The Shadows of Stanley Cavell

John-Baptiste Oduor in The Nation:

The philosopher Stanley Cavell, who was the author of some 19 books, passed away in 2018. Fifteen years earlier, he had turned his attention to his death in Little Did I Know, a memoir occasioned by the discovery of his own declining health. There, as in much of his work, he was comfortable writing in the retrospective mode, reflecting again and again on his most famous collection of essays, Must We Mean What We Say? (1969), and the arguments, ideas, and distinctive style he developed there. The latter would be described by his critics as self-indulgent and by his defenders as profound. The reality was somewhere between these judgments, although often closer to the former than the latter.

Like his mother, Fannie Goldstein, Cavell began and then abandoned a career in music. Although she gave up music to work occasionally in her husband Irving’s pawnshop in Atlanta, Cavell would leave the arts for philosophy and at 16 would change his name to an anglicized version of Kavelieruskii, the name his father had exchanged for Goldstein on arriving in America from Poland.

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