Lecture Series

27 May 2014
Eleventh BWS Lecture
Speaker: Professor Charles Altieri
Title: Doubt and Display: A Foundation for a Wittgensteinian Approach to the Arts

There is no report of this lecture.


When we are called on to characterise and respond to what human beings seem to be seeking in their actions, we become engaged in domains in which art and the fabric of practical life seem more continuous then discontinuous. In art and in life, matters of tone and diction and other features of display are not added to some core expression but constitute the expressive force of an action. And responding to those expressive forces calls for practices of atunement, participation, appreciation, and valuing, all as ways of seeing into what is displayed in the particular situation: it does not suffice to attempt seeing through the situation to something that will allow us to adapt protocols of knowledge based on a logic of instances and generalising rules. I want to make the case that Wittgenstein’s limiting knowledge claims to what we can doubt makes a significant contribution to aesthetics. Because many of our practices do not involve matters of knowing, or, indeed, of guessing, they rely on modes of responsiveness learned in conjunction with our learning a language. So the arts can be projected as calling for reflection on what is displayed in these practices.

About the speaker

Professor Charles Altieri is the Rachel Stageberg Anderson Chair in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests span across literature and philosophy by way of Shakespeare, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Wallace Stevens, the varieties of Twentieth Century American poetry in relation to philosophy and the visual arts.

Prof. Altieri's essays on Wittgenstein include 'Wittgenstein on Consciousness and Language: A Challenge to Derridean Theory' in Wittgenstein, Theory, and the Arts (Routledge, 2001); 'Cavell and Wittgenstein on Morality: The Limits of Acknowledgement' in Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism (Continuum, 2011); 'Exemplification and Expression' in Companion to the Philosophy of Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); 'Going on and Going Nowhere: Wittgenstein and the Question of Criteria in Literary Criticism' in Philosophical Approaches to Literature (Bucknell University Press, 1984).

His many publications include:

The Art of 20th Century American Poetry: Modernism and After. Wiley-Blackwell 2009

Wallace Stevens and the Demands of Modernity: Toward a Phenomenology of Value. Cornell University Press 2013.

The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects
Cornell University Press

He is presently working on a book on modern American poetry.

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