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.

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each is to any other major philosopher of their age. For Wittgenstein’s idea of a criterion — if the account of his idea in The Claim of Reason is right, as far as it goes — is as if a pivot between the necessity of the relation among human beings Wittgenstein calls “agreement in form of life” (§ 241) and the necessity in the relation between grammar and world that Wittgenstein characterizes as telling what kind of object anything is (§ 373), where this telling expresses essence (§ 375) and is

witnessing or fascination. Augustine’s words precisely set the topics of Wittgenstein’s book as a whole, so the scene of his words pervades the book. I recite them: when, my, elders, name, some object, accordingly, move, toward, I, saw, this, grasped, called, sound, uttered, meant, point, intention, shown, bodily movements, natural language of all peoples, expression, face, eyes, voice, state of mind, seeking, having, rejecting, words, repeated, used, proper places, various sentences, learnt,

Waldo? In what sense is the writer unable to mourn? If “Experience,” like Walden, is a testament, it is the promise of a gift in view of the testator’s death. Then the gift is the young Waldo’s promise, as kept or founded in the old Waldo. Founded how? I will sketch my intuition that what is nameless in the essay is the anticipation of a particular birth. Begin with the essay’s remarkable statement of pregnancy, near its middle, after a paragraph in which the writer has said, “All writing comes

Annotated by Walter Harding. New York: Washington Square Press, 1963. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Culture and Value. Trans. Peter Winch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980. . Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan Company, 1953. . Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1967. . Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Trans. C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1922. . Tractatus

concern my emphasis on what in “Declining Decline” I call Wittgenstein’s diurnalization of philosophy’s ambitions, his insistence that, for all philosophy’s existence among series of series which have, or know, no extremes, philosophy’s call is to find itself, in Emerson’s image, on a stair, meditating a direction. This is for me an image not alone of the resolution in each step of a journey and in each term of a series or of an expansive concept, but of the condition of a certain sociality or

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