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Revolution of the OrdinaryLiterary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell$
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Toril Moi

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226464305

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.001.0001

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Language, Judgment, and Attention

Language, Judgment, and Attention

Writing in the World

(p.222) 10 Language, Judgment, and Attention
Revolution of the Ordinary

Toril Moi

University of Chicago Press

Drawing on Cavell, this chapter argues that choosing one’s words is an exercise of judgment both in relation to the world and in relation to words. Sharpened attention to words is sharpened attention to the world. This view leads to a new understanding of realism. The chapter analyzes the philosophy of attention elaborated by Simone Weil, Iris Murdoch and Cora Diamond. It argues that Murdoch’s “just and loving gaze” and Diamonds analysis of the “difficulty of reality” helps us to see that the task of wording the world is at once aesthetic, ethical and political. By examining texts by Ibsen, Rilke, Woolf and Hjorth, the chapter shows that good writers teach us to see, to pay attention to the judgment embedded in the use of words. In a world in which words are increasingly floating free of reality, writers carry out a crucial moral and political task. Through a reading of the transcripts of the trial of the Norwegian terrorist responsible for the massacre at Utøya on 22 July 2011, the chapter brings out the intrinsic connection of attention, judgment, and words.

Keywords:   Cora Diamond, Stanley Cavell, judgment, attention, Iris Murdoch, Simone Weil, Henrik Ibsen, Rainer Maria Rilke, Vigdis Hjorth, Virginia Woolf

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