What we get from Cavell at these points, I want to argue, is similar in kind—in how it feels—to the kind of perspective Wittgenstein talks of in CV pp. 6-7, when he talks of looking at life from the outside.
But Cavell’s exercise is not mainly aimed at giving us an external perspective, but at reminding us of and recalling us to the other perspective, from within life—a perspective that never sees itself as a perspective, that is busy living, too busy for such self-reflection, and is rather engaged enmeshed and saturated with the particularities of life. This is a perspective that is identical to life—to living—and is therefore not really a perspective.
The discovery of groundlessness, from one aspect of it, is simply the discovery of the matter-of-course, a yielding to the life of our practices, a peaceful return to the ordinary—to doing things. But from its other aspect, it is an acrophobic sensation, and dizziness, and dread.
Important: Logically, the difference between aspects here is not like the difference between duck and rabbit, but like the difference between boiling some water on the stove, treating the stove as a matter-of-course, and on the other hand contemplating the stove with the whole world as its background (see NB, p. 83). (Technically, only the second way of looking involves aspect-perception.)
What I would like to emphasize here is this duality. And by this I don’t mean there are here two things, but merely that there are two aspects. Often, this is not emphasized. Often, having been led by Cavell to the edges of their practices and life, people just say that in this return to the ordinary there is some kind of significant, sometimes moral, achievement. Sometimes it is said that the achievement here connects linguistic meaning to existential meaning. We are expected to now bask and be satisfied in some wonderful multidimensional unity of meaningfulness. – In this, the duality is occluded: one does not notice how strange it is that the very return to the ordinary has been portrayed as extraordinary; or one notices that, but does not mention it, or takes it to be important.
To retrieve this duality: Normally, the point of a grammatical investigation is to show us our way about—to bring us back to life with the stove, to that matter-of-course perspective, to relieve us of dread. But if I’m right, from Cavell we get another perspective. The return to the ordinary appears terrifying, sanity appears almost crazy.
And this tells us something about the grammar, the essence, of value. That is, it is significant that the value of the achievement here, of the return to the ordinary, can be seen in connection to dread—that it is dread, or some such attitude, that somehow brings out the value of our grammatical clarity (and the attitude can be happy or unhappy). That it takes this kind of shift of perspective to bring out the moral or existential point of the investigation.
I’m inclined to say it in this way: We can say that the aim of the grammatical investigation is to lead us from disguised to patent nonsense. But if we are to see this achievement as something valuable, see what is of value about it, we will have to make the way back from patent to disguised nonsense.