ABOUT THIS BOOK
Stanley Cavell is a titan of the academic world; his work in aesthetics and philosophy has shaped both fields in the United States over the past forty years. In this brief yet enlightening collection of lectures, Cavell investigates the work of two of his most tried-and-true subjects: Emerson and Wittgenstein. Beginning with an introductory essay that places his own work in a philosophical and historical context, Cavell guides his reader through his thought process when composing and editing his lectures while making larger claims about the influence of institutions on philosophers, and the idea of progress within the discipline of philosophy. In “Declining Decline,” Cavell explains how language modifies human existence, looking specifically at the culture of Wittgenstein’s writings. He draws on Emerson, Thoreau, and many others to make his case that Wittgenstein can indeed be viewed as a “philosopher of culture.” In his final lecture, “Finding as Founding,” Cavell writes in response to Emerson’s “Experience,” and explores the tension between the philosopher and language—that he or she must embrace language as his or her “form of life,” while at the same time surpassing its restrictions. He compares finding new ideas to discovering a previously unknown land in an essay that unabashedly celebrates the power and joy of philosophical thought.