cf. Paul Stang, “Group portrait at Lushågen” (ca. 1910)
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it THUS.”
—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
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