Nietzsche characterized the philosopher as the man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow--a description befitting Stanley Cavell, with his longtime interest in freedom in the face of an uncertain future. This interest, particularly in the role of language in freedom of the will, is fully engaged in this volume, a collection of retrospective and forward-thinking essays on performative language and on performances in which the question of freedom is the underlying concern.
Seeking for philosophy the same spirit and assurance conveyed by an artist like Fred Astaire, Cavell presents essays that explore the meaning of grace and gesture in film and on stage, in language and in life. Cavell's range is broad--from Astaire to Shakespeare's soulful Cordelia. He also analyzes filmic gestures that bespeak racial stereotypes, opening a key topic that runs through the book: What is the nature of praise? The theme of aesthetic judgment, viewed in the light of "passionate utterance," is everywhere evident in Cavell's effort to provoke a renaissance in American thought. Critical to such a rebirth is a recognition of the centrality of the "ordinary" to American life. Here Cavell, who has alluded to Thoreau throughout, takes up the quintessential American philosopher directly, and in relation to Heidegger; he also returns to his great philosophical love, Wittgenstein. His collection of essays ends, appropriately enough, with an essay on collecting.
Stanley Cavell has been a major figure not only as an academic philosopher at Harvard, but also as an educator to those of us who would read modern philosophy if only it were readable. He has a seductively conversational tone, and I am an addict of his essays. A new volume, Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow, does not disappoint. Who but Cavell could begin an essay with Nietsche’s Birth of Tragedy and end it with an analysis of Fred Astaire? There are good thoughts on Shakespeare, Henry James, Wittgenstein and, of course, Heidegger. Cavell is one of Heidegger’s most intelligible interpreters.
What has Wittgenstein or Heidegger got to do with Fred Astaire? More than a little, Cavell argues in one of the essays in this new collection, which as a whole demonstrates his nuanced philosophical and intellectual engagement with culture in general, and popular culture in particular.
Stanley Cavell is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and independent contemporary American philosophers writing today… Cavell’s newest book Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow comprises his most recent thinking on topics pertaining to philosophy, literature and film. A collection of ten essays, the book’s topics span over the whole range of questions that have at some time or other preoccupied this philosopher’s interest… Cavell never disappoints to surprise the reader with his insights. An astute reader and interpreter of works of art, he is showing an acute sensibility that is capable of unearthing new twists and turns in the canonic interpretations of classical and modern works of art (or the supposedly mundane works of the movie world). Only a philosopher such as Cavell could be brave enough to dig out hidden philosophical propositions out of a short sequence of a dancing routine by Fred Astaire.
One of our most imaginative philosophers, Cavell can always be counted upon to provoke his readers to join him as he soars to dizzying new philosophical heights. With his characteristic aplomb, he ranges over the thoughts of his favorite philosophers, from Nietzsche and Wittgenstein to Heidegger and J. L. Austin, weaving them seamlessly into colorful new patterns with the performative gestures of figures as diverse as Fred Astaire, Shakespeare, Henry James, Jane Austen, George Eliot, and his other favorites, Emerson and Thoreau. Cavell examines themes ranging from the role of the ordinary in philosophy and the intellectual isolation of contemporary American philosophy to the nature and place of skepticism in literature and philosophy… Very few philosopher’s demonstrate Cavell’s knack for connecting literary and cinematic texts with philosophical writings.
Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow advances not only on his previous collections of formal papers, but also on the autobiographical A Pitch of Philosophy (1994), by conveying an approach to thought that gives thought itself its due, as an ongoing process of momentary involvement, as distinct from any more mechanized, ‘automated,’ positivistic or sparsely logical methods of analysis—and equally we must recall that after all Stanley Cavell’s background was precisely given by a various approach to analytic philosophy. The reader is here constantly encouraged in rethinking Wittgenstein’s willingness to consult the mysteries of ordinary language itself. In turn, with Stanley Cavell himself, we see the ways this particular philosophy is always unfurling and refolding the flag of its ideas. These essays, sharing some properties of musical variation, deal with the question of individual and social freedom. This crux arises from our being users of language, in our achieving ordinary identity, which is where, in our human condition, the most important philosophical issues may be seen to locate their limits.
Over the course of his long and prodigious career, Stanley Cavell has been concerned with a number of recurrent issues, both philosophical (Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin and ordinary language philosophy; Thoreau, Emerson, and Emersonianism; skepticism) and cultural (America; film; Shakespeare). He has also been, and continues to be, the foremost advocate in this country for a rapprochement between philosophy and literature with a merging of what are known as the Anglo-American and the Continental strains of philosophy. Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow comprises his most recent set of meditations on these issues, and as such it offers at once a welcome revisitation of his work to date and a nuanced, considered extension of his thinking. As is fitting for an intellectual of Cavell’s standing, it also provides an opportunity to witness a philosopher at the height of his maturity working through questions to which he has devoted his extraordinary career.
- 328 pages
- 0-13/16 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.