•  246
    In this essay I argue the extent to which meaning and judgment in aesthetics figures in Wittgenstein’s later conception of language, particularly in his conception of how philosophy might go about explaining the ordinary functioning of language. Following a review of some biographical and textual matters concerning Wittgenstein’s life with music, I outline the connection among (1) Wittgenstein’s discussions of philosophical clarity or perspicuity, (2) our attempts to give clarity to our aestheti…Read more
  •  234
    Seeing Wittgenstein Anew (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2010.
    Seeing Wittgenstein Anew is the first collection to examine Ludwig Wittgenstein’s remarks on the concept of aspect-seeing. These essays show that aspect-seeing was not simply one more topic of investigation in Wittgenstein’s later writings, but, rather, that it was a pervasive and guiding concept in his efforts to turn philosophy’s attention to the actual conditions of our common life in language. Arranged in sections that highlight the pertinence of the aspect-seeing remarks to aesthetic and mo…Read more
  •  218
    "In 'I Don't Know, Just Wait: Remembering Remarriage in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', William Day shows how Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind should be considered part of the film genre known as remarriage comedy; but he also shows how Kaufman contributes something new to the genre. Day addresses, in particular, how the conversation that is the condition for reunion involves discovering 'what it means to have memories together as a way of learning how to be together'. O…Read more
  •  209
    Despite their differences, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Leo Strauss share two key philosophical commitments. They recognize that philosophy cannot establish or discover a conceptual structure to which one might appeal to justify what one says. And they agree that the task of philosophical writing is to convey a way of thinking set apart from that which seeks to establish or discover conceptual structures. Yet each knows that his writing, in the absence of a universal ground of a…Read more
  •  208
    To Not Understand, but Not Misunderstand: Wittgenstein on Shakespeare
    In Sascha Bru, Wolfgang Huemer & Daniel Steuer (eds.), Wittgenstein Reading. pp. 39-53. 2013.
    Wittgenstein's lack of sympathy for Shakespeare's works has been well noted by George Steiner and Harold Bloom among others. Wittgenstein writes in 1950, for instance: "It seems to me as though his pieces are, as it were, enormous sketches, not paintings; as though they were dashed off by someone who could permit himself anything, so to speak. And I understand how someone may admire this & call it supreme art, but I don't like it." Of course, the animosity of one great mind for another has its o…Read more
  •  205
    Moonstruck, or How to Ruin Everything
    In Kenneth Dauber & Walter Jost (eds.), Ordinary Language Criticism: Literary Thinking after Cavell after Wittgenstein, Northwestern University Press. pp. 315-328. 2003.
    A reading of the film Moonstruck (1987) is presented in two movements. The first aligns Moonstruck with certain Hollywood film comedies of the 1930s and 40s, those Stanley Cavell calls comedies of remarriage. The second turns to some aspects of Emerson's writing – in particular his interest in our relation to human greatness, and his coinciding interest in our relation to the words of a text – and shows how Moonstruck inherits these Emersonian, essentially philosophical interests.
  •  154
    Documentary film is that genre of filmmaking that lays bare the fact of all film, which is that it presents "a world past" (Cavell, The World Viewed). This fact of film seems to point to a paradox of time in our experience of movies: we are present at something that has happened, something that is over. But what if we were to take this fact to show that film has the power to place us outside our ordinary, unreflective relation to time? In this essay I examine three pre-cinematic descriptions of …Read more
  •  149
    Stanley Cavell isn't the first to arrive at philosophy through a life with music. Nor is he the first whose philosophical practice bears the marks of that life. Much of Cavell's life with music is confirmed for the world in his philosophical autobiography Little Did I Know. A central moment in that book is Cavell's describing the realization that he was to leave his musical career behind – for what exactly, he did not yet know. He connects the memory-shock of this leaving with "the work of mourn…Read more
  •  134
    Knowing as Instancing: Jazz Improvisation and Moral Perfectionism
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58 (2): 99-111. 2000.
    This essay presents an approach to understanding improvised music, finding in the work of certain outstanding jazz musicians an emblem of Ralph Waldo Emerson's notion of self-trust and of Stanley Cavell's notion of moral perfectionism. The essay critiques standard efforts to interpret improvised solos as though they were composed, contrasting that approach to one that treats the procedures of improvisation as derived from our everyday actions. It notes several levels of correspondence between ou…Read more
  •  112
    The Ends of Improvisation
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (3): 291-296. 2010.
    This essay attempts to address the question, "What makes an improvised jazz solo a maturation of the possibilities of this artform?" It begins by considering the significance of one distinguishable feature of an improvised jazz solo - how it ends - in light of Joseph Kerman's seemingly parallel consideration of the historical development of how classical concertos end. After showing the limits of this comparison, the essay proposes a counter-parallel, between the jazz improviser's attitude towar…Read more
  •  100
    Wanting to Say Something: Aspect-Blindness and Language
    In William Day & Víctor J. Krebs (eds.), Seeing Wittgenstein Anew, Cambridge University Press. 2010.
    "Lest one think that the focus on aspect-seeing in Wittgenstein is only a means to more contemporary philosophical ends, one ought to read Day’s remarkable 'Wanting to Say Something: Aspect-Blindness and Language'. Day considers the issue of aspect-blindness, arguing that universal aspect-blindness is impossible for beings with language. Specifically, he shows that a child’s first attempt at language, at trying “bloh” for “ball,” is neither an indication that the child sees the ball for the firs…Read more
  •  96
    Zhenzhi and Acknowledgment in Wang Yangming and Stanley Cavell
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (S1): 51-68. 2012.
    The present article is a slightly revised version of my article in Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39, no. 2 (2012): 174–91. I appreciate the opportunity to republish with very minor corrections. This article highlights sympathies between Wang Yangming’s notion of zhenzhi (real knowing) and Stanley Cavell’s concept of acknowledgment. I begin by noting a problem in interpreting Wang on the unity of knowing and acting, which leads to considering how our suffering pain figures in our “real knowing” o…Read more
  •  90
    "William Day is . . . concerned to explore the dynamics of what Cavell calls 'a theology of reading' through a careful examination of a fragment of the philosopher's autobiography first published as 'Excerpts from Memory' (2006) and subsequently revised for Little Did I Know (2010). If, as Cavell suggests, 'the underlying subject' of both criticism and philosophy is 'the subject of examples', in which our interest lies in their emblematic aptness or richness as exemplars, exemplarity becomes cen…Read more
  •  87
    Jazz Improvisation, the Body, and the Ordinary
    Tidskrift För Kulturstudier 5 80-94. 2002.
    What is one doing when one improvises music, as one does in jazz? There are two sorts of account prominent in jazz literature. The traditional answer is that one is organizing sound materials in the only way they can be organized if they are to be musical. This implies that jazz solos are to be interpreted with the procedures of written music in mind. A second, more controversial answer is offered in David Sudnow's pioneering account of the phenomenology of improvisation, Ways of the Hand. Sudno…Read more
  •  83
    Seeing Aspects in Wittgenstein
    with Victor J. Krebs
    In William Day & Víctor J. Krebs (eds.), Seeing Wittgenstein Anew, Cambridge University Press. 2010.
    This is the introduction to Seeing Wittgenstein Anew, eds. William Day & Victor J. Krebs (Cambridge UP, 2010), a collection of essays on Ludwig Wittgenstein's remarks on aspect-seeing. Section 1: Why Seeing Aspects Now?; Section 2: The Importance of Seeing Aspects; Section 3: The Essays. (The front matter to Seeing Wittgenstein Anew appears above under "Books.")
  •  81
    Zhenzhi and Acknowledgment in Wang Yangming and Stanley Cavell
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (2): 174-191. 2012.
    This article highlights sympathies between Wang Yangming's notion of zhenzhi (real knowing) and Stanley Cavell's concept of acknowledgment. I begin by noting a problem in interpreting Wang on the unity of knowing and acting, which leads to considering how our suffering pain figures in our “real knowing” of another's pain. I then turn to Cavell's description of a related problem in modern skepticism, where Cavell argues that knowing another's pain requires acknowledging it. Cavell's concept of ac…Read more
  •  49
    Review of Richard Shusterman, Performing Live: Aesthetic Alternatives for Ends of Art (review)
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 300-302. 2004.
  • A Conversation with Lydia Goehr
    Conference: A Journal of Philosophy and Theory 7 (1): 11-20. 1996.
  • A Page Concordance for Unnumbered Remarks in Philosophical Investigations
    In William Day & Víctor J. Krebs (eds.), Seeing Wittgenstein Anew, Cambridge University Press. pp. 357-372. 2010.
    Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations is organized in short paragraphs or "remarks." Most of these are numbered consecutively, but some are not – including his remarks on "aspect-seeing" that are the focus of Seeing Wittgenstein Anew. This appendix to that volume is an indexed catalog of the unnumbered remarks, cross-referenced to four different editions, including the latest (4th) edition.