Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises

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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

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

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

1 Philosophy and the Arrogation of Voice 1
2 Counter-Philosophy and the Pawn of Voice 53
The Metaphysical Voice 59
Worlds of Philosophical Difference 67
Pictures of Destruction 75
Derrida's Austin and the Stake of Positivism 77
Exclusion of the Theory of Excuses: On the Tragic 86
Exclusion of the Theory of the Non-Serious 88
Skepticism and the Serious 97
Two Pictures of Communication: Assigning 105
What (Thing) Is Transmitted? Austin Moves 108
Two Pictures of Language in Relation to (the) World 114
Three Pictures of My Attachment to My Words: Signing 118
3 Opera and the Lease of Voice 129
Bibliography 171
Acknowledgments 179
Subject Index 191
Name Index 194
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