“Film Came After Lightening”: Stanley Cavell and Film as the Rediscovery of Philosophy
In this paper, two thoughts that I take to be central to Stanley Cavell’s philosophy as a whole will be brought into view and linked to each other. The first is his idea that learning one’s language is a process that one can never be over and done with – and this is something that is supposed to be true, not only in the familiar sense that we can combine our concepts in unforeseen ways, but also that this may be true of singular concepts. The other is his claim that films are particularly “apt” to capture “the everyday” or “the ordinary.” Initially, two questions are posed.
(i) What does it mean to say that learning a language is an infinite task?
(ii) What is it that films capture that make them particularly apt in the philosophical struggle to attain clarity about the ordinary, and why is that particular presentation philosophically relevant?
The point of making this connection is to bring into view the way in which film can be philosophically instructive more or less “accidentally.” From the Cavellean perspective, film is not primarily “philosophical” by means of presenting or representing philosophical views or theories, but because it forces us to rethink our concepts and by making clear to us that philosophy may “happen” almost anywhere.
Thus, the response to the abovementioned questions that will be presented and argued for, is that film may constitute a “rediscovery of philosophy” in the sense that it may adequately present precisely that which philosophy may be seen as a flight from (i.e. “the ordinary”) and that it thus may force us to rethink and reconsider that which philosophy does not want to know.