Cavell and the "History of the Rejection of the Human"
This essay focuses on the explosive claim Cavell inserts in the middle of The Claim of Reason that a narrative history of a certain style of philosophy should be called “Philosophy and the Rejection of the Human.” In order to understand the accusation, I shape interpretations of what Cavell means by nearly each of the terms of this dramatic sentence. I begin by comparing senses of “philosophy” by way of a comparison with Rorty’s critical review of The Claim of Reason; I proceed by underlining how, in Cavell’s work, the notion “human” and its rejection also is entangled with that which Cavell describes as “skepticism.” It is necessary, therefore, to understand whether there is a specific characteristic difference between skepticism and the style of philosophy that is implicated in the “rejection of the human.” It seems as if there should be a difference, given Cavell’s notorious approval of the truth or the moral of skepticism and the apparent criticism of the philosophical style that rejects the human. I show that the difference can be discovered by focusing on Cavell’s understanding of criteria. In particular, I emphasize the (open) space of a subject’s relation to criteria, a subjective claim to universality without objectivity, in pursuing and extending Cavell’s own appeal to Kant’s Critique of Judgment. It is this subjective component that is rejected in the style of philosophy that Cavell singles out.
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