The first posthumous collection from the writings of Stanley Cavell, shedding new light on the distinctive vision and intellectual trajectory of an influential American philosopher.
For Stanley Cavell, philosophy was a matter of responding to the voices of others. Throughout his career, he articulated the belief that words spring to life in concrete circumstances of speech: the significance and power of language depend on the occasions that elicit it. When Cavell died in 2018, he left behind some of his own most powerful language—a plan for a book collecting numerous unpublished essays and lectures, as well as papers printed in niche journals. Here and There presents this manuscript, with thematically relevant additions, for the first time.
These writings, composed between the 1980s and the 2000s, reflect Cavell’s expansive interests and distinctive philosophical method. The collection traverses all the major themes of his immense body of work: modernity, psychoanalysis, the human voice, moral perfectionism, tragedy, skepticism. Cavell’s rich and cohesive philosophical vision unites his wide-ranging engagement with poets, critics, psychoanalysts, social scientists, and fellow philosophers. In Here and There, readers will find dialogues with Shakespeare, Thoreau, Wittgenstein, Freud, Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Wallace Stevens, Veena Das, and Peter Kivy, among others. One of the collection’s most striking features is an ensemble of five pieces on music, constituting Cavell’s first discussion of the subject since the mid-1960s.
Edited by philosophers who have been invested in Cavell’s work for decades, Here and There not only gathers the strands of a writing life but also maps its author’s intellectual journeys. In these works, Cavell models what it looks like to examine seriously one’s own passions and to forge new communities through unexpected conversations.
The writings gathered here are sparkling examples of Stanley Cavell’s claim that a philosophical puzzle can arise anywhere in the weave of life. Originally composed for different occasions, collectively they now seem like a letter from beyond, addressing each reader as if Cavell were speaking directly to them.
In this collection’s essays on music, we find Cavell listening closely, hearing the ways that music works with philosophy to help us understand the world. Quoting Wittgenstein, he also aptly evokes the spirit of Here and There itself: ‘Who can understand my philosophical work who does not know what music has meant in my life?’
Stanley Cavell was the most searingly brilliant and original philosopher of his generation. Again and again, these occasional essays, reviews, and lectures remind us why: sentences that take one’s breath away with their ethical urgency and existential precision, their baroque energy and lacerating honesty. Gratitude has to be one’s first response to the appearance of this collection.
What comes across most powerfully…is Cavell’s attentive listening, throughout his long and distinguished career, for what one might call the hum of humanity.
Filled with situated insights into the academic debates of the end of the last century and the beginning of our own…Readers will find it worthwhile to tune in. Nowhere else will one encounter the sounds one encounters in Stanley Cavell’s mixtapes.
Cavell’s prose is suffused by the influence of the techniques and ethos of ordinary language philosophy—by its invitation to ask yourself what you would want or be tempted or inclined to say when. The auto-narrating trail Cavell leaves in his prose—his tendency to voice, even dramatize, his promptings or temptations to certain utterances—bears the unmistakable imprint of Austin’s and Wittgenstein’s methods.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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