form what counted as a person or an action.
One of the virtues of this book is that it strives to keep this array of questions open as a field of problematization, rather than charting the increased consolidation of categories across the period in the way many genealogies have done. Seeing categories crystallize out of the premodern flux is what much of eighteenth centuries studies does, but Kramnick avoids this approach.
The main thrust of his polemic is against those literary scholars who "witness a new language of inwardness and subjectivity with the joint rise Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Institutional Login. LOG IN. Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, To secure such a claim, one would need to find evidence whether in published works or private correspondence that the relevant literary figures knew and understood the relevant philosophical debates, and that they cared about them sufficiently for them to have some sort of impact on their creative projects. But Kramnick does not present or point to such evidence.
The book therefore reads as if written by someone who found some interesting concepts in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy and simply decided to apply them, in accordance with Humean principles of mental association, as interpretive tools. The problem with this is that, while stipulative association works well in the province of creative writing, it is poorly suited to the scholarly enterprise of literary criticism.
When we turn to the particular connections Kramnick sees between the philosophy and literature of the period, we find two main problems. The first is that Kramnick's grasp of some important philosophical theories is confused.source site
Jonathan Kramnick | English
The second, and more important for his purposes, is that his interpretation of the relevant literary works is belied by the texts. It is not possible for me to discuss all the claims that Kramnick makes about Rochester, Haywood, and Richardson. So I will focus on a few representative parts of his interpretation. Consider the lessons that Kramnick tries to draw from a comparison of two translations of a portion of Lucretius's On the Nature of Things , the first by Thomas Creech and the second by Rochester:.
As Kramnick sees it, Rochester's lines indicate that "the various thoughts and feelings belong to no one in particular.
But this is absurd. In this particular case, line 3 of Creech's translation corresponds to line 4 not line 3 of Rochester's, and line 4 of Creech's translation corresponds to line 3 not line 4 of Rochester's.
As Kramnick sees it, Rochester's translation of some lines of Seneca reveals that he "finds in matter a kind of insentience" 81 , and thus counts as an eliminativist But what Seneca says, in Rochester's version, is that "Dead, we become the Lumber of the World" 82 , which means at best no more than that dead matter is insentient. Kramnick claims that in A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind , Rochester "outlines a version of epiphenomenalism in which states of mind either lag behind or are indistinguishable from the machinelike workings of the body" Here Kramnick betrays his recurring inability to distinguish among eliminativism according to which there are no mental states , epiphenomenalism according to which mental states, but not physical states, are causally inert , and reductionism according to which mental states are physical states -- states that are not causally inert.
Worse, the Satyr reveals absolutely no commitment to eliminativism, epiphenomenalism, or reductionism. The point of the Satyr , instead, is that sense and instinct are better guides in life than reason. This is a philosophical thesis of a sort; but it has nothing to do with the issue of mental causation.
The absurdity of Kramnick's interpretation of Rochester comes to a head in his reconstruction of The Imperfect Enjoyment , "one of literary history's more celebrated evocations of impotence" To Kramnick, the point of the poem is to establish that "the mind proves altogether unable to provoke the body" Now I can see why one would think that impotence might indicate the causal inertness of mental states. As Rochester puts it: "I sigh alas! And Kiss, but cannot swive" : that is, the intention to swive does not succeed in producing the desired effect.
But there are two significant problems with Kramnick's interpretation.
The first is that the poem establishes at most that some mental states are causally inert. It would be a serious leap to infer from this the epiphenomenalist thesis that all mental states are causally inert, and there is no evidence that Rochester himself makes this mistake.
Worse, there is strong textual evidence that the poem actually presupposes the existence of mental causation! In the end, then, Kramnick's interpretation of Rochester's poetry is both philosophically incoherent and contradicted by the relevant texts themselves. In his discussion of Haywood's novels, Kramnick turns to the notion of consent. Kramnick's main thesis here is that, in such works as Love in Excess and Fantomina , Haywood borrows an externalist view of consent from Locke But here again, there is historical inaccuracy, philosophical confusion, and lack of textual mooring.
Philosophically, Kramnick fails to distinguish between the metaphysical thesis that mental states are externalistically individuated and the epistemic thesis that the evidence for some mental states is often or always behavioral, and so in some sense "external". This confusion leads Kramnick to mistakenly attribute an externalist theory of tacit consent to Locke, a philosopher according to whom behavior discloses, but certainly does not create or constitute, states of mind This historical mistake is then transferred to the textual interpretation of Haywood's novels.
For example, when Haywood writes that Amena's "panting heart beat measures of consent" to further intimacy with the rakish D'elmont, she does not mean that Amena's consent is constituted in some way by the increased rapidity of her heartbeats or by some sort of relation to her environment; she means simply that Amena's panting heart betrays or reveals the relevant form of consent. As Haywood puts the point: "he found … every pulse confess a wish to yield" Kramnick's discussion of Richardson's Clarissa focuses on "the ontology of actions: when they start and stop, whether they have parts, how they realize intentions or entail responsibility" The basic facts of Clarissa are clear.
Clarissa's family wants her to marry Solmes. She repeatedly refuses to do so. For complex reasons, she keeps up a hidden correspondence with the rake, Lovelace. Eventually, they arrange to meet, and on the spur of the moment, Clarissa agrees to fly off with Lovelace. He then keeps her as his mistress against her will and rapes her. She then dies of an unspecified cause.