Thanks to Reshef Agam-Segal for passing this along:


The University of Helsinki has uploaded a video of Cora Diamond’s recent (May 18, 2016) Georg Henrik Von Wright lecture, titled “Von Wright on Wittgenstein in Relation to His Times.” The video can be found here. There you’ll also find videos of Jaakko Hintikka’s 2015 lecture and Anthony Kenny’s 2014 lecture.

Diamond’s abstract is as follows:

 My lecture focuses on the essay, “Wittgenstein and the Twentieth Century”, in which von Wright argued that Wittgenstein’s attitude to his times was unchanged throughout his life, and that his attitude to his times was intimately related to his philosophy. In my lecture, I try to show what was involved in Wittgenstein’s general attitude. I argue that we cannot see what was involved in it unless we see how deeply conflicted his conception of philosophy itself was within the Tractatus. That deep conflict, and then its subsequent resolution in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, greatly shape how he saw his relation to his times. While it is true that in one sense his attitude to his times stayed the same, if you look behind the words, you can also see in what way that attitude shifts significantly over Wittgenstein’s life.

Just published: Issue 4 of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies

Editors Amir Khan and Sérgio Dias Branco have released the fourth issue of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies. The issue is themed around “Cavell and Literature” and features contributions from Bernhard Stricker, Eric Lindstrom, David Kaufmann, Bruce Krajewski, Darko Štrajn, and Sam Cardoen.

The entire issue is available to view and download here.

“Literature & Thought Experiments”: New Article by David Egan

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism recently published a new article by David Egan titled “Literature & Thought Experiments.”

The article can be accessed [here].

The abstract is as follows:

Like works of literature, thought experiments present fictional narratives that prompt reflection in their readers. Because of these and other similarities, a number of philosophers have argued for a strong analogy between works of literary fiction and thought experiments, some going so far as to say that works of literary fiction are a species of thought experiment. These arguments are often used in defending a cognitivist position with regard to literature: thought experiments produce knowledge, so works of literary fiction can too. This article concedes that works of literary fiction can be put to use in thought experiments, but not in a way that is helpful to the cognitivist. In particular, it draws three disanalogies in the ways we engage critically with thought experiments and with literary fictions. First, we use thought experiments to make arguments; second, we read thought experiments in strongly allegorical terms; and third, the terms of criticism we apply to thought experiments and to works of literature differ. Although these disanalogies present problems for the cognitivist position, they also give us a sharper picture of the distinctive educative potential of works of literary fiction.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with David at the University of Chicago. I never fail to be impressed by the agility with which he thinks across the analytic/continental divide and the insight he brings, not only to works of philosophy, but to works of literature. The named article is fairly ‘analytic.’ For a sense of his range, you might see also his edited volume (together with Stephen Reynolds and Aaron Wendlend), Wittgenstein and Heidegger.


“On Reading the Dictionary”: Essay by Stephen Doty

Stephen Doty generously offered to share his essay, “On Reading the Dictionary,” with us. It begins:

Charlie Chaplin kept a dictionary in his bathroom.[1] J.L. Austin did philosophy with one, listing the words we use when making excuses.[2] Eminem read one to find ammunition for his lyrics and battles.[3] And it can spare you the sort of embarrassment a young Jerry Lewis felt when he cheered after the doctor said his grandmother “expired.”

I began reading one to avoid getting baffled by bombast. I had heard a defense lawyer declare that a detective was guilty of “defalcations and spoliation.” Afterwards, I discovered neither word was apt. A small vocabulary leads to staircase wit. Worse, you could be insulted without knowing it. Imagine a politician in a debate asked if he’s an expert at mendacity & perfidy. We did not grow up using such words, so as adults they can seem like a second language.

Nearly every use of these words seems to me like someone donning false plumes: mare’s nest, ubiquitous, untoward, ontological, plethora, quotidian. And any subtle misuse can backfire, revealing an affectation. Someone desperate to use vis-a-vis at every job interview is in trouble.

The idea behind reading the dictionary is not to start using fancy words yourself, but to avoid being imposed upon when others do.

[1] Louise Brooks, Lulu in Hollywood (Minneapolis: U of Minn. Press, 1982) xli. In 1925, at age19, in New York, Brooks had an affair with Charlie Chaplin for two months and said, “He was a self-made aristocrat… he kept a dictionary in the bathroom at his hotel so that he could learn a new word every morning.”

[2] J.L. Austin, Philosophical Papers 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford, 1979) 186. He said one way to use the dictionary is “to read the book through, listing all the words that seem relevant; this does not take as long as many suppose.”

[3] Eminem interviewed on the TV show 60 Minutes:

The complete essay is available here: On Reading the Dictionary. Enjoy!

This Weekend in Bloomington, IN: Poststructuralism and OLP

The Center for Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities at Indiana University is sponsoring a symposium this weekend that may be of interest to our readers. The program is as follows:

Poststructuralism and Ordinary Language Philosophy: A Symposium

Joshua Kates (English), convener

Friday, April 8, Faculty Room, University Club, Indiana Memorial Union

5p.m.: Geoffrey Bennington (Emory University), “‘Différance is Reference’: Derrida and Frege.”

Moderator: Oana Panaїté (French & Italian, IU)

Geoffrey Bennington is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of French and Professor of Comparative Literature at Emory University, and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School, as well as a member of the International College of Philosophy. He is a literary critic and philosopher, best known as an expert on deconstruction and the works of Jacques Derrida and Jean-François Lyotard. Bennington has translated many of Derrida’s works into English. His numerous publications include the book Jacques Derrida, co-written with Derrida; Writing the Event and Late Lyotard; essays on Derrida collected in Legislations, Interrupting Derrida, and Not Half No End; as well as publications on Rousseau and Kant, developing original accounts of the “paradox of the legislator” in the former and “interrupted teleology” in the latter.

Saturday, April 9, Dogwood Room, Indiana Memorial Union

9:30 a.m.: Peter Fenves (Northwestern University), “From ‘Ousia’ to ‘Singular Terms.’”

Moderator: Eyal Peretz (Comparative Literature, IU)

Peter Fenves, Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor of Literature, is professor of German, Comparative Literary Studies, and Jewish Studies, as well as adjunct professor of Philosophy, Political Science, and English at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. He is the author of A Peculiar Fate: Metaphysics and World-History in Kant(Cornell University Press, 1991), “Chatter”: Language and History in Kierkegaard (Stanford University Press, 1993),Arresting Language: From Leibniz to Benjamin (Stanford University Press, 2001), and Late Kant: Towards Another Law of the Earth (Routledge, 2003), which was translated into German in 2010; and most recently The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time (Stanford University Press, 2010). He is currently working on two books, one entitled “Revolution in the Air,” the other a brief study of Benjamin and China.

11:15 a.m.: Paul Grimstad (Independent Scholar), “The Whole Whirl of Organism: Notes on Natural Language, Discourse and Persons.”

Moderator: Jennifer Fleissner (English, IU)

Paul Grimstad is the author of Experience and Experimental Writing: Literary Pragmatism from Emerson to the Jameses (Oxford, 2013), the Introduction to which is to be the focus of a forthcoming symposium in the journal nonsite. His writing has appeared in American Literary History, Poetics Today, n +1, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, as well as in the essay collection Consequences of Skepticism: Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies. He is now at work on two books: one on the relation of genre to literary modernism and another on polymathy and polymaths.

2:30 p.m.: Toril Moi (Duke University), “Signs, Marks, and Archie Bunker: Post-Saussurean Visions of Language.”

Moderator: Ed Comentale (English, IU)

Toril Moi is James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies and Professor of English, Philosophy and Theatre Studies at Duke University and Director of the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature at Duke. She has three broad areas of interest: feminist theory and women’s writing; the intersection of literature, philosophy and aesthetics; and ordinary language philosophy in the tradition of Wittgenstein, Cavell and Austin.  Her books include Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (1985; 2nd edition 2002), Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman (1994; second edition with a major new introduction 2008); and What Is a Woman? And Other Essays (1999), republished in a shorter version as Sex, Gender and the Body (2005). She is the editor ofThe Kristeva Reader (1986), and of French Feminst Thought (1987). In 2006, Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy, was published in English by Oxford University Press and in Norwegian by Pax Forlag (Oslo). The book won the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for the best book in Comparative Literary Studies in 2007. She currently has a manuscript on Poststructuralism and Ordinary Language Philosophy in press.

Professor Moi will discuss Jeffrey Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels’ “Against Theory” and Paul de Man’s “Semiology and Rhetoric.”

4:15 p.m.: Roundtable Discussion.

Moderator: Joshua Kates (English, IU)

5:30 p.m.: Closing Reception at the College Arts & Humanities Center (1211 E. Atwater Ave.).

Coming Up Next Week at Duke . . .

cavell-and-modernism-web-01.pngCavell and Modernism: A Symposium

R.M. Berry and Paul Grimstad

Wednesday Mar 30
4:30 reception
Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall (FHI Garage)
C105, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse, First Floor

“Stanley Cavell’s Modernism”

R.M. Berry

In Stanley Cavell’s interpretation, modernism represents the solution to a problem pervasive in modernity but experienced concretely in theater.  In this paper, I try to explain how what Cavell has called the problem of the modern subject is solved, in both the arts and philosophy, by the elimination of the audience and discovery of an aesthetic medium.

Ralph Berry

R.M. Berry is author of the novels Frank (2006), an “unwriting” of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Leonardo’s Horse, a New York Times “notable book” of 1998, as well as two collections of short fiction,Dictionary of Modern Anguish (2000), described by the Buffalo News as “inspired…by the spirit of Ludwig Wittgenstein,” and Plane Geometry and Other Affairs of the Heart, winner of the 1985 Fiction Collective Prize.  He edited the fiction anthology Forms at War:FC2 1999-2009 and, with Jeffrey DiLeo, the critical anthology Fiction’s Present: Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation (2007).  His essays on experimental fiction, Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and Stanley Cavell have appeared in such journals as New Literary History, Philosophy and Literature, Symploké, Narrative, and Soundings, and in such volumes as theOxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature (2009), Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies (2011), and Ordinary Language Criticism: Literary Thinking After Cavell After Wittgenstein (2003). He is professor and former chair of English at Florida State University and the former director of the independent literary publisher FC2.   He and his wife currently divide their time between homes in Atlanta, Georgia and Tallahassee, Florida.

 “Is A Genre A Medium?: Modernist Aesthetics in Cavell’s The World Viewed

Paul Grimstad

I’ll want to look closely at (at least) two aspects of Cavell’s book: his appeal to Baudelaire’s account of modernité as anticipating the Hollywood studio system (in which, Cavell says, “a genre was a medium”) and the “Excursus On modernist painting” which I read alongside arguments about medium specificity found in Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. I’ll want to argue that Cavell is less *essentialist* about medium specificity than either Greenberg or Fried.

Paul GrimstadPaul Grimstad is the author of Experience and Experimental Writing: Literary Pragmatism from Emerson to the Jameses (Oxford, 2013). His writing has appeared in American Literary History, Poetics Today, nonsite, n +1, the London Review of Books, the New Yorker, Raritan, the Times Literary Supplement, as well as in the essay collection Consequences of Skepticism: Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies. He is now at work on two books: one on the relation of detective fiction to literary modernism and another on polymathy and polymaths.

New Book by Amir Khan: “Shakespeare in Hindsight”


Amir Khan, long time friend of the blog and managing editor of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, has published his first book! The book leans heavily on Stanley’s readings of Shakespeare, and is itself a re-appraisal of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies from the particular vantage point of “continuous presentness” (93) noted by Stanley Cavell in his reading of Lear in Disowning Knowledge.

The book is available here and here.

Varieties of Self-Knowledge: Workshop at Harvard

Version 2

Painting by Byron Davies

On Friday March 11 and Saturday March 12 2016 the Harvard Philosophy Department will be hosting a workshop titled “Varieties of Self-Knowledge.” Please visit the workshop’s website here. Information about the workshop is below:


The Varieties of Self-Knowledge

Thompson Room, Barker Humanities Center

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Friday March 11 – Saturday March 12, 2016



Matthew Boyle (Harvard University)

Richard Moran (Harvard University)



Alex Byrne (MIT)

Dorit Bar-On (University of Connecticut)

Lucy O’Brien (University College London)

Sarah Paul (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University)

Sebastian Rödl (Universität Leipzig)

Kieran Setiya (MIT)



The workshop aims to bring together philosophers who have worked on the topic of self-knowledge from diverse standpoints to discuss what varieties of self-knowledge are worth distinguishing and how they might matter to a characteristically human life.  Questions about the epistemic basis of self-knowledge, and the extent to which we humans possess it, will undoubtedly play a part in the discussion, but our primary goal is not so much to adjudicate these issues as to consider such questions as the following:

  • What should be our attitude toward the famous Delphic injunction to “know thyself”?  Are there forms of self-knowledge that are crucial to a successful human life?  Are there ways in which self-knowledge might be an obstacle to our lives?
  • What connection is there, if any, between rationality and self-knowledge?  Does rationality entail some capacity for privileged self-knowledge?  Is some form of self-knowledge necessary for rationality?
  • What is the relationship between self-knowledge and self-consciousness?  Must a subject who is capable of thinking of herself first personally (or having “de se” representations of herself) be capable of certain forms of self-knowledge?  What forms of self-awareness should we distinguish, and what relations of dependency (if any) hold between them?
  • What difference of principle (if any) does our capacity for self-knowledge make to our cognitive capacities in general?  Is self-knowledge just more knowledge, potentially useful in the way that any knowledge might be, or does our capacity for some form of self-knowledge transform our very capacity to know in some important way?
  • What might it mean to speak of a “first person perspective” on mind, and how might a consideration of that perspective be important to the philosophy of mind?
  • How (if at all) are capacities for self-awareness drawn on in more specific forms of human activity such as: intentional action, contentful communication, understanding and interacting with other people, etc.?

This will be a read-in-advance workshop.  Papers will be pre-circulated, and will not be presented in full.  To register for the workshop and receive access to the papers, please email Olivia Bailey at