Charles Petersen on Stanley Cavell (n+1, February 2013)


In case you missed it, n+1 recently published an essay by Charles Petersen titled “Must We Mean What We Say?” which surveys some of Stanley Cavell’s key contributions to philosophy, literature, film studies, and our political discourse via perfectionism. A fine introduction:

. . . This is the heart of Cavell’s argument for perfectionism as a distinct “dimension of moral thought,” not about determining what we “ought” to do, but releasing us from the cynicism that makes us feel we oughtn’t concern ourselves with words like “ought” at all. “We either are drawn beyond ourselves,” to a moral thought or act, “or we are not,” he writes; “there is no ought about it.” Perfectionism, by making us ashamed of ourselves, ashamed of our shame, draws us on to that next self, whether ordinary or extraordinary, and makes truly good deeds—ones that we invest our whole selves in—possible . . . 

Click here to read on.

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