Too Cavellian a Wittgenstein: Wittgenstein's Certainty, Cavell's Scepticism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


My aim in this chapter is to show that Cavell's modernist Wittgenstein is too Cavellian. Wittgenstein's philosophy is not – as Cavell claims it is – permeated with (1) a nostalgia for metaphysics; (2) a dissatisfaction with language and criteria; (3) an ineluctable scepticism; all prompting (4) Existential devastation and angst. I will conclude that Cavell reads his own preoccupations into Wittgenstein and that this prevents him from seeing that Wittgenstein's certainty logically dismisses scepticism. Cavell's Wittgenstein is still a groundbreaking philosopher, but seen through Cavell's modernist glass darkly, his philosophy breeds disappointment, alienation and scepticism where it, in fact, sows enlightenment, community and certainty.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Wittgenstein, Understanding Modernism
EditorsAnat Matar
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781501302442
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2017


  • Wittgenstein
  • Cavell
  • ordinary language
  • scepticism
  • certainty
  • acknowledgement
  • modernism


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