The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy

The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy

The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy

The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy

Synopsis

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 scepticism as understood in Descartes, Hume, and Kant with philosophy of language as practiced by Wittgenstein and Austin.

Excerpt

It is familiar to musicians, indeed to those concerned with the fate of the arts broadly, that a piece once thought to be awkward becomes quite manageable with time, sometimes too manageable. Without, I trust, taking false comfort from dissimilar tasks, I would like to take the appearance of a paperback edition of The Claim of Reason in a larger, more legible format, as marking the circumstance that, after something like a generation since the book's initial printing, it finds itself handier more generally than it once was to read. I am grateful to Oxford University Press for making this possible.

My gratitude to the book itself is quite immeasurable -- nothing I have written since completing it is likely to be unindebted to it -- as is my relief in discovering that it is finding its further share of serious readers. As is not unfamiliar with extended philosophical work, it is in the responses of such readers that one has the clearest chance of telling (putting aside the miseries of sheer mistakes or inadvertancies or lack of craft or inspiration) what in it is needless and what in it can prove to be enabling. What may count as the most continuous such response is the French translation of The Claim of Reason, under the title Les Voix de la Raison, which appeared in 1996. In the new Introduction for that edition I raise the issue of philosophical obscurity and I observe that a fear of being incomprehensible is akin to the fear of being untranslatable. Discussing concrete possibilities and impossibilities of alternative renderings with Sandra Laugier, as she was beginning that long road of translation, not only began for me a further process of reassurance in the book's intelligibility . . .

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