In this chapter René Vincente Arcilla draws out from Emersonian moral perfectionism the idea of the “perfectionist text” as an avenue through which the person who has lost her way has a chance of regaining that way. This is understood to involve self-cultivation and friendship, where the encounter with the perfectionist text exemplifies the provocation from the friend that the receptive reader most needs. This requires humbling acceptance that one's work is destined to be grist to the mill of critical departure, such that the aim of becoming intelligible to oneself is conjoined with the cultivation of a democracy based on mutual learning. Arcilla's discussion examines the moral necessities of perfectionism in relation to major currents in modernism and existentialism, and he raises tentative doubts about the connotations of selflessness that Cavell's favored term may carry. The quest for self-understanding has historically been in tension with learning as the gratification of curiosity. It is the emphasis on the former, which Arcilla finds richly elaborated in Cavell, that offers a promising course for the future of liberal learning.
Keywords: Liberal learning; Emersonian moral perfectionism; perfectionist text; self-cultivation; friendship; democracy; modernism; existentialism
Chapter. 8099 words.
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