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Roger A. Shiner GETTING TO KNOW YOU IN pursuits OF happiness, Stanley Cavell attempts to establish the existence of a previously unrecognized genre of film — "comedies of remarriage " — which both includes and is defined by such movies as Adam's Rib, Bringing Up Baby, and TL· Philadelphia Story. l By "marriage" and "remarriage " is meant a certain kind of enduring emotional intimacy with which we as adult men and women will be involved, an intimacy which is an integral part of the human form of life and whose relationship to an institutionally supported legal status in our culture is not one of identity. The same is true for the concept of "divorce" in this context. Using some of Cavell's interpretive ideas as a starting point, I shall seek to present the genre of remarriage as a figure for the profoundest relationships of epistemology and metaphysics — the relationship of the knower to the world which is known and the relationship of the individual to die other individuals widi whom society is shared. Specifically, divorce and remarriage as part of human life are to be seen as figures for separation and kinship, avoidance and acknowledgement in the philosophical sense of those terms.2 My discussion proceeds on several levels. There is film criticism, which attempts to find significance in certain movies. There is an examination of values, which presents a certain view ofmarriage as a human relationship. There is some metaphysics, which addresses certain traditional philosophical problems in a nontraditional way. And finally there is metaphilosophy , which attempts to present a different way ofhow to ask, and how to acknowledge as being answered, the great questions of philosophy. Only the latter two projects could be described as "philosophical" in a conventional sense. Yet, as Arthur Danto has rightly remarked,3 Cavell in Pursuits ofHappiness seems to be trying to suggest that to blur deliberately the distinction between criticism and philosophy is to show something 80 Roger A. Shiner81 important about philosophy (and thus criticism as well). If this essay in some small way is thought to show something similar, I shall be pleased. Cavell begins his chapter on It Happened One Night with some ruminations on Locke, Hume, Kant, and the idea of the limitations of human reason. Kant undertakes to show, Cavell claims (PH, pp. 75-76), that our position as human knowers is both better and worse than the Empiricists suggest. It is worse, because even if we pressed human knowledge to its Kantian limits, we would know more but not enough to fulfill the philosopher 's dream. It is better, because the very facts that are limitations of human knowledge are also the necessary conditions ofknowledge as such and to know those conditions clearly is enormously to increase human knowledge. The link between the limitations ofhuman knowledge and the comedies of remarriage is forged by the thought (CR, p. 74) that the capacity to relate oneself to the world by knowledge and the capacity to relate oneselfto others by marriage are both constitutive ofhuman society. Human community is based in part on the fact that there are limitations as to what each of us as individual knowers can know. We need each other's knowledge. If one of us were per impossibile to transcend the limitations of human knowledge, he would know, as it were, what God knows and thus have the power that God has. But the existence of these limitations reveals something deep about human knowledge, something which traditional theory of knowledge rejects, namely that it is human. Human knowledge is limited, but it is genuine. It rests on no surer a foundation than human community, but human beings are a community. We need each other, but we are there for each other. Community, and therefore knowledge, does not need to be achieved: it exists.4 Similarly, the conventions in society limiting the capacity to relate oneselfto others by marriage (one at a time, and only under protest not one forever) reveal something deep about the nature of marriage. The mutuality of the intimacy ofmarriage is possible only in conjunction with the exclusiveness of marriage. Only by turning away from all others can the taking into...


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pp. 80-94
Launched on MUSE
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