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Continuing Cavell: Must We Mean at Fifty

February 9, 2019 - February 10, 2019

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In 1969 Stanley Cavell published his first collection of essays under the title, Must We Mean What We Say?. This seminal and remarkable volume encompassed themes from alienation to logical necessity, improvisation in jazz, the nature of revolutions, democratic life, liberation, philosophy and the arts, romantic attachment, literature and the self, ordinary language philosophy, skepticism, infidelity, politics and pragmatism. The authors and texts Cavell illuminated and integrated were breathtakingly diverse: the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Dewey, Beckett, J. L. Austin, Wittgenstein, and Shakespeare, among many others. Must We Mean What We Say? foreshadowed the richness and complexity of all the philosophical aspects of expression, community and meaning that earmarked Cavell’s subsequent writings. The is a landmark of 20th century American philosophy, taken as world and modernist philosophy, truly interdisciplinary and promising and inviting future generations to engage in the experiences of creative reinterpretation of traditions and everyday life.

This international conference will address itself to the contemporary relevance of Cavell’s work in Must We Mean What We Say? Speakers from a variety of fields in philosophy, education and literature will discuss the implications of this work for our time, in which skepticism about politics, everyday attunements with others, and social ties have become part of everyday life. How can the humanities in general, and philosophy and literature in particular, come to be regarded as foundational in addressing ethical and social problems confronting our forms of life today? How can the “whirl of organism” of our rapidly evolving forms of life of which Cavell wrote come to be regarded as a site for philosophical thinking, criticism, and reflection?


Brandeis Philosophy Department
BU Philosophy Department, BU English Department, BU World Languages Departments
BU Center for the Humanities
Mellon Sawyer Seminar
Tufts University Philosophy Department

This event is free and open to the public!


February 9, 2019
February 10, 2019
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Brandeis Philosophy Department
BU Philosophy Department, BU English Department, BU World Languages Departments
Boston, MA 02215 United States
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