Cavell and Kuhn: A Special Issue of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 

Cavell and KuhnSpecial Issue of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies Deadline for abstract submissions: May 15, 2022 Contact   There is no question that Stanley Cavell and Thomas Kuhn deeply influenced one another. Both testify to this influence in their published writings. Cavell, for his part, announced that he could not “exaggerate the importance” of his “intellectual companionship” with Kuhn in the preface to The Claim of Reason. Kuhn, likewise, affirmed his deep debt to Cavell in the “Preface” to his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, claiming that his colleague was his “creative sounding board” during Kuhn’s time at Berkeley, even going so far as to observe that Cavell was “the only person with whom I have ever been able to explore my ideas in incomplete sentences” and to note that Cavell helped him to find “the way through and around several major barriers” encountered in the preparation of his epochal work.  Yet as well established as the connection between Cavell and Kuhn is, the measure of the philosophical significance of the relationship between these two thinkers remains relatively unexplored. Pioneering explorations and observations by Vasso Kindi, James Conant, Toril Moi, and K. Brad Wray have made clear the ways in which Cavell and Kuhn’s conversations developed and consolidated a novel understanding of Wittgenstein’s thought that has not ceased to profoundly affect our understanding of art, science, rationality, and morality. Yet this is but the tip of the iceberg. Textual evidence suggests that the two spoke not only of Wittgenstein but also of Piaget, that they mutually explored not only the philosophy of history but also the philosophy of education. These interactions, further, involved fundamental reflections on the philosophy of philosophy itself, not least the question of whether philosophy might settle into a paradigm of the sort associated in Kuhn’s work with progress, or might instead find its progress in a kind of perpetual crisis. In the spirit, then, of not so much philologically pinning down or reconstructing the specific facts and recondite details of those crucial moments of philosophical fellowship, but rather of continuing and extending Cavell and Kuhn’s dialogue into the present, picking up themes and motifs gleaned at the intersections of their textual traces, this volume of Conversations is dedicated to one of the most marking philosophical conversations of the 20th century. We are seeking contributions that approach any aspect of the encounter between Cavell and Kuhn and from any perspective. Papers that tackle the intellectual journey of each thinker are welcome, as are concept-focused analyses exploring the development of each thinker’s oeuvre. Likewise welcome are innovative riffs drawn from their common concerns, for example, expansions on how their dialogue might help us to rethink the ‘two cultures’ divide between the natural sciences and the arts and humanities that still marks the contemporary academy, or excurses into how Cavell’s thinking on skepticism and the claims of reason might help us think deeply about the moral place of scientific authority and Kuhnian scientific paradigms in an age where the acceptance of scientific claims to reason has become ever more contested and yet ever more critical. Naturally, of course, we will also encourage reflections on the philosophy of conversation, Cavell and Kuhn inspired discussions on the meaning of sharing philosophical words, and shared feelings of crisis and of being between worlds.  The deadline for abstract submissions is May 15th 2022. Abstracts should be approximately 300 words, and initial decisions will be communicated during April 2022. For this special issue, please email abstracts to both Brad Tabas ( and Paul Jenner ( For accepted abstracts, the submission date for complete articles (5,000 - 10,000 words) will be September 15, 2022. The general journal style guidelines are available at: