Responsiveness as responsibility: Cavell's reading of Wittgenstein and King Lear as a source for an ethics of interpersonal relationships

Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (5):81-107 (2000)
In this article I want to explore some questions that arise from the work of Stanley Cavell. My purpose is to examine lines of connections between Cavell's readings of Wittgenstein (specifically his notions of 'criteria', 'aspect blindness' and 'primitive reaction', with special reference to the philosophical problem of 'other minds') and Shakespeare, on the one side, and a certain dimension of the ethical, on the other. Although Cavell has rarely offered explicit remarks on the issue of morality, and is normally not considered a moral philosopher, it is my contention that it is possible to elicit what we could call an implied ethics from his philosophical view. This ethical outlook is not to be confused with a theory, but is rather a turn or bent that emerges especially by understanding the place of acknowledgment and ethical responsiveness in our practical life. Key Words: acknowledgment • Cavell • ethics • skepticism • Wittgenstein.
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