RIP, Stanley Cavell (1926–2018)



The passing of philosopher Stanley Cavell has brought praise and reminiscences from all quarters. “An air of improvisation and fun hung over everything he did,” wrote Christopher Benfey for the New York Review of Books, while Martha C. Nussbaum told the New York Times that he “brought to philosophy a human depth and subtlety that it had all too often lacked.”

Our editorial director, Alan Thomas, meanwhile, shared these thoughts on Cavell and his legacy:

We will miss Stanley Cavell. His connection to the University of Chicago Press began in 1988, when he delivered the Carpenter Lectures. The lectures were sponsored, tellingly, by Chicago’s English department; Stanley was the most literary of philosophers. The Press went on to publish six of his books, including reissues of Themes out of School and Senses of Walden, and brought out Michael Fischer’s fine study, Stanley Cavell and Literary Skepticism.  Stanley influenced countless of our authors, including Charles Bernstein, who has written that “Cavell does not put forward assertions. The truth of what he says is finally left to whether it holds for you.”

I remember best working with Stanley In Contesting Tears, his study of the film genre he called “the melodrama of the unknown woman.” In it he asks, What are the paths between loving another and knowing another? It was Stanley’s kind of question.

(Photograph by Charles Bernstein.)