This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures After Emerson After Wittgenstein

This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures After Emerson After Wittgenstein

Stanley Cavell

Language: English

Pages: 94


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Stanley Cavell is a titan of the academic world; his work in aesthetics and philosophy has shaped both fields in the United States over the past forty years. In this brief yet enlightening collection of lectures, Cavell investigates the work of two of his most tried-and-true subjects: Emerson and Wittgenstein. Beginning with an introductory essay that places his own work in a philosophical and historical context, Cavell guides his reader through his thought process when composing and editing his lectures while making larger claims about the influence of institutions on philosophers, and the idea of progress within the discipline of philosophy. In Declining Decline, Cavell explains how language modifies human existence, looking specifically at the culture of Wittgensteins writings. He draws on Emerson, Thoreau, and many others to make his case that Wittgenstein can indeed be viewed as a philosopher of culture. In his final lecture, Finding as Founding, Cavell writes in response to Emersons Experience, and explores the tension between the philosopher and languagethat he or she must embrace language as his or herform of life, while at the same time surpassing its restrictions. He compares finding new ideas to discovering a previously unknown land in an essay that unabashedly celebrates the power and joy of philosophical thought.


“Stanley Cavell is a major player in the ongoing revival of American pragmatism and in the overall attempt to bridge the gap between Anglo-American and Continental philosophy as well as the gap between literature and philosophy.”

(Greig Henderson The University of Toronto Quarterly)

“[In] This New Yet Unapproachable America, the namings of style and history and philosophic tutelage happen all at once. . . . We will find ourselves indebted to this knot of time, discipline, and text.”

(Stephen Melville American Literary History)

“This is a voice like no other in philosophy, today or ever.”

(Arthur C. Danto October)

“By turns plangent and nostalgic, ecstatic and humorous, Stanley Cavell’s style is the most distinctive in contemporary American philosophy. More than mere ornament, it conveys a message that for him philosophy is not only a profession; it is a calling, a way of life.”

(Charles Dove Modern Language Notes)

About the Author

Stanley Cavell is the Walter M. Cabot Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and General Theory of Value at Harvard University and the author of many books. These include Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome, In Quest of the Ordinary, and Themes out of School, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

Baudelaire's Media Aesthetics: The Gaze of the Flâneur and 19th-Century Media

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (Routledge Philosophy Companions)

Heidegger and the Aesthetics of Living

Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment: Critical Essays

















Cavell. p. cm. — (Frederick Ives Carpenter lectures ; 1987) Originally published: Albuquerque, N.M. : Living Batch Press, 1989. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-226-03738-7 (pbk. : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-226-03741-7 (e-book) 1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1889–1951. 2. Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803–1882. 3. Culture—Philosophy. I. Title. B3376.W564C38 2013 191—dc23 2012033253 This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper). This New Yet

twin preoccupation of the Investigations, call this the natural, in the form of “natural reactions” (§ 185), or in that of “fictitious natural history” (p. 230), or that of “the common behavior of mankind” (§ 206). The partial eclipse of the natural makes the teaching of the Investigations much too, let me say, conventionalist, as if when Wittgenstein says that human beings “agree in the language they use” he imagines that we have between us some kind of contract or an implicitly or explicitly

this, say the Investigations, must be. (Thoreau’s slanting of the word “poor” to name the students he writes for — specifying Emerson’s search for “my poor” in “Self-Reliance” — reminds me to say that Wittgenstein’s word for the indigence of his work is Dürftigkeit, not Armut. It goes without saying that Wittgenstein is not claiming that what constitutes philosophy’s necessary material stripping is obvious. And he would have known, as well as Heidegger knew, the question in Holderlin’s Elegy

someone else — in choosing to stop there, in hearing philosophy called upon in these unstriking words — the writer of the Investigations declares that philosophy does not speak first. Philosophy’s virtue is responsiveness. What makes it philosophy is not that its response will be total, but that it will be tireless, awake when the others have all fallen asleep. Its commitment is to hear itself called on, and when called on — but only then, and only so far as it has an interest — to speak. Any

destruction (building), industry or diligence (work), street or substratum (ground), stratagem (as a generalship over the forces of words, for a revolution), and the scattered or fragmentary (so the human as strewn strain, as gods in ruins). To go further with these thoughts is, for me, to take on the issues of what I conceive as moral perfectionism, the title under which, in my Carus lectures, I formulate Emerson’s conception of his work as a writer — attracting the human (in practice, his

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