Code: DP-5


Citizenship Without Inclusion:

Religious Democracy after Dewey, Emerson, and Thoreau


I. Introduction: Reconsidering citizenship in the age of globalization


It is said, and said truly, that for the world’s peace it is necessary that we understand the peoples of foreign lands. How well do we understand, I wonder, our next door neighbors? . . . The chances of regard for distant peoples being effective as long as there is no close neighborhood experience to bring with it insight and understanding of neighbors do not seem better.[1]


Discussing the erosion of the public in American society in 1927, John Dewey criticized what he saw as a hollow concept and practice of "citizenship" in democracy. In the "void between government and the public" (ibid., p. 310), men became, he warned, "skeptical of the efficiency of political action" (Ibid., p. 319). Indifference and apathy, he says, are the signs of the bewildered public. The crisis of democracy and citizenship involves a situation in which one cannot articulate one’s feelings, or where, in the loss of one’s own taste, one does not know "what one really wants."[2] Citizenship is a political concept, and its development is inseparable from both the expansion of human rights and deliberative democracy.[3] Dewey, however, reminds us today that the crisis of the "eclipse of the public" has a bearing not only on democracy as a matter of deliberative procedure or political participation but also on one’s ways of living, on an ethical dimension of life that precedes political and ideological dimensions – the dimension that involves the question of how one should live, and how one should relate oneself to others.

Nearly eighty years after Dewey’s times, we find ourselves in an age of globalization. Education for citizenship faces a new challenge. With the extended and borderless network of global communication, the shrinking and hollowing of public awareness continue to pose a threat that extends beyond national boundaries to the global. On the one hand, neo-liberalism as a form of "democracy" has dominated our mode of living. In the standardization of people’s minds, people’s tastes and styles of life become uniform. The "United Kingdom of Benneton" symbolizes our new form of universalism. On the other hand, neo-conservatism becomes another form of "democracy." Nationalism, patriotism, and, in the worst case, militarism have seen a resurgence around the world. In virtue-oriented character education, it is taught that to be moral is to be a good citizen of the nation. Social participation is enforced in the name of democracy. An absolutist attitude dominates inside the "we."

Behind the drive towards definite, articulated goals, whether in the world economy or in the absolutist form of moral education, the space for the indefinite has been excluded. Awareness of the presence of others in "foreign lands" decreases despite increasing amounts of information. There is an invisible loss of the sense of elevation concerning what we live for, whom we live with, and where we live, an emptiness that is replenished by the limited alternatives of nationalism, a narrow secular liberalism, or, in the extreme case, fundamentalism in religion. In the culture of cynicism and indifference there is a draining of energy that deprives us of our sense of being citizens not only of the nation but of the world. In the enfeebling of voice in free expression, civil rights are exercised merely in a kind of lip-service. These are the signs of spiritual crisis, of the decline of democracy. If so, where shall we regain the source of inspiration and aspiration to fill the spiritual void that is produced as a product of democracy? This is the question this paper will address.

I shall seek an answer by exploring the potential of Deweyan pragmatism and democracy. Dewey helps us reconsider what is missing in democracy and citizenship in an age of globalization. Beyond the limited forms of absolutism, relativism, and universalism, and beyond the absolutist appeal to religion or to personal salvation through psychological counseling, Dewey’s pragmatism gives us a hint for another way for re-awakening our global awareness in citizenship - from within our spirit as a form of religious experience. In response to various challenges in our times, however, I propose to enhance the potential of Dewey’s religious democracy in dialogue with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Stanley Cavell. Their perfectionism shows the diverse forms of social participation and the need for cultivating elevation of spirit and aspiration as the fundamental basis of citizenship in a religious democracy. I shall conclude that the virtue of civil disobedience is a key to achieving citizenship without inclusion.


II. Deweyan pragmatism reconsidered in the contemporary debate over patriotism and cosmopolitanism


"Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the neighborly community" (PP, p. 368) – Home is the cultivating ground for true love, Dewey says. Love for one’s nation and for one’s home are the original points of departure for global citizenship. Dewey’s pragmatist concept of democracy has implications for the contemporary debate over democracy and education for citizenship, particularly over the question of whether democratic community beyond national boundaries is ever possible. Dewey has a faith that the democracy that he envisions can transcend physical, political, and cultural divisions.

For Dewey democracy is not a fixed state or presupposed goal; rather its meanings and values are on the way – being discovered, created, and reconstructed; democracy is not some fixed telos, but rather as something forever to be worked towards, never finally to be achieved. Still, he says, the meaning of democracy exists in the actual process of creation. It is an ideal, "perfected" state in which joint activity is "a good shared by all," the ensemble of individual goods that constitute the common good (Ibid., p. 328). Dewey’s idea of the common good is not of a single, unified good, but one that accommodates diversity in the process of its creation and grants an opportunity for the sharing of diverse perspectives. The common good is pluralistic and changeable. This is the essence of Dewey’s liberal-communitarian view of democracy.

Deweyan pragmatism can still contribute to ongoing debates concerning patriotism and cosmopolitanism – in Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, for example. Rorty’s representation of Dewey’s pragmatism as socio-cultural relativism (in the synthesis of de-ontologized Hegelian historicism and relativized Darwinian naturalism) interprets Deweyan community as basically rooted in a certain culture or country.[4] Rorty says:


[T]he utopian world community envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights is no more the destiny of humanity than is an atomic holocaust or the replacement of democratic governments by feuding warlords.[5]


This illustrates Rorty’s antifoundationalism – his view that there is no absolute common ground that humanity as such can share and stand on. In line with the Darwinian aspects of Dewey’s views, Rorty argues that beliefs are not "representations" but "habits of action" in particular culture and particular times. Appropriating Michael Waltzer’s distinction, Rorty claims that the "thick morality" of society is composed of the "thick set of customs and institutions" that commands the "moral allegiance" of the people.[6] Rorty advocates a kind of patriotism.

This triggers the uneasiness among those who seek to build a peaceful global community. Nussbaum reacts to appeal to "the emotion of national pride" and "a sense of shared national identity" in Rorty’s patriotism. Trapped within the "borders of the nation," this creates, she argues, an inward-looking tendency, blocking our allegiance to "the worldwide community of human beings"; it cannot resist jingoism. To expand the circles of our life, and to raise awareness beyond its boundaries, Nussbaum proposes cosmopolitan education – education for "world citizenship, rather than democratic or national citizenship." She follows the Stoics’ idea of the kosmou polites, associating it with Kant’s "kingdom of ends" – community from the perspective of humanity and universal moral norms. Echoing the Stoics, Nussbaum speaks of concentric circles – the world community beginning with the self, moving on to the immediate family, to the local community, to the country, and finally to the largest circle, "humanity as a whole." In the final, and indeed, the best state of the world community, all humans can recognize and share "common aims" and "common ends," the basis of global dialogue. Her stance is universalist in the sense that she appeals to the "world community of justice and reason" and "basic features of human person hood that obviously also transcend national boundaries."[7]

The nature of the common good as Nussbaum sees it, however, radically differs from Dewey’s pragmatist view of common good. Hilary Putnam sheds light on the value of Deweyan pragmatism as a third way, beyond Rorty’s relativism and Nusmaum’s universalism. Putnam finds Nussbaum’s notion of cosmopolitanism empty as it relies on universal reason – reason independent of all traditions as the "neutral source of values" for citizens of the world. Putnam writes: "there is no such thing as a universal conception of ‘the good life.’" There are and should be many forms of lives between which goods are incompatible. Each good is embedded in a concrete way of life: "Tradition without reason is blind; reason without tradition is empty." The "moral weight" of good is inseparable from where one is from and who one is. Putnam’s appeal to tradition preserves the concept of patriotism but opens the space for interdependent relationships between different cultures and nations – relationships beyond existing boundaries. Moral belief is then "situated" in a culture and tradition, but such that it can be criticized and discussed, and hence reconstructed, within and without its original boundaries. This interactive and dynamic conception of the good is made possible by the "conduct of moral inquiry," a form of intelligence that Putnam inherits from Dewey: practical and situated intelligence as an alternative to universal reason.[8] Putnam calls this "the democratization of inquiry,"[9] through which "ethical objectivity" without reliance on "a universal set of ‘criteria’" is made possible. This pragmatist concept of objectivity is a "justification without foundations."[10] Putnam opens a way beyond foundationalism without falling into Rortian relativist antifoundationalism, and without appealing to Nussbaum’s foundationalist conception of universal goods.

Moral inquiry requires the "endless renegotiation" of mutual habits and action – finding and re-finding oneself in encounter with others, revising the mutual foundation of belief and habits. This follows Dewey’s idea of "mutual national understanding."[11] Unlike Rorty’s argument for dialogue between the "thin" moralities of different cultures – thin in the sense of being more peripheral and contingent than thick moralities – Dewey seeks dialogue between their thick moralities, moralities that are embedded in the habits of indigenous people. Beginning with the intermediate level of communities, Putnam claims that Deweyan democratic education is conducted with the aim of raising children who will become members of a pluralistic, but not relativistic, democratic society on a global scale.[12]


III. Dewey’s religious democracy reconstructed in the light of Emersonian moral perfectionism


Towards religious democracy

If it is to be relevant to citizenship education today, however, Deweyan pragmatism must respond to the diverse challenges that democracy confronts today. The first challenge is the potential danger of assimilation in the name of social inclusion. Regarding the situation in the U. K., Paul Standish criticizes a conception of social inclusion in which in which citizens are reduced being "the bearers of rights,"[13] and where real difference, the otherness of the different, is subsumed under uniform and neutralized conceptions of rights and tolerance.

A second pressing task is the enhancement, in the face of the ironical shrinking and flattening that globalization brings, of a global awareness beyond the defensive ethos of our times. In Japan, for instance, the phenomenon of nihilism in learning – what Manabu Sato calls "children’s escape from learning" – blocks the democratic aspiration towards inquiry and critical dialogue, in schools and at home.[14] In reaction to what are seen as "moral dangers," an absolutist form of moral education, accompanied by patriotism, is gaining momentum. A defensive and inward-looking exclusion of the foreign and the deviant in the name of "love for Japan" is increasing in spite of calls for internationalization (kokusai-ka, or opening Japan to the world). The move to change the Fundamental Law of Education – which was originally implemented after the Second World War and based on the American model of democracy – has recently gained momentum. Intellectuals on the left are wary of a return to the totalitarianism and militarism of pre-war Japan.[15] Democracy in the name of the absolute good can, as we have seen in the world generally, readily become an excuse for ethnic and moral cleansing.

Furthermore, the loss of common ground between ethic and religious groups is demonstrated in continuing wars and tensions around the world. The sense of groundless is too real to be ignored. If Dewey’s pragmatic recommendation is literally followed, any sense of an absolute ground on which we can stand should be abolished. How then should we initiate and continue the search for the common when we confront real difference in values, with no apparent hope for reconciliation?

These situations bring us back to a deeper, perhaps primary level of our existence that precedes democracy as political procedure and mechanism, to what might be called the spiritual dimension of our existence. Indeed Dewey discusses the religious dimension of democracy.[16] When Dewey uses the term, the "religious," he does not appeal to the any sect of a religion, or any fundamentalist form of religion. He uses the adjective "religious" to connote a spiritual quality of human experience – the intensity of living for "a fulfillment that reaches to the depths of our being."[17] This is made possible through an organic interaction between a being and its environment. Dewey’s religion is naturalistic; it takes place on earth, in our daily experiences (CF, p. 33). Religious aspiration is a form of "passionate intelligence" (Ibid., p. 52). Beyond any narrow boundary, democracy becomes "the common faith of mankind" (Ibid., p. 58).

From this religious perspective, Dewey’s metaphor of democracy at home signifies who one is and how one should live. He suggests that education of citizenship and the enhancement of global awareness must begin by transforming one’s personal way of being in the world[18]: "individuals who are democratic in thought and action, are the sole final warrant for the existence and endurance of democratic institutions."[19]

Dewey presents the idea of "friendship" in political dialogue. He says, "the expression of difference is not only a right of the other persons but is a means of enriching one’s own life-experience" (CD, p. 228). This is an exacting demand: Dewey encourages us to treat those who are radically different from ourselves as friends. Dewey’s friendship calls for a courageous and radical encounter with the other without holding on to one’s foundation. Such attitudes and actions in friendship touch upon a dimension of our life that precedes the political concept of "right." This he calls democracy as a personal way of living. A challenge to Deweyan religious democracy then is to show how we might leave our familiar ground with doubt and criticism, while beginning with love for home.


Reconstructing Dewey’s religious democracy in the light of Emersonian moral perfectionism

In response to this challenge, I propose to develop Dewey’s religious democracy in dialogue with Emersonian moral perfectionism – an idea that Stanley Cavell considers.[20] Perfectionism is a quest for the good life involving the question of how one should live a better life, orientated towards the best and highest state of self and society. Cavell finds a distinguishably American version of perfectionism in the thought of Emerson – a view of human perfection that is located in the ordinary and that sharply contrasts with the teleological form of Plato’s and Aristotle’s perfectionism. The essence of Emersonian moral perfectionism, as Cavell presents it, is the endless journey of self-overcoming and self-realization whose central focus is on the here and now, in the process of attaining a further, next self, not the highest self. Drawing on Emerson’s idea of the "unattained but attainable self" in "History," Cavell writes: "the self is always attained, as well as to be attained" (Con, p. 12) and "each state of the self is, so to speak, final" (Ibid., p. 3).[21] Emersonian perfectionism refuses final perfectibility. This, indeed, is akin to Dewey’s criticism of the Greek "love of perfection,"[22] and his understanding, in connection with his ideas of growth without fixed ends and habit reconstruction, of "perfection [as] perfecting." Deweyan growth is an assiduous process of self-overcoming without resting upon "attained goods."[23]

In response to the question, "Is Moral Perfectionism inherently elitist?" (Ibid., p. 1), and to Rawls’ opposition to any elitist version of perfectionism (including Nietzsche’s), Cavell alleges that Emerson’s perfectionism is essentially democratic: it is a call to the potential nobility of the self, say, its spiritual transformation, rather than the endorsement of political inequality. Siding with Emerson who claims that "genius" is not the privilege of a few individuals but the "sound estate of every man,"[24] Cavell claims that the responsibility of criticism is "universally distributed" among each of us as a capacity (Ibid., p. 9). The Emersonian self is involved in the continuous illumination of the state of "my" compromise with "my" society, with a strong sense of shame towards conformity; my self-realization consists in my response to my society in my own voice of criticism. Liberty is "my liberty as a matter of my voice" (Ibid., p. 27-28) for the "criticism of democracy from within" (Ibid., p. 3). Cavell revives Emersonian non-conformity not for the cause of isolationism but for the sake of the betterment of self and society in search of unity, as a form of social participation. It is a resistance to a "shrinking participation in democracy" (Ibid., p. 51).

Indeed Dewey himself acknowledges these perfectionist and democratic strains in Emerson, whom he called "The Philosopher of Democracy."[25] The reconstruction of Deweyan pragmatism in the light of Emersonian perfectionism helps us appreciate anew the religious dimension of Deweyan democracy – his sense of democracy as both attained and unattained, not as some fixed telos, but rather as something forever to be worked towards, never finally to be achieved. This perfectionist worldview is best captured by Emerson’s idea of the "flying Perfect": "Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn. . . . This fact, as afar at is symbolizes the moral fact of the Unattainable, the flying Perfect.[26]

Emerson’s sense of perfection is permeated by a poignant sense of imperfection – even as it searches for "the soul of the whole," a state of unity in which each self is embraced. Unlike Nussbaum’s idea of concentric circles, however, – though Emerson also uses the same term (Circles, p. 171) – the self in Emersonian circles does not start with or rest on any presupposed unity or commonality. It is more pragmatic and experimental: "there is always a residuum unknown, unanalyzable. That is, every man believes that he has a greater possibility" (Ibid., p. 168). And he claims: "I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back" (Ibid., p. 173).

Similarly, in his later aesthetic writings especially, Dewey speaks of "ever-recurring cycles of growth" and of "an expanded whole" (AE, p. 152, 177). His Emersonian sense of attained and unattained perfection accommodates loss, limitation, or failure – as much as gain, possibility, and success – as integral parts of the human condition: "progress is not necessarily advance" (Ibid., p. 216). In the perfectionism of both Emerson and Dewey, the common good cannot be determined in advance; it is always something we should be in search of. Growth is an endless process of transcending the existing boundaries of the self.

Cavell identifies an unending path in Emerson’s "ever-widening circles" and "endless, discontinuous encirclings" (Con, p. xxxiv)[27]; but more radically than Dewey, Cavell responds to Emerson’s "Let me live onward" (Circles, p. 173). Cavell indicates a possibility of Emersonian self-transcendence that avoids perfectibility, which would be a conformity to or inclusion in some kind of whole. A key for such transcendence, Cavell claims, lies in the Whim or prophetic impulse to be found in Emerson’s idea of self-reliance (Ibid., p. 173).


I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last.[28]


Whim is a term that is usually associated with capriciousness or selfishness. Emerson and Cavell recreate its meaning. "Whim" is our undeniably spontaneous "Instinct," coming "from below, not above" (Ibid.; Senses, p. 154). Whim is a source of a non-conforming spirit of criticism – though there is no guarantee beforehand that it will find a successful path. Cavell says that the task of the Emersonian self is to express Whim as hope, the hope that "it is somewhat better than whim at last." Emersonian Whim is a creative drive and prophetic impulse that produces a moment for "leaving," "departure," "abandonment," or "setting out" in our existing poverty, with the sense of shame and imperfection, towards the world of uncertainty. Whim is a source of Emersonian "onward thinking" (Senses, pp. 136-137). The courage to detach oneself from one’s previous state and to create a new path through expanding circles is the gist of Emersonian self-transcendence and perfection.

It is this life of non-conformity and discontinuance that makes possible the combination of self-reliance and unity that characterizes Emerson’s expanding circles. The foremost task of Emersonian education is to acquire self-reliance by remembering and awakening the lost Whim, to become a "hero who is immovably centered."[29] At the same time, such centeredness is always released from narrow concentration and towards a larger whole, one that "contains all its circles" (Circles, p. 174). Emerson expresses this whole as a "third" standpoint beyond the self and the other, the standpoint of impersonality.[30] This represents the standpoint of self-transcendence, the standpoint of otherness. From this broader perspective on life, care for one’s self and care for the other will become inseparable; we learn to search of what is common, without relying on any fixed ground. This struggle is driven by a faith that "the inmost in due time becomes the outmost" (SR, p. 131).


Thoreau and the virtue of civil disobedience: A further step in Emersonian perfectionism

Like Deweyan democracy, Emersonian democracy begins at home; unlike the Deweyan, however, the Emersonian has a stronger drive towards leaving home. In this act of leaving, the self resists any comfort of hospitality at home that assimilates – and in reality, alienates – the different. To keep perfecting Dewey’s religious democracy and to educate citizenship towards global awareness, Emerson suggests that the virtue of civil disobedience is crucial – disobedience, not as rebellion, but as resistance.

                Of course, someone who practiced and expressed the virtue of civil disobedience more explicitly than Emerson, and more radically than Dewey, is Thoreau.[31] Opposing slavery and America’s engagement in Mexican war in his times, Thoreau related himself – from within his conscience – to his American government. He was especially critical of the good citizen who showed "the virtue of patriotism" – who disapproved the measures of a government, on the one hand, and who, on the other, yielded their allegiance to the government by paying tax (Civil, p. 242). Thoreau’s disobedience to the government is not for anarchism but resistance from within to the fallen state of democracy – a form of love for his country.

Practicing Deweyan democracy that begins at home, from within one’s conscience, but doing this more radically than Dewey, Thoreau presents the standpoint of a minority: "any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already" (Ibid., p. 244). As if to respond to Dewey’s call, in "I Believe," for the individual as the center of democracy, Thoreau speaks in the voice of the "I" of a single citizen. He does so by converting the perspective, as if to see the world from within prison. Prison may be the result of his refusal to pay the tax, but it constitutes the experience of liberation. Overturning the relationship between minority and majority, and the peripheral and the center, Thoreau criticized politicians who stayed cozily within the home (and suggestively within the nation), and who lacked a perspective beyond the home (Ibid., p. 254). Prison becomes a metaphor of real home as the place for democracy, "the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor" (Ibid., p. 245). Acquiring this higher standpoint of self-transcendence, Thoreau reminds us, is a way towards otherness through self-reliance.

Indeed the virtue of civil disobedience that Thoreau practiced overlaps with Cavell’s Emersonian perfectionist way of living – extending and transcending the existing boundaries of the self, and resisting man’s fated tendency towards conformity and assimilation to the familiar. In Walden, Thoreau enacts this traveling across boundaries and transcendence, declaring "Extra vagance!"[32] Thoreau calls for perfectionism without "purity," and perfection in expanding circles:


If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new universal, and moral liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live the license of a higher order of beings (Ibid., pp. 220-221).


He has the solid sense of a foundation on foot (Ibid., p. 225), but this is a kind of foundation that is always being left, and transcended through a continuous act of leaving familiar and secure ground. Thoreau maintains the sense of resistance to loss, failure, and obliteration by confronting his own words: "I desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments" (Ibid., p. 221).

Cavell reinterprets Thoreau’s life in Walden as his experiment with words in order to be a "true prophet" (Senses, p. 40). Referring to Thoreau’s words, "We should live quite laxly and undefined in front," Cavell suggests that "a continuous activity" in experiment with words determines the path of ongoing perfection: "It is placing ourselves in the world" (Ibid., p. 45, 53). Thoreau says, "The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement. Their truth is instantly translated; its literal monument alone remains" (Walden, p. 221). In continuous resistance to the fixation of words (and hence molding ourselves within words), Thoreau and Cavell suggest that we learn to be responsible to our own words, and hence to the world. They remind us that the action of the heart and the action of expression are also the ingredients of the conscientious action of citizenship. This literary acting – a concept broader perhaps than Dewey’s pragmatism, strongly tied as this is to the action of physical movement – is at the heart of civil disobedience.


IV. Conclusion: Education for citizenship without inclusion


Deweyan religious democracy, reconstructed and developed in the light of Emersonian perfectionism and Thoreau’s virtue of civil disobedience, is critical for citizenship education in an age of globalization: citizenship without inclusion. It points to a kind of education that would create the space for deviation and discontinuity in search of the common. Doubting and criticizing foundations, Emersonian perfectionism leaves a vacuum within a culture. The resuscitation of culture awaits the prophetic voice of the dissident as good patriot; resistance to full participation is a way towards perfectionism without final perfectibility. Without such resistance, perfectionism’s teleology can easily fall into totalitarianism or fascism. Thoreau’s standpoint, its minority speaking from the peripheral but critical edge of the culture, suggests a way to resist totalitarian tendencies. It offers a standpoint of a care for the alien and humility towards the other that exists outside of the boundary of home.

Education for citizenship can be conducted across the curriculum as the core of moral education in a broader sense. In teaching history, for example, exposing a child to such multiplicity as well as offering the standpoint of the dissident are ways of enhancing her global awareness while starting from home. In foreign language classes, the experience of teaching not only the native language with multiple foreign languages introduced alongside can create the sense of a gap and discontinuity as this is necessarily involved in the process of translation between different languages. Cultivating the awareness of distance is a precondition for the teaching of foreign languages as the art of translation. If students are encouraged to study a foreign language with a sense of the impossibility both of full translation and of perfect understanding, the very experience of difficulty may cultivate in them a drive for further perfection in their understanding of unknowable others at the same time as a recognition of its impossibility. This approach unsettles the naïve assumption that a foreign language is simply a different code for saying the same thing.

Following Dewey after Emerson and Thoreau, citizenship without inclusion calls for the re-education of the personal taste and prophetic impulse of the child. Dewey reminds us of the need for re-awakening one’s voice in connection with "personal taste" (CC, p. 138) and "personal discrimination" – courage first to think and then to think out loud (Ibid., p. 136). In his later writings Dewey emphasizes the need for the re-education of personal taste, impulse, and perception for creative democracy, as a condition of "creative intelligence" (AE, p. 351). In the contemporary culture of nihilism and conformity, the re-education of Deweyan impulse as Emersonian whim can be a powerful key to enhancing the potential of moral inquiry, as Putnam suggests, without relying on a universal reason guaranteeing unity from the beginning. Prophetic impulse is a natural reservoir that each of us has, and a precondition of critical inquiry.

In teaching the native language, Thoreau (and indeed, Emerson and Dewey) reminds us to be a poet, the creator of new language by expressing one’s own taste and by experimenting with her prophetic impulse – starting from within the boundaries of the native language, but without being bounded by it. Such a creative act is a way of sharpening one’s sense of resistance to conformity – for instance, that conformity to the language of moral lessons that is molded in the grammar of fixed concepts, or that conformity to the language of human rights that is deprived of any real sense of the foreign.

The education of personal taste and creative expression, however, should not be identified with a child-centered form of progressive education. For Dewey, Emerson, Cavell, and even Thoreau, friendship, a truthful encounter with the other, is a key to cultivating one’s whim. In his later aesthetic writings, Dewey suggests the possibility of transcendence in friendship:


Friendship and intimate affection are not the result of information about another person even though knowledge may further their formation. But it does so only as it becomes an integral part of sympathy through the imagination. . . . We learn to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and their results give true instruction, for they are built into our own structure. (Ibid., p. 339)


Dewey touches upon a way of transcending the boundary of the self and releasing it to the other, without assimilation or exclusion. Conversation among friends involves more than the understanding of the other as the object of knowledge, or framing the other in one’s own perspective. Openness to the difference of others means the reception of the other’s life as a part of one’s own structure of thought. Friendship in itself involves the "arts of living" (Ibid., p. 339); it precedes political justice and right.

In the continuing debate over patriotism and cosmopolitanism, Deweyan religious democracy, reconsidered and reconstructed in the light of Emersonian perfectionism, leads us to the following thesis: We must unsettle ourselves and leave home in order to find home again. This is not to trivialize one’s own culture and traditions; it is rather to enrich them by leaving them. To familiarize oneself with the unfamiliar, to open oneself to the different, one must exercise the courage to leave the familiar and to throw oneself into the unknown. Such openness can be acquired by acknowledging the imperfectibility of one’s own existing knowledge, with an enduring sense of an inevitable gap. If democracy is always on the way, in process of perfecting, it is the cultivation of self-transcendence that offers the key to global awareness in an age of globalization.


[1] John Dewey, The Public and its Problems in The Later Works of John Dewey, Vol. 2, ed. Jo ann Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984), pp. 311-312 (hereafter this work is cited as PP; the Middle Works is abbreviated as "MW," the Later Works, "LW."

[2] John Dewey, "Construction and Criticism," in LW5, 133 (hereafter cited as CC).

[3] Penny Enslin and Patricia White, "Democratic Citizenship," in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Education, eds. Nigel Blake, Paul Smeyers, Richard Smith, and Paul Standish (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2003), 112, 115.

[4] Richard Rorty, "Dewey between Hegel and Darwin," in Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers 3 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 292.

[5] Richard Rorty, "Introduction: Relativism: Finding and Making," in Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (London: Penguin Books, 1999), xxxii.

[6] Ibid., xxv, xxxi.

[7] Martha C. Nussbaum, "Patriotism and Cosmpolitanism," in Nussbaum, For Love of Country? (Boston: Beacon Press Books, 1996): 2-17.

[8] Hilary Putnam, "Must We Choose between Patriotism and Universal Reason?" in Nussbaum, For Love of Country?, 91-97.

[9] Putnam, "Pragmatism and Moral Objectivity," Hilary Putnam, Words and Life, ed. James Conant (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1994), 172-173.

[10] Ibid., 176; Hilary Putnam and Ruth Anna Putnam, "Dewey’s Logic," in Hilary Putnam, Words and Life, 214-215; 217-218.

[11] Dewey writes this following his visits to China and Japan. See John Dewey, "Some Factors in Mutual National Understanding," in MW, 262.

[12] Hilary Putnam with Ruth Anna Putnam, "Education for Democracy," in Hilary Putnam, Words and Life, 237-239.

[13] Paul Standish, "From Moral Education to Citizenship: principles and problems in UK policy," Journal of the International Christian University, Tokyo, 44, March, 2002, 243-262.

[14] Manabu Sato, "‘Manabi’kara Toso suru Kodomotachi" ["Children Escaping from ‘Learning’"], in Iwanami Booklet, No. 524 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2001).

[15] Tetsuya Takahashi and Akiko Miyake, "Kore wa ‘Kokumin Seishin Kaizo Undo" da" ["This is the ‘Movement for Reconstructing the National Spirit’"], in Sekai, No. 712 (Tokyo: Iwanami, 2003): 33-47; Manabu Sato, "Gakuryoku o toi-naosu: Manabi-no curriculum he" ["Re-questioning academic achievement: Towards curriculum for learning"], in Iwanami Booklet, No. 548 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2001), 36. I thank Manabu Sato and Tetsuya Takahashi respectively for their interpretation of the situation surrounding neo-liberalism and neo-nationalism in connection with Japanese education.

[16] John Dewey, A Common Faith, in LW9, 92 (hereafter cited as CF).

[17] John Dewey, Art as Experience, in LW10, 23 (hereafter cited as "AE").

[18] John Dewey, "Creative Democracy," in LW14 (hereafter cited as CD).

[19] John Dewey, "I Believe," in LW14, 92 (hereafter cited as IB).

[20] Stanley Cavell, Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1990) (hereafter cited as "Con" in the text).

[21] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "History," Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Richard Poirier [Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1990], 115.

[22] John Dewey, Experience and Nature, in LW1, 162.

[23] John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, in MW14, 122, 199 (hereafter cited as HNC).

[24] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar," Ralph Waldo Emerson, 41.

[25] John Dewey, "Emerson – The Philosopher of Democracy," MW 3.

[26] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Circles," in Ralph Waldo Emerson, 166 (hereafter cited as Circles).

[27] Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 128.

[28] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Ralph Waldo Emerson, 134 ).

[29] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Considerations by the Way," in Ralph Waldo Emerson, 396.

[30] Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Over-Soul," in Ralph Waldo Emerson, 153, 157.

[31] Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, in Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Sheraman Paul (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957) (hereafter cited as Civil).

[32] Henry David Thoreau, Walden, in Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Sheraman Paul (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957), 220 (hereafter cited as Walden).