The Human Embrace: The Love of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Love: Kierkegaard, Cavell, Nussbaum

By Ronald L. Hall | Go to book overview
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Three

KNOWLEDGE AND DISAPPOINTMENT

That Stanley Cavell was influenced by Søren Kierkegaard is clear; what that influence finally comes to, however, is less clear, perhaps even to Cavell himself. Although he devoted an early article--an article that has now become rather well known among Kierkegaardians--to a discussion of a not-so-wellknown piece by Kierkegaard, On Authority and Revelation (CE, 372-93), Cavell's acknowledgment of Kierkegaard comes mostly in the way of passing references.1

While some might make the cynical claim that Cavell's use of Kierkegaard is no more than a polite gesture to his mentor, Wittgenstein, for whom Kierkegaard was important, I think there is more to Cavell's attraction to Kierkegaard. As I would put it, Cavell seems to be attracted to something in Kierkegaard's way of thinking, or of doing philosophy. In fact, I propose to show that Cavell has adopted, knowingly or not, a Kierkegaardian way of thinking, especially in what he says about skepticism and about marriage.

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1
One such reference that is particularly relevant, a kind of cryptic summary of my project here, is as follows: "And this is the Kierkegaard whose Knight of Faith alone achieves not exactly the everyday, but "the sublime in the pedestrian." I do not quite wish to imply that Kierkegaard's (melodramatic) sense of the pedestrian here, with its transfigurative interpretation of the human gait of walking, is matched in Wittgenstein's idea of the ordinary. Yet it seems to me that I can understand Kierkegaard's perception as a religious interpretation of Wittgenstein's. In that case an intuitive sense is afforded that the everyday, say the temporal, is an achievement, that its tasks can be shrunk from as the present age shrinks from the tasks of eternity; a sense, I would like to say, that in both tasks one's humanity, or finitude, is to be, always is to be, accepted, suffered." This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures After Emerson After Wittgenstein ( Albuquerque, N.M.: Living Batch Press, 1989), 39 (hereafter UA).

-87-

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