NDPR: Peter Dula Reviews Espen Dahl’s Recent Book

Peter Dula recently reviewed Espen Dahl’s Stanley Cavell, Religion, and Continental Philosophy for NDPR. The review begins:

For a long time, Stanley Cavell was the least read of his generation of American philosophical greats. Richard Rorty, Donald Davidson, John Rawls, Hilary Putnam, Arthur Danto and Thomas Kuhn all became famous (as famous as philosophers can be) while Cavell remained relatively obscure for most of his career. That has changed decisively since the early 2000s. In the last five years alone, almost 10 monographs have appeared on his work. Most of these are by literature professors, almost none, sadly, are by philosophers, and a few are by theologians and scholars of religion. The newest addition to the latter is Espen Dahl’s impressive book, one that lives up to every aspect of its title. Dahl has a comprehensive grasp on Cavell’s thought, is clearly a gifted theologian, and manages to place Cavell in conversation with continental thought as productively as anyone before him. Moreover, he does so in prose that is a model of clarity and brevity. Just see his overview of Cavell’s “ordinary” (7-13), which manages to be a frankly stunning six page summary of Cavell’s work as a whole.

The theologian drawn to Cavell has to first get past those early readings that understood Cavell as a secular and atheist philosopher, whether, like Richard Eldridge, they approve of his atheism or, like Judith Tonning and the early Stephen Mulhall, they disapprove. That reading flattens the complexity and ambivalence of Cavell’s many remarks on religion. Dahl follows an alternative line of thought, which argues for Cavell’s openness to religious and theological concerns. [Click here to continue reading]

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