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Finding a Replacement for the Soul: Mind and Meaning in Literature and Philosophy Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0674012974 ISBN-10: 0674012976

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (July 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674012976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674012974
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,186,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


This is an adventurous and unusual book. Bourbon moves back and forth between literary and philosophical contexts with ease, showing in multifarious ways how the one can, often in unexpected ways, illuminate the other. Throughout these wide-ranging explorations Bourbon uncovers a good deal about both the nature of literary meaning and our distinctive -- if tellingly irreducible -- relations to literary texts. (Garry L. Hagberg, author of Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory and Meaning and Interpretation: Wittgenstein, Henry James, and Literary Knowledge)

About the Author

Brett Bourbon is Assistant Professor of English at Stanford University.

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Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A freshly logical approach through literature and philosophy to how words mean, and how we mean through language and literature, Finding a Replacement for the Soul is Brett Bourbon's enlightening and lucid look at what and how things matter.

Brett Bourbon has one of those amazing minds that can take the two strands of Philosophy and Literature, weave them into a single ductile rope of understanding, stand it on end and allow the reader to climb above the clouds of recent trends of confusion to see what's really at stake in questioning how we are and how things make sense in our world. Weaving connections between Ludwig Wittgenstein and James Joyce (with a healthy dose of Immanuel Kant and Lewis Carroll for good measure), Bourbon re-accounts for how words, sentences, and literature gesture towards how we understand ourselves to mean: "the means by which we answer how things are with us." In Finding a Replacement for the Soul, the author's voice alternates between erudition and lyricality, tightly coiled like a Slinky to progress the reader ever forward in his arguments; readily intelligible but never simplistic, with plenty of "aha" moments on the journey. And occasionally, Bourbon will use the Slinky to spring some unexpected trick on you--when was the last time you laughed out loud reading a book like this? But you will, and more than once. Influenced by Donald Davidson but moving beyond a Davidsonian stance, understanding of language is another critical topic Bourbon tackles. "Language does not sit still, however, nor do we confine our uses of it to saying what we mean, informing others of what we think or of what is the case, referring to person, places, and things...
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By on December 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever had that strange feeling that a book or poem is capturing something about you that you hadn't recognized until you read it? If you're curious about this possibility, but tired of reading jargony theories about the power of literature, you will like this book. Of course lots of people write about the relationship between literature and life, but you won't find a tougher critic of this connection or a more brilliant and articulate defender of it than Bourbon. While he defends the value and content of literature and its study, Bourbon is no typical literary critic or propagandist. Instead, he tackles daunting questions about language, human nature and literature with a mix of philosophical argument and conversational interrogation so smart and compelling as to make this book almost compulsively readable. "How are things with you?" asks the preface, and we are off and running: "There is little reason to imagine that fictions and poems could matter to us at all," Bourbon suggests, "if we were not in some way like them. Words matter to us-they can give us targets for our thinking, and they can hold us enthralled." When we read, he argues, we find and reveal our "complex involvement with our words: how we are gripped and lost by them and why that would matter." Bourbon is intrigued by the possibility that literature could matter to us as more than just a target for scholarship or egotistical self-projections, and by the idea that poems and fictions, by confronting us with what we are not, may help us reflect upon what we are. In this book, he asks how we are and are not like the kinds of things sentences are-and not only does he help you understand what this mysterious-sounding question means, he makes you care about the answer.Read more ›
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9 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jim Richards on October 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like the previous reviewer, I came across this book by chance, when an abstract for a paper in "Cognitive Aesthetics" was posted by a philosopher at Yale on his blog ("Certain Doubts") as an example of how dreadful postmodern work could get. I was intrigued by the philosopher's claim that this abstract was by an Assistant Professor in English at a major research university, and so Googled parts of it to see if this was true. (The abstract really was appalling, the sort of stuff that would receive an "F" in almost any intro. to philosophy class--if it would get graded at all.) The author of the abstract turned out to be Prof. Bourbon, at Stanford.

It's unfair to condemn someone on the basis on one paper. After all, perhaps Prof. Bourbon was having an off day, or maybe he wrote the paper as a joke. So I bought this book.... Suffice it to say that if the paper was a joke, this book is taking it WAY too far. If you want your view of how dreadful postmodern work is confirmed, buy this. If you want something that will actually tell you anything about the subjects it addresses, avoid at all costs.

This book made my eyes bleed.
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