Stanley Cavell often speaks of inheriting and carrying on the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other writers. These writers help him move on in his own thinking, turning him around when he feels lost, provoking him when he gets discouraged or stuck. His indebtedness to J. L. Austin in the acknowledgements to Must We Mean What We Say? (1969) captures one way he benefits from all the writers who have influenced him: “To the late J. L. Austin I owe, beyond what I hope is plain in my work, whatever is owed the teacher who shows one a way to do relevantly and fruitfully the thing one had almost given up hope of doing.” By taking up the work of the writers he values, Cavell hopes to undo what he sees as their neglect and misappropriation by the culture at large and by the academic profession. He makes his case for these writers not so much by exhortation as by his own use of them.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Fischer, M. (2008). Using Stanley Cavell. Philosophy and Literature, 32, 198-204. doi: 10.1353/phl.0.0004
Philosophy and Literature