Cavell and the Quest for a Voice

The Importance of the Notion "Claim" in Aesthetics and Ethics


  • Sofia Miguens University of Porto



In this article I focus on Cavell’s theme of finding one’s voice, as it is articulated with reference to the philosophies of language of Wittgenstein and Austin. I start by spelling out Cavell’s Wittgensteinian-Austinian view of culture as the background for his approach to aesthetics and ethics. I then set out to explore the work done by the theme in aesthetics and ethics around the notion claim. I argue that Cavell’s effort to counter the pull of non-cognitivism in aesthetics and ethics, building on the notion claim, is not only illuminating of his unique way of inheriting the history of analytic philosophy but also gives us a glimpse of where and how Continental and analytic philosophy may again cross paths in the future.


Cavell, Stanley, 1969. Must We Mean What We Say?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———, 1969a. “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy.” In Cavell (1969), pp. 41–67.

———, 1969b. “Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy.” In Cavell (1969), pp. 68–90.

———, 1969c. “Music Discomposed.” In Cavell (1969), pp. 167–96.

———, 1969d. “A Matter of Meaning It.” In Cavell (1969), pp. 197–99.

———, 1979. The Claim of Reason—Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality and Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———, 1992. Statuts de Emerson, edited by Christian Fournier and Sandra Laugier. Combas: Éditions de l’éclat.

———, 1994. A Pitch of Philosophy—Autobiographical Exercises. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

———, 2005. “Performative and Passionate Utterance.” In Philosophy The Day After Tomorrow, pp. 155–91. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.

———, 2004. Cities of Words. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.

Floyd, Juliet, 2019. Why Does The Claim of Reason Matter? A Symposium in Memory of Stanley Cavell.,

Laugier, Sandra, 2014. Recommencer la philosophie—Stanley Cavell et la philosophie en Amérique. Paris: Vrin.

———, 2013. Why We Need Ordinary Language Philosophy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

———, 2019. Why Does The Claim of Reason Matter? A Symposium in Memory of Stanley Cavell.,

Ludlow, Peter, 2018. Living Words: Meaning Underdetermination and the Dynamic Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marques, Teresa and Manuel García-Carpintero, 2014. “Disagreement About Taste: Commonality Presuppositions and Coordination.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92(4): 701–23.

Miguens, Sofia, 2019. Uma leitura da filosofia contemporânea—Figuras e movimentos. Lisbon: Edições 70.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 2009. Philosophical Investigations, Revised 4th edition, edited by P. M. Hacker and Joachim Schulte. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.