This reissue of an American philosophical classic includes a new preface by Cavell, in which he discusses the work's reception and influence. The work fosters a fascinating relationship between philosophy and literature both by augmenting his philosophical discussions with examples from literature and by applying philosophical theories to literary texts. Cavell also succeeds in drawing some very important parallels between the British analytic tradition and the continental tradition, by comparing skepticism as understood in Descartes, Hume, and Kant with philosophy of (...) language as practiced by Wittgenstein and Austin. (shrink)
In these three lectures, Cavell situates Emerson at an intersection of three crossroads: a place where both philosophy and literature pass; where the two traditions of English and German philosophy shun one another; where the cultures of America and Europe unsettle one another.
These lectures by one of the most influential and original philosophers of the twentieth century constitute a sustained argument for the philosophical basis of romanticism, particularly in its American rendering. Through his examination of such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Stanley Cavell shows that romanticism and American transcendentalism represent a serious philosophical response to the challenge of skepticism that underlies the writings of Wittgenstein and Austin on ordinary language.
Something out of the ordinary -- The interminable Shakespearean text -- Fred Astaire asserts the right to praise -- Henry James returns to America and to Shakespeare -- Philosophy the day after tomorrow -- What is the scandal of skepticism? -- Performative and passionate utterance -- The Wittgensteinian event -- Thoreau thinks of ponds, Heidegger of rivers -- The world as things.
The two essays in this book, first published in 1989, were delivered as two of the 1987 Carpenter Lectures at the University of Chicago. Wittgenstein and Emerson are major influences on and subjects of Cavell's thought, and here he thinks and rethinks of these two intellectual forebears. As the title shows, he finds an important crux for contemplation in Emerson's idea of America.
_Philosophy and Animal Life_ offers a new way of thinking about animal rights, our obligation to animals, and the nature of philosophy itself. Cora Diamond begins with "The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy," in which she accuses analytical philosophy of evading, or deflecting, the responsibility of human beings toward nonhuman animals. Diamond then explores the animal question as it is bound up with the more general problem of philosophical skepticism. Focusing specifically on J. M. Coetzee's _The Lives (...) of Animals_, she considers the failure of language to capture the vulnerability of humans and animals. Stanley Cavell responds to Diamond's argument with his own close reading of Coetzee's work, connecting the human-animal relation to further themes of morality and philosophy. John McDowell follows with a critique of both Diamond and Cavell, and Ian Hacking explains why Cora Diamond's essay is so deeply perturbing and, paradoxically for a philosopher, he favors poetry over philosophy as a way of overcoming some of her difficulties. Cary Wolfe's introduction situates these arguments within the broader context of contemporary continental philosophy and theory, particularly Jacques Derrida's work on deconstruction and the question of the animal. _Philosophy and Animal Life_ is a crucial collection for those interested in animal rights, ethics, and the development of philosophical inquiry. It also offers a unique exploration of the role of ethics in Coetzee's fiction. (shrink)
This book is Stanley Cavell’s definitive expression on Emerson. Over the past thirty years, Cavell has demonstrated that he is the most emphatic and provocative philosophical critic of Emerson that America has yet known. The sustained effort of that labor is drawn together here for the first time into a single volume, which also contains two previously unpublished essays and an introduction by Cavell that reflects on this book and the history of its emergence. -/- Students and scholars working in (...) philosophy, literature, American studies, history, film studies, and political theory can now more easily access Cavell’s luminous and enduring work on Emerson. Such engagement should be further complemented by extensive indices and annotations. If we are still in doubt whether America has expressed itself philosophically, there is perhaps no better space for inquiry than reading Cavell reading Emerson. (shrink)
Reissued with a new preface, this famous collection of essays covers a remarkably wide range of philosophical issues, including essays on Wittgenstein, Austin, Kierkegaard, and the philosophy of language, and extending beyond philosophy into discussions of music and drama. Previous edition hb ISBN (1976): 0-521-21116-6 Previous edition pb ISBN (1976): 0-521-29048-1.
In the first essay of this book, Stanley Cavell characterizes philosophy as a "willingness to think not about something other than what ordinary human beings think about, but rather to learn to think undistractedly about things that ordinary human beings cannot help thinking about, or anyway cannot help having occur to them, sometimes in fantasy, sometimes as a flash across a landscape." Fantasies of film and television and literature, flashes across the landscape of literary theory, philosophical discourse, and French historiography (...) give Cavell his starting points in these twelve essays. Here is philosophy in and out of "school," understood as a discipline in itself or thought through the works of Shakespeare, Molière, Kierkegaard, Thoreau, Brecht, Makavejev, Bergman, Hitchcock, Astaire, and Keaton. (shrink)
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)
Granted a certain depth of accuracy in citing an aspect of Spengler as an enactment of an aspect of Wittgenstein's thought, Wittgenstein's difference from Spengler should have depth. One difference can be characterized by saying that in the Investigations Wittgenstein diurnalizes Spengler's vision of the destiny toward exhausted forms, toward nomadism, toward loss of culture, or of home, or community: he depicts our everyday encounters with philosophy, with our ideals, as brushes with skepticism, wherein the ancient task of philosophy, to (...) awaken us, or bring us to our senses, takes the form of returning us to the everyday, the ordinary, every day, diurnally. (shrink)
In this classic collection of wide-ranging and interdisciplinary essays, Stanley Cavell explores a remarkably broad range of philosophical issues from politics and ethics to the arts and philosophy. The essays explore issues as diverse as the opposing approaches of 'analytic' and 'Continental' philosophy, modernism, Wittgenstein, abstract expressionism and Schoenberg, Shakespeare on human needs, the difficulties of authorship, Kierkegaard and post-Enlightenment religion. Presented in a fresh twenty-first century series livery, and including a specially commissioned preface, written by Stephen Mulhall, illuminating its (...) continuing importance and relevance to philosophical enquiry, this influential work is now available for a new generation of readers. (shrink)
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)
A collection of 17 important readings provide those unfamiliar with Cavell's work with an overview of its strategic purpose, its central themes, and its argumentative development. The readings are taken from every one of the major fields in which Cavell has been involved--aesthetics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of Wittgenstein, Austin, Emerson, literary criticism, film theory, and psychoanalysis. Brief editorial introductions to each piece are included. A previously unpublished essay on Wittgenstein serves as an epilogue. Annotation copyright by Book News, Inc., (...) Portland, OR. (shrink)
A division has arisen within the naturalist school of moral philosophy, with the contenders being "the emotive theorists vs. the cognitive theorists." the author suggests that the fundamental agreements between the groups far outweigh the peripheral and sometimes illusory disagreements. the article establishes the areas of agreement, deals with illusory disagreements, and indicates the peripheral disagreements can be considered disagreements in emphasis. (staff).
My letter of invitation to this seminar expresses the thought that “it will be very useful to have someone from outside the field help us see ourselves.” Given my interests in what you might call the fact of literary study, I was naturally attracted by the invitation to look at literary study as a discipline or profession but also suspicious of the invitation. I thought: Do professionals really want to be helped to see themselves by outsiders? This is an invitation (...) to get a group of people sore at me, and it will only result in the group’s having an occasion not to see itself, since any member of it can easily dismiss anything I say as uninformed. But the invitation goes on to give the title for this session as “The Nature and Function of Literary Study: As Others See Us.” Reading that, I thought: That is different. That identifies me as an other to the “academic and professional concerns” of the field—hence, not just outside but intimately outside, as if my position were an alternative to yours. And how could I not be better informed about being other to you than you are?But of course I know that there is no single unified “you” to which I am other, that some of you, perhaps most, have other others than philosophy and see your practice not against philosophy but against history or criticism or literary theory. So I should perhaps say that I am not exactly single or unified myself, that I am also other to the Anglo-American profession of philosophy, to which at the same time I belong. A way of expressing my otherness to this profession of philosophy is simply to say that I take you as also among my others, that I recognize the study of literature to be an alternative to what I do—a path I might have taken, might still irregularly be taking—to occupy a relation to the way I think, that for most of the members of my profession would be occupied by a profession of logic or science. I will not try here to account theoretically for the intimate differences that may make philosophy and literature alternative studies, which means that I will not here systematically try taking the perspective of an other. But I will be bearing in mind its certain messages and rumors that have lately been coming my way from the field of literary studies. You have, for example, not kept it secret that you have been worrying, as a profession, and sometimes in the form of conducting arguments about the obligation to literary theory as part of literary study, nor secret that these arguments sometimes take on the color or texture of strong statements of, or against, something called deconstruction. I will try to say something about these poorly kept secrets. Stanley Cavell, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of many works, including Must We Mean What We Say?, The Senses of “Walden,” The Claim of Reason, and, most recently, Themes Out of School. He has been chosen by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters to receive the 1985 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award for Criticism. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry, “Politics as Opposed to What?,” appears in the September 1982 issue. (shrink)
Other of my intellectual debts remain fully outstanding, that to Freud ’s work before all. A beholdenness to Sigmund Freud ’s intervention in Western culture is hardly something for concealment, but I have until now left my commitment to it fairly implicit. This has been not merely out of intellectual terror at Freud ’s achievement but in service of an idea and in compensation for a dissatisfaction I might formulate as follows: psychoanalytic interpretations of the arts in American culture have, (...) until quite recently, on the whole been content to permit the texts under analysis not to challenge the concepts of analysis being applied to them, and this seemed to me to do injustice both to psychoanalysis and to literature. My response was to make a virtue of this defect by trying, in my readings of film as well as of literature and of philosophy, to recapitulate what I understood by Freud ’s saying that he had been preceded in his insights by the creative writes of his tradition; that is, I tried to arrive at a sense for each text I encountered that psychoanalysis had become called for, as if called for in the history of knowledge, as if each psychoanalytic reading were charged with rediscovering the reality of psychoanalysis. This still does not seem to me an irrelevant ambition, but it is also no longer a sufficient response in our altered environment. Some of the most interesting and useful criticism and literary theory currently being produced is decisively psychoanalytic in inspiration, an alteration initiated for us most prominently by the past two or so decades of work in Paris and represented in this country by—to pick examples from which I have profited in recent months—Neil Hertz on the Dora case, Shoshana Felman on Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick on homophobia in Our Mutual Friend.1 And now my problem has become that I am unsure whether I understand the constitution of the discourses in which this material is presented in relation to what I take philosophy to be, a constitution to which, such as it is, I am also committed. So some siting of this relation is no longer mine to postpone. 1. See Neil Hertz, “Dora’s Secrets, Freud ’s Techniques,” in In Dora’s Case: Freud — Hysteria —Feminism, ed. Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane, pp. 221-42; Shoshana Felman, “Turning the Screw of Interpretation,” Yale French Studies 55/56 : 94-207; and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Homophobia, Misogyny, and Capital: The Example of Our Mutual Friend,” Raritan 2 : 126-51. Stanley Cavell, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of many works, including Must We Mean What We Say?, The Senses of “Walden,” The Claim of Reason, and, most recently, Themes Out of School. He spent last spring at Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies. His most recent contributions to Critical Inquiry are “Politics as Opposed to What?” and “The Division of Talent”. (shrink)
An interview with Stanley Cavell about his early book The Senses of Walden. First of all the interview clarifies some parts of that book and explains how it was written, then Cavell describes his relation with the figures of Thoreau and Emerson, his peculiar approach in reading the works of other authors, and tells something about his way of writing philosophy.
Writing in continuous gratitude to Gary Matthews's wonderful project of rescuing childhood from its disregard, not to say banishment, in professional philosophy, I relate here certain moments in his considerations of early childhood to moments in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, which opens with a scene of childhood from Augustine's Confessions, and also to moments in later stages of childhood (as Matthews also significantly indicates) and, beyond that, to adolescent crises and to what I have called philosophy as "the education of grown-ups." (...) I raise the issue of whether we are to see the "odd" questions of early childhood as proto-science, which will eventually graduate into better science, or as proto-philosophy, which will be continuously elaborated in philosophical investigation. This raises the question of whether philosophy is to be regarded, early or late, as inseparable from science or, as the later Wittgenstein urges, autonomous with respect to science's glamorous advances. (shrink)
In my essay on Austin I did not specify what I took the politics of my own discourse to be, but the institutional pressures on it, in particular the pressures of the professionalization of American philosophy, were in outline clear enough. I was more and more galled by the mutual shunning of the continental and the Anglo-American traditions of philosophizing, and I was finding more and more oppressive the mutual indifference of philosophy and literature to one another, especially, I suppose, (...) of American philosophy and American literature, and especially philosophy's indifference to the literary conditions of its own existence. I was still near the beginning of what is turning out to be a lifelong quarrel with the profession of philosophy. One of its recent manifestations has been the question put to me by certain professional colleagues whether I do not take satisfaction from the newer literary theory and criticism, especially as that has been inspired by developments over the past fifteen or so years in French intellectual life. This would seem to answer my plea at one stroke for both continental philosophy and for an understanding with literary matters. The fact is that my ambivalence toward these developments has been so strong, or anyway periodic, that I have found it difficult to study in any very orderly way.The reason for my difficulty is contained in what I mean by my quarrel with the profession of philosophy. That this is a quarrel means that I recognize the profession to be the genuine present of the impulse and the history of philosophy, so far as that present takes its place in our public intellectual life. This is what makes my quarrel with it a part of what I take my intellectual adventure to be. My point in the quarrel is that I can recognize no expression of mine to be philosophical which simply thinks to escape my profession's paradigms of comprehensibility; so that the invocations of the name of philosophy in current literary debate are frequently not comprehensible to me as calls upon philosophy. It may be that I should care less about this than I do, even less than my ambivalence asks. I mean to bear this in mind as I go on to spend the bulk of my time here considering in a practical way some passages from the writing of two literary theorists who have recourse to the work of Austin. In the case of the passages from Stanley Fish, it may be that my efforts will just amount to clearing up some unnecessarily confusing terminology; some passages from Paul de Man I find more troubling.Stanley Cavell, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of, among other works, Must We Mean What We Say?, The Senses of Walden, The Claim of Reason, and most recently Pursuits of Happiness. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "On Makavejev On Bergman" , "A Reply to John Hollander" , and "North by Northwest". (shrink)
Coming away from a first reading of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “The Beast in the Closet: James and the Writing of Homosexual Panic,” my sense of its pertinence to what I have written on film melodrama is so urgent that I find myself unwilling to make public the foregoing latest installment of my thoughts on the subject without including some initial responses, however hurried and improvisatory they must be now, to the material she has so remarkably brought together. Her work, among (...) other matters, proposes an understanding of James’s “The Beast in the Jungle” that to my mind cannot sensibly be passed by in thinking further about James’s achievement. Since in readdressing James’s text in my preceding remarks about Now, Voyager, and specifying my reason in having adduced it at the end of my earlier account Letter from an Unknown Woman by describing that film’s philosophical design—relating the melodrama of the unknown woman to the woman’s assignment to prove the man’s existence, or preservation, to him, or for him, hence impossibly attempting to perform his cogito, the taking on of his subjectivity, overcoming his skepticism by accepting that subjectivity as undeniable—I am understandably interested, to begin with, in tracing out the connection between things Sedgwick says about John Marcher’s “two secrets” and things I have said about secrecy as a cover for the idea of “privacy” in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s fantasy of a private language. (shrink)
Makavejev's recurrence to the ideas of death and birth, in his critical remark about the opening of Persona and in his quoting of Bergman's statement "Each film is my last" , recalls the recurrence of the ideas of death and birth in Sweet Movie. The sound track opens with a song asking "Is there life after birth?" and the images end with a corpse coming to life; in between, the film is obsessed with images of attempts to be born. The (...) question about life after birth—posing the question whether we may hope for mortality as prior to the question whether we may hope for immortality—has the satisfying sound of one of Feuerbach's or the early Marx's twists that turn Christianity upside down into socialism. . . . It is the great concluding moments of Sweet Music, however, which bear direct comparison with the great opening moments of Persona. But even to describe those concluding sonorities relevantly requires a general idea of the film as a whole. Sweet Movie is, at a minimum, the most original exploration known to me of the endless relations between documentary and fictional film, incorporating both; hence in that way an original exploration of the endless relations between reality and fantasy. Its use of documentary footage declares that every movie has a documentary basis—at least in the camera's ineluctable interrogation of the natural endowment of the actors, the beings who submit their being to the work of film. My private title for Makavejev's construction of Sweet Movie and of Innocence Unprotected and WR: Mysteries of the Organism is "the film of excavation." I mean by this of course my sense of his work's digging to unearth buried layers of the psyche but also my sense that these constructions have the feeling of reconstruction—as of something lost or broken. The search at once traces their integrity of the individual strata of a history and plots the positions of adjacent strata. I accept as well the implied sense—something the experience of Makavejev's last three films conveys to me—that these constructions are inherently the working out of a group's genius, its interactions, not of one individual's plans; though it is true and definitive of Makavejev's work that a group's interactions, or those of shifting groups, work themselves out into comprehensible forms because a given individual is committed to seeing to it that they may. Stanley Cavell, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of Must We Mean What We Say?, The World Viewed, The Senses of Walden, and The Claim of Reason. Other contributions include ""A Reply to John Hollander"" and "North by Northwest". (shrink)
One quality of remarriage comedies is that, for all their ingratiating manners, and for all the ways in which they are among the most beloved of Hollywood films, a moral cloud remains at the end of each of them. And that moral cloud has to do with what is best about them. What is best are the conversations that go on in them, where conversation means of course talk, but means also an entire life of intimate exchange between the principal (...) pair. We are bound to remember from these films, even years after viewing them, something of their sound: of conversation between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth, or between Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, or Grant and Katharine in Bringing up Baby, or those two together with James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, or between Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Adam’s Rib. We feel that these people know one another, and they know how to play together in a way to make one happy and hope for the best. But the moral cloud has to do with what that conversation is meant to do, and what I say about those films is that the conversation is in service of the woman’s sense of herself as in need of an education. Importantly for that reason, I call her a descendent of Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, who in one of the most celebrated moments in modern theater, ends a play by closing a door behind her. She leaves the dollhouse saying to her husband that she requires an education and that he is not the man who can provide it for her. The implication is that since he is not this man, he cannot be her husband. And implying the contrary as well: if he were, then he would be, and their relationship would accordingly—“miracle of miracles”—constitute a marriage. Stanley Cavell is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. His most recent works include In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism , This New Yet Unapproachable America , and Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome. (shrink)