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Changing politics: Thoreau, Dewey and Cavell, and democracy as a way of life

This paper reconsiders the meaning of political action by way of a dialogue between Dewey, Thoreau, and Cavell. These philosophers demonstrate possibilities of political engagement and participation. Especially in response to the psychological and emotional dimensions of political crisis today, I shall claim that American philosophy can demonstrate something beyond problem-solving as conventionally understood in politics and that it has the potential to re-place philosophy in such a manner that politics itself is changed. First, I shall draw a contrast between the ways of political action demonstrated respectively by Dewey and Thoreau. Some points of divergence are revealed within American philosophy. I shall then explore the partially different sense of political action implied by Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy, identifying this as the politics of acknowledgment. Finally, I shall propose the idea of challenging inclusion as an alternative political education for human transformation, taking this as a key to changing politics.

Naoko Saito
Kyoto University
Japan

 

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