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Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups

Naoko Saito

Publication Year: 2012

What could it mean to speak of philosophy as the education of grownups? This book takes Stanley Cavell's much-quoted, yet enigmatic phrase as the provocation for a series of explorations into themes of education that run throughout his work - through his response to Wittgenstein, Austin and ordinary language philosophy, through his readings of Thoreau and of the moral perfectionism he identifies with Emerson, through his discussions of literature and film. Hilary Putnam has described Cavell not only as one of the most creative thinkers of today but as amongst the few contemporary philosophers to explore the territory of philosophy as education. Yet in mainstream philosophy his work is apt to be referred to rather than engaged with, and the full import of his writings for education is still to be appreciated. Cavell engages in a sustained exploration of the nature of philosophy, and this is not separable from his preoccupation with what it is to teach and to learn, with the kinds of transformation these might imply, and with the significance of these things for our language and politics, for our lives as a whole.In recent years Cavell's work has been the subject of a number of books of essays, but this is the first to address directly the importance of education in his work. Such matters cannot fail to be of significance not only for the disciplinary fields of philosophy and education, but in politics, literature, and film studies - and in the humanities as a whole. A substantial introduction provides an overview of the philosophical purchase of questions of education in his work, while the essays are framed by two new pieces by Cavell himself. The book shows what it means to read Cavell, and simultaneously what it means to read philosophically, in itself a part of our education as grownups.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-18

Our lives require of us change. How are we changed? And how far is this change education? We learn far more than we are taught, and we learn inevitably, in spite of ourselves. Yet sometimes we fail to learn because of ourselves. We can seek out our education, and education can be thrust upon us. ...

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1. Philosophy as the Education of Grownups

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pp. 19-34

The text that follows has turned out to become something quite different from what I thought I was preparing for this occasion. This is anything but unique in my case or, I believe, to my case. But the reason for it is, in my case, unique. Having within the past month completed the first thorough editing of the autobiography ...

Part I : Entries in the Education of Grownups

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2. The Fact/Value Dichotomy and Its Critics

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pp. 37-54

My favorite definition of philosophy is Stanley Cavell’s: ‘‘education for grownups.’’1 In this essay, I shall discuss an issue that is obviously a philosophical one and, at the same time, one on which many who certainly consider themselves ‘‘grownups,’’ including many philosophers, economists, lawyers, ...

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3. Encountering Cavell: The Education of a Grownup

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pp. 55-70

I first heard the name of Stanley Cavell in Oxford, where I was studying philosophy, politics, and economics after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn I had taken all the philosophy I could, Greek and Chinese, philosophy of science and philosophy of the social sciences, logical positivism and pragmatism, ...

Part II: Skepticism and Language

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4. Skepticism, Acknowledgement, and the Ownership of Learning

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pp. 73-87

Questions concerning the ownership of learning have been prominent for a number of years. Sometimes they relate to the control of the curriculum, sometimes to matters of choice, and sometimes to more psychological dimensions of learning and enquiry. They emerge in various contexts and take different forms. ...

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5. Sensual Schooling: On the Aesthetic Education of Grownups

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pp. 88-120

This is hardly news, but still, the dramatic rhetoric Whitehead uses (‘‘a public danger’’) makes us realize that the platitude according to which things are changing faster and faster presents an urgent educational situation. Some years later, Whitehead identified another public danger, one also related to education. ...

Part III: Moral Perfectionism and Education

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6. Voice and the Interrogation of Philosophy: Inheritance, Abandonment, and Jazz

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pp. 123-147

We are trained to dissociate our philosophical voices from their uniquely autobiographical inflections. Initiation into philosophical discourse demands, at the very least, working hard to erase merely idiosyncratic inflections. But the literary achievement of an author such as Stanley Cavell ...

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7. Perfectionism’s Educational Address

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pp. 148-169

Like many professional school administrators, I have had to participate in my share of curricular debates about what constitutes the right balance between collegiate courses in the major and in the liberal arts. In my experience, such debates are not entirely reducible to clashes of material interests; ...

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8. The Gleam of Light: Initiation, Prophesy, and Emersonian Moral Perfectionism

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pp. 170-187

If these remarks of Stanley Cavell on Thoreau’s Walden imply a questioning of the general culture of ‘‘reading,’’ this must be all the more urgent in an age of globalization. What does it mean to read in philosophy, and what does this say about education? What can philosophy say about education? ...

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9. The Ordinary as Sublime in Cavell, Zen, and Nishida: Cavell’s Philosophy of Education in East-West Perspective

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pp. 188-204

In this chapter, I elucidate ‘‘the ordinary’’ as the fundamental category in the Emersonian perfectionism underlying Stanley Cavell’s philosophy of education in contemporary American philosophy and relate it to Zen/Chan Buddhism and Confucianism. Here I develop Cavell’s notion of philosophy as ‘‘education for grownups’’ ...


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10. Philosophy as Education

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pp. 207-214

It is gratifying to me that the idea of conceiving philosophy as ‘‘the education of grownups’’ has recently been focused upon by readers of The Claim of Reason and has found some favor with them. And, of course, it is further gratifying to me that the point of the formulation seems quite well understood, ...


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pp. 215-242


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pp. 243-252

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pp. 253-256

René Arcilla is a Professor of Philosophy of Education at New York University’s Steinhardt School. He is the author of numerous articles and the book For the Love of Perfection: Richard Rorty and Liberal Education (1995); ...


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pp. 257-262

Further Reading

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pp. 273-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780823253661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823234738
Print-ISBN-10: 0823234738

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012