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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The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 Copyright © 1989 by Stanley Cavell All rights reserved. Originally published 1989. University of Chicago Press edition 2013 Printed in the United States of America 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 1 2 3 4 5 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-03738-7 (paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-226-03741-7 (e-book) Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cavell, Stanley, 1926– This new yet unapproachable America : lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein / Stanley

aside for the moment, Wittgenstein’s sense of the loss or exile of words is much more extreme than the couple of images I have cited. The sense of words as “away,” as having to be guided “back,” pervades the Investigations, to the extent, say, that the sense of speaking “outside a language-game” (§ 47) is something that pervades the Investigations. I pick here a phrase about outsideness whose entrance is quite casual, without drama, both to indicate the pervasiveness of the sense I wish to

suppose the greatest opening moment in Western literature specifically to picture this state: “In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood. . . .” Of course I cite Dante to associate Wittgenstein’s text with another greatness, but equally to remember the commonness of a certain dimension of the Investigations’ preoccupations, including the stress on difficulty. (The opening short

connection to be between violent thinking (the most unforbearing) and violent action, either for change at any cost, or at all costs for permanence? — clutching at difference, denying separate-ness. (Emerson will enter this region again when we follow out, in the following lecture, his detection of clutching in human thinking and practice.) I am of course proposing here a connection between Wittgenstein’s idea of philosophy’s leaving everything as it is and Heidegger’s idea of thinking as

state, say, in which the world is more perfectly expressed, is something that I assume itself has a complex history. The vision in Emerson and Thoreau is essential to their vision that the world as a whole requires attention, say redemption, that it lies fallen, dead; it is thus essential to what we call their romanticism. Emerson’s difference from other nineteenth-century prophets or sages (say Matthew Arnold, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard), and his affinity with Austin and Wittgenstein (unlike

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