Stony Lonesome, Poems by Kelly Dean Jolley — New Book Available for Pre-Order

Congratulations to Kelly Dean Jolley! His first book of poetry, Stony Lonesomewill be out soon through New Plains Press. Copies are available for pre-order through the publisher. Pre-ordered copies will be autographed by the author. Click [here] for more information and to purchase.



“Legend has it that Wittgenstein turned his back on the Vienna Circle to read poetry, but had he access to Jolley’s Stony Lonesome, he could have read it with back turned or facing that truth-obsessed circle of philosophers.”

– Ronald Hustwit, The College of Wooster

The Institutions of Meaning by Vincent Descombes — Now Available in English



In 2009 Bernie posted a note suggesting that scholars interested in Rob Chadot’s development of a ‘postskeptical’ literary criticism might also find a resource in Vincent Descombes. Lifting from Bernie’s original post:

Because cognitivist explanations of the human mind have made surprising inroads into literary studies in recent year, literary scholars may find Descombes’ book on cognitivism — The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism — relevant to their own work, despite the fact that it has nothing to say about literature as such (elsewhere, however, Descombes has written on literature). For those who want to delve deeper into Descombes’ critique of cognitivism, check out this special 2004 issue of , which features a symposium on The Mind’s Provisions (with essays by Charles Taylor, Robert Brandom, Richard Rorty, and John Haugeland, followed by a response by Descombes).

The Institutions of Meaning (now available in English through Harvard University Press) is a constructive follow-up to the critical project of The Mind’s Provisions. Descombes makes a sustained case for holism and addresses the theoretical difficulties holism presents. More about the text [here]. 

(Readers of French can find a review of Les institutions du sens (1997) by Laurence Kaufman [here] and another by Guillaume Garreta [here].)

Romantic Circles: Stanley Cavell and the Event of Romanticism

A new volume has appeared of Romantic Circles, “a refereed scholarly website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture.” This volume is edited by Eric Lindstrom (English, University of Vermont) and is titled “Stanley Cavell and the Event of Romanticism.” To access the volume, click here. Here is an excerpt from the section About this Volume:

At a climactic point in Part Four of The Claim of Reason (1979), the American philosopher Stanley Cavell arrives at the striking conclusion that “romanticism opens with the discovery of the problem of other minds, or with the discovery that the other is a problem, an opening of philosophy.” Cavell’s account of how Romanticism opens is not historical in orientation, but rather offers a rich conceptual, aesthetic, and ethical site of concern that both interrupts and generates his life’s work— thus presenting an opening for scholars and students of the Romantic Period to think the subject of Romanticism anew in studying (with) Cavell. The essays in this volume seek to provide the fullest account to date of Cavell’s prompting by Romanticism in light of his powerful record of engagement with British and European Romantic texts: a body of literature on which Cavell has performed several bravura readings. Cavell’s writings and distinctive philosophical approach have garnered an increasing amount of sustained attention over the past several years, particularly since the publication of Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow (2005) and Little Did I Know (2010). Yet beyond his major American subjects of Thoreau and Emerson, there is still little published scholarship that engages Cavell’s thought at extended, close range with Romanticism as the moment that matters so much him: the “perfectionist” opening that comes after religion, but before philosophy. The present collection—with essays (in suggested reading order) by Emily Sun, Paul Fry, Eric Lindstrom, Eric Walker, and Anne-Lise François, and a substantial Afterword by Joshua Wilner—hinges between the efforts to record Cavell’s engagement with British Romantic texts and to stage new interventions.

The table of contents is as follows:

Issue #2 of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies

Amir Khan, managing editor (together with Sérgio Dias Branco) of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, has just informed us that the journal’s second issue is now online. You can view or download the full issue here. According to the journal’s announcement:

This special issue showcases Cavell’s appeal “down under,” all papers appearing under the auspices of guest editor, Professor David Macarthur, c/o the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney.

Indeed, the papers in this issue were given at a conference titled “Themes from Cavell” at the University of Sydney on Feb. 27-28, 2012.

For an announcement of the call for papers for the journal’s third issue, click here.


Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language: New Book by Raoul Moati + NDPR Review

Raoul Moatiapp‘s Derrida/Searle, déconstruction et langage ordinaire is now available in English from Columbia University Press.

From the publisherRaoul Moati intervenes in the critical debate that divided two prominent philosophers in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, the British philosopher J. L. Austin advanced a theory of speech acts, or the “performative,” that Jacques Derrida and John R. Searle interpreted in fundamentally different ways. Their disagreement centered on the issue of intentionality, which Derrida understood phenomenologically and Searle read pragmatically. The controversy had profound implications for the development of contemporary philosophy, which, Moati argues, can profit greatly by returning to this classic debate. 

In this book, Moati systematically replays the historical encounter between Austin, Derrida, and Searle and the disruption that caused the lasting break between Anglo-American language philosophy and continental traditions of phenomenology and its deconstruction. The key issue, Moati argues, is not whether “intentionality,” a concept derived from Husserl’s phenomenology, can or cannot be linked to Austin’s speech-acts as defined in his groundbreaking How to Do Things with Words, but rather the emphasis Searle placed on the performativity and determined pragmatic values of Austin’s speech-acts, whereas Derrida insisted on the trace of writing behind every act of speech and the iterability of signs in different contexts.

Samuel C. Wheeler III‘s comprehensive review is available on NDPR. He begins: In the mid-1970s, something like a debate took place between Jacques Derrida and John Searle. Derrida had published an essay[1] that both appreciated and criticized J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words.[2] Searle wrote a reply,[3] which attributed to Derrida misunderstandings of basic elements of the philosophy of language. Derrida wrote a reply to Searle’s reply,[4] which did not address Searle’s view, and was derisive. Raoul Moati has written a dispassionate, careful, even-handed account of the sequence of essays and their significance . . .  

Click [here] to read the review in full.

Jon Baskin on “Finding the Point”

Tour of Houghton for cover story on how literary papers are processed

(Journal entry by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Houghton Library)

“Essay Daily” recently published a lovely essay by friend and fellow Social Thought student, Jon Baskin, on–what else?–the essay. Baskin begins:

We were motivated to start The Point in part by our sense that the essay—historically a rich format for philosophical reflection—was being ghettoized on the one hand into ineffectual personal memoirs, and on the other into jargon-heavy, impersonal academic journals. In the first case, the raw experience was everything—and often shock, trauma or the communication of extreme emotion became substitutes for thought. In the second, the argument was the only thing—to evaluate whether it was successful was simply a matter of traveling smoothly from premises to conclusions. There remained a space, we suspected, for thought unspooled in the midst of experience, where the writer could in describing her own path compel the reader to re-examine her own.

Our best essays therefore combine argument and narrative in something like the manner that we believe life combines them. We act out of convictions we barely knew we had, and then sometimes we criticize ourselves, reaching for other people’s words to justify or to condemn ourselves. To us, this goes to the heart of what an “essay” ideally is—that is, an attempt (as the French has it) to understand something that has affected you in your life. Often our essays are long (my mom says they are all too long), but this is less because the essayist wants to say something complicated or even original as it is because whatever she has seen is inseparable from the narrative she wants to tell about how she came to see it . . .

Baskin goes on to cite Cavell’s notion of an author who would “prevent understanding which is unaccompanied by inner change.” Click [here] to read the essay in full.

Stanley Cavell, Religion, and Continental Philosophy: New Book by Espen Dahl



The American philosopher Stanley Cavell (b. 1926) is a secular Jew who by his own admission is obsessed with Christ, yet his outlook on religion in general is ambiguous. Probing the secular and the sacred in Cavell’s thought, Espen Dahl explains that Cavell, while often parting ways with Christianity, cannot dismiss it either. Focusing on Cavell’s work as a whole, but especially on his recent engagement with Continental philosophy, Dahl brings out important themes in Cavell’s philosophy and his conversation with theology.

(More from the publisher [here])

Table of Contents:

- Acknowledgements
– List of Abbreviations
– Introduction
1. Modernism and Religion
2. The Ordinary Sublime
3. Acknowledging God
4. Skepticism, Finitude, and Sin
5. The Tragic Dimension of the Ordinary
6. The Other and Violence
7. Forgiveness and Passivity
– Conclusion: The Last Question: Self-redemption or Divine Redemption?
– Notes
– Bibliography
– Index