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The Gleam of Light

Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson

Natsu Saito

Publication Year: 2005

In the name of efficiency, the practice of education has come to be dominated by neoliberal ideology andprocedures of standardization and quantification. Such attempts to make all aspects of practice transparent and subject to systematic accounting lack sensitivity to the invisible and the silent, to something in the humancondition that cannot readily be expressed in an either-or form. Seeking alternatives to such trends, Saito readsDewey's idea of progressive education through the lens of Emersonian moral perfectionism (to borrow a term coined by Stanley Cavell). She elucidates a spiritual and aesthetic dimension to Dewey's notion of growth, one considerably richer than what Dewey alone presents in his typically scientific terminology.

Published by: Fordham University Press

The Gleam of Light

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pp. ix-xii

The development of this book is traced through a series of personal encounters over many years. As a Japanese person drawn to American philosophy, I am accustomed to being positioned as ‘‘a foreigner’’—hence, to maintaining a distance from the familiar, to being a stranger. In the course of my...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In the past several decades in the United States there has been a remarkable revival of interest in two (perhaps the two) of the most famous, or influential, American claimants to the title of philosopher: John Dewey and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From the point of view of a philosopher and teacher such...

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Chapter 1: In Search of Light in Democracy and Education: Deweyan Growth in an Age of Nihilism

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pp. 1-16

In The Public and Its Problems John Dewey criticized the democracy of American society in the 1920s. The ‘‘eclipse of the public’’ that he warns against is not only a matter of political participation but also a moral issue that has a bearing on one’s way of living. Dewey captured the ethos of his times...

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Chapter 2: Dewey between Hegel and Darwin

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pp. 17-35

One criticism directed against Dewey’s concept of growth, ‘‘Growth towards what?’’ is caused by an ambiguity entailed in his position between Hegel and Darwin, two main philosophers who influenced the formation of his view on growth. Dewey asserts that the moral ends and ideals of growth...

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Chapter 3: Emerson's Voice: Dewey beyond Hegel and Darwin

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pp. 36-49

The debate surrounding Rorty’s reinterpretation of Dewey has shown a limitation of defending Dewey’s naturalistic philosophy of growth solely within the framework of ‘‘Dewey between Hegel and Darwin.’’ A way out of this impasse is suggested by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Dewey calls...

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Chapter 4: Emersonian Moral Perfectionism: Gaining from the Closeness between Dewey and Emerson

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pp. 50-68

In the debate that we have been examining, Cavell represents a dissenting voice. The majority of pragmatists think that Cavell misunderstands Dewey, which is, in Anderson’s words, an ‘‘American loss.’’ I believe, however, that leaving this gap within American philosophy unexamined will be a greater loss. We might be able to learn something from Cavell’s sense...

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Chapter 5: Dewey's Emersonian View of Ends

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pp. 69-80

‘‘Education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself.’’ 1 As this statement of Dewey represents, growth in his evolutionary view of the world is the contingent and endlessly evolving natural process. It takes place in the interaction of an organism and its environment without relying on the eternal resting point outside that process. This is the essence...

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Chapter 6: Growth and the Social Reconstruction of Criteria: Gaining from the Distance between Dewey and Emerson

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pp. 81-98

Cavell urges us to see how close and far Dewey and Emerson are. Having discussed the common ground between them, we turn now to attend more closely to Cavell’s voice of criticism. One of the challenging questions that Cavell addresses to Dewey is the lack of concreteness in his language...

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Chapter 7: The Gleam of Light: Reconstruction toward Holistic Growth

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pp. 99-119

Dewey’s naturalistic philosophy of growth has been found as one bordering on EMP, but with another internal force resisting to its full development. Dewey’s voice is dissonant from Emerson’s and Cavell’s, most significantly...

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Chapter 8: The Gleam of Light Lost: Transcending the Tragic with Dewey after Emerson

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pp. 120-138

Dewey sheds an Emersonian light on the degenerate state of American democracy in his times—a state of darkness in which the gleam of light, the sense of being and becoming, are dimmed and even lost. This is, in his expression...

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Chapter 9: The Rekindling of the Gleam of Light: Toward Perfectionist Education

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pp. 139-162

The account with democratic ideals is still far from being settled. But if it turns out in the end a failure, it will not be because it is too low a doctrine but because it is too high morality for human nature, at least as that human nature is now educated...


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pp. 163-194


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pp. 195-204


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pp. 205-210

Other Books in Fordham's American Philosophy Series

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pp. 211-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247929
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823224623
Print-ISBN-10: 0823224627

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2005