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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Hansen as Griceian; Cavell as the anti-Grice

The Mates/Cavell symposium also repr. In Lyas

The Mates-Cavell symposium (in Chappell) and Grice

Speranza

Benson Mates argued, in his ‘On the Verifiability of Statements about Ordinary Language’ (1958, 1964) just what the title suggests: how can any such claims be confirmed? This objection applies more seriously to the later Ordinary Language philosophical work, because that period focused on far more detailed analyses of the uses of expressions, and made rather more sweeping claims about ‘what we say’. Stanley Cavell (1958, 1964) responded to Mates that claims as to the ordinary uses of expressions are not empirically based, but are normative claims (that is, they are not, in general, claims about what people dosay, but what they can say, or ought to say, within the bounds of the meaning of the expression in question). Cavell also argued that the philosopher, as a member of a linguistic community, was at least as qualified as any other member of that community to make claims about what is, or can be, ordinarily said and meant; although it is always possible that any member of the linguistic community may be wrong in such a claim. The debate has continued, however, with similar objections (to Mates’) raised by Fodor and Katz (1963, 1971), to which Henson (1965) has responded.
The reason this objection applies less-so to the early Ordinary Language philosophers is that, for the Wittgensteinians, claims as to what is ‘ordinarily said’ applied in much more general ways. It applied, for example, to ‘what would ordinarily be said of, for example, a situation’ – for example, as we noted, cases of what we ordinarily call ‘seeing x’, or ‘doing x of her own free-will’, or ‘knowing “x” for certain’ and so forth (these kinds of cases were later argued to be paradigm cases – see below, section 3d, for a discussion of this important argument within early Ordinary Language philosophy). The Wittgensteinians were originally making their points against the kind of skeptical metaphysical views which had currency in their own time; the kinds of theories which suggested such things as ‘we do not know the truth of any material-thing statements’, ‘we are acquainted, in perception, only with sense-data and not external, independent objects’, ‘no sensory experience can be known for certain’ and so on. In such cases there is no question that the ordinary thing to say is, for example “I am certain this is a desk before me,” and “I see the fire-engine” and “It is true that I know that this is a desk” and so forth. In fact, in such disputes it was generally agreed that there was a certain ordinary way of describing such and such a situation. This would be how a situation is identified, so that the metaphysician or skeptical philosopher could proceed to suggest that this way of describing things is false.
The objection that was directed equally at the Wittgensteinians and the Oxford Ordinary Language philosophers was in regard to what was claimed to count as ‘misuses’ of expressions, particularly philosophical ‘misuses’. In particular, it was objected that presumably such uses must be bannedaccording to Ordinary Language philosophy (for example Rollins 1951). Sometimes, it was argued, the non-ordinary use of some expression is philosophically necessary since sometimes technical or more precise terms are needed.
In fact, it was never argued by the Ordinary Language philosophers that any term or use of an expression should be prohibited. The objection is not born out by the actual texts. It was not argued that non-ordinary uses of language in and of themselves were a cause of philosophical problems; the problem lay in, mostly implicitly, attempting to pass them off as ordinary uses. The non-ordinary use of some term or expression is not, merely, a more ‘technical’ or more ‘precise’ use of the term – it is to introduce, or even assume, a quite different meaning for the term. In this sense, a philosophical theory that uses some term or expression non-ordinarily is talking about something entirely different to whatever the term or expression talks about in its ordinary use. Malcolm, for example, argues that the problem with philosophical uses of language is that they are often introduced into discussion without being duly notedas non-ordinary uses. Take, for example, the metaphysical claim that the content of assertions about experiences of an independent realm of material objects can never be certain. The argument (see Malcolm 1942b) is that this is an implicit suggestion that we stop applying the term ‘certain’ to empirical propositions, and reserve it for the propositions of logic or mathematics (which can be exhaustively proven to be true). It is a covert suggestion about how to reform the use of the term ‘certain’. But the suggested use is a ‘misuse’ of language, on the Ordinary Language view (that is, applying the term ‘certain’ only to mathematical or logical propositions). Moreover, the argument presents itself as an argument about the facts concerning the phenomenon of certainty, thus failing to ‘own up’ to being a suggestion about the use of the term ‘certain’ - leaving the assumption that it uses the term according to its ordinary meaning misleadingly in place. The issue, according to Ordinary Language philosophy, is that the two uses of ‘certain’ are distinct and the philosopher’s sense cannot replace the ordinary sense – though it can be introduced independently and with its own criteria, if that can be provided. Malcolm says, for example:
…if it gives the philosopher pleasure always to substitute the expression “I see some sense-data of my wife” for the expression “I see my wife,” etc.and so forth, then he is at liberty thus to express himself, provided he warns people beforehand, so that they will understand him. (1942a, pp. 15)
In an argument Malcolm elsewhere (1951) deals with, he suggests that it is not a ‘correct’ use of language to say, “I feel hot, but I am not certain of it.” But this is not to suggest that the expression must be banned from philosophical theorizing, nor that it is not possible that it might, at some point, become a perfectly correct use of language. What is crucial is that, for any use newly introduced to a language, how that expression is to be used must be explained, that is, criteria for its use must be provided. He says:
We have never learned a usage for a sentence of the sort “I thought that I felt hot but it turned out that I was mistaken.” In such matters we do not call anything “turning out that I was mistaken.” If someone were to insist that it is quite possible that I were mistaken when I say that I feel hot, then I should say to him: Give me a use for those words! I am perfectly willing to utter them, provided that you tell me under what conditions I should say that I was or was not mistaken.  Those words are of no use to me at present. I do not know what to do with them…There is nothing we call “finding out whether I feel hot.” This we could term either a fact of logic or a fact of language. (1951, pp. 332)
Malcolm went so far as to suggest the laws of logic may well, one day, be different to what we accept now (1940, pp. 198), and that we may well reject some necessary statements, should we find a use for their negation, or for treating them as contingent(1940, pp. 201ff). Thus, the objection that, according to Ordinary Language philosophy, non-ordinary uses, or new, revised or technical uses of expressions are to be prohibited from philosophy is generally unfounded – though it is an interpretation of Ordinary Language philosophy that survives into the present day.

Grice and the Mates-Cavell symposium (in Chappell)

Speranza

Benson Mates argued, in his ‘On the Verifiability of Statements about Ordinary Language’ (1958, 1964) just what the title suggests: how can any such claims be confirmed? This objection applies more seriously to the later Ordinary Language philosophical work, because that period focused on far more detailed analyses of the uses of expressions, and made rather more sweeping claims about ‘what we say’. Stanley Cavell (1958, 1964) responded to Mates that claims as to the ordinary uses of expressions are not empirically based, but are normative claims (that is, they are not, in general, claims about what people dosay, but what they can say, or ought to say, within the bounds of the meaning of the expression in question). Cavell also argued that the philosopher, as a member of a linguistic community, was at least as qualified as any other member of that community to make claims about what is, or can be, ordinarily said and meant; although it is always possible that any member of the linguistic community may be wrong in such a claim. The debate has continued, however, with similar objections (to Mates’) raised by Fodor and Katz (1963, 1971), to which Henson (1965) has responded.
The reason this objection applies less-so to the early Ordinary Language philosophers is that, for the Wittgensteinians, claims as to what is ‘ordinarily said’ applied in much more general ways. It applied, for example, to ‘what would ordinarily be said of, for example, a situation’ – for example, as we noted, cases of what we ordinarily call ‘seeing x’, or ‘doing x of her own free-will’, or ‘knowing “x” for certain’ and so forth (these kinds of cases were later argued to be paradigm cases – see below, section 3d, for a discussion of this important argument within early Ordinary Language philosophy). The Wittgensteinians were originally making their points against the kind of skeptical metaphysical views which had currency in their own time; the kinds of theories which suggested such things as ‘we do not know the truth of any material-thing statements’, ‘we are acquainted, in perception, only with sense-data and not external, independent objects’, ‘no sensory experience can be known for certain’ and so on. In such cases there is no question that the ordinary thing to say is, for example “I am certain this is a desk before me,” and “I see the fire-engine” and “It is true that I know that this is a desk” and so forth. In fact, in such disputes it was generally agreed that there was a certain ordinary way of describing such and such a situation. This would be how a situation is identified, so that the metaphysician or skeptical philosopher could proceed to suggest that this way of describing things is false.
The objection that was directed equally at the Wittgensteinians and the Oxford Ordinary Language philosophers was in regard to what was claimed to count as ‘misuses’ of expressions, particularly philosophical ‘misuses’. In particular, it was objected that presumably such uses must be bannedaccording to Ordinary Language philosophy (for example Rollins 1951). Sometimes, it was argued, the non-ordinary use of some expression is philosophically necessary since sometimes technical or more precise terms are needed.
In fact, it was never argued by the Ordinary Language philosophers that any term or use of an expression should be prohibited. The objection is not born out by the actual texts. It was not argued that non-ordinary uses of language in and of themselves were a cause of philosophical problems; the problem lay in, mostly implicitly, attempting to pass them off as ordinary uses. The non-ordinary use of some term or expression is not, merely, a more ‘technical’ or more ‘precise’ use of the term – it is to introduce, or even assume, a quite different meaning for the term. In this sense, a philosophical theory that uses some term or expression non-ordinarily is talking about something entirely different to whatever the term or expression talks about in its ordinary use. Malcolm, for example, argues that the problem with philosophical uses of language is that they are often introduced into discussion without being duly notedas non-ordinary uses. Take, for example, the metaphysical claim that the content of assertions about experiences of an independent realm of material objects can never be certain. The argument (see Malcolm 1942b) is that this is an implicit suggestion that we stop applying the term ‘certain’ to empirical propositions, and reserve it for the propositions of logic or mathematics (which can be exhaustively proven to be true). It is a covert suggestion about how to reform the use of the term ‘certain’. But the suggested use is a ‘misuse’ of language, on the Ordinary Language view (that is, applying the term ‘certain’ only to mathematical or logical propositions). Moreover, the argument presents itself as an argument about the facts concerning the phenomenon of certainty, thus failing to ‘own up’ to being a suggestion about the use of the term ‘certain’ - leaving the assumption that it uses the term according to its ordinary meaning misleadingly in place. The issue, according to Ordinary Language philosophy, is that the two uses of ‘certain’ are distinct and the philosopher’s sense cannot replace the ordinary sense – though it can be introduced independently and with its own criteria, if that can be provided. Malcolm says, for example:
…if it gives the philosopher pleasure always to substitute the expression “I see some sense-data of my wife” for the expression “I see my wife,” etc.and so forth, then he is at liberty thus to express himself, provided he warns people beforehand, so that they will understand him. (1942a, pp. 15)
In an argument Malcolm elsewhere (1951) deals with, he suggests that it is not a ‘correct’ use of language to say, “I feel hot, but I am not certain of it.” But this is not to suggest that the expression must be banned from philosophical theorizing, nor that it is not possible that it might, at some point, become a perfectly correct use of language. What is crucial is that, for any use newly introduced to a language, how that expression is to be used must be explained, that is, criteria for its use must be provided. He says:
We have never learned a usage for a sentence of the sort “I thought that I felt hot but it turned out that I was mistaken.” In such matters we do not call anything “turning out that I was mistaken.” If someone were to insist that it is quite possible that I were mistaken when I say that I feel hot, then I should say to him: Give me a use for those words! I am perfectly willing to utter them, provided that you tell me under what conditions I should say that I was or was not mistaken.  Those words are of no use to me at present. I do not know what to do with them…There is nothing we call “finding out whether I feel hot.” This we could term either a fact of logic or a fact of language. (1951, pp. 332)
Malcolm went so far as to suggest the laws of logic may well, one day, be different to what we accept now (1940, pp. 198), and that we may well reject some necessary statements, should we find a use for their negation, or for treating them as contingent(1940, pp. 201ff). Thus, the objection that, according to Ordinary Language philosophy, non-ordinary uses, or new, revised or technical uses of expressions are to be prohibited from philosophy is generally unfounded – though it is an interpretation of Ordinary Language philosophy that survives into the present day.

Mates and Cavell repr. In Chappell

Speranza

Cavell on Grice

Speranza

The philosopher Stanley Louis Cavell wrote a piece on the Marx Brothers for the LRB:
Movies magnify, so when pictures began talking they magnified words. Somehow, as in the case of opera’s magnification of words, this made their words mostly ignorable, like the ground, as if the industrialised human species had been looking for a good excuse to get away from its words, or looking for an explanation of the fact that we do get away, even must. The attractive publication, briefly and informatively introduced, of the scripts​ of several Marx Brothers films … is a sublime invitation to stop and think about our swings of convulsiveness and weariness in the face of these films; to sense that it is essential to the Brothers’ sublimity that they are thinking about words, to the end of words, in every word – or, in Harpo’s emphatic case, in every absence of words.
Reviewing Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare in 1988, Frank Kermode wrote:
Stanley Cavell calls himself an amateur, which is modest, considering the celebrity of his Shakespeare essays, of which one, the long meditation on King Lear, has been on reading lists for twenty years. However, he is by vocation a philosopher, of distinctive orientation since he has close dealings with Emerson and William James as well as with Wittgenstein, and with Hollywood comedies as well as with Thoreau; and he often turns to Shakespeare for contributions to philosophical issues, confident that he explores ‘the depth of the philosophical preoccupations of his culture’. Thus he likes to work, as John Hollander once remarked, in the buffer-zone between poetry and philosophy.
Michael Wood reviewed Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow in 2005:
The ordinary slips away from us. If we ignore it, we lose it. If we look at it closely, it becomes extraordinary, the way words or names become strange if we keep staring at them. The very notion turns into a baffling riddle. Shall we say that the ordinary doesn’t exist, or that it exists only when we don’t look at it closely? Stanley Louis Cavell has been thinking about the ordinary (although not only about that) for the whole of his philosophical career, and he knows the riddle inside out. But the riddle is not where his interest lies. He doesn’t mind if the world goes strange on us, as long as we keep looking at it, and he is happy to assert ‘the extraordinariness of what we accept as the ordinary’. The question for him is not a linguistic one, and beyond the simple, slippery word is a whole range of human practices crying out for, but not often getting, our attention.

Cavell on Grice

Speranza

Stanley Louis Cavell was, like Grice was, a philosopher with style.


It’s no insult to tStanley Cavell that he was the rare philosopher who was read as much for his prose as for his ideas. 

Although Cavell had all the right academic credentials -- he taught at Harvard for many years and was a distinguished advocate for the “ordinary language philosophy” of J.L. Austin and H. P. Grice -- his essays were written with an eccentric, sometimes maddening, elan. 

Cavell’s sentences were alive with allusions in hectic smart-alecky self-mocking prose that seem closer in spirit to a Marx Brothers movie than a philosophic tome.




Cavell, as it happens, loved the Marx Brothers, as he generally did Golden Age Hollywood, particular in its screwball mode. 

In one of his most accessible books, Pursuit of Happiness, Cavell analyzed the ditzy rom-coms of the 1930s and 1940s as “comedies of remarriage” that showed that love isn’t just a one time starburst moment but a matter of learning to live with other people over time.
Writing in the London Review of Books, Cavell made the case for the philosophical resonance of the Marx Brothers:
Intention, or the desperate demand for interpretation, is gaudily acknowledged in such turns as Chico’s selling Groucho a tip on a horse by selling him a code book, then a master code book to explain the code book, then a guide required by the master code, then a sub-guide supplementary to the guide – a scrupulous union, or onion, of semantic and monetary exchanges and deferrals to warm the coldest contemporary theorist of signs; or as acted out in Chico’s chain of guesses when Harpo, with mounting urgency, charades his message that a woman is going to frame Groucho (both turns in A Day at the Races)
The strange echo-y effect of “union, or onion” is a characteristic Cavell touch.
Cavell once defended Witters's stylistic eccentricity in terms that easily be used for Cavell himself. 

“So some of Wittgenstein’s readers are made impatient, as though the fluctuating humility and arrogance of his prose were a matter of style, and style were a matter of pose, so these poses repudiate, not to say undermine, each other,” Cavell wrote in The Claim of Reason.

"To me this fluctuation reads as a continuous effort at balance, or longing for it, as to leave a tightrope; it seems an expression of that struggle of despair and hope that I can understand as a motivation to philosophical writing.”
Style, in other words, is the very grunting and groaning of the philosopher wrestling with his or her own thoughts and therefore inseparable from the philosophical act: style is the mind.
In a wonderfully lucid New Republic review of Cavell’s In Quest of the Ordinary, Richard Rorty paid tribute to Cavell’s as an oddball who had the courage of his eccentricty: 

Cavell is among professors of philosophy what Harold Bloom is among the professors of English: the least defended, the gutsiest, the most vulnerable. He sticks his neck out farther than any of the rest of us. Who touches this book touches a fleshly, ambitious, anxious, self-involved, self-doubting mortal.”
Cavell’s voice, now stilled, will live on his books, which will continue to be read not just by philosophers but anyone who hungers for a human voice. In time, he might be remembered not just as the heir to Witters and Grice and J.L. Austin, but part of the tradition of daring misfits, the line of Thoreau, Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens. 


Cavell on Grice

Speranza

Stanley Cavell was a philosopher with style.

It’s no insult to the late Stanley Cavell, whose death at age 91 was announced on Tuesday, that he was the rare philosopher who was read as much for his prose as for his ideas. Although Cavell had all the right academic credentials -- he taught at Harvard for many years and was a distinguished advocate for the “ordinary language philosophy” of J.L. Austin -- his books were written with an eccentric, sometimes maddening, elan. Cavell’s sentences were alive with allusions in hectic smart-alecky self-mocking prose that seem closer in spirit to a Marx Brothers movie than a philosophic tome.
Cavell, as it happens, loved the Marx Brothers, as he generally did Golden Age Hollywood, particular in its screwball mode. In one of his most accessible books, Pursuit of Happiness (1981), Cavell analyzed the ditzy rom-coms of the 1930s and 1940s as “comedies of remarriage” that showed that love isn’t just a one time starburst moment but a matter of learning to live with other people over time.
Writing in 1994 in the London Review of Books, Cavell made the casefor the philosophical resonance of the Marx Brothers:
Intention, or the desperate demand for interpretation, is gaudily acknowledged in such turns as Chico’s selling Groucho a tip on a horse by selling him a code book, then a master code book to explain the code book, then a guide required by the master code, then a sub-guide supplementary to the guide – a scrupulous union, or onion, of semantic and monetary exchanges and deferrals to warm the coldest contemporary theorist of signs; or as acted out in Chico’s chain of guesses when Harpo, with mounting urgency, charades his message that a woman is going to frame Groucho (both turns in A Day at the Races)
The strange echo-y effect of “union, or onion” is a characteristic Cavell touch.
Cavell once defended Ludwig Wittgenstein’s stylistic eccentricity in terms that easily be used for Cavell himself. “So some of Wittgenstein’s readers are made impatient, as though the fluctuating humility and arrogance of his prose were a matter of style, and style were a matter of pose, so these poses repudiate, not to say undermine, each other,” Cavell wrote in The Claim of Reason (1989). “To me this fluctuation reads as a continuous effort at balance, or longing for it, as to leave a tightrope; it seems an expression of that struggle of despair and hope that I can understand as a motivation to philosophical writing.”
Style, in other words, is the very grunting and groaning of the philosopher wrestling with his or her own thoughts and therefore inseparable from the philosophical act: style is the mind.
In a wonderfully lucid 1989 New Republic review of Cavell’s In Quest of the Ordinary, Richard Rorty paid tribute to Cavell’s as an oddball who had the courage of his eccentricty: “Cavell is among professors of philosophy what Harold Bloom is among the professors of English: the least defended, the gutsiest, the most vulnerable. He sticks his neck out farther than any of the rest of us. Who touches this book touches a fleshly, ambitious, anxious, self-involved, self-doubting mortal.”
Cavell’s voice, now stilled, will live on his books, which will continue to be read not just by philosophers but anyone who hungers for a human voice. In time, he might be remembered not just as the heir to Ludwig Wittgenstein and J.L. Austin, but part of the American tradition of daring misfits, the line of Thoreau, Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens. 

Cavell on Grice

Speranza


Stanley Louis Cavell


Stanley Cavell
Cavell was a jazz musician before he was a philosopher. And Grice was a Ravelian pianist before he was a footballer!

An air of improvisation and fun hung over everything he did.

Pauline Kael was lecturing at Harvard, and I saw him standing on the Cambridge Common, shortly before the lecture was to begin, looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” I asked jokingly.

“This is Mass. Ave., and that over there is Garden Street.” “I know what street I’m on,” he said, as though he’d stepped out of one of the screwball comedies he so loved.

“But what town am I in?”
Cavell didn’t prepare a syllabus.

He didn’t order books for his courses.

He was casual with student papers.

According to the awful assessment measures of our awful times, he was probably a lousy teacher, and yet he was the most exciting classroom presence I’ve ever experienced.

He brought an extraordinary range of passions—for jazz and Shakespeare (in his famous essay on Lear, for example), for film comedies (in Pursuits of Happiness, perhaps his best book), for “ordinary language” philosophy, for the unexpected philosophical richness of Thoreau (The Senses of Walden) and Emerson—to everything he had to say.
One had the impression that he was making up the course as he went along.

He didn’t have a clear plan, and yet, like a saxophone player armed with a “fake book,” he knew the tune.

At the first class meeting of his aesthetics seminar at Harvard, he began scrawling titles on the blackboard: Of Grammatology, The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, Blindness and Insight.

Of course, we could read a few pages of Kant’s Critique of Judgment instead, he said.

But since the most provocative current work in aesthetics was being done in English departments and comparative literature departments, why not take a look? 
ADVERTISING
Martha Nussbaum, an assistant professor dividing her time between the Classics and Philosophy departments, was one of the people crammed around the seminar table.

So was the philosopher Norton Batkin, who would become Cavell’s son-in-law.

There were film people from the Carpenter Center and comp lit students like Liliane Weissberg.

The music producer Billy Ruane, an indescribable, fidgety, bohemian presence, was there.

Arnold Davidson, who later edited Critical Inquiry, was there.

People dropped in from the bookstore across the streetà l’improviste, as the French say.
None of us spoke, or did so only rarely.

We all mainly listened as Cavell thought aloud, worried a passage, fired off rhetorical questions without waiting for an answer, sulked, and raved.

Occasionally, he expressed mild appreciation.

He admired, for example, how Derrida, with his horror of sentimentality, had eviscerated Lévi-Strauss on the question of the primacy of oral over written language.

But Cavell could also be impatient to the point of anger.

How did Derrida get off thinking that Peirce’s claims were self-evident, when philosophers for a hundred years had found them all but impenetrable?
Over Harold Bloom, Cavell was particularly exercised.

How exactly was Bloom’s method of identifying sources different from a book like John Livingston Lowes’s The Road to Xanadu, with its relentless tracking down of the literary sources of Coleridge’s supposed opium dream

Did we really believe Bloom’s claim that Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” since it mentions dead leaves, somehow haunts Leaves of Grass? 

What could possibly count as evidence?

And why did Bloom steer clear of close reading? Was it that he was no good at it?
This was at the height of the importation—or invasion, as some thought—of theory into humanities departments.

At Harvard, in particular, anxiety was high.

Yale was all in and Harvard was resisting.

I remember Derek Bok, president of the university at the time, announcing to a gathering of English Department professors that “Jacques Derrida will never teach at Harvard!”

Everyone cheered.

But Cavell knew that there was something going on, some intellectual ferment worth gauging, and engaging.

So, he engaged Derrida on J.L. Austin and H. P. Grice and “parasitic” speech acts, picked a fight with de Man on a line from Yeats.
Like a hundred critics before him, de Man had misquoted the concluding line of “Among School Children” as “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?” It was clearly a rhetorical question, according to de Man, a perfect fusion of form and content.

We can’t tell the difference between the dancer and the dance.

Cavell pointed out that the wording of the line was actually “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Furthermore, it wasn’t at all clear that the question was rhetorical.

On the contrary, Yeats appeared to be asking, as had Wittgenstein and other philosophers exploring the so-called Problem of Other Minds, how we make sense of other people via their bodies, their gestures, their expressions, their words. There are ways in which we can know the dancer from—and by means of—the dance.
It was exhilarating to be present for such performances. Close reading seemed suddenly electrifying, a game with very high stakes.

For years, I took my intellectual bearings from Cavell.

I found in Emily Dickinson some of the themes—skepticism, nearness, the problem of others—that he had discovered in Thoreau and Emerson.

I invited him to come to the club to lecture about Wallace Stevens, mainly because I knew that he loved Stevens and had written almost nothing about him.

I wanted to hear that improvisatory brilliance aimed at Stevens.

From Stevens’s vast corpus, Cavell teased out the notion of “earliness,” of our thirst for a relation to the world that precedes preconceptions, assumptions, conventions.

It was a kindred earliness, a freshness of response, that Cavell himself aimed for in his own writing and thinking.
I find a page of my notes from a Cavell class, tucked into my copy of Philosophical Investigations. It is a record of Cavell thinking, and we hung on every word:

"Wittgenstein is on Austin’s mind, but he tries to forget him. Wittgenstein says, there are infinite uses of language. Austin says, there are about 10,000. Metaphors can’t be listed in a dictionary; idioms can. Metaphors aren’t false, they’re wildly false, crazily, madly false. I.A. Richards and de Man seem to be forcing the word metaphor into dead metaphors. What are metaphors for, anyway? Is it possible that someone never learned to use metaphor?"

Cavell on Grice

Speranza


Stanley Cavell, 1926–2018

Stanley Cavell
He was a jazz musician before he was a philosopher. An air of improvisation and fun hung over everything he did. Pauline Kael was lecturing at Harvard, and I saw him standing on the Cambridge Common, shortly before the lecture was to begin, looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” I asked jokingly. “This is Mass. Ave., and that over there is Garden Street.” “I know what street I’m on,” he said, as though he’d stepped out of one of the screwball comedies he so loved. “But what town am I in?”
He didn’t prepare a syllabus. He didn’t order books for his courses. He was casual with student papers. According to the awful assessment measures of our awful times, he was probably a lousy teacher, and yet he was the most exciting classroom presence I’ve ever experienced. He brought an extraordinary range of passions—for jazz and Shakespeare (in his famous essay on Lear, for example), for American film comedies (in Pursuits of Happiness, perhaps his best book), for “ordinary language” philosophy, for the unexpected philosophical richness of Thoreau (The Senses of Walden) and Emerson—to everything he had to say.
One had the impression that he was making up the course as he went along. He didn’t have a clear plan, and yet, like a saxophone player armed with a “fake book,” he knew the tune. At the first class meeting of his aesthetics seminar at Harvard, during the spring of 1978, he began scrawling titles on the blackboard: Of Grammatology, The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, Blindness and Insight. Of course, we could read a few pages of Kant’s Critique of Judgment instead, he said. But since the most provocative current work in aesthetics was being done in English departments and comparative literature departments, why not take a look? 
ADVERTISING
Martha Nussbaum, an assistant professor dividing her time between the Classics and Philosophy departments, was one of the people crammed around the seminar table. So was the philosopher Norton Batkin, who would later become Cavell’s son-in-law. There were film people from the Carpenter Center and comp lit students like me and my pal Liliane Weissberg. The music producer Billy Ruane, an indescribable, fidgety, bohemian presence, was there. Arnold Davidson, who later edited Critical Inquiry, was there. People dropped in from the bookstore across the streetà l’improviste, as the French say.
None of us spoke, or did so only rarely. We all mainly listened as Cavell thought aloud, worried a passage, fired off rhetorical questions without waiting for an answer, sulked, and raved. Occasionally, he expressed mild appreciation. He admired, for example, how Derrida, with his horror of sentimentality, had eviscerated Lévi-Strauss on the question of the primacy of oral over written language. But Cavell could also be impatient to the point of anger. How did Derrida get off thinking that Peirce’s claims were self-evident, when American philosophers for a hundred years had found them all but impenetrable?
Over Harold Bloom, Cavell was particularly exercised. How exactly was Bloom’s method of identifying sources different from a book like John Livingston Lowes’s The Road to Xanadu, with its relentless tracking down of the literary sources of Coleridge’s supposed opium dreamDid we really believe Bloom’s claim that Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” since it mentions dead leaves, somehow haunts Leaves of Grass? What could possibly count as evidence? And why did Bloom steer clear of close reading? Was it that he was no good at it?
This was in 1978, at the height of the importation—or invasion, as some thought—of theory into American humanities departments. At Harvard, in particular, anxiety was high. Yale was all in and Harvard was resisting. I remember Derek Bok, president of the university at the time, announcing to a gathering of English Department professors that “Jacques Derrida will never teach at Harvard!” Everyone cheered. But Cavell knew that there was something going on, some intellectual ferment worth gauging, and engaging. So, he engaged Derrida on J.L. Austin and “parasitic” speech acts, picked a fight with de Man on a line from Yeats.
Like a hundred critics before him, de Man had misquoted the concluding line of “Among School Children” as “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?” It was clearly a rhetorical question, according to de Man, a perfect fusion of form and content. We can’t tell the difference between the dancer and the dance. Cavell pointed out that the wording of the line was actually “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” Furthermore, it wasn’t at all clear that the question was rhetorical. On the contrary, Yeats appeared to be asking, as had Wittgenstein and other philosophers exploring the so-called Problem of Other Minds, how we make sense of other people via their bodies, their gestures, their expressions, their words. There are ways in which we can know the dancer from—and by means of—the dance.
It was exhilarating to be present for such performances. Close reading seemed suddenly electrifying, a game with very high stakes. For years, I took my intellectual bearings from Cavell. In my first book, I found in Emily Dickinson some of the themes—skepticism, nearness, the problem of others—that he had discovered in Thoreau and Emerson. I invited him to come to Mount Holyoke to lecture about Wallace Stevens, mainly because I knew that he loved Stevens and had written almost nothing about him. I wanted to hear that improvisatory brilliance aimed at Stevens. From Stevens’s vast corpus, Cavell teased out the notion of “earliness,” of our thirst for a relation to the world that precedes preconceptions, assumptions, conventions. It was a kindred earliness, a freshness of response, that Cavell himself aimed for in his own writing and thinking.
I find a page of my notes from a Cavell class, tucked into my copy of Philosophical Investigations. It is a record of Cavell thinking, and we hung on every word:
Wittgenstein is on Austin’s mind, but he tries to forget him. Wittgenstein says, there are infinite uses of language. Austin says, there are about 10,000. Metaphors can’t be listed in a dictionary; idioms can. Metaphors aren’t false, they’re wildly false, crazily, madly false. I.A. Richards and de Man seem to be forcing the word metaphor into dead metaphors. What are metaphors for, anyway? Is it possible that someone never learned to use metaphor?

How to pronounce "Grice" and how to pronounce thyself as a "Griceian"

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Re: Witters, McGinn notes:

"Indeed, and that is no doubt the reason Cavell pronounced it that way (as I insist on always pronouncing Italian words with strict Italian pronunciation even if it is unfamiliar to English speakers)."

"But it sounds somewhat mannered to the English ear and the name is not commonly so pronounced by English/British speakers (you should hear my pronunciation of “cognoscenti”)."

You should.


Cavell on Grice

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Obituaries of Cavell:

How to Pronounce "Grice" and "Witters"

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The way Cavell pronounced "Witters" is how most German speakers would pronounce it too. This is especially true in Austria, where Witters was from.

The grices are from Scotland, unless "Grice" is a variation of the French way to say 'grey' or 'gray' and he is Anglo-Norman! (As he should!)

Grice's "Guide to Oxonian Pronunciation"

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McGinn notes re Cavell:

"Cavell reminds me of Rogers Albritton, also very smart and perceptive, and a great asker of questions. But Albritton wrote little and was easier to understand. Both were keen exponents of Wittgenshtein (as Cavell pronounced it)."

Actually, Witters pronounced it Witters!

"Some people like Witters, and Moore's MY man" -- Strawson.

"Some love Witters, but G. E. Moore is my masculine." -- Austin. 

Cavell on Grice

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Cavell advised senior theses on Nietzsche and Madhyamaka — he was a smart guy, very perceptive.

Grice advised theses on ... stuff!


Grice's "A Guide to the Pronunciation of Oxonian"

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McGinn notices Cavell's pronunciation of “t” the English, not the American way. 

Except when you've lived in Boston for a couple!


Cavell on Grice

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This is excellently put and the advice re: a starting point with Cavell is good.

Many first encountered him through Aesthetics but as my interest in — and sympathy for — the later Witters decreased, Cavell began to take on a greater significance for my thinking.
Cavell was one of the best we had -- as Grice will!

Cavell on Grice -- Cavell's two cents

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My two cents:


Cent 1: 
Cavell is not a philosopher that answers our questions; (like Wittgenstein, I guess) he is a philosopher who (takes himself to) teach us new questions. 

That’s partly why it is not clear how, and to what, what he says is relevant. 

I think he thought, however, that the questions he is trying to teach us -- the ones we don’t know how to ask, and don’t see as relevant -- are more basic, somehow; so that if we don’t learn to ask them, we might never discover the problems with the questions we are asking (those he does not answer).

Cent 2: 

There are (at least two ways) into his philosophy: through Wittgenstein, and through phenomenology. 

The one through Witters (and Austin and Grice and Mates and White -- vide Atlas in "Essays on Grice") is more straightforward, I think. 

As a starting point, I would recommend his “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy” in his early collection of essays: “Must We Mean What We Say?”

Grice and Cavell on "Be perspicuous [sic]"

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Re: McGinn on Cavell on Grice on intelligibility.

I have absolutely had the same experience. 
Even after many readings I find books such as The World Viewed to be extremely slippery, where I have trouble identifying the principal commitments and conclusions. 
And I mean slippery as complimentary!
On the other hand, many of the greatest philosophers are difficult to pin down in precise terms although one can discern what they are up to generally speaking. 
Cavell’s essays will continue to be read as primary sources over and above their contribution to scholarship. 
This should be a testament to his power and influence. 
In my opinion he was one of the last great philosophers of the 20th century, along with Grice.
It seems to me that in his writings on film and literature Cavell often writes through descriptions of experiences rather than by making arguments. 
In his work on these subjects he writes from a classical perspective in which philosophy does not need to be sharply distinguished from other humanities in its ability to convey truth.
Agreed!

McGinn on Cavell on Grice

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McGinn, who has referred to Grice's persona in various places -- and parts of Grice's persona, too -- notes:

"Cavell was a highly distinctive presence on the philosophical scene."

"I never met him or even set eyes on him, but I read some of his work, mainly on film and literature."

The locus classicus seems to be "Must we mean what we implicate?" or something.

"It struck me as very interesting, but I found it extremely hard to understand. His mind seemed to work very differently from mine. I wonder if other readers had the same experience."

I guess there is a book for every reader and a reader for every book!

The happy part of this is that Cavell found himself sometimes hard to understand ("That's what makes philosophy pleasurable, as my daughter would disimplicate!")