Stanley Cavell

Stanley Cavell

Stanley Cavell

Stanley Cavell

Synopsis

Stanley Cavell has been one of the most creative and independent of contemporary philosophical voices. At the core of his thought is the view that skepticism is not a theoretical position to be refuted by philosophical theory but is a reflection of the fundamental limits of human knowledge of the self, of others and of the external world that must be accepted. This volume is the first attempt systematically and accessibly to describe and assess the full range of Cavell's work. There are new accounts of Cavell's contribution to the philosophy of mind and language, the theory of action, ethics, aesthetics, Romanticism, American philosophy. Richard Eldridge is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philsophy Department at Swarthmore College. He is author of The Persistence of Romanticism (Cambridge, 2001), On Moral Personhood: Philosophy, Literature, Criticism, and Self-Understanding (Chicago, 1989) and Leading a Human Life: Wittengenstein, Intentionality, and Romanticism (Chicago, 1997), which won the 1998 Jean-Pierre Barricelli Book Prize awarded by the American Conference on Romanticism. He is the editor of Beyond Representation: Philosophy and Poetic Imagination (Cambridge, 1996).

Excerpt

Academic philosophy in the twentieth century has become comfortable with a compartmentalized conception of philosophy. Most members of philosophy departments in American universities consider themselves to be specialists in, for example, philosophy of language, or philosophy of mind, or philosophy of science or ethics or aesthetics, or in some period of the history of philosophy, and this is, mostly, a good thing. It permits a detailed mastery of a limited, often technical, body of work, to which one might reasonablyaspire to make a small contribution in a sophisticated way. Given the proliferation of the philosophical literature in all fields, and given the need in many specialized areas to master some other academic field (contemporary physics, neuroscience, computer science, economics, art history), this all makes good sense. This is what Richard Rorty calls the conception of philosophy as a Fach — a specialized discipline that masters a particular body of knowledge. No wonder that it has been difficult for academic philosophy to assimilate the work of Stanley Cavell. On the one hand, Cavell is widely read, admired, and honored by the philosophical profession. He has received its highest marks of professional recognition: selection to deliver the Carus Lectures, the presidency of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, a MacArthur Fellowship. On the other hand, for many academic philosophers he represents a kind of stumbling block. Theydon't know how to fit him into the standard pictures of twentieth-centuryanalytical and Continental philosophy. Cavell has perhaps been more influential in literarytheory, American studies, and film studies than he has been in academic philosophy. in this chapter, I want to undertake a study of the relationship of Stanley Cavell's work to ethics — ethics conceived both as a subdiscipline of academic philosophy and also, more broadly, as philosophical reflection on how to live a human life. I present these senses of “ethics” not just as my terms of analysis of Cavell, but because I believe that much of his writing directly on the . . .

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