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Stanley Cavell

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Region  Western philosophy
Awards  MacArthur Fellowship
Influenced  Charles Bernstein
Role  Philosopher
Name  Stanley Cavell

Stanley Cavell This is said on tiptoe Stanley Cavell and the Writing of

Full Name  Stanley Louis Goldstein (Legally changed name to Stanley Louis Cavell in 1942)
Born  September 1, 1926 (age 89) (1926-09-01) Atlanta, Georgia
Era  20th-century philosophy
Main interests  Skepticism, tragedy, aesthetics, ethics, Ordinary Language Philosophy, American transcendentalism, film theory, William Shakespeare, opera, religion
Schools of thought  Ordinary language philosophy
Education  Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley
Books  The world viewed, The claim of reason, Must we mean what we say?, Pursuits of Happiness, Cities of Words
Similar People  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sandra Laugier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, J L Austin, Henry David Thoreau

Conversations with history stanley cavell

Stanley Louis Cavell (; born September 1, 1926) is an American philosopher. He is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Emeritus, at Harvard University.


Stanley Cavell Conversations with History Stanley Cavell YouTube

Stanley cavell thinking about and eating animals


Cavell was born to a Jewish family in Atlanta, Georgia. His mother, a locally renowned pianist, trained him in music from his earliest days. During the Depression, Cavell’s parents moved several times between Atlanta and Sacramento, California.

As a teenager, Cavell played lead alto saxophone as the youngest and sole white member of a black jazz band in Sacramento. At 16, he entered the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in music, studying with, among others, Roger Sessions and Ernest Bloch. After graduation, he began studies in composition at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, only to discover that music was no longer his aspiration. He eventually began to study philosophy at UCLA, and then transferred as a graduate student to Harvard University. As a student there he came under the influence of the visiting J. L. Austin, whose teaching and methods "knocked him off ... [his] horse." In 1954 he was awarded a Junior Fellowship at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Before completing his Ph.D., he became an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956. From 1962–1963 Cavell was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he became a lifelong friend of the British philosopher Bernard Williams. In 1963 he returned to the Harvard Philosophy Department, where he became the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value.

In the summer of 1964, Cavell joined a group of Harvard faculty and graduate students, who taught at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi, as part of what became known as the Freedom Summer. In April 1969, during the time of student protests arising from, among other things, the Vietnam War, Cavell, together with his colleague John Rawls, worked with a group of African-American students to draft language for a vote by the faculty that established the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard.

In 1979, along with the documentary filmmaker Robert Gardner, Cavell helped establish the Harvard Film Archive, to preserve and present the history of film. Cavell received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1992. From 1996-1997 Cavell was President of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division). He remained on the Harvard faculty until his retirement in 1997. After retiring, he taught courses at Yale University and the University of Chicago. He also held the Spinoza Chair of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam in 1998.

Cavell’s first marriage, to Marcia (Schmid) Cavell, ended in divorce in 1961; their daughter, Rachel Lee Cavell, was born in 1957. He and Cathleen (Cohen) Cavell were married in 1967 and live in Brookline, Massachusetts; they have two sons, Benjamin (born 1976) and David (born 1984).


Although trained in the Anglo-American analytic tradition, Cavell has been all along in philosophical dialogue with the continental tradition. He is well known for his inclusion of film and literary study in philosophical inquiry. Cavell has written extensively on Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, and Martin Heidegger, as well as on the American transcendentalists Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He has been associated with an approach toward interpreting Wittgenstein sometimes known as the New Wittgenstein. Much of Cavell's writing incorporates autobiographical elements concerning how his movement between and within the ideas of these thinkers influenced and influences his own thinking that impacted spheres in the arts and humanities beyond the technical study of philosophy.

Selected works

Cavell first established his distinct philosophical identity with a collection of essays, entitled Must We Mean What We Say? (1969), a work which addresses topics such as language use, metaphor, skepticism, tragedy, and literary interpretation, from the point of view of ordinary language philosophy, of which he is a practitioner and ardent defender. One of the essays discusses Søren Kierkegaard's work on revelation and authority, The Book on Adler, in an effort to help re-introduce the book to modern philosophical readers. In The World Viewed (1971) Cavell looks at photography and film. He also writes on modernism in art, and the nature of media, where he mentions the influence of art critic Michael Fried's writing on his work.

Cavell is perhaps best known for his book, The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (1979), which forms the centerpiece of his work, and which has its origins in his doctoral dissertation. The book was republished in 1999. In Pursuits of Happiness (1981), Cavell describes his experience of seven prominent Hollywood comedies: The Lady Eve, It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Adam’s Rib, and The Awful Truth. Cavell argues that these films, from the years 1934–1949, form part of what he calls the genre of "The Comedy of Remarriage," and he finds in them great philosophical, moral, and indeed political significance. Specifically, Cavell argues that these Hollywood comedies show that "the achievement of happiness requires not the [...] satisfaction of our needs [...] but the examination and transformation of those needs." According to Cavell, the emphasis that these movies place on "remarriage" draws attention to the fact that, within a relationship, happiness requires "growing up" together with one's partner.

In Cities of Words (2004) Cavell traces the history of moral perfectionism, a mode of moral thinking spanning the history of Western philosophy and literature. Having previously used Emerson to define the concept, this book suggests ways we might want to understand philosophy, literature, and film as preoccupied with features of perfectionism. In his collection of essays Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow (2005), Cavell makes the case that J. L. Austin's concept of performative utterance requires the supplementary concept of "passionate utterance": "A performative utterance is an offer of participation in the order of law. And perhaps we can say: A passionate utterance is an invitation to improvisation in the disorders of desire." The book also contains extended discussions of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Fred Astaire, as well as familiar Cavellian subjects such as Shakespeare, Emerson, Thoreau, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger. Cavell's most recent book as of 2016, Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory (2010), is an autobiography written in the form of a diary. In a series of consecutive, dated entries, Cavell inquires about the origins of his philosophy by telling the story of his life.

Honorary degrees

  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Kalamazoo College, 1980
  • Doctor of Letters, Iona College, 1985
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Chicago, 1987
  • Docteur, Honoris Causa, Université de Strasbourg, 1996
  • Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, Hebrew University, 1997
  • Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa, University of East Anglia, 2009
  • Docteur, Honoris Causa, Ecole Normale Superieure, Lyon, 2010
  • Doctor of Letters, Wesleyan University, 2010
  • Doctor of Theology, Institut Protestant de Théologie de Paris, 2010
  • Selected honors

  • Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard University, 1953–56
  • Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, 1962-1963
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Berkeley, 1961
  • Fellow, Wesleyan University Center for the Humanities, 1970-1971
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1978-
  • President, American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division), 1996–97
  • 2000 Centennial Medalist, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • Romanell Phi Beta Kappa Professorship, 2004–05
  • Selected special lectureships

  • Patricia Wise Lecture, American Film Institute, 1982
  • Mrs. William Beckman Lectures, University of California, Berkeley, 1983
  • Tanner Lecture, Stanford University, April 1986
  • Carus Lectures, American Philosophical Association, 1988
  • Plenary Address, Shakespeare World Congress, Los Angeles, 1996
  • Presidential Address, American Philosophical Association, Atlanta, 1996
  • Howison Lectures, University of California, Berkeley, February, 2002
  • References

    Stanley Cavell Wikipedia