The Irrepressible Human Voice of Stanley Cavell

Jonathan Tran at The Marginalia Review of Books:

Inasmuch as he had a specialization, Cavell’s was our human life in words and he, along with Cora Diamond and James Conant, is credited with giving second life to a hitherto expiring mode of thought known as ordinary language philosophy. Cavell was fascinated by how language proves constitutive of what it means to be human, and was further fascinated by how much we humans want to deny that—probably, he thought, because of what the implications would demand of us. In a characteristically exquisite passage from the legendary fourth part of The Claim of Reason, Cavell wrote, “There is no assignable end to the depth of us to which language reaches; that nevertheless there is no end to our separateness. We are endlessly separate, for no reason. But then we are answerable for everything that comes between us; if not for causing it then for continuing it; if not for denying it then for affirming it; if not for it then to it.”

There is an emancipatory tone to Cavell’s writing, licensing in his readers intellectual possibilities they did not know existed. The somewhat religious devotion of his academic followers, including the many religious ones, can in part be explained by how his work reconciles them to the impulses that drove them to take up teaching and writing in the first place.

more here.