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Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary

Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary

Espen Hammer

ISBN: 978-0-745-62357-3

Mar 2002, Polity

216 pages

In Stock



Stanley Cavell is a leading figure in American philosophy and one of the most exhilarating and wide-ranging intellectuals of our time. In this book Espen Hammer offers a lucid and thorough account of the development of Cavell's work, from his early writings on ordinary language philosophy and skepticism to his most recent contributions to film studies, literary theory, romanticism, ethics, and politics.

The book traces the many lines of skepticism occurring in Cavell's work and shows how they amount to a rich and subtle picture of human subjectivity. Hammer explores Cavell's passionate engagement with Austin and Wittgenstein's visions of language, and his uncovering of conceptions of the ordinary in Emerson and Thoreau. Central sections of the book are devoted to the tragic and the comic as these modes of existence come into play in Shakespeare and Hollywood cinematic drama. In elaborating Cavell's responses to thinkers such as Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida, the author situates Cavell's writing within the wider context of contemporary continental philosophy.

Hammer clearly reveals the existential dimensions of Cavell's thought. He argues that his variant of ordinary language philosophy is a vital stimulus to self-transformation in cognitive, aesthetic, ethical, and political domains, contributing significantly to a rethinking of issues such as responsibility and autonomy, and the relationship between philosophy and literature.

A critical introduction to the thought of an inordinately complex writer, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars in philosophy, literary theory, cultural theory, comparative literature, and media and cultural studies.




Chapter 1 Ordinary Language Philosophy.

Chapter 2 Skepticism: Criteria and the External World.

Chapter 3 The Other.

Chapter 4 Art and Aesthetics.

Chapter 5 Ethics and Politics.

Chapter 6 Between Philosophy and Literature: Deconstruction and Romanticism.





‘Surveying the whole range of Cavell’s thought, Espen Hammer has produced an immensely lucid and compelling overview of the fundamental gestures of, arguably, the most distinctive and original American philosopher now writing.’ – Jay Bernstein, The New School for Social Research, New York

‘Epsen Hammer’s lucid and engaging account of Cavell’s inheritance of Austin and Wittgenstein is particularly successful in showing how it might make possible genuinely productive encounters between the “analytic” and the “Continental” philosophical traditions.’ – Stephen Mulhall, New College, University of Oxford

  • A lucid and comprehensive introduction to the work of leading American philosopher, Stanley Cavell

  • Examines Cavell's distinctive contribution to philosophy, literary theory, film studies and politics

  • Situates Cavell's writing within the wider context of contemporary continental philosophy.

  • Shows that Cavell's work is rooted in a subtle and distinctive view of human subjectivity