The Gleam of Light: <i>Initiation, Prophesy, and Emersonian Moral Perfectionism</i>

Naoko Saito

in Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780823234738
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823240753 | DOI:

Series: American Philosophy

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

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In this chapter Naoko Saito explores the prophetic dimension in Cavell's idea of philosophy as the education of grownups, which she interprets in terms of the necessity of the renewal of the self and language. The idea of mutual education is examined in the light of the apparent tension it raises between self-cultivation and the need for the other. Taking its lead from Cavell's politics of interpretation, the chapter eases this tension by demonstrating the intricate relation between initiation into and departure from one's language community. It is in Emerson's assertion that “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes from his mind from within” that Saito finds her title phrase and from which she draws the idea of the other as teacher attesting to the prophetic renewal of language. This opens a path from the inmost to the outmost, demonstrating the inseparability of democracy and education. In the course of her discussion, she is at pains to stress Emerson's American voice and hence to evoke the idea of a democracy always still to come.

Keywords: Emersonian moral perfectionism; Thoreau; politics of interpretation; language community; mutual education; the gleam of light; the gift of teaching; prophesy; democracy

Chapter.  6387 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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