Colin Burrow on Stanley Cavell’s Here and There in the LRB:
When I was small we were sometimes visited by a moral philosopher. He always outstayed his welcome, and did many things which non-philosophers might regard as immoral or selfish, some of them more forgivable than others (I have forgiven him for confiscating the rubber ball that I enjoyed bouncing around the hall, but not for destroying it). Whenever my mother went to rebuke him for his misdeeds she would find him standing on his head, with his feet clad in purple socks, reciting over and over again the mantra: ‘Only I can feel my pain.’ It was, she would say, hard to address a pair of purple socks as though they were a moral agent.
Our unwelcome guest was one of the many enthusiastic followers of Wittgenstein in the 1960s and 1970s, and his meditations were no doubt intended to draw him into a deeper understanding of the discussions of pain and private language in the Philosophical Investigations. In the 1980s at Cambridge I was taught by a generation of critics who had developed a radically conservative aesthetics from a fusion of Wittgenstein’s writing on language and J.L. Austin’s on speech acts. Wittgenstein suggested that we could only say someone had grasped the rules of chess when they could offer a ‘criterion’ of having done so, by being able to make the right moves. In lectures I heard that claim developed into an argument to the effect that there were no mute inglorious Miltons out there, because the only criterion of having a beautifully complex thought was the ability to write in a beautiful and complex way.