A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises

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Harvard University Press, 1996 - Medical - 196 pages
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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 ofPhilosophy is for anyone who cares to take on philosophy, under whatever name it goes.

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A pitch of philosophy: autobiographical exercises

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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 ... Read full review


Philosophy and the Arrogation of Voice
CounterPhilosophy and the Pawn of Voice
The Metaphysical Voice
Worlds of Philosophical Difference
Pictures of Destruction
Derridas Austin and the Stake of Positivism
On the Tragic
Exclusion of the Theory of the NonSerious
What Thing Is Transmitted? Austin Moves
Two Pictures of Language in Relation to the World
Opera and the Lease of Voice
Subject Index
Name Index

Skepticism and the Serious

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About the author (1996)

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

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