The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised by people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents’ knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided.
This paper argues that that political context of British science popularization in the inter-war period was intimately tied to contemporary debates about religion and science. A leading science popularizer, the Quaker astronomer A.S. Eddington, and one of his opponents, the materialist Chapman Cohen, are examined in detail to show the intertwined nature of science, philosophy, religion, and politics.
Jason Stanley presents a startling and provocative claim about knowledge: that whether or not someone knows a proposition at a given time is in part determined by his or her practical interests, i.e. by how much is at stake for that person at that time. In defending this thesis, Stanley introduces readers to a number of strategies for resolving philosophical paradox, making the book essential not just for specialists in epistemology but for all philosophers interested in philosophical methodology. (...) Since a number of his strategies appeal to linguistic evidence, it will be of great interest to linguists as well. (shrink)
Jason Stanley's "Knowledge and Practical Interests" is a brilliant book, combining insights about knowledge with a careful examination of how recent views in epistemology fit with the best of recent linguistic semantics. Although I am largely convinced by Stanley's objections to epistemic contextualism, I will try in what follows to formulate a version that might have some prospect of escaping his powerful critique.
Jason Stanley presents a startling and provocative claim about knowledge: that whether or not someone knows a proposition at a given time is in part determined by his or her practical interests, i.e. by how much is at stake for that person at that time. So whether a true belief is knowledge is not merely a matter of supporting beliefs or reliability; in the case of knowledge, practical rationality and theoretical rationality are intertwined. Stanley defends this thesis against (...) alternative accounts of the phenomena that motivate it, such as the claim that knowledge attributions are linguistically context-sensitive, and the claim that the truth of a knowledge claim is somehow relative to the person making the claim.In the course of his argument Stanley introduces readers to a number of strategies for resolving philosophical paradox, making the book essential not just for specialists in epistemology but for all philosophers interested in philosophical methodology. Since a number of his strategies appeal to linguistic evidence, it will be of great interest to linguists as well. (shrink)
[Jennifer Hornsby] The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised by people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents' knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided. /// [Jason Stanley] The central claim is that Hornsby's argument that semantic knowledge is practical knowledge is based upon a false premise. I argue, contra Hornsby, that speakers do not voice their (...) thoughts directly. Rather, our actions of voicing our thoughts are justified by decisions we make about what words to use. Along the way, I raise doubts about other aspects of the thesis that semantic knowledge is practical knowledge. (shrink)
Stanley, Denis This snippet from the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) captures how blind we can be to the presence of God in our lives. In the Gospels, being healed from physical blindness is also a celebration of coming to faith in Christ and using that new gift to follow him. The gift of having one's eyes opened is our constant prayer, more so than ever during Lent.
Stanley, M.C., A Π12 singleton incompatible with 0#, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 66 27–88. A non-constructible Π12 singleton that is absolute for ω-models of ZF is produced by class forcing over the minimum model.
Head of Rugby School for over a decade, Thomas Arnold became Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in the final year of his life. Known for his controversial ideas on schooling and religion, he was a prominent and influential figure in the history of British education. First published in 1844, this two-volume work presents a diverse collection of Arnold's correspondence, compiled by his friend and former pupil Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster. Interspersed with biographical commentary by (...) class='Hi'>Stanley, the letters in Volume 1 illuminate Arnold's early life and work, and his career at Rugby up to 1835. In them he discusses his ideas for reform in both teaching and religion, revealing his unfailing dedication to both. Offering insights into the role of school and church in the early nineteenth century, Arnold's writings continue to interest scholars of both religion and education. (shrink)
Relevance Theory is the influential theory of linguistic interpretation first championed by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance theorists have made important contributions to our understanding of a wide range of constructions, especially constructions that tend to receive less attention in semantics and philosophy of language. But advocates of Relevance Theory also have had a tendency to form a rather closed community, with an unwillingness to translate their own special vocabulary and distinctions into more neutral vernacular. Since Robyn Carston has (...) long been the advocate of Relevance Theory most able to communicate with a broader philosophical and linguistic audience, it is with particular interest that the emergence of her long-awaited volume, Thoughts and Utterances has been greeted. The volume exhibits many of the strengths, but also some of the weaknesses, of this well-known program. (shrink)
We define qualia space Q to be the space of all possible conscious experience. For simplicity we restrict ourselves to perceptual experience only, though other kinds of experience could also be considered. Qualia space is a highly idealized concept that unifies the perceptual experience of all possible brains. We argue that Q is a closed pointed cone in an infinite-dimensional separable real topological vector space. This quite technical structure can be explained for the most part in a simple, intuitive way. (...) The structure of qualia space allows us to consider and even answer in a precise way such questions as: Is there a continuous path from the sensation of blue to the sensation of pain? Once we fix a desired accuracy of approximation, do there exist finitely many perceptual experiences such that any possible perceptual experience is approximately equal to one of them? What should be meant by ‘fundamentally different’ perceptual experiences? There is the possibility of additional structure, such as a Hilbert space structure on the vector space in which Q is embedded. (shrink)
El presente trabajo nació como una reflexión posterior a la traducción del libro de Stanley Cavell Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman. La reflexión era necesaria habida cuenta de las dudas suscitadas por la traducción del título del libro. Para ser más exacto, la reflexión giraba en torno a las lágrimas que forman parte de la primera parte del título, las lágrimas vertidas por las mujeres desconocidas que protagonizan los melodramas analizados en el libro. En mi (...) opinión, llegar a entender la razón y la naturaleza de esas lágrimas es clave para comprender lo que Cavell nos viene contando desde hace cinco décadas. Por ello, lo que sigue intenta reunir mis propios comentarios sobre la obra de Cavell en general, con la justificación de la traducción final del título: Más allá de las lágrimas. (shrink)
In *How Propaganda Works* Jason Stanley argues that democratic societies require substantial material equality because inequality causes ideologically flawed belief, which, in turn, make demagogic propaganda more effective. And that is problematic for the quality of democracy. In this brief paper I unpack that argument, in order to make two points: (a) the non-moral argument for equality is promising, but weakened by its reliance on a heavily moralised conception of democracy; (b) that problem may be remedied by whole-heartedly embracing (...) a more realistic conception of democracy. That conception is at least compatible with Stanley’s argument, if not implicit in parts of it. (shrink)
This paper analyses the opposing accounts of ‘the ordinary’ given by Jacques Derrida and Stanley Cavell, beginning with their competing interpretations of J. L. Austin¹s thought on ordinary language. These accounts are presented as mutually critiquing: Derrida¹s deconstructive method poses an effective challenge to Cavell¹s claim that the ordinary is irreducible by further philosophical analysis, while, conversely, Cavell¹s valorisation of the human draws attention to a residual humanity in Derrida¹s text which Derrida cannot account for. The two philosophers’ approaches (...) are, in fact, predicated on each other like the famous Gestalt-image of a vase and two faces: they cannot come into focus at the same time, but one cannot appear without the other to furnish its background. (shrink)
Stephen Mulhall presents the first full philosophical study of the work of Stanley Cavell. Cavell, a leading contemporary American thinker, is best known for his highly influential contributions to the fields of film studies, Shakespearian literary criticism, and the confluence of psychoanalysis and literary theory; Mulhall examines the broad spectrum of his thought, elucidating its essentially philosophical roots and trajectory.
Where has the Western attraction to the study and practice of shamanic techniques brought us? Where might it take us? In what ways have our Western biases and philosophical underpinnings influenced and changed how shamanism is practiced, both in the West and in the traditional cultures out of which they emerged? Is it time to stop using the umbrella term “shamanism” to refer to such diverse cross-cultural practices? What are our responsibilities, both as researchers and as spiritual seekers? In this (...) conversation, researcher-authors Stephan Beyer, Stanley Krippner, and Hillary S. Webb discuss their work in field and consider some of the ramifications of the Western world's intellectual and spiritual fascination with shamanic practices. Special attention is paid to the language used to describe these techniques and their practitioners, the developing relationship between researchers and cultural participants, and the ethical implications of merging what are often very distinct worldviews. (shrink)
Stanley Cavell's unique contributions to the study of epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, film, Shakespeare, and American philosophy have all received wide acclaim. But there has been relatively little recognition of the pertinence of Cavell's work to our understanding of political philosophy. The Claim to Community fills this gap with essays from a wide range of prominent American, English, French, and Italian philosophers and political theorists, as well as a lengthy response to the essays by Cavell himself. The topics covered include (...) Cavell's understanding of political community, philosophical anthropology, moral perfectionism, the positivist distinction between fact and value, political friendship, the differences between political and aesthetic disagreement, political romanticism, “the pursuit of happiness,” tragedy, and race. There are also evaluations of the ways Cavell's positions on these and other matters compare with those of Plato, Aristotle, Montaigne, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Thoreau, Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, Peter Winch, Wittgenstein, and Fred Astaire. This volume will be of great interest to political theorists and political philosophers, as well as to students of literature and film. (shrink)
The latest newcomer on the epistemology scene is Subject-Sensitive Invariantism (SSI), which is the view that even though the semantics of the verb “know” is invariant, the answer to the question of whether someone knows something is sensitive to factors about that person. Factors about the context of the purported knower are relevant to whether he knows some proposition p or not. In this paper I present Jason Stanley's version of SSI, a theory Stanley calls Interest-Relative Invariantism (IRI). (...) The core epistemological claim of IRI is that knowledge is conceptually connected to practical interests. Stanley's defence of IRI is closely connected to practical reasoning, but unfortunately, I argue, IRI leads to bad practical reasoning. I furthermore show that Stanley's IRI cannot accommodate all of Stanley's five test cases for knowledge attribution, test cases that are supposed to (more or less) make or break theories of knowledge attribution. IRI also has some quite counterintuitive results and derives much of its appeal from one-sidedness of Stanley's examples. The net effect, I claim, is that IRI should be resisted. (shrink)
This paper begins with a discussion of Stanley Cavell’s philosophy of language learning. Young people learn more than the meaning of words when acquiring language: they learn about (the quality of) our form of life. If we—as early childhood educators—see language teaching as something like handing some inert thing to a child, then we unduly limit the possibilities of education for that child. Cavell argues that we must become poets if we are to be the type of representatives of (...) language that education calls for. In the final section of the paper I discuss the work of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, someone who developed an approach to language teaching that overlaps in interesting ways with Cavell’s approach in The Claim of Reason. (shrink)
The issue of skepticism emerges in Experience by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In Finding as Founding Stanley Cavell reads Emerson's essay as a contribution to the idealistic debate in order to recuperate Kant's 'thing in itself'. Placing that question in the ordinary space of everyday life makes Emerson a precursor of the attacks by Austin and Wittgenstein particularly regarding philosophy and skepticism. The possibility of redeeming our linguistic praxis and gaining some intimacy between language and world rises through a conversion (...) of our position in the world. However, this strategy of self-redemption seems to lack a warranty: the issue of skepticism still shows all its tragic relevance. (shrink)
In his early work, the philosopher Stanley Cavell offers a sustained engagement with the threat of epistemological scepticism, shaped by the intuition that although (as the late Wittgenstein shows) ordinary language use is the practice within which alone meaning is possible (and which can thus not be further analysed or rationalised), it is also a basic human inclination to wish to escape the limitations of the ‘ordinary’. This, for Cavell, is the root of scepticism. Scepticism, on this view, thus (...) appears not primarily as an epistemological but as an (injurious) moral stance, which cannot be refuted but must be continually confronted and overcome. Vis-à-vis scepticism, ‘acknowledgement’ is the practice-based recognition of the world and other people in their continuing elusiveness, which ineluctably involves risk, but just so is the only way of knowing that is appropriate to and honours the (finite) human condition. One problematic aspect of this (very fertile) approach is that Cavell’s secular viewpoint makes it difficult for him to say both why the desire for a ‘beyond’ arises in the first place, and why its expression as denial is morally wrong (rather than merely misguided). His approach thus invites a theological ‘supplementation’ which grounds the human condition in an original and real relation to God that is meant to draw the believer, through Christ, into the divine life itself. Such a reinterpretation both elucidates the concepts of scepticism and acknowledgement, and makes these concepts available for a theological outlook that is able to accommodate Cavell’s profound insights into ‘the human’. (shrink)
Stanley Hauerwas's claim that Bonhoeffer had a “commitment to nonviolence” runs aground on Bonhoeffer's own statements about peace, war, violence, and nonviolence. The fact that Hauerwas and others have asserted Bonhoeffer's commitment to nonviolence despite abundant evidence to the contrary reveals a blind spot that develops from reading Bonhoeffer's thinking in general and his statements about peace in particular as if they were part of an Anabaptist theological framework rather than his own Lutheran one. This essay shows that Bonhoeffer's (...) understanding of peace as “concrete commandment” and “order of preservation” relies on Lutheran concepts and is articulated with explicit contrast to an Anabaptist account of peace. The interpretation developed here can account for the range of statements Bonhoeffer makes about peace, war, violence, and nonviolence, many of which must be misconstrued or ignored to claim his “commitment to nonviolence.”. (shrink)
This is a revised version of a keynote presentation delivered by Professor Rothman at the Conference on Stanley Cavell’s Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow , University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne, September 2012.
Having acknowledged the recurrent theme of education in Stanley Cavell's work, the discussion addresses the topic of scepticism, especially as this emerges in the interpretation of Wittgenstein. Questions concerning rule‐following, language and society are then turned towards political philosophy, specifically with regard to John Rawls. The discussion examines the idea of the social contract, the nature of moral reasoning and the possibility of our lives' being above reproach, as well as Rawls's criticisms of Nietzschean perfectionism. This lays the way (...) for the broaching of questions of race and America. The theme of the ordinary, which emerges variously in Cavell's reflections on Emerson, Wittgenstein and Austin, is taken up and extended into a consideration of Thoreau's ‘experiment in living’. The conversation closes with brief remarks about happiness. (shrink)
Hearing Things is the first work to treat systematically the relation between Cavell's pervasive authorial voice and his equally powerful, though less discernible, impulse to produce a set of usable philosophical methods.
Stanley Cavell has been a brilliant, idiosyncratic, and controversial presence in American philosophy, literary criticism, and cultural studies for years. Even as he continues to produce new writing of a high standard -- an example of which is included in this collection -- his work has elicited responses from a new generation of writers in Europe and America. This collection showcases this new work, while illustrating the variety of Cavell's interests: in the "ordinary language" philosophy of Wittgenstein and Austin, (...) in film criticism and theory, in literature, psychoanalysis, and the American transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The collection also reprints Richard Rorty's early review of Cavell's magnum opus, The Claim of Reason (1979), and it concludes with Cavell's substantial set of responses to the essays, a highlight of which is his engagement with Rorty. (shrink)
Including the substantial Introduction by Richard Eldridge, this volume consists of nine previously unpublished essays each of which focuses upon a single region of Cavell’s work. While the scope of the issues considered in the volume can be only incompletely indicated by listing the regions addressed, they include: ethics, philosophy of action, the normativity of language, aesthetics and modernism, American philosophy, Shakespeare, film, television, and opera, and the relation of Cavell’s work to German philosophy and Romanticism. The volume also contains (...) a useful index, and a brief annotated bibliography of works by and about Cavell. (shrink)
This paper offers a different approach to writing about oneself—Stanley Cavell's idea of philosophy as autobiography. In Cavell's understanding, the acknowledgement of the partiality of the self is an essential condition for achieving the universal. In the apparently paradoxical combination of the 'philosophical' and the 'autobiographical', Cavell shows us a way of focusing on the self and yet always transcending the self. The task requires, however, a reconstruction of the notions of philosophy and autobiography, and at the same time (...) the destabilising of our conceptions of self and language. Cavell seeks to achieve this through the idea of finding one's voice, understood as an autobiographical exercise. This necessitates both negotiation of the inheritance from the past and innovation for the future, initiation into the language community and deviation from it. What this amounts to, in ways that the paper seeks to explain, is a process of the self and language in translation. This is a sense of 'translation' that is broader than the conventional understanding of the term. Such a conception can, it is argued, exercise a therapeutic effect on the self, destabilising the myth of self-identity. The implications of this account for the contemporary vogue for narrative in educational research, as well as for classroom practice, are considered. (shrink)
accounts in general, contrary to what he seems to think. Stanley’s discussion concerns the dynamic or ‘forced march’ version of the sorites, viz. the version framed in terms of the judgments that would be made by a competent speaker who proceeds step by step along a sorites series for a vague predicate ‘F’. According to Stanley, the contextualist treatment of the paradox is based on the idea that the speaker shifts the content of the predicate whenever necessary to (...) make it the case that each successive pair of adjacent items are category-identical – in other words, either both items satisfy ‘F’ or neither does. These adjustments allow the speaker to progress from a clear case for ‘F’ to a clear case for ‘not-F’ without breaking the seeming continuity of the series. (shrink)
Scientists and historians have often presumed that the divide between biochemistry and molecular biology is fundamentally epistemological.100 The historiography of molecular biology as promulgated by Max Delbrück's phage disciples similarly emphasizes inherent differences between the archaic tradition of biochemistry and the approach of phage geneticists, the ur molecular biologists. A historical analysis of the development of both disciplines at Berkeley mitigates against accepting predestined differences, and underscores the similarities between the postwar development of biochemistry and the emergence of molecular biology (...) as a university discipline. Stanley's image of postwar biochemistry, with its focus on viruses as key experimental systems, and its preference for following macromolecular structure over metabolism pathways, traced the outline of molecular biology in 1950.Changes in the postwar political economy of research universities enabled the proliferation of disciplines such as microbiology, biochemistry, biophysics, immunology, and molecular biology in universities rather than in medical schools and agricultural colleges. These disciplines were predominantly concerned with investigating life at the subcellular level-research that during the 1930s had often entailed collaboration with physicists and chemists. The interdisciplinary efforts of the 1930s (many fostered by the Rockefeller Foundation) yielded a host of new tools and reagents that were standardized and mass-produced for laboratories after World War II. This commercial infrastructure enabled “basic” researchers in biochemistry and molecular biology in the 1950s and 1960s to become more independent from physics and chemistry (although they were practicing a physicochemical biology), as well as from the agricultural and medical schools that had previously housed or sponsored such research. In turn, the disciplines increasingly required their practitioners to have specialized graduate training, rather than admitting interlopers from the physical sciences.These general transitions toward greater autonomy for biochemistry and allied disciplines should not mask the important particularities of these developments on each campus. At the University of Caliornia at Berkeley, agriculture had provided, with medicine, significant sponsorship for biochemistry. The proximity of Lawrence and his cyclotrons supported the early development of Berkeley as a center for the biological uses of radioisotopes, particularly in studies of metabolism and photosynthesis. Stanley arrived to establish his department and virus institute before large-scale federal funding of biomedical research was in place, and he courted the state of California for substantial backing by promising both national prominence in the life sciences and virus research pertinent to agriculture and public health. Stanley's venture benefited significantly from the expansion of California's economy after World War II, and his mobilization against viral diseases resonated with the concerns of the Cold War, which fueled the state's rapid growth. The scientific prominence of contemporary developments at Caltech and Stanford invites the historical examination of the significance of postwar biochemistry and molecular biology within the political and cultural economy of the Golden State.In 1950, Stanley presented a persuasive picture of the power of biochemistry to refurbish life science at Berkeley while answering fundamental questions about life and infection. In the words of one Rockefeller Foundation officer,There seems little doubt in [my] mind that as a personality Stanley will be well able to dominate the other personalities on the Berkeley campus and will be able to drive his dream through to completion, which, incidentally, leaves Dr. Hubert [sic] Evans and the whole ineffective Life Sciences building in the somewhat peculiar position of being by-passed by much of the truly modern biochemistry and biophysics research that will be carried out at Berkeley. Furthermore, it seems likely that Dr. S's show will throw Dr. John Lawrence's Biophysics Department strongly in the shade both figuratively and literally, but should make the University of California pre-eminent not only in physics but in biochemistry as well.101Stanley, Sproul, Weaver, and this officer (William Loomis) all testified to a perceptible postwar opportunity to capitalize on public support for biological research that relied on the technologies from physics and chemistry without being captive to them, and that addressed issues of medicine and agriculture without being institutionally subservient. What is striking, given the expectation by many that Stanley would ‘be able to drive his dream through to completion,” was that in fact he did not. Biochemists who had succeeded in making their expertise valued in specialized niches were resistant to giving up their affiliations to joint Stanley's “liberated” organization. Stanley's failure was not simply due to institutional factors: researchers as well as Rockefeller Foundation officers faulted him for his lack of scientific imagination, which made it difficult for him to gain credibility in leading the field. Moreover, many biochemists did not share Stanley's commitment to viruses as the key material for the “new biochemistry.”In the end, Stanley's free-standing department did become a first-rate department of biochemistry, but only after freeing itself from Stanley's leadership and his single-minded devotion to viruses. Nonetheless, the falling-out with the Berkeley biochemists was rapidly followed by the establishment of a Department of Molecular Biology, attesting to the unabating economic and institutional possibilities for an authoritative “general biology” (or two, for that matter) to take hold. In each case, following Stanley's dream sheds light on how the possible and the real shaped the (re)formation of biochemistry and molecular biology as postwar life sciences. (shrink)
: Thoreau's journal contains a number of passages which explore the nature of perception, developing a response to skeptical doubt. The world outside the human mind is real, and there is nothing illusory about its perceived beauty and meaning. In this essay, I draw upon the work of Stanley Cavell (among others) in order to frame Thoreau's reflections within the context of the skeptical questions he seeks to address. Value is not a subjective projection, but it also cannot be (...) perceived without the appropriate kind of emotional orientation or attunement toward the world: that is, an attitude of trust or acceptance. Without this affective receptivity, or "perceptual faith," our knowledge of reality is limited. The beliefs we hold onto in the face of objective uncertainty establish the framework within which we make particular evaluations, and in this sense they are a necessary condition of practical reason. Every understanding has its mood. (shrink)
Education is often understood as a process whereby children come to conform to the norms teachers believe should govern our practices. This picture problematically presumes that educators know in advance what it means for children to go on the way that is expected of them. In this essay Viktor Johansson suggests a revision of education, through the philosophy of Stanley Cavell, that can account for both the attunement in our practices and the possible dissonance that follows when the teacher (...) and child do not go on together. There is an anxiety generated by the threat of disharmony in our educational undertakings that may drive teachers toward philosophy in educational contexts. Here Johansson offers a philosophical treatment of this intellectual anxiety that teachers may experience when they, upon meeting dissonant children, search for epistemic justifications of their practices—a treatment whereby dissonant children can support teachers in dissolving their intellectual frustrations. (shrink)
Stanley’s insightful new book refines his earlier formulation of intellectualism. Indeed, it does a whole lot more, but leaves open some tough questions. He makes a powerful case for the view that knowing how to do something is to know, of a certain way, that one could do that thing in that way. But he says surprisingly little about what ways are, and how they might differ, depending on the kind of case. And he doesn't exclude the possibility that (...) in some cases what one knows in knowing-how is a way of doing something rather than a fact about a way of doing it. (shrink)
Educators, not to mention philosophers of education, find themselves in a difficult position nowadays. They are confronted with problems such as which kind of values one would want citizens to embrace, or to what extent social practices of a particular group may differ from what is generally held. In this essay, Paul Smeyers and Yusef Waghid focus on postmodern critiques, in particular on the position of Michel Foucault as it is relevant for the debate on cosmopolitanism. The authors argue that (...) Foucault's analysis of the self in relation to the other is somewhat contentious, as it seems to invoke an independent ethical self other than a social self. Smeyers and Waghid claim that a more nuanced position regarding this relation can be found in the work of Stanley Cavell. They conclude that encounters with the other should not be seen as a new kind of universalism or Foucauldian subjectivism, but rather as an opening that creates opportunities both for attachment and detachments, that is, for acknowledgment and avoidance. (shrink)
This book takes Stanley Cavell's much-quoted, yet enigmatic phrase as the provocation for a series of explorations into themes of education that run throughout his work - through his response to Wittgenstein, Austin and ordinary language ...
Stanley Cavell is a leading figure in American philosophy and one of the most exhilarating and wide-ranging intellectuals of our time. In this book Espen Hammer offers a lucid and thorough account of the development of Cavell's work, from his early writings on ordinary language philosophy and skepticism to his most recent contributions to film studies, literary theory, romanticism, ethics, and politics. The book traces the many lines of skepticism occurring in Cavell's work and shows how they amount to (...) a rich and subtle picture of human subjectivity. Hammer explores Cavell's passionate engagement with Austin and Wittgenstein's visions of language, and his uncovering of conceptions of the ordinary in Emerson and Thoreau. Central sections of the book are devoted to the tragic and the comic as these modes of existence come into play in Shakespeare and Hollywood cinematic drama. In elaborating Cavell's responses to thinkers such as Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida, the author situates Cavell's writing within the wider context of contemporary continental philosophy. Hammer clearly reveals the existential dimensions of Cavell's thought. He argues that his variant of ordinary language philosophy is a vital stimulus to self-transformation in cognitive, aesthetic, ethical, and political domains, contributing significantly to a rethinking of issues such as responsibility and autonomy, and the relationship between philosophy and literature. A critical introduction to the thought of an inordinately complex writer, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars in philosophy, literary theory, cultural theory, comparative literature, and media and cultural studies. (shrink)