Educational Philosophy and Theory 51 (5):478-487 (2019)

This article will highlight the distinctive role of Cavell in renewing a dawn of American philosophy. Following Emerson’s remark, ‘the inmost in due time becomes the outmost’, Cavell develops his distinctive line of antifoundationalist thought. To show how unique and valuable Cavell’s endeavor to resuscitate Emerson’s and Thoreau’s voice in American philosophy is, this paper discusses the political implications of Cavell’s Emersonian moral perfectionism. This involves a reconsideration of what measures justice and what justifies happiness. While Cavell is sometimes said to be too personal and too subjective to be political, I shall argue that his Emersonian perfectionism, with its concomitant idea of the conversation of justice, is in fact thoroughly political and democratic. I shall illustrate this by examining his writing on a Hollywood film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The film shows vividly that happiness is a condition for achieving democracy from within. In conclusion, I shall propose that a readiness for the risk inherent in speech, rather than, say, acquiescing in received ideas or hiding behind the words of others, is at the heart of perfectionist education for globally minded citizens.
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DOI 10.1080/00131857.2017.1360183
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Must We Mean What We Say?Stanley Cavell - 1958 - In V. C. Chappell (ed.), Inquiry. New York: Dover Publications. pp. 172 – 212.

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