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The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 2014,
pp. 1-4 (Article)
DOI: 10.1353/jae.2014.0018

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aesthetics. Fall 2014 © 2014 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois JAE 48_3 text. and others. and relevance of Kant’s and Cavell’s conceptions of education. In both Kant’s and Cavell’s aesthetics. Martin Gustafsson. Journal of Aesthetic Education. Kant’s and Cavell’s conceptions of moral perfectionism and education are in focus. Cavell was also one of the first to describe Wittgenstein as working within a Kantian framework. moral practice and education play an absolutely central role. Guyer has written on almost every aspect of Kant’s philosophy. Early on in his career. on how their views on the relation between ethics and aesthetics matter to education and contemporary educational theory. In particular. Commentators have found in Cavell’s work powerful criticisms of. and novel support for. therefore. surprising how little has been written on their contribution to education. are widely discussed today among scholars in various fields: philosophy. including education. leading to an increasing awareness of the interdependence between societies and people and a clearer sense of the challenges we face in cultivating ourselves as moral beings. significance. one of the world’s leading scholars on Kant and a student of Cavell’s. a Kantian aesthetics. and aesthetics in relation to contemporary educational theory. 48. he also found a fruitful way of dealing with philosophical problems in response to modern art and music. No. Cavell began to recognize the strong connection between Kant’s aesthetics (as it finds its expression in the Critique of the Power of Judgment) and the claims of ordinary language philosophy. His ideas continue to inspire and encourage an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue. Vol. ethics. educational science. In this connection. The aim of this collection of papers is to discuss the value. and Viktor Johansson Immanuel Kant’s conception of ethics and aesthetics. 3.Introduction: Perfectionism and Education—Kant and Cavell on Ethics and Aesthetics in Society Klas Roth. Both philosophers see art as crucial to moral education. in particular. It is. including his philosophy of judgment and practical knowledge.indd 1 7/22/14 9:48 AM . in its capacity to cultivate and expand our moral experience. and he has developed novel and highly influential interpretations throughout his academic career. The first contribution is an original paper by Paul Guyer (Brown University). political science.

Pradeep Dillon (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). written by (in order of appearance) Klas Roth (Stockholm University). she also discusses how Cavell and Guyer can help us explore Kant’s demand to reclaim our own humanity JAE 48_3 text. Pradeep Dhillon develops Guyer’s account of Cavellian and Kantian perfectionism. As Guyer understands Kant’s moral philosophy. namely. The first affinity has to do with the relation between reason and freedom. Using the movie The Constant Gardener as an example.” Guyer argues that there are deeper affinities between Kant’s and Cavell’s conceptions of perfectionism and education than most commentators (including Cavell himself) have recognized.indd 2 7/22/14 9:48 AM . but rather as a means to human freedom: the use of reason is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the perfection of the will. By looking at this issue from different angles. Richard Eldridge (Swarthmore College).2  Roth. Kant and Cavell both agree that one cannot apply moral principles without careful attention to contexts and particular ends. Klas Roth explores further how Kantian themes come in at pivotal moments in Cavell’s thought. Guyer brings out the ways in which both thinkers emphasize the significance of examples in such education. In his response. Viktor Johansson (Stockholm University). for free choice. Gustafsson. Roth traces and clarifies the consequences of Guyer’s claim that both Kant’s and Cavell’s perfectionisms first and foremost are concerned with “the perfection of our own use of our freedom” as an ultimate aim for morality. Even if there are passages where Cavell might seem to suggest that making oneself intelligible to oneself and others is the main goal of moral perfectionism. Dhillon shows how the sort of moral education on display in Cavellian remarriage comedies can be extended beyond the immediate interactions between spouses. Guyer offers a reading according to which Cavell thinks such intelligibility is merely a necessary condition for the substantive aim of perfectionist striving. The second (and related) affinity Guyer sees between Kant and Cavell has to do with their views of moral education. and Timothy Gould (Metropolitan State University). In “Examples of Perfectionism. and Johansson Guyer’s paper serves as the starting point for the other contributions. Guyer argues that we can find a similar structure in Cavell’s thought. applying it to issues of global justice. By reference to Chittaposad Bhattacharya’s drawings of the Bengal famine. Guyer connects this point with Kant’s and Cavell’s shared sense that the striving for moral perfection is never ending. rationality does not figure there as an end in itself. that is. Martin Gustafsson (Åbo Akademi University). the full exercise of one’s freedom. even if Cavell is hesitant to assign the same significance to principles of reason as Kant does. According to Guyer. Roth points out that. Kant and Cavell both appreciate how actual instances of real-life moral striving are indispensible when it comes to providing an understanding of how finite human existence can involve the freedom to be moral. Alice Crary (New School for Social Research).

as it can also be seen as playing a crucial role in these transformations. Viktor Johansson’s response raises three issues of clarification and criticism.Introduction  3 by claiming a humanity for both a distant and immediate other. Drawing on works by the philosopher Cora Diamond. Instead. but Crary argues that Kant’s and Cavell’s ways of spelling out that general conception are quite different.indd 3 7/22/14 9:48 AM . Kant and Cavell can be said to agree that our cognitive contact with empirical reality involves the thought of connections to other representations of things. Second. Johansson ends by suggesting how the first two issues have implications for how both Kant is and Cavell’s philosophies are themselves forms of perfectionist education. Once this aspect of Cavell’s conception JAE 48_3 text. However. Alice Crary argues that Guyer underestimates the depth of difference between the moral outlooks of the two thinkers. she suggests how Cavell’s attention to the embodied character of human existence is important in this context. whereas Kant understands self-criticism as guided by an a priori principle that is available to us as rational beings. Richard Eldridge takes up Guyer’s suggestion that Kant’s and Cavell’s philosophies involve a demand for continuous self-criticism and argues that a closer look at what such self-criticism amounts to in their respective work reveals significant differences between the two thinkers. as it both deepens and transforms the Kantian conception of freedom. Cavell insists that moral reflection and self-criticism require entering into specific cultural or evaluative perspectives—perspectives that. Like Eldridge. First. Cavell conceives such criticism in more improvisatory terms and as always vulnerable to disappointment due to the never fully mastered demands and desires that form the subject and her relations to others. he treats as having full cognitive legitimacy. she emphasizes the distinctiveness of Cavell’s conception of self-understanding and the nature of self-criticism and self-perfection. in letting the personal and particular inflict the impersonal and vice versa. According to Eldridge. despite their specificity. According to Crary. for their adult readers and in their implications for the education of children. Johansson suggests that perfectionism is not only a position on moral issues but also a way of imagining the transformation of thought throughout the history of philosophy and human thinking. he concludes that there is room and need for both and leaves open whether and how they can be reconciled. while Kant (and most Kantians) sees the concepts and methods of science as cognitively privileged. Johansson criticizes Guyer’s suggestion that the perfectionist aim to render oneself intelligible presupposes some additional goal beyond intelligibility. Eldridge’s point is not that one of these two conceptions of self-criticism is clearly preferable to the other. While agreeing with Guyer that there are more affinities between Kant and Cavell than is commonly recognized. Eldridge suggests that this Freudian outlook explains why Cavell often sounds very different from Kant. Extra­ philosophical material becomes more than mere examples. At a general level.

Gould himself explores in some detail several examples—Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium. such invention and transformation are due to a lack of intelligibility. JAE 48_3 text. Gustafsson ties this point to the need for a clear distinction between two incompatible senses in which the pursuit for perfection is “never ending. The present volume has its background in an international conference on “Perfectionism and Education—Kant and Cavell on Ethics and Aesthetics in Society. and others—showing the variety of unintelligibility and the ways it can matter and. emphasizing that our conception of moral perfectionism will be impoverished unless we recognize that unintelligibility takes many forms and that the content of Cavell’s thought. the sort of freedom involved in what Cavell calls perfectionist invention and transformation is not of a sort that requires that intelligibility has already been achieved.” held at van der Nootska Palatset. Like Crary. Martin Gustafsson. Gustafsson takes issue with Guyer’s interpretation of Cavell’s notion of friendship. 2013. in Stockholm. the distinction Guyer ascribes to Cavell between the pursuit of intelligibility and the pursuit of freedom collapses. in consequence. Antigone. that Cavellian friendship does not presuppose intelligibility but is. pace Guyer. and criticisms delivered by his interlocutors. like Wittgenstein’s. According to Gustafsson. On the contrary. Crary continues. Othello. This conference was arranged by Klas Roth.indd 4 7/22/14 9:48 AM . is always in the end to be found in the concrete examples that they investigate. commentaries. Timothy Gould explores the notion of unintelligibility in relation to Guyer’s paper and Cavell’s writings. on September 6–7.” arguing that Guyer fails to keep the two apart. arguing. Paul Guyer rounds off this unique conversation with an extensive indepth response to the explorations. mostly needed when understanding is not yet present. Freudian psychoanalysis. the variety of what perfectionist striving can amount to. and they manifest the freedom to search for what has not yet been understood. in fact. the movie The Awful Truth. and Viktor Johansson and was financed by the Swedish Research Council. Martin Gustafsson argues that Guyer’s distinction between intelligibility and freedom misconstrues Cavell’s notion of moral perfectionism. Finally.4   is held clearly in view.