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The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 2014,
pp. 87-98 (Article)
DOI: 10.1353/jae.2014.0017

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however. and he is generally recognized to have devoted a great deal of his writing to ethical themes. be thus neatly domesticated within mainstream ethics or whether there are more substantive reasons for his outsider status. in fact. further. 48. in certain respects. this is rightly regarded as a bold proposal to situate Cavell inside an intellectual tradition in which he has yet to find a stable home. Her research and teaching cover topics that include ethics. Paul Guyer’s remarks here on the major strand of Cavell’s ethical thought that Cavell places under the heading of “moral perfectionism” are for this reason very welcome. and also editor of Wittgenstein and the Moral Life: Essays in Honor of Cora Diamond (2007). animals and ethics. My interest in this question does not stem from any overwhelming disagreement with Guyer’s specific claims. Guyer has made a thoughtful and compelling case for convergences between Cavell and Kant. and feminism and philosophy. Journal of Aesthetic Education. that the divergences mark Cavell out as. Fall 2014 © 2014 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois JAE 48_3 text. good reason to think that the convergences in question coexist with some deep divergences and. L. Vol. Nevertheless. Introduction Stanley Cavell is widely regarded as a major philosophical figure. J. Austin. and ethics. I am going to ask whether Cavell can. She is author of Beyond Moral Judgment (2007). Wittgenstein. animals. coeditor of The New Wittgenstein (2000) and Reading Cavell (2006). a quite unKantian thinker. There is.1 Guyer’s main thesis is that Cavell’s perfectionist posture is more Kantian than Cavell and others have realized. 3. I want here to touch on some of the more striking ways in Alice Crary is associate professor in philosophy at the New School for Social Research.A Radical Perfectionist: Revisiting Cavell in the Light of Kant Alice Crary 1. She is currently completing a book on human beings. it is not an exaggeration to say that his work has not for the most part been received within Anglo-American analytic ethics.indd 87 7/22/14 9:48 AM . Bearing these things in mind. but most of it gets generated and discussed outside analytic circles. philosophy and literature. There is an impressively large body of commentary on Cavell’s contribution to moral philosophy. No. titled Inside Ethics. Given that Kantian approaches currently enjoy a central position in analytic moral philosophy.

2. 9).88  Crary which Cavell departs from Kant and to make a few suggestions about the moral importance of these moments in Cavell’s work. 7–8). and not intelligibility. Guyer turns to passages in which Cavell represents the end of perfectionist striving as a kind of—never fully completed—selfinvention or self-transformation that is a direct expression of the exercise of freedom.” 6). Guyer asks.). talk of “perfectionism” refers to the idea that the task of moral improving or perfecting is one that is in principle always ongoing (“Examples of Perfectionism.2 Guyer does not think we should take such passages at face value. is the Cavellian perfectionist’s true end (ibid. he offers what he presents as a very modest correction to Cavell. JAE 48_3 text. Guyer on Cavell and Kant A brief synopsis of Guyer’s claims about Cavell and Kant will suffice as background for the things that I want to say. counts as a Cavellian perfectionist moment in the thought of a prominent contemporary feminist social critic. in commenting on them. I will make a suggestion about the moral interest of Cavellian perfectionism as I understand it by discussing what.. After briefly revisiting Guyer’s remarks on Cavell and Kant. for Cavell. He thus represents himself as being charitable in proposing that we read Cavell.. I will provide support for my non-Kantian take on Cavellian perfectionism by discussing what Cavell himself describes as his perfectionist reading of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll House. Having made this proposal. and. even if necessary for. Guyer says he agrees that making ourselves intelligible is a crucial part of moral thought.indd 88 7/22/14 9:48 AM . By way of closing. should we conceive the normative end toward which the Cavellian perfectionist thus continually strives? Guyer approaches his answer to this question by touching on passages in which Cavell says that it is characteristic of the perfectionist to see us as ever aspiring to make ourselves intelligible to ourselves and to others. How. Guyer takes it as a given that achieving this kind of understanding is separate from. by my lights. Guyer starts his case for alignment between these two thinkers with the following reflections on Cavellian perfectionism. adding that “other normative ethical theories presuppose that we must be able to understand [our actions]” (ibid. so that now Cavell appears to be saying that making oneself intelligible is not the end of the perfectionist’s exertions but rather a necessary condition of her pursuit of her end. Guyer’s suggestion is that this. At the same time. in a slightly revisionary style. “successful moral reasoning” that determines “whether we are aiming at what we ought to be aiming at” in our actions (ibid. He notes that. I will proceed by first touching on elements of Cavell’s ethical project that do not figure in Guyer’s reflections and suggesting that these Cavellian gestures belong to a strain of Cavell’s thought that is difficult to locate not only in relation to Kant but also in relation to Anglo-American ethics more generally.

” esp.4 Guyer sets out to show that this particular properfectionist gesture is representative of Kant’s mature ethical outlook. But it requires a further step to show that. although at a relatively early point in his life Kant represents the exercise of free choice as necessarily excluding evil. He draws on a story about Kant’s conception of freedom that he himself tells at length and with great insight elsewhere in his work on Kant’s ethics. Guyer can say that.5 Equipped with this account of Kant’s understanding of freedom. no obstacle to taking at face value Cavell’s remarks about how the perfectionist’s end is greater intelligibility. I will return to this question later. He wants to show that—like Cavell as Guyer understands him—Kant holds that making ourselves intelligible to ourselves is a necessary condition of the exercise of freedom. Kant thinks the process of perfecting our freedom is a neverending one. but he does underline the existence of a passage in which Kant represents the end of ethics as the “perfection of our free choice” (ibid.indd 89 7/22/14 9:48 AM . and Guyer dispatches it quickly (“Examples of Perfectionism. ethical endeavor aims at the perfection of free choice. Guyer does not deny or discount the interest of these antiperfectionist moments in Kant’s writings. also like Cavell. He also wants to show that Kant anticipates Cavell in holding that the end of ethics is the indefinite perfection of the exercise of freedom. later on Kant develops a conception of autonomy according to which we are free to choose evil or good. This is in part because an account of Kant as in the relevant sense a perfectionist sympathizer may seem to be undercut by Kant’s well-known attacks on specific perfectionist doctrines. showing that Kant thinks intelligibility is a necessary condition of freedom—is relatively uncomplicated. 18). but it leaves ample room for a question about whether Kant and Cavell have the same reasons for thinking that moral education is essentially ongoing. showing Kant thinks the end of ethics is the indefinite perfection of freedom—is somewhat more involved.A Radical Perfectionist  89 Later in this essay. The first of these projects—namely. The second project—namely.. Guyer’s main goals in discussing Kant are twofold.3 Setting aside for the moment the question of how the Cavellian perfectionist’s quest for intelligibility and freedom are linked (and allowing that Guyer is right that they are closely linked). I am going to suggest that the Cavellian perfectionist’s pursuit of intelligibility and her pursuit of freedom are more closely linked than Guyer claims and that there is. I want to describe how Guyer’s comments about these elements of Cavellian perfectionism set up his comparison between Cavell and Kant. JAE 48_3 text. Guyer accordingly outlines a case for thinking that Kant conceives moral education as an endeavor with which we are never finished (see “Examples of Perfectionism. In order to pose it properly. His case is persuasive. 12). I need first to touch on some features of Cavellian perfectionism that do not figure in Guyer’s remarks. Toward the end of his paper.” 12–13). as for Cavell after him. He explains that. for Kant. in fact.

One of its central distinguishing features is the idea that our sensitivities make internal contributions to all our capacities for thought and speech. Cavell is expressing the view that cognitive contact with the world is necessarily shaped by sensibility when he says that in all knowledge there is a moment of acknowledgment. advanced in an oft-quoted passage from the Claim of Reason (241). after all. With regard to thought more generally. This view informs Cavell’s work in ethics. That is. Without entering into any questions about how Cavell reads Wittgenstein. Remarks on the Roots of Cavellian Perfectionism One of the hallmarks of Cavell’s philosophy is a distinctive view of thought and language that he claims to inherit largely from Wittgenstein. With regard to language in particular. I want to say a few words about what the view in question is like. his point is that. we invariably draw on our sense of the importance of similarities among different possible or actual representations of those individuals or kinds of things. He accordingly calls on us not to abandon the idea of undistorted access to the world but rather to transform our conception of it so that an ideally disengaged stance is no longer its touchstone. for instance. we invariably draw on our sense of the importance of similarities uniting their different uses. Cavell’s basic point is that. again. Consider. So it is worth stressing that Cavell is not so much insisting on the unavailability of the idea of a completely dispassionate standpoint as on its utter incoherence.90  Crary 3. within perceptual thought.indd 90 7/22/14 9:48 AM . anyway not what we think of as knowing. On the contrary. bankrupt—idea to antecedently impugn the cognitive credentials of modes of discourse that bear the necessary imprint of our sensitivities. in bringing individuals or kinds of things mentally into focus.” Or.6 It may seem as though. we might take Kant to be claiming that. I am inclined to believe that it is possible to find a good source for the image in Kant. in making these points. common for philosophers to assume that our entitlement to this ideal stands or falls with the availability of a wholly disengaged standpoint for thought. the passage of the Critique of Pure Reason (A120) in which Kant declares that. It is. Cavell forfeits his claim to the ideal of objective (or undistorted) intellectual access to the world. in employing linguistic expressions. that “our relation to the world as such is not that of knowing. leaving its imprint on his perfectionist posture. He believes that it would be confused to try to invoke this—by his lights.” We might well interpret this passage as contributing to a view of perceptual thought that is an ancestor of Cavell’s views.7 My point is not that this Cavellian image of our cognitive condition is obviously un-Kantian. in order to JAE 48_3 text. Among Cavell’s more characteristic expressions of this transformed conception of cognitive contact with the world is his claim. “a combination of [representations] such as they cannot have in sense itself is demanded.

it remains the case that Cavell takes it in a direction that Kant and contemporary Kantians do not want to go. What might be taken to justify this move? A moment ago. At issue are modes of thought that are concerned with things that cannot be adequately described apart from reference to their tendency to elicit specific attitudes and that accordingly require that we enter into specific cultural or evaluative perspectives. Most Kantian moral philosophers follow Kant in presupposing that the only legitimate methods for illuminating the empirical world. I also mentioned that he thinks it follows from this gesture of rejection that we are not in a position to antecedently impugn the cognitive credentials of modes of thought simply because they bear the necessary imprint of our sensitivities. in order to be rightly credited with perceiving an individual thing.A Radical Perfectionist  91 be rightly credited with perceiving a kind of thing. there needs to be. in developing his preferred understanding of our cognitive condition.9 Consider. Cavell.indd 91 7/22/14 9:48 AM .10 Again and again. internal to our perception of it. the thought of connections to other possible or actual representations of things of that kind. even if we characterize this image as a Kantian one. the many passages in his writings in which Cavell represents humans with various sensations and emotions as in themselves meriting certain responses. in contrast. I mentioned that. there needs to be. we might take Kant to be claiming that. internal to our perception of it. we wind up with an interpretation of Kant as holding that sensitivities necessarily inform all perceptual thought. to arrive at a just understanding of minded human beings (ourselves or others). for instance. Cavell suggests that. tends to move seamlessly from his (arguably Kantian) understanding of our cognitive condition to suggesting that there are nonscientific methods for taking the empirical seriously that are important for ethics.11 JAE 48_3 text. So here we have a clear illustration of how. If we now add that a person’s ability to arrive at a thought about connections among different representations depends on her having a sense of the importance of similarities among those representations. in addition to embracing a picture of our cognitive situation that is arguably Kantian. Yet. By the same token. are those of the sciences. the thought of connections to other possible or actual representations of that thing. we may need to cultivate new modes of responsiveness. Cavell helps himself to a view of appropriate methods for ethics that is quite foreign to Kant. What I need to add now is that among the sensitivity-informed modes of thought that Cavell thinks may be cognitively authoritative are some that qualify as engaged in a sense that marks them as nonscientific. There is no hint in Cavell’s treatments of these topics that he takes the psychological terms we use in making sense of human beings to be anything other than straightforwardly world directed.8 An interpretation along these lines would justify our speaking of Kantian resonances in Cavell’s image of human cognition. whether in ethics or elsewhere. Cavell rejects as hopelessly confused the idea of an ideally disengaged standpoint for thought.

12 Equipped with these reflections. This brings me to a second potential misunderstanding. as I have noted. It does not follow from anything I have said that Cavell does not favor the scientific worldview or that he does not think scientific methods have a uniquely important place in our culture. I want to revisit Guyer’s question about the Kantian character of Cavellian perfectionism. we are justified in speaking—not merely of nonKantian but—of philosophically radical tendencies of his ethical thought. It also places him at odds with dominant currents of thought in analytic ethics more generally. To see this. we can turn to the relatively recent and widely discussed philosophical movement called experimental philosophy. Rather it should be seen as at most a necessary condition of such striving. that Cavell allows for empirical methods in ethics that are generally excluded by experimental philosophers is not to say that Cavell is somehow antiscientific. I want to pause here to anticipate two potential misunderstandings. What underlies Guyer’s sense that this correction is called for is.indd 92 7/22/14 9:48 AM . It also does not follow from anything I have said that Kant employs scientific methods in ethics or is somehow guilty of scientism. in opposition to some of Cavell’s own suggestions. On the Anti-Kantian Character of Cavellian Perfectionism Recall the correction to Cavell that Guyer offers in setting up his alignment between perfectionist themes in Cavell and Kant. further. that intelligibility to ourselves and others should not be seen as the end of the Cavellian perfectionist’s striving. as I just did. 4. This is noteworthy because experimental philosophy depends for the excitement it has generated on highlighting methodological presuppositions that are very common in ethics. Insofar as Cavell is not part of the larger ethical trend that experimental philosophers seek to articulate and defend. A core tenet of a great deal of work in experimental philosophy is that the only reputable methods for studying the empirical world are those of the sciences and. That gesture is what distinguishes him from experimental philosophers. the assumption that understanding our practical circumstances is JAE 48_3 text. The only point I made about Kant’s approach in ethics is that it does not include methods—of a sort decisively important for Cavell—that are both empirical and outside the purview of the sciences.92  Crary Cavell’s view of appropriate methods for ethics does not merely place him at odds with Kant and contemporary Kantians. that any other empirical methods employed by moral philosophers are at bottom mere appeals to intuition. The point is simply that he makes room for empirical methods in ethics that are not themselves scientific. Guyer claims. To claim. and there is no conflict between it and the scientific worldview.

as I just presented them. So while it seems right to say. Abstracting from the question of how we approach it. for him. this assumption is not at home in Cavell’s thought. There are many ways to explore such perspectives. It follows. lovers. when Cavell describes the pursuit of intelligibility as the end of ethics. This assumption is deeply engrained in contemporary moral philosophy. Cavell challenges a received conception of the place in moral reasoning of efforts to understand ourselves. in describing his perfectionist outlook. The Cavellian perfectionist’s reasons for perpetual openness to working on herself. Cavell holds that in ethics we are entitled to nonscientific. and companions—and by immersing ourselves in literature and the other arts. are reasons that are alien to Kant.indd 93 7/22/14 9:48 AM . then it seems reasonable to assume that the relevant task of understanding is distinct from the task of working out what we should do. he talks about a demand for self-transformation or self-invention. essentially requires that we be open to exploring new cultural and evaluative perspectives. JAE 48_3 text. He believes that this demand is one we never exhaustively satisfy because. and Cavell himself places particular emphasis on the manner in which we can expose ourselves to new perspectives by being more responsive to people around us—our friends. we take it that the sciences furnish our only respectable resources for understanding our lives in ethics. In doing so. This suggests that. it also seems right to add that these thinkers’ reasons for speaking in perfectionist registers are quite different. that there is no way to authoritatively determine whether new modes of responsiveness will enable us to bring novel aspects of this world into focus apart from imaginatively exploring such modes of responsiveness. with Guyer. as Cavell conceives it. and it is not difficult to appreciate why. empirical methods that are capable of revealing ethically and practically significant aspects of our lives. These remarks equip me to capture succinctly what is distinctive about Cavellian perfectionism. that there are perfectionist moments in Kant as well as Cavell. he believes that the world that concerns us in ethics is one that only reveals itself to engaged reflection. So the only morally responsible stance is that of the person who embodies perfectionist ideals insofar as she is perpetually open to thus working on herself. The task of understanding ourselves in a manner relevant to ethics is one that. together with experimental philosophers and many others. If. as we have seen. he is saying anything other than exactly what he means. this kind of work on ourselves is what Cavell has in mind when. So it is not clear that we have any reason to think that.A Radical Perfectionist  93 separate from figuring out what we should be aiming at in our actions. the process of making ourselves intelligible is inseparable from the process of determining what is demanded of us. for him. he radically revises received views about the nature and difficulty of such efforts. Despite whatever appearance of reasonableness it enjoys.

and. Nora accepts this criticism as the simple truth (see Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome. The setting is the comfortable home of a bourgeois family—a husband and wife. He reverts to treating Nora as a child who does not understand the ways of the world and needs his protection. she is threatened with exposure by Nils Krogstad. Torvald’s attitude toward Nora now changes dramatically again.”16 For her part. Torvald and Nora. doing something desperate to save her reputation. ashamed. Krogstad does eventually inform Torvald about Nora’s illegal financial transaction. Nora’s response is to leave her husband and children and to go in search of an education for herself. Let me now consider the aspects of the play that interest Cavell and that he regards as illustrative of perfectionist themes. if her past actions come to light. and three small children—in Norway around 1870. several years back. at a time when Torvald needed medical care that the family could not otherwise afford. He tells Nora that she is an immoral woman. she had trusted in the rightness of her society’s laws and believed in her husband’s greater wisdom and goodness. and that he will continue their marriage for the sake of appearances only. although she lacks JAE 48_3 text. As the play progresses. Torvald gives no thought to Nora’s situation or interests. Ibsen’s play A Doll House. who plans to blackmail Torvald with Nora’s secret.13 Cavell is particularly interested in certain structural features of the moral crisis at the center of the play. Cavellian Perfectionism in Ibsen’s A Doll House A good place to turn for support for this relatively non-Kantian account of Cavellian perfectionism is one of Cavell’s own favorite illustrations of perfectionist thematics. Soon after this episode.15 Torvald disparages Nora’s efforts to account for her sense of wrong. Krogstad recants. Torvald will take the scandal on himself. but. Although Nora has kept up with all of her loan payments by saving on household expenses. namely. unfit to raise their children. we learn that. To set up a discussion of the relevant features.94  Crary 5. an employee at the bank at which Torvald also works. when he does. Before her crisis.indd 94 7/22/14 9:48 AM . dishonored. her entire image of her life shifts. I need to briefly recount the main events in the play’s well-known storyline. Afterward. 109). Nora fears Krogstad’s scheming because she thinks that. promising Torvald that he will not go public with Nora’s past actions and giving Torvald the loan contract to destroy. focusing instead solely on the potential damage to his own reputation and honor. telling her.”14 Cavell goes on to focus on the following exchange between Nora and Torvald. Nora—who was prevented by law from getting money from the bank in her own name—signed her dying father’s name to obtain a loan. “you do not understand the world you live in. Cavell notes that Torvald’s response to learning about Nora’s bank loan leaves Nora feeling. “outraged. in Cavell’s words.

he draws attention to the fact that Nora is portrayed as having undergone a dramatic transformation. even though he currently finds himself in a situation in which. But I cannot reasonably attempt an argument here.indd 95 7/22/14 9:48 AM . I will draw my example from feminist social thought—specifically.18 “This. in Cavell’s words. 110). namely. Cavell’s thought is that Ibsen presents us with a theatrical expression of the idea that it is always in principle possible that we may require a refashioned sensibility to understand our lives in a manner relevant to ethics. she has a sharp sense of grievance. “moral justifications [have] come to an end” and no “specific wrong [is] claimable” (ibid. thus understood. and against society—is that she lacks the resources to understand her life and assess the validity of her sense of having been wronged.” Cavell declares. from Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion. “is the field of Moral Perfectionism” (ibid. Cavell pays special attention to the closing scene in which Nora tells Torvald that married life with him could only be possible again on the condition of a miraculous change (Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome. so that her sense of what is important alters and different aspects of her life are illuminated for her. Picking up on the feminist thematics of Ibsen’s play.A Radical Perfectionist  95 confidence in her new vision of things. So I am going to limit myself to trying to bolster the practical credentials of Cavellian perfectionism by discussing what I regard as a powerful instance of social criticism that is aptly described as having the marks of such perfectionism.22 Among the many scenarios MacKinnon describes is one involving a woman whose male employer constantly described his wish for sexual contact with her..19 and my point here is simply that this thought is central to Cavellian perfectionism as I understand it. 112–13). Her charge—which she levels against her husband. against the institution of marriage. the point here is that Torvald would need to show himself willing to explore the kind of sensibility that Nora now has without having advance guarantee of the validity of the vision of the world it brings into view. is available. of the sexual harassment of working women. This. she tells Torvald. as failing to qualify as forms of harassment. hence. in a 1979 book.17 As Cavell reads the play. I am convinced that a good argument for Cavellian perfectionism.). is what drives her decision to leave her husband and children. occasionally patted JAE 48_3 text.21 One of her guiding principles is that harms that go largely unregistered may nevertheless be real. her newfound conviction that she needs the space to grow in ways that allow her to judge her case for herself (ibid. He would need to work on himself with an eye to appreciating Nora’s sense of grievance. She is acutely aware that many of the modes of conduct that she discusses tend to be regarded by her contemporaries as at worst mildly annoying and. When Cavell discusses this conversation between Nora and Torvald.. 112).20 MacKinnon is concerned with a wide range of forms of unwanted sexual attention that women receive on the job.

Guyer observes that Cavell sometimes describes himself as championing Emer- 7/22/14 9:48 AM . once we appreciate the insidiousness of these forms of inequality. and there is a morally significant respect in which Cavell’s and Kant’s perfectionist tendencies are opposed. I am persuaded that these topics are ripe for discussion.” the first essay in this issue of JAE. A second point is that. in her words. should be recognized as harassment that amounts to sex discrimination. “Examples of Perfectionism. MacKinnon’s methods for showing this are what place her within the field of Cavellian perfectionism. “use and help create women’s structurally inferior status” (ibid. in light of my defense here of a largely non-Kantian account of Cavellian perfectionism. she needs to transform our sense of importance. One point I want to make is simply that. including those that get placed under the headings of “sexual segregation and stratification” and “income inequality” (Sexual Harassment. insofar as MacKinnon’s contribution to discussions of sexual harassment is recognized as an insightful bit of social criticism. unwanted sexual attention that women receive in the workplace takes on a new aspect for us. 42).96  Crary her behind. 10) and that thus threaten and intimidate in ways that resemble received forms of harassment. MacKinnon approaches this task by discussing various forms of employment-related gender inequality. to get us to recognize the facts that amount to sexual harassment. bringing us to see specific modes of conduct in a new light. MacKinnon adopts what. together with other forms of unwanted sexual attention. A final comment by way of closing: If there is anything to my remarks in this talk. MacKinnon sets out to show that such conduct. then Guyer’s alignment between Cavell and Kant is not the whole story. they can be seen as behaviors that. Instead. Notes 1. and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my two cents. JAE 48_3 text. in putting forward a suggestion on these lines.indd 96 See Paul Guyer. might well be called a perfectionist stance. Now the relevant modes of conduct no longer appear to be merely innocuous. Her thought is that.” and so forth (Sexual Harassment. made frequent comments about her style of dress that implied that she was “loose. In this way—by attempting to shape the concerns that we bring to bear in thinking about specific forms of sexual conduct—MacKinnon attempts to get us to register the phenomenon of sexual harassment. Whether there is anything to my remarks. it accordingly speaks for the practical interest of such a stance. She effectively suggests that we need to transform ourselves in ways that equip us to look on familiar aspects of social life in a new evaluative light if we are to properly understand what lies before us. Implicit in her strategy is the assumption that.. 10ff).

the current note and the paragraph to which it is attached are the only bits of text that were added to this paper after the symposium. Peter Heath and J. For two of Cavell’s lengthiest discussions of Ibsen’s play. 8). The inset quote is from Kant’s Lectures on Ethics. but I respond to such objections elsewhere. 213–29.g. in a word.A Radical Perfectionist  97 sonian perfectionism. I must acknowledge it. 1997). otherwise I do not know what ‘(your or his) being in pain’ means. 13. All further references to Cavell’s Claim of Reason are cited in the text. e. MA: Harvard University Press. my paper is unchanged. 2007). 7. 6. Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life (Cambridge.” in Kant’s System of Nature and Freedom: Selected Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 24. esp. I do not here enter very far into the question of sources for Cavell’s perfectionism. “It is not enough that I know (am certain) that you suffer—I must do or reveal something (whatever can be done). 50–72. Otherwise. 238–66.g. 2005). 2. B. see. Skepticism. 2006). 44. as I just did. that Cavell takes our modes of affective responsiveness to contribute internally to the kind of worldly understanding that is relevant to ethics is not to suggest that he is somehow inheriting from the moral sense tradition. Strawson. e. is. 10. Alice Crary. as I suggested in the text. for example. 12. 115–45. 124–25. “Knowing and Acknowledging.” in Must We Mean What We Say? A Book of Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. where Cavell writes. esp. 1969). For a defense of this basic interpretation of Kant. P. 2004). There are admittedly philosophers who allow that modes of thought that are essentially informed by sensitivities may be objectively authoritative and who also explicitly deny that it follows that evaluative modes of discourse.3–1. 8. “Knowing and Acknowledging. 3. Morality and Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press.g. more generically. The main source of Cavell’s preferred image of moral understanding is. All further references to this work are cited in the text. To say.” 11. Although Cavell here focuses on the case of language. e. Here Guyer is referring to Cavell. A Doll’s House and Other Plays.” in Kant (Abingdon: Routledge. therefore. Wittgenstein’s later view of language. Sidestepping this issue.. I cannot here consider how a Cavell-style ethical stance might be defended against the objections of such philosophers. Both of these points are responses to Guyer’s comments at our symposium in Stockholm. see his “Excursus on Wittgenstein’s Vision of Language. his argument clearly depends for its success on the more general point about thought. “Imagination and Perception. Henrik Ibsen. 9. may be objectively authoritative. when conceived as world directed. This should be evident to anyone familiar with Cavell’s different treatments of issues in philosophy of psychology. 168–89. See esp. 5. 225–27... ed.” esp.. See. Together with the last note. Guyer also claims that some of Cavell’s perfectionist ideas predate his serious engagement with Emerson and that it.” in The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein.” in Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays (London: Methuen & Co. Peter Heath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. MA: Harvard University Press. 263. For a briefer overview of this region of Guyer’s thought about Kant. See. F. trans. For one of Guyer’s detailed treatments of these themes.4. I refer to Ibsen’s play as A Doll House (and not as A Doll’s House. See section 4. the title used in this translation) because this is how Cavell refers to it. 4. 1965). Peter Watts (London: Penguin.indd 97 7/22/14 9:48 AM . as moral perfectionism. 1. I refer to Cavell’s overarching perfectionist orientation alternately as Cavellian perfectionism or. below. Ltd. Beyond Moral Judgment (Cambridge. see his Conditions Handsome and JAE 48_3 text. Schneewind. see his “Kant on the Theory and Practice of Autonomy. 1974). For one of Cavell’s most involved treatments of these points. Stanley Cavell. makes more sense to speak of Cavellian perfectionism (see. trans. see “The Moral Law and Freedom of the Will. 1979).

esp. It is a quote from A Doll’s House. and Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge. .” 19. Catharine MacKinnon. . is . See. 14. what I consent to. where Cavell writes. Cavell mentions this passage at ibid. what must be shown.” 20. beginning with myself. 28. Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination (New Haven. See Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome. 15. One of the most important is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 1980 interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as prohibiting such harassment. See also Pursuits of Happiness.. See also Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome. Sexual Harassment. Further references to Cavell’s Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome and Pursuits of Happiness are cited in the text. where Cavell suggests that one moral of this portion of Ibsen’s play is that “the inevitable distance from ideal compliance is not to be accommodated by imagining an argument of right and wrong. esp. acknowledged. 20–22. . .indd 98 7/22/14 9:48 AM . 1981). Cavell quotes the bulk of the text in which the exchange takes place in Pursuits of Happiness. Further references to this work are cited in the text. See ibid. e.” JAE 48_3 text. that I know change is called for. 21. 228.g. 108–15.98  Crary Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: Open Court Press. it is not natural to me as my language is natural to me. 20–24. Here MacKinnon quotes a passage from Adrienne Rich’s writings in which Rich claims that “the fact that we could not hear does not mean that no pain existed. 110. 17. I continue to consent to the way things are. . “The alternative [to persisting in the claim to be right] would be to find myself dissatisfied with what I do. CT: Yale University Press. There are different benchmarks for the establishment of sexual harassment as a legal concept in the United States. MA: Harvard Film Studies. if as is overwhelmingly likely. 16. These are Cavell’s words.. 1990). 1979). 112. 22. and to be striven for. Then. 22–23. 18. Notice that this places the birth of the legal concept of sexual harassment after the publication of MacKinnon’s book. 109.