Cavell, Stanley 1926–

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Cavell, Stanley 1926–

(Stanley Louis Cavell)

PERSONAL: Born September, 1926, in Atlanta, GA; son of Irving H. (a watchmaker) and Fannie (Segal) Goldstein; married Marcia Schmid, July, 1955 (divorced, January, 1963); married Cathleen Cohen, June, 1967; children: Rachel Lee, Benjamin William. Education: University of California, Berkeley, A.B., 1947; University of California, Los Angeles, graduate study, 1948–51; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1961; also studied music at the Juilliard School.

ADDRESSES: Office—Emerson Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, junior fellow of Society of Fellows, 1953–56; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor of philosophy, 1956–62; Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ, fellow, 1962–63; Harvard University, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and General Theory of Value, beginning 1963, currently professor emeritus. Visiting professor, University of California at Berkeley.


Must We Mean What We Say?: A Book of Essays, Scribner (New York, NY), 1969, updated edition, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film, Viking (New York, NY), 1971, enlarged edition, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979.

The Senses of Walden, Viking (New York, NY), 1972, published as The Senses of Walden: An Expanded Edition, North Point Press (New York, NY), 1981.

The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979, reprinted, 1999.

Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

Themes out of School: Effects and Causes, North Point Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Disowning Knowledge: In Six Plays of Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987, updated edition published as Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare, 2003.

Images in Our Souls: Cavell, Psychoanalysis, and Cinema, edited by Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1987.

Nach der Philosophie: Essays, edited by Kurt R. Fischer and Ludwig Nagl, Verbandes der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaften Österreichs, 1987.

In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.

This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein, Living Batch Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1989.

Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

Philosophical Passages: Wittgenstein, Emerson, Austin, Derrida, Blackwell (London, England), 1995.

Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.

The Cavell Reader, edited by Stephen Mulhall, Blackwell (London, England), 1996.

Emerson's Transcendental Etudes, edited by David Justin Hodge, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2003.

Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

Cavell on Film, edited and with introduction by William Rothman, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 2005.

Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Contributor to books, including Art and Science, edited by Stephen R. Graubard, University Press of America, 1986, and Magic Markers: Objects of Transformation: Des Moines Art Center, February 1-April 20, 2003, Des Moines Art Center (Des Moines, IA), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: A professor emeritus of philosophy at Harvard University, Stanley Cavell was called "one of our most imaginative philosophers" by Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. in Library Journal. Having published extensively on a wide range of subjects, Cavell has written and edited works regarding various philosophical issues and discussing such well-known figures as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Immanuel Kant. What has gained him particular attention, however, is his fascination with movies, and his ability to employ his knowledge of film in philosophical discussions. Cavell, a lover of the cinema since boyhood, first focused on film with his book The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film. As he explained to Harry Kreisler in an online interview for Conversations with History, at one point "I asked myself, 'What is film?' [which] came in the form of 'What are its differences?' From painting, from theater, from any of the arts, from literature—how is a script different from a libretto, all of these questions. And that produced this book."

After The World Viewed, Cavell went on to draw on film and film theory in many of his later works, while also using his knowledge of other arts, such as music, another subject he studied extensively as a former Juilliard student and aspiring composer. Critics of Cavell's work have repeatedly been fascinated by his juxtaposition of modern culture with weighty philosophical issues. For example, reviewing A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises for Artforum International, Arthur C. Danto was amazed by the "serious impudence" Cavell exhibits "in which he protracted a parallel between [the movie] It Happened One Night and the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten of Immanuel Kant." "Cavell's sensibility as a thinker is thoroughly saturated by what one might call movie culture," remarked Danto. In a review of Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life, a Publishers Weekly critic maintained that "lay readers will be entertained by Cavell's attention to cinematic detail and pragmatically therapeutic approach to moral questions."



Goodman, Russell B., editor, Contending with Stanley Cavell, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Rotham, William, and Marian Keane, Reading Cavell's "The World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective on Film," Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Artforum International, summer, 1994, Arthur C. Danto, review of A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises, p. S3.

Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., review of Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow, p. 82.

Publishers Weekly, April 26, 2004, review of Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life, p. 54.


Conversations with History Web site, (January 11, 2006), Harry Kreisler, interview with Stanley Cavell.

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Cavell, Stanley 1926–

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