josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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29 Jan '13 10:22:52 PM

Some animals don't get along.

29 Jan '13 10:21:46 PM

Animals can be genuinely happy to see you.

29 Jan '13 10:19:16 PM

Animals will sometimes want to be left alone.

29 Jan '13 10:15:15 PM

Animals can be so inconsiderate.

29 Jan '13 12:14:30 PM

There are cookies in the box, and cookies on the box, and milk on the box, but there's no milk in the box. Something funny is going on here.

29 Jan '13 05:10:39 AM

If only Beth Gibbons hadn't spoken to the audience at the Roseland show.

29 Jan '13 12:35:53 AM

I would be happier if more academic performances ended with fewer questions that sound like 'is this really right?' and more questions that sound like: 'where does our investigation point us next?'.

28 Jan '13 11:29:04 PM

What do narrative structures afford to their authors and to authors' readers? (Especially if the authors' works are not, for the most part, narratives?)

'Once A.…'

'She… and then she…'

'Despite… we still…'

'Once again A. and B.…'

'B. has always… but now…'

'We… but we…'

Important relatives: 'Are we…?', 'Have we…?', 'Will we…?'.

28 Jan '13 10:38:31 AM

I've spent a lot of time studying Stanley Cavell's work over the last several years, especially The Claim of Reason. Not much of that study has shown up here, but when it has, it might not have been in the most surveyable form. I've been working on several fronts at once as I try to piece together a useful sense of what Cavell's up to and how to deal with him. This has only, out of necessity, started to come together in the past year or two.

So here are links to readings and glosses from the past year or so (indexed to part, chapter, and section in Claim unless otherwise noted). I doubt that many of them would be very helpful to anyone not very familiar with Cavell, save for the discussion of philosophical journals, but I've marked with asterisks the ones which involve more of my own 'reading' and less of the mechanics of reading. There is a fair bit of mechanics of reading because the major obstacles to making any sense of Cavell are first and foremost gathering some sense from more sprawling works like Claim or tracing the passages in subsequent work that serve to elaborate or clarify claims made earlier. To help with that I roughly follow the order of publication below. The hardest and most interesting questions have to do with material like Part Four of Claim, on skepticism about our knowledge of others, which strains or ignores organizational niceties to the point of reader frustration or despair.


Author and audience under modernist conditions (Foreword, Must we mean what we say?).

The Claim of Reason

Continuously renewed questioning. The personal. Not destructive criticism, but a shift in interest (Preface).

Glosses of Wittgenstein on agreement in form of life (§241) and judgment (One, I), and on the expression of essence in grammar (§371; §90) (One, IV). Differences between real and imaginary not criterial (One, III). The impression that Wittgenstein wants to deny anything about our knowledge of others (One, V). Philosophy, the education of grownups, as a confrontation of the culture with itself* along the lines in which it meets in me (One, V).

Four characterizations of philosophical appeals to ordinary language (Two, VI). The fourth of these, appeals to ordinary language as statements of initiation, in connection with the idea of authority (Two, VII). A gloss on the expression of essence in grammar (§371) and Wittgenstein's method when addressing questions about essence (Two, VII).

Use of the term 'fantasy' (Four). The keeping of a limited philosophical journal* (Four, per Foreword). The expression of the soul is never better than natural (Four, XIII, 2). Internal dialogues, being thrown back on oneself, and use of the imagination (Four, XIII, 3–6). Passages on a fantasy of privacy as expressed in fragments of a myth (Four, XIII, 4–6). Singling someone out* to serve as a best case of knowledge, an analogue to the generic object (see mainly One, III; Two, VI, VIII) of external-world skepticism, such as the stranger (Four, XIII, 19). Seeing oneself as a stranger (Four, XIII, 21).

The ordinary in books and essays

Emerson and Thoreau underwriting ordinary-language philosophy by putting everything in their own voices (Senses of Walden). Living our skepticism ('Being Odd, Getting Even'). The audience and sound of philosophical writing ('Emerson Mood'). Thoreau's vision of philosophical writing and interpretation of reading ('Philosopher in American Life'). Willingness for the everyday ('Uncanniness of the Ordinary').

Going on as a reader

Responsiveness. Being left quiet.