Must We Mean What We Say? Background

Must We Mean What We Say? Background

Written by Stanley Cavell, an American philosopher and current professor at Harvard, Must We Mean What We Say? is a collection of a philosophical essays centering around the themes of language use, metaphors, skepticism, sarcasm, and tragedy. The book comprises of a number of mediations on these topics; some specific forms of writing include critiques of previous philosophers, interpretations of literary texts such as Shakespeare, and self-written reflections on the various aspects of humans' interactions with language.

Must We Mean What We Say has a very detailed, essential preface, in which Cavell emphasizes the importance of not taking anything for its face value, including the ideas presented in his essays. He discusses the significance of philosophy in literary works in relation to the reader, and the role the author plays in this liaison. Throughout the book also runs the theme of sensibility instead of pure logic: utilizing one's instincts combined with practicality to come to nuanced but grounded conclusions.

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