Cavell And The American Jeremiad

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Journal Of Philosophical Research


Building on remarks by Dewey, Brandom, and Wittgenstein among others, this paper characterizes and defends a general style of philosophy as elucidatory analysis of concepts in circulation within a culture. The presence of this general style is then traced briefly in Quine and Beardsley. I then raise the question whether there is anything distinctively American about this general style. Drawing on work by Sacvan Bercovitch, I argue that use of this style is motivated by America’s distinctive religious history and that this style is present in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau in a marked way. Finally I turn to an analysis of the work of Stanley Cavell, the most self-conscious contemporary inheritor of this religious history, stylistically and substantively, and I point to connections between the style and the substance of this inheritance.

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