An Apology for Skepticism Stanley Cavell
In many respects, Stanley Cavell seems the most European of contemporary American philosophers. His youthful oscillation between music and philosophy, his militancy among the ranks of "engaged" New York intellectuals in the immediate postwar period, his attention to historical genealogies of cultural phenomena, are all anomalies in the technical-argumentative hinterland of the philosophical community.
Curiously enough, it is this European-style background that has led him to question his origins, to rebuild a sort of phenomenology of the roots of that American culture which generated him, the son of central-European Jewish immigrants, born in the heart of the South, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1926.
Alone among his Harvard colleagues, Stanley Cavell has embarked on a courageous recomposition of American thought, based on a concept of philosophy intended as a point of intersection, existentially very dense, between the various humanistic writings (literary, cinematographical, musical), that Cavell has produced as a critic and a scholar of aesthetics since his first book, Must We Mean What We Say? ( 1969).
Yet it would be a mistake to think of Cavell as a historian of ideas. As in the case of Michel Foucault, all his efforts at genealogical reconstruction would in fact be pointless if they were not in the service of a strong theoretical project coinciding with a complex revaluation of skepticism, a philosophical perspective that Cavell