Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary

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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.