Pitch Of Philosophy

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Overview

What is the pitch of philosophy? Something thrown, for us to catch? A lurch, meant to unsettle us? The relative position of a tone on a scale? A speech designed to persuade? This book is an invitation to the life of philosophy in the United States, as Emerson once lived it and as Stanley Cavell now lives it - in all its topographical ambiguity. Cavell talks about his vocation in connection with what he calls voice - the tone of philosophy - and his right to take that tone, and to describe an anecdotal journey toward the discovery of his own voice. Cavell asks how the voice of philosophy can be heard amid the commerce of everyday life. His autobiographical exercises begin at home with his parents, his father an accidental pawnbroker and accomplished raconteur, his mother a trained and talented musician. In the course of showing us his certain steps in the discovery of his trade, he conveys the sense of what it means to learn to walk on one's own, with a Thoreauvian deliberateness. He pays suitable attention to a serious ally and antagonist to the task of philosophy as he understands it, namely, Jacques Derrida - yet Derrida has mounted a full-scale attack on "voice" and other concepts that Cavell has held open for much of a lifetime. The chapters are interwoven with intense family reminiscences in Cavell's discovery of J. L. Austin, his understanding of Wittgenstein, his raising of Emerson to the philosophical canon, his fascination with film (images of women in a medium for women), the revelation that film and opera are the media of otherness for women. And the voice at the end: hearing in himself the voice of his mother, which is music. Complex, sentimental, witty, A Pitch of Philosophy is for anyone who cares to take on philosophy, under whatever name it goes.
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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education Supplement

The autobiographical note of Cavell's philosophy, here as in his other writings, evokes an atmosphere of fragility and danger...Whether in the discussion of the haunting of Hamlet, or in the analysis of inheritance in the film Gaslight in which 'something is resounding', or even in the reflections on the 'necessarily forged' signatures of ghosts, Cavell presents an understated but powerful analysis of a world and a self haunted by voices...Cavell's work extends philosophy into other domains...His autobiographical exercises exemplify 'humane criticism' applied to philosophy, remaining true to the technical demands of the discipline and paying heed to the claims of the experience that sustains it.
— Howard Caygill

ArtForum

Stanley Cavell is among the very few philosophers in America to have achieved a major reputation primarily through writing on the arts, and perhaps the only one to have evolved a prose style that has something of the character of artistic expression in its own right...The author's voice kept—keeps—ringing in my inadequately pitched ear.
— Arthur C. Danto

Choice
Cavell has carried on the tradition of Wittgenstein and John Austin into new areas of philosophy and literature...The present work is both an intellectual autobiography and a philosophy of the autobiography, in which he defends the authority of the personal voice. Of most philosophical interest is a long account, part actual, part possible, of an exchange between Austin and Derrida with Cavell's own voice as adjudicator much in evidence.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Howard Caygill
The autobiographical note of Cavell's philosophy, here as in his other writings, evokes an atmosphere of fragility and danger...Whether in the discussion of the haunting of Hamlet, or in the analysis of inheritance in the film Gaslight in which 'something is resounding', or even in the reflections on the 'necessarily forged' signatures of ghosts, Cavell presents an understated but powerful analysis of a world and a self haunted by voices...Cavell's work extends philosophy into other domains...His autobiographical exercises exemplify 'humane criticism' applied to philosophy, remaining true to the technical demands of the discipline and paying heed to the claims of the experience that sustains it.
ArtForum - Arthur C. Danto
Stanley Cavell is among the very few philosophers in America to have achieved a major reputation primarily through writing on the arts, and perhaps the only one to have evolved a prose style that has something of the character of artistic expression in its own right...The author's voice kept--keeps--ringing in my inadequately pitched ear.
Ian Hacking
This is A Cavell's Progress. A reworking of his lifework themes intimating how the diverse parts, which might seem unconnected from the outside, are felt as of a piece. In philosophy, the discovery of Austin, the understanding of Wittgenstein, the raising of Emerson to the philosophical canon, the fascination with film, with images of women in a medium for women, the revelation that film and opera are the mediums of otherness for women. All this hung together with much intense family reminiscence, of Cavell choosing at sixteen his name, much about his mother the musician, about his father and the pawn shop.
Samuel Weber
The result of Cavell's struggle to defend the Austinian heritage, in its 'democratic' defense of the ordinary, by restoring the distinctive voice and tone that he takes Derrida to neglect is to my knowledge the most suggestive discussion of the distinctive status of tone and voice in response to the two philosophical traditions epitomized, however ironically, by Derrida and Austin.
Times Higher Education Supplement
The autobiographical note of Cavell's philosophy, here as in his other writings, evokes an atmosphere of fragility and danger...Whether in the discussion of the haunting of Hamlet, or in the analysis of inheritance in the film Gaslight in which 'something is resounding', or even in the reflections on the 'necessarily forged' signatures of ghosts, Cavell presents an understated but powerful analysis of a world and a self haunted by voices...Cavell's work extends philosophy into other domains...His autobiographical exercises exemplify 'humane criticism' applied to philosophy, remaining true to the technical demands of the discipline and paying heed to the claims of the experience that sustains it.
— Howard Caygill
ArtForum
Stanley Cavell is among the very few philosophers in America to have achieved a major reputation primarily through writing on the arts, and perhaps the only one to have evolved a prose style that has something of the character of artistic expression in its own right...The author's voice kept--keeps--ringing in my inadequately pitched ear.
— Arthur C. Danto
Library Journal
Cavell is an odd man out at Harvard-a philosopher with a taste for romanticism and an interest in rhetoric. He was especially moved by J.L. Austin's How To Do Things with Words (1975), one kind of Oxford ``ordinary language'' philosophy, but he developed his own critique. Lately, he is best known as the man who restored Emerson and Thoreau to philosophical respectability; hence his concern with having one's own voice in the sense of being heard in one's own way and with being a philosopher who makes a difference. The book offers us charming snippets of his life-the child writing pawn tickets for his father or listening to his pianist mother on the radio, the young man giving up the study of composition at the Juilliard School. And it shows the philosopher caught between deflationist beliefs about metaphysics and romantic beliefs about individualism. But Cavell's readings of philosophers famous and obscure (Derrida, Wittgenstein, Austin, Roderick Firth, Benson Mates) are never quite usual, and the snippets here are too brief and flickering to allow the reader to take their measure. Those who know Cavell's work and the works he speaks of will enjoy the book. Others will be baffled. For academic libraries.-Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674669819
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1996
  • Series: Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,471,985
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Cavell is Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Emeritus, at Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Overture

1. Philosophy and the Arrogation of Voice

2. Counter-Philosophy and the Pawn of Voice

The Metaphysical Voice

Worlds of Philosophical Difference

Pictures of Destruction

Derrida's Austin and the Stake of Positivism

Exclusion of the Theory of Excuses: On the Tragic

Exclusion of the Theory of the Non-Serious

Skepticism and the Serious

Two Pictures of Communication: Assigning

What (Thing) Is Transmitted? Austin Moves

Two Pictures of Language in Relation to (the) World

Three Pictures of My Attachment to My Words: Signing

Opera and the Lease of Voice

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Subject Index

Name Index

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