“What they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…”

Photograph by Kimberly Richards via Unsplash

Harry Kreisler: What led you to philosophy?

Stanley Cavell: Well, I could give you a cocktail answer to that, or I could say, “I’m still asking myself the question.”

Harry Kreisler: Right.

Stanley Cavell: One serious way to answer the question is to say that leaving music was the first enormous basic radical crisis in my life. I was bewildered by who I might be if I wasn’t a musician. And philosophy is, after all, a subject you might come to in a state of crisis. That’s one thing that happened to me, in finding philosophy…

Harry Kreisler: This is a silly question, but I’ll ask it anyway. What does a philosopher do?

Stanley Cavell: Of course, the serious answer to that is, they ask themselves that. Almost everybody has his or her own answer to that. All the great philosophers have their answer to it; it winds up in their text, that what they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…

Conversations with History: Stanley Cavell – YouTube Conversation with Stanley Cavell, p. 3 of 6

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