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May 2022 Vol. 59 No. 9

Cornell University Press

The following review appeared in the May 2022 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email


Verene, Donald Phillip. The rhetorical sense of philosophy. Cornell, 2021. 174p bibl index ISBN 9781501756344, $49.95; ISBN 9781501756368 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Verene (Emory) presents an extended original essay on one of the oldest of philosophical themes, the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy. With great subtlety and enormous erudition, the author challenges the “Platonic quarrel with the poets and the rhetoricians,” siding with Cicero’s critique of Socrates as having “separated the science of wise thinking from that of elegant speaking, though in reality they are closely linked together” (p. 3). The opening chapters offer extended discussions of the relations between philosophy, poetry, and rhetoric, principally as debated by the Greeks. Succeeding chapters demonstrate the importance of rhetoric to philosophy by means of rhetorical readings of selected masterworks of philosophy. A chapter titled "The Rhetoric of Self-Discourse” brings together Socrates, Vico, Montaigne, and Descartes on the theme of self-knowledge. Another chapter brings together Plato, Anselm, Kant, and Hegel on “absolute thought,” and a particularly intriguing chapter focuses on the rhetorical use of the illustrated frontispiece by Hobbes, Vico, and Rousseau. Readers accustomed to more conventional histories of philosophy will find Verene's readings interesting and often surprising. The chapters are self-contained and can be read in any order.

--M. Latzer, Gannon University

Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.