Abstract

This is a new English translation of “De l’ordinaire au quotidien,” originally published in French in 2023. In paragraph 116 of Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein seems to outline the fundamental goal of his philosophy: “What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.” The everyday use to which Wittgenstein constantly refers is far from self-evident: it is just as elusive and indeterminate as our forms of life. The project of Philosophical Investigations is not to replace disqualified logic with the study of use, finding therein a new foundation or new convictions, even purely practical ones. The study of everyday language use presents new problems, arduous in a different way from those of logical analysis, as J. L. Austin and the Oxford School later showed—the same school that, in coining the term Ordinary language philosophy, formalized the Ordinary rather than the Everyday as a central concept. The present article considers several reasons for returning to the concept of the Everyday, Wittgenstein’s point of departure, in the philosophy of language.

In paragraph 116 of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, we find the following statement, which seems to outline the fundamental goal of his philosophy: “What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.”1 This assertion epitomizes Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophy, but it presents some difficulties—our words, having gone astray, must find their “place of origin” (Heimat).2 As Stanley Cavell has consistently shown, themes of loss, foreignness, and exile are at the heart of Wittgenstein’s thought: “A philosophical problem has the form: ‘I don’t know my way about.’”3 The philosopher presents himself as someone who is lost in his own language, entangled in its rules, even though the rules are our own: “Here the fundamental fact is that we lay down rules, a technique, for playing a game, and that then, when we follow the rules, things don’t turn out as we had assumed. So that we are, as it were, entangled in our own rules.”4 But what happens to make language stray off course, from its everyday use to its metaphysical use? How does our language, which says only what we make it say, escape us to the point of saying something entirely different from what we meant to say, or even saying nothing at all? Cavell poses this fundamental question in his first book, Must We Mean What We Say?, when he asserts that “the ordinary” is defined by this indeterminacy of language itself.5

Indeed, the everyday use to which Wittgenstein constantly refers is far from self-evident: it is just as elusive and indeterminate as our forms of life. The project of Philosophical Investigations is not to replace disqualified logic with the study of use, finding therein a new foundation or new convictions, even purely practical ones. The study of everyday language use presents new problems, arduous in a different way from those of logical analysis, as J. L. Austin and the Oxford School later showed—the same school that, in coining the term ordinary language philosophy, formalized the Ordinary rather than the Everyday as a central concept.6

Here we will consider several reasons for returning to the concept of the Everyday, Wittgenstein’s point of departure, in the philosophy of language.

Categories of the Everyday

Philosophical Investigations, as scholars have argued in multiple ways (notably Pierre Hadot and Jacques Bouveresse, its first French critics),7 is a critique of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. We forget, Cora Diamond so judiciously reminds us, that it is precisely a critique in the strict sense of the term: taking up the same problem, the same need, with new tools and a change of perspective. Indeed, we must be wary of any reading of Wittgenstein that assumes a rift between the first philosophy, that of the Tractatus, and the second, that of ordinary language (though this has long been the official reading, still present in the work of numerous Wittgenstein specialists). According to the traditional interpretation, the first Wittgenstein seeks to establish a logical relationship between language and reality, and the second abandons that project in favor of an (autonomous) grammar of the rules of everyday language use. Cavell, in his renowned work The Claim of Reason, then Diamond, in The Realistic Spirit, were the first to contest this reading.8 For Diamond, Philosophical Investigations carries on the Tractatus’s realist project through a return to the Everyday, bringing it back to the “rough ground” of ordinary language. When Wittgenstein evokes the rules of “our” language, he does not reinscribe the real into grammar: as he says from the very beginning of Philosophical Investigations, we learn from “our elders” how to use words in certain contexts, and throughout our lives—without a safety net as it were, without guarantees, without universals—we must use them in novel contexts, project them, discover new meanings. This forms the basis of human existence, this form of life in everyday language.

But it presents the difficulty of knowing what we say. How do I know what we ordinarily say in a given circumstance? How can the language that I speak, inherited from others, be mine? Herein is the meaning of the skeptical questioning of criteria: who am I to speak with (or on behalf of) others? Wittgenstein writes in a famous passage: “What is true or false is what human beings say; and it is in their language that human beings agree. This is agreement not in opinions, but rather in form of life.”9

Wittgenstein says that we agree in and not on language. This means that we are not actors in the agreement, that language precedes this agreement just as much as it is produced by it, and that this circularity constitutes an essential element of the Everyday. There is no prior, given agreement on which to rely. The language agreement can always be broken, and this break is part of its everyday functioning. Skepticism need not be denied, then, by a turn to the ordinary. What is given, as Wittgenstein says here, is not only the world and things but also forms of life. By this he means that our form of life itself is a given, at once inevitable and alterable by what we make of it every day. Cavell accounts for this point by simply moving the emphasis: forms of life (and not forms of life). This biological aspect of form of life is also “the specific strength and scale of the human body and of the human senses and of the human voice.”10

To realize what we mean to say would be to restore words to their land of origin, their “natural environment,” to use the expression in Philosophical Investigations; this is how we can “bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.” Ordinary language defines the Ordinary, not the other way around. Everyday language (the strange fact of being able to speak with each other) defines the Ordinary. Recognizing the ordinary nature of language is then discovering the Ordinary in two dimensions: the relationship to “us” (the common, the agreement), and the Everyday (daily life). The call to the Everyday is neither a matter of course nor a solution; it is infused with skepticism, with what Cavell terms the “uncanniness of the ordinary.”11

In the community of language the skeptical question, far from being solved, takes on its most radical sense: What allows me to speak on behalf of others? How do I know what we mean to say, by a word or by a world? It is in this context that we should consider Cavell’s return to authors from the American tradition, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the thinkers/writers of transcendentalism, who constantly raise the issue of my voice in community and society. Cavell’s idea is that the particularity of American thought, its capacity to give philosophy a new beginning in America, may be found in its invention of the Everyday. This new beginning for philosophy—which is no tabula rasa but has to do with a second chance, just like the American comedies about remarriage, which constitute a major object of study for Cavell12—is also a reversal of its two deep-rooted tendencies: its pretension to surpass, and correct, ordinary language, and its denial of the interest of everyday life. Our words, our everyday lives, have lost their meaning(s), and we must learn to find it (them) again. Emerson says as much in a famous line from “Self-Reliance”: “Every word they say chagrins us.”13 The notion of the Everyday is inseparable from the issue of a reappropriation of human speech, the ordinary voice, the right expression. For Cavell, it is not so much a question of finding the Everyday as it is of recovering it.14

Emerson’s experiential philosophy is political from the outset, with its democratic demands, echoed in the work of John Dewey:15 both advocate for the common, at once through their references to daily life, shared by all humans, and through their call for a community of shared ordinary values. The appeal to ordinary experience is of particular relevance to the democratic ideal, from Emerson to Dewey. For Emerson, access to the world is given to us not by science but by the close-up experience of everyday life. It is hard to see how the scientific method could provide us with the elements of everyday life, as he evokes in “The American Scholar”:

I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into today, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body;—show me the ultimate reason of these matters; show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities of nature; . . . and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.16

In claiming to “embrace the common,” “sit at the feet of . . . the low,” Emerson positions himself on the side of what philosophers like George Berkeley and David Hume have positively called “the vulgar” in their project of valorizing ordinary experience over metaphysics. But we might consequently worry about a notion of the Everyday that would aim to “sublimate” and aestheticize it. We must note that Emerson took part in advocating for a distinctly American culture, which would be defined by an essentially democratic experience of everyday life.17 This claim to the everyday as low is thus presented as an alternative to European culture.18 It proleptically refers to the prized objects of American cinema and to those, closer still to Emerson, of photography:19 as if Emerson were giving up on the grandiose art of Europe to envision an art of the Everyday, “American” in its own right, which would focus on the details of daily life, traditionally neglected by philosophy. As Cavell points out:

His list in “The American Scholar” of the matters whose “ultimate reason” he demands of students to know—“The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body”—is a list epitomizing what we may call the physiognomy of the ordinary, a form of what Kierkegaard calls the perception of the sublime in the everyday.20

This list is akin to the conception of a series of new categories, those of the Everyday. It is thus a matter not of transforming classical metaphysics through a reversal of its categories, as Charles Sanders Peirce and others will strive to do, but of inventing a new way of relating to the world. The question is no longer that of knowing the “ultimate reason” of phenomena but that of introducing a relationship to the Everyday that might allow us to approach it. This use of the Everyday is democratic, and for Emerson, the aesthetic is political:

One of these signs is the fact that the same movement which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in the state, assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect. Instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized. That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found to be richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time.21

The poor, the child, the street, “household life”: these are the new objects that will need to be considered, and to do so, the list of categories inherited from Europe will not suffice. The appeal to the Ordinary is thus democratic and practical. Emerson, far from giving up on skepticism to embrace the Everyday, will invent a specific form of tragedy—a tragedy of ordinary experience, of the casual, both everyday and tragic (casualty).

The Everyday is always an object of inquiry; it is never a given. The low is always to be reached, rather than surpassed—in a reversal of the sublime. It will not suffice to leave behind the Ordinary, Frank Capra’s “man in the street.” We must give another meaning to inherited words (as to those of experience, idea, impression, understanding, reason, necessity, condition, and constitution) and bring them back to the common or, to use Wittgenstein’s expression, from the metaphysical to the Everyday. For Emerson, America can strive to reinvent Kantian transcendental philosophy not by fixing its categories but by inventing an access point to this world of the common, a specific way of approaching this new nature—this new yet unapproachable America22—for which the categories of transcendental philosophy (the conceptual mode of accessing nature as formulated by Europe) are inoperable. He offers his own version of categories in the epigraph of “Experience,” with the list of “lords of life”:

The lords of life, the lords of life,—I saw them pass,
In their own guise,
Like and unlike,
Portly and grim
Use and Surprise
Surface and Dream . . .
Succession swift, and spectral Wrong,—23

These “lords of life” resemble the categories that govern our life, our experience, and the Everyday and determine our access to the world, analogous to the categories of causality, substance, and totality in Kant. But the list clearly shows that it cannot refer to these categories: use, surprise, surface, dream, succession. . . . Indeed, this ironic usage of categories reveals what is at stake in “Experience.” Emerson has the idea that a new group of concepts—but will they still be concepts?—must be invented to describe everyday life. These concepts must then be applied to given, diverse, and scattered material that will have to be built and dominated, or, as he says, “domesticated.” “This revolution is to be wrought by the gradual domestication of the idea of Culture. The main enterprise of the world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man. Here are the materials strown along the ground.”24 By “domestication,” we may understand something entirely different than mastery and control. But to do so, we must go beyond categories. In thinking about categories of everyday life, Emerson was driven to rethink the very idea of category. Emerson’s work expresses a clear desire to do away with this categorical schema and to redefine experience via everyday life. In the above passage, this idea of the domestication of culture, of the domestic, is not simply an idea about mastering the real. The idea of the domestic, which proves to be a central element of everyday life, allows us to reconceive our relationship to the world, not as knowledge but as proximity and direct, tactile access to an everyday universe.

The self-confidence and the relationship to the Everyday to which Emerson lays claim are instruments for a radical democracy, in creating a system of thought for democratic experimentation. This experiment called for the invention of a new, ordinary human, a man of democracy, who is also a man of the Everyday. Emerson and Thoreau, through their attention to the Everyday, herald the emergence of Wittgenstein and Austin’s Ordinary language philosophy. The Everyday is always an object of inquiry.

For these “lords of life” do not govern our perception or experience; they emerge from it, like forms in a background: “I saw them pass.” The categories are themselves subjects/objects of observation and exploration. The transcendental question, then, is no longer how to know on the basis of experience (a question which, as we have known since Hume, leads to the response: we know nothing at all—and thus to skepticism) but how to approach the Everyday—how to have an ordinary experience. In “Experience” Emerson expresses the difficulty of being close to the world, in the context of the experience of grief. Taken in its whole, this difficulty can be generalized to that of a world itself conceived under the sign (category) of loss. Herein lies the skepticism: not in the impossibility of knowing but in the inability to have an experience.

“Experience” does not so much aim to describe or explain experience as it questions its possibility. We believe that we have an experience, for example that of suffering, but this is not the case: suffering does not give us any contact with reality. William James follows this thread of Emersonian thought, for example in The Will to Believe. Dewey also takes up the question of experience—of knowing what it is to have an experience—in Art as Experience. We see the radical transformation of Kantian synthesis at work in Emerson, a transformation made possible not by the transcendental approach but by the opposite approach. Surpassing synthesis from below, not from above, is characteristic of all revalorizations of the Everyday.

From Everyday Language to the Anthropology of Life

To recognize the ordinary nature of language is to discover the Ordinary in the Everyday and in the repetition of days and nights. Exploration of the Everyday is possible only when we gather a variety of tools and approaches to stay as close as possible to the detail of life; we may reapply Austin’s description of the observation of ordinary language to the Everyday:

Our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth marking, in the lifetimes of many generations: these surely are . . . more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our armchairs of an afternoon—the most favoured alternative method. When we examine what we should say when, what words we should use in what situations, we are looking again not merely at words (or “meanings,” whatever they may be) but also at the realities we use the words to talk about: we are using a sharpened awareness of words to sharpen our perception of, though not as the final arbiter of, the phenomena.25

Austin speaks of “fieldwork,” and many scholars have noted the anthropological character of his approach.26 Today, however, this approach seems to be marred by the narrowness of his field (the English language, notably what was in use at Oxford in the discussions he led with his students and colleagues). The work of the anthropologist Veena Das, on the other hand, has given massive (in terms of density, consistency), concrete substance to Cavell’s and Wittgenstein’s thought about the ordinary. From focusing on our own language as strange—uncanny—to examining the ordinary form of life, the transition was rather obvious. Both Cavell and Das connect Lebensform to an attention to the form of human life as occurring every day: from what Cavell calls “the uncanniness of the ordinary” to what Das designates “the everyday life of the human.” In his foreword to Das’s Life and Words, Cavell notes that the Ordinary is our ordinary language insofar as we constantly render it foreign, referencing the Wittgensteinian image of the philosopher as an explorer of a foreign tribe.27 This tribe is us, as both foreign and strange to ourselves. This intersection of the familiar with the foreign, common to anthropology, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, defines the Everyday. “Wittgenstein’s anthropological perspective is one puzzled in principle by anything human beings say and do, hence perhaps, at a moment, by nothing.”28

Das and Cavell subvert one of philosophy’s tendencies, to be attracted to “revelation.” They propose not to seek to discover the invisible but first to “see the visible,” to discover the Everyday, the unseen. This is the project of Philosophical Investigations: to see what escapes us, not because it is hidden but because it is too close to us. “What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings; not curiosities, however, but facts that no one has doubted, which have escaped notice only because they are always before our eyes.”29 The Ordinary is thus presented in terms of difficulty in accessing what is just before our eyes, and what we must learn to see precisely because we do not want to or do not know how to see it. In this way, Das’s work suggests an alternative reading of Wittgenstein’s conception of the Ordinary, tying it back to the Everyday as a specific concept. If the theme of the Everyday is far from new in anthropology, the approach that Das offers is completely distinctive, as we see in her commentary on a passage of Philosophical Investigations, which we may read alongside the passage that opened our discussion: “The ideal, as we conceive of it, is unshakable. You can’t step outside it. You must always turn back. There is no outside; outside you cannot breathe.”30 This passage, according to Das, evokes not so much a simple return as a coming home to inhabit or haunt the same space, now marked as a space of destruction in which we must live again.31 Hence the meaning of the Everyday in Wittgenstein: something recovered, a way of reinhabiting time and space, day after day. Cavell already noted that the Everyday is what we can only aspire to, since it appears as lost to us. “That is, there is nothing beyond the succession of each and every day; and grasping a day, accepting the everyday, the ordinary, is not a given but a task.”32

Here Cavell’s constant slippage between the Everyday and the Ordinary becomes problematic, since it is indeed a matter of passing (painfully) from one day to the next while pretending as if each day were a whole, to be completed or finished off. Michel de Certeau also cites Wittgenstein when he denounces the attempt by scientists to place themselves above ordinary language, and their contempt for the language of “the ordinary man.”33 For Certeau as for Cavell, escape from the Ordinary is impossible, but therein forms a sort of regret, and consequently lines of flight are sought out within the Everyday itself, in stories, movement, and diversion. Cavell and Das, meanwhile, seek the means for a return to the Ordinary and an experience of the Everyday, for a perception of its texture. We can contrast Certeau’s melancholy with Cavell’s romanticism (in a devastated world) and Das’s anthropology of suffering (anchored in the catastrophe of partition). This difference is not only one of method or of “world vision”; it is anchored in experiences and physical sites, all distinct from one another.

This inevitably brings us back from the Ordinary to the Everyday—or, so to speak, lower than the Ordinary—an Ordinary that cannot be sublimated or aestheticized, as shown by the idea of descent into the Ordinary in Das, and the infra-ordinary in Perec:

What is there under your wallpaper? How many movements does it take to dial a telephone number? Why can’t you find cigarettes in grocery stores? Why not? . . . What’s really going on, what we’re living, the rest, all the rest, where is it? What happens every day and recurs every day, the banal, the everyday, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual, how to account for it, question it, describe it?34

What “goes without saying” is what we take for granted, what we do not worry about—tiny and neglected objects, people, and movements. The Everyday thus adds a dimension to the Ordinary that, in a sense, escapes the usage of language: rhythm, work, the passage of days and nights. These are the daily, repetitive actions that make life continue. The work of care constitutes the central example of this daily effort—at once a practical response to specific needs and a sensibility toward the details that matter in life. Care thus ensures the upkeep, the conversation, the preservation, and the texture of both the Everyday and form of life, a life defined in Das’s work by violence, poverty, and the vulnerability of women.

The anthropology of the Everyday is experimental not in the sense of this adjective’s meaning in psychology or pragmatism but in the sense that it aims to describe the experience of the Everyday (and not just daily experience) or its texture (the object of Das’s more recent book, Textures of the Ordinary).35 From Wittgenstein to Cavell and Das, this anthropology advocates for new forms of paying attention to human life as everyday.

We might think back to how Austin, Cavell’s teacher, and Erving Goffman, another of Austin’s disciples who is very present in Das’s work, stage human vulnerability in social exchanges. In “A Plea for Excuses” Austin draws attention to the vulnerability of human action, which he defines as what can go wrong. Human action, as Austin, Goffman, Cavell, and Das would argue, is precisely that at which we fail, which we do not exactly do, for which we make up excuses: the meaning of “action” is taken from this everyday form of life of excuses, slips, and failures that Freud was the first to analyze. Cavell notes:

Excuses are as essentially implicated in Austin’s view of human actions as slips and overdetermination are in Freud’s. What does it betoken about human actions that the reticulated constellation of predicates of excuse is made for them—that they can be done unintentionally, unwillingly, involuntarily, insincerely, unthinkingly, inadvertently, heedlessly, carelessly, under duress, under the influence, out of contempt, out of pity, by mistake, by accident, and so on? It betokens, we might say, the all but unending vulnerability of human action, its openness to the independence of the world and the preoccupation of the mind.36

The “vulnerability of human action, its openness to the independence of the world and the preoccupation of the mind”—this may constitute another definition of the Everyday, as the framework for the vulnerability of form of life. Here form of life is inseparably biological and social, a linkage for which Cavell and Das have both argued, demonstrating that there are not two meanings of Lebensform but a linkage between the social and the vital in the texture of life. Wittgenstein’s anthropological approach seeks to refer to a shared, vulnerable human experience that interacts with the Everyday. “Shared human behaviour is the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language.”37 Cavell clarifies:

The biological or vertical sense of form of life recalls differences between the human and so-called “lower” or “higher” forms of life, between, say, poking at your food, perhaps with a fork, and pawing at it, or pecking at it. Here the romance of the hand and its apposable thumb comes into play, and of the upright posture and of the eyes set for heaven; but also the specific strength and scale of the human body and of the human senses and of the human voice.38

It is not surprising that it was around this question of the human body (expressive, vulnerable, and suffering) that Cavell and Das offered their own conceptions of form of life. Das explained that the violence against women during the partition of India and Pakistan could not simply be accounted for as a cultural variation in form of life, but that it rather calls attention to the need to redefine human life. “Life form” engenders a new understanding of biopolitics; in situations of extreme violence, war, breakdown, or disaster, the nature of humans may be changed depending on the actions and suffering that they endure. The fragility of forms of life speaks to a vulnerability in the Everyday itself, to mistakes, awkwardness, indifference, and cruelty. The loss of ordinary life (when confronted with madness, disease, or catastrophic and war-torn environments)39 reveals the urgency of identifying forms of life and connecting human vulnerability to a radical vulnerability of the Everyday.

In his foreword to Life and Words, Cavell draws our attention to the maintenance of the texture of everyday life in all circumstances and to the ambivalent creativity of women faced with the fragility of this world and precarious life forms. Cavell thus refers to Das’s description of the role of women in preserving/reinventing forms of life in times of catastrophe and violence. “[She recognizes] that in the gender-determined division of the work of mourning the results of violence, the role of women is to attend, in a torn world, to the details of everyday life that allow a household to function, collecting supplies, cooking, washing and straightening up, seeing to children, and so on, that allow life to knit itself back into some viable rhythm.”40 Form of life is no longer a matter of institutions or social structures but of life forms that emerge from everyday temporalities. It is then no longer a question of the Ordinary but of the Everyday as something borne, woven each day by the work of women, the work of grief and restoration. The “texture of life” is neither a given nor self-evident; it is forged by both tragedy and domestic reality. What is given and then threatened by disaster is our forms of life, everything that makes up the texture of human existence and human activity, the form that life takes in a collection of natural routines and habits in which language and affects come to be rooted. Das’s entire work carries on, and indeed completes, Cavell’s elucidation of the concept of form of life, engaging it with an elucidation of the form of the Everyday. Crucially, this elucidation will be gendered and pointed toward the low. Das is careful to distance herself from heroic pretenses and the politicization of the ordinary, the call to “give a voice” to those who do not have one, and so on: “It is often considered the task of historiography to break the silences that announce the zones of taboo. There is even something heroic in the image of empowering women to speak and to give voice to the voiceless. I have myself found this a very complicated task.”41 The women in Das’s work have an entirely different access to speech and a particular demand for recognition or reparation—a new form of attention to how suffering and breakdown enter, each day, into the Everyday. By further radicalizing Cavell’s reading of Wittgenstein, enacting a transition from “forms of life” to the life of forms, of human pain and of the suffering of women, and finally from the Ordinary to the Everyday, Das brings Wittgenstein into new territory.

Notes

2.

What I have translated as “find” comes from the French verb retrouver, which may more accurately be translated as “find again.” Retrouver is to find something familiar; it is also used to refer to meeting with a friend. Because English is a satellite-framing language, relying on adverbial particles like “again” to express a path of motion, while French is verb-framing, I often must sacrifice the nuance that a particle could provide for the sake of a smoother syntax.—Translator.

6.

Here we have the first instance of the nominal form of le quotidien, which I have translated as “the Everyday” in keeping with Laugier’s own translation in her English summary of this article. In its adjectival form, quotidien is variously translatable as “everyday,” “daily,” “day-to-day,” or simply “quotidian,” and I oscillate between several of these options in my translation.—Translator.

13.

Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 6.

14.

Reappearance of retrouver or “finding again” (something familiar). See n. 1.—Translator.

15.

Dewey frequently invokes Emerson’s name. See Dewey, “Emerson—the Philosopher of Democracy.” 

16.

Emerson, “American Scholar,” 49; Emerson, “Le savant américain,” 564.

17.

The original has revendication, which is a French cultural concept, coming from the way social movements form and act. Lacking a direct English equivalent, it has to do with (re)claiming an identity or putting forth demands. In this article I translate revendication and its verb form, revendiquer, variously as “advocate for,” “demands,” “(lay) claim to,” and “revalorization.”—Translator.

24.

Emerson, “Le savant américain,” 562.

28.

Cavell, foreword, x.

31.

Here I must signal the nuance and tension between the two French verbs in the original, retourner and revenir. While both may be translated as simply “return” in English, retourner evokes a nondescript return to any location previously visited, while revenir (and more canonically rentrer) speak of a return to the place of inhabitation, of origin, of home. In honoring the themes around care studies that are of importance to both Laugier and Das, I translate revenir as “coming home,” passing up the more literal translation “coming back.”—Translator.

34.

Perec, L’infra-ordinaire, 9. My translation.—Translator.

39.

Lovell et al., Face aux désastres.

40.

Cavell, foreword, xiii–xiv.

41.

Das, Life and Words, chap. 1.

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