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Review of Contemporary Philosophy

Volume 13, 2014, pp. 90–102, ISSN 1841-5261

MORAL EDUCATION AND HUMANISTIC APPROACHES
TO TEACHER EDUCATION:
A CONVERSATION WITH DUCK-JOO KWAK
MICHAEL A. PETERS
mpeters@waikato.ac.nz
University of Waikato
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Duck-Joo Kwak
Professor, Seoul National University

Duck-Joo Kwak is professor at Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea. Her
research interests are, broadly speaking, ethics, philosophy of education, and teacher
education. She has written numerous articles on civic and moral education from a
post-liberal perspective, especially in relation to democratic citizenship in liberal
Confucian culture. Duck-Joo Kwak has pursued the notion of moral education in
teacher education for well over a decade focusing on the work of Stanley Cavell’s
skepticism, political philosophy, and his perfectionist approach to citizenship, and
Lukács’ Soul and Form and the essay as a pedagogical form of writing. Duck-Joo
Kwak has published on values education, critical thinking as a form of ethical reflection (following Bernard Williams), Rorty’s postmodern civic education and Kierke90

gaard’s notion of subjectivity: as a basis for a new moral education. Her new book
Education for Self Transformation: Essay Form as an Educational Practice (Springer,
2011) builds on these themes to recommend the essay as a revalued form of lived
experience and the basis for educational transformation.
Her publications include: Kwak, D. J., & Hye-chong Han (2013), “The Issue of
Determinism and Freedom as an Existential Question: a Case in the Bhagavad Gita,”
Journal of Philosophy East and West 63(1): 55–72; Kwak, D. J. (2012), “Skepticism
and Education: In Search of Another Filial Tie of Philosophy to Education,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 44(5): 535–545; Kwak, D. J. (2012), Education for
Self-transformation: Essay Form as an Educational Practice, Dordrecht-HeidelbergLondon-New York: Springer; Kwak, D. J. (2011), “The Essay as a Pedagogical
Form, Teacher Education and Stanley Cavell’s Ordinary Language Philosophy,”
Teachers College Record 113(8): 1733–1754; Kwak, D. J. (2010), “Teaching to Unlearn Community to Make a Claim to Community: For the Formation of a Political
Subject for the Post-liberal Society,” Educational Theory 60(4): 405–417; Kwak, D.
J. (2010), “Practicing Philosophy, Practice of Education: Exploring the Essay Form
through Lukács’ Soul and Form,” Journal of Philosophy of Education 44(1): 61–77.

Michael Peters (MP): By way of introduction can you share with us something of your background, education and growing up in South Korea. Can
you say something about how you came to first acquaint yourself with the
tradition of moral education and the humanistic tradition and then to write
and contribute to problems in that tradition. (I see this question and the form
of the conversation as indeed part of the tradition – philosophical (auto)biography in the Wittgensteinian and Foucaultian “confessional” sense).
Duck-Joo: I was raised in a very traditional household of Confucian culture,
patriarchal and authoritarian, just like most of children from middle-class
families in the 1970’s of Korea. My father was an educated and faithful
follower of the Confucian tradition, taking deep into his bones traditional
Confucian values, such as filial pieties and high respect for the elderly. He
was the first son of his Kwak family, so that he was supposed to fulfill all
the family obligations. One of his big obligations that deeply affected my
upbringing was to keep up with ancestral worship ceremonies. They were
held every year on the nights of our ancestors’ death with special kinds of
food prepared, usually covering four generations up ancestors. Thus, my
mother needed to prepare the food for the rituals almost every month. And I
was expected to help her with the preparation from the very early on in my
life as her first daughter. I didn’t like the rituals very much due to the quite
heavy labor I as a girl was supposed to provide. But, as I grew older, I
started to notice that there was something very special and solemn about it
from the way my father presided over the rituals. His moves were very
formal, yet with an extreme care and whole-hearted commitment, as if his
grandparents and great grandparents had come back alive and been present
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there in front of us. To think of it back, the way he carried himself in presiding over the rituals taught me almost everything about Confucian morals:
how to conduct oneself toward one’s parents and the elderly. But there was
something more in the teaching; it also left me as a child with some mysterious intimation that there might be some mysterious dimension in life,
which was so sacred that I should NEVER violate it. This intimation was so
powerful that the sense of sacredness always accompanied me as I grew
older, shaping my Confucian sensibility. It took long for me to be able to
conceptually separate this sense of sacredness from Confucian morality as
such and to view the latter just as a particular moral outlook among others,
not the only one for all humankind.
When I was in the primary school, the formal school curriculum consisted
of modernized subject-matters, organized by the principle of western rationality. But the informal school culture was of the Confucian spirit through
and through. I hadn’t noticed a sharp tension between the two completely
distinct orders of morality until I was in the second year of the junior high
school. I was a kind of student who took seriously what she learned from
the lessons at a school. One day I happened to raise an innocent question
toward my homerun teacher who gave us a moral instruction in Confucian
spirit, which I found apparently contradictory to what we had just learned
from his social studies class on democracy. Upon raising the question, I was
severely beaten as punishment for my improper conduct (by a Confucian norm),
i.e. making an objection to a teacher or making him or her embarrassed in
front of others, I presume. (He didn’t make it explicit why I deserved the
punishment, of course). Since the occasion, I learnt how to internalize a
double-standard in conducting myself, i.e. doing one thing in my official
words and doing another in my ordinary behaviors. The logic of western
rationality seemed to make a sense and function only in words or in textbooks; the way in which things actually worked in reality was governed by
Confucian moral grammar. So I had to learn to secretly master two different
moral languages that were quite parallel to, never mixed up with, each other.
This split obviously made a huge effect on the way my moral identity was
shaped, being a constant source of my inner conflicts throughout the whole
period of my growing-up.
MP: Thank you for being so open about your upbringing and the Confucian
culture of your father’s society. Your reflections throw up so many questions
for me I am not sure where to start. One aspect of your account really
fascinates me from both the viewpoint of a philosopher and educator – “I
had to learn secretly master two different moral languages”. Can you say
more about these “parallel” languages and also the ways in which they
caused inner conflicts? As a separate question I am interested in the Con92

fucian tradition of discipline: you mention you were “severely beaten” for
raising a question; is this still forbidden and punishable?
Duck-Joo: Let me start with a response to your second question. Raising an
objection to parents or teachers is not forbidden nor punishable anymore. It
is even encouraged these days, but only in words or officially. But good
students know how to behave in order to be called so. They have already
internalized the double standard mentioned earlier. This means that objection-raising students may not be beaten physically but considered to be
impolite or distasteful; they have a psychological cost to pay. They are not
supposed to raise questions that can make the elderly embarrassed or uncomfortable, but the other way around is commonly practiced in the name of
Confucian morals. But how would children know which questions are proper
or not? Getting to develop a sensibility for it is the essential part of Confucian education. In order for children to figure this out, they are taught to
be attentive to reading the psychological states of the elderly around them
from early on in their lives. So, when students happen to raise some unusual
questions or objections to teachers, it is often misunderstood as a deliberate
gesture that is intended to challenge teachers’ authority; for students’ innocent questions out of their sheer curiosity sound out of context, while
being perceived as irrelevant to their moral teaching.
As for the first question of yours, let me give you an example. One of
the most important Confucian virtues is to be able to maintain harmony in
human relationships. I learned this by heart from my family education as
well as from my school life. The strong emphasis on human relationship
creates in me a tendency (or a virtue we would call) not to be a cause of
trouble for others or the community I belong to. Thus, if you find someone
around you who does some injustice to you or others, you tend to suffer or
ignore the action if any reaction on my part would cause some trouble for
the harmony of the whole community. Harmony can be an important virtue
for the good of community when the community is just or run in a relatively
just way. But when this is not the case, it greatly contributes to keeping the
community status quo and reinforcing injustice. In facing numerous cases of
injustice during the period of my upbringing, I tended to be “coward”, if seen
from modern rationalist moral principles I learned from school textbooks. I
mostly chose to follow the grammar of Confucian moral language for my
self-preservation since it looked like the one that really worked with the
social reality I was in. But I always have a sense of guilt deep inside me, not
being proud of myself. This was a common form of my self-split or inner
tension that I often suffered from the early years of my life.
MP: Thank you for these insights. There are, it seems, many potential difficulties both personal and professional that spring from being educated in
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the Confucian moral tradition but at the same time pursuing a career as a
philosopher in the western tradition. I wondered whether you might care to
comment further on these tensions and why you chose the life of a philosopher where the self is a work of transformation? What draws you to the
tradition of education self-transformation? Perhaps you might also speak to
what this tradition is in its essentials.
Duck-Joo: It sounds like a huge question to answer here with a few words.
This is also a kind of question I ought to keep pursuing in the future along
the way with my academic career as a philosopher of education. But let me
try to give you a brief description of how I see myself as an Asian intellectual who embarked on the path toward education as self-transformation,
given that this description of my self-understanding is only tentative, certainly subject to changes as time goes.
I was grown into an unhappy creature by the time when I was doing
graduate work at Seoul National University in Korea. Things around me in
the academia did not make sense to me. I felt my life having been drifted
away from what I considered essential and important in life, and things only
conventional seemed to work out as the dominant rule of game in town. As
I described earlier, what I learned from school-textbooks or lecture-rooms
was dead-and-frozen knowledge, useful only for exams or term-papers,
having no power over the social or personal reality I was living in. But I sort
of suspected that this could not be possibly the way things were as the whole
story about any serious academic life. It was the time when Korea started to
undergo the process of democratization that was triggered by young students’
uprising against military regimes then. A new kind of public spirit and
energy was simmering on the surface of the society. But the academia seemed
arrogantly untouched by the new social move, remaining deadly conventional,
being culturally oppressive. I found myself helplessly submerged into the
given culture (remember I was raised as a ‘good’ daughter in the Confucian
sense!) where I felt from time to time unbearably suffocated spiritually as
well as intellectually. This is a rough sketch of the background under which
I decided to leave the country to further my study abroad. Until this time,
Confucianism looked to me like a value-system that represented everything
oppressive in Korea, which made me as a serious young woman, who was
seeking an academic carrier, extremely unhappy.
My education at Teachers College, Columbia University, was revolutionary. It changed not only my understanding of what an academic life was
supposed to be but also my understanding of who I was. What was so
fascinating about this inner change was that it enabled me to see how the
two tasks or concepts, ‘becoming a good academic’ and ‘becoming a good
person’, could be interconnected; being a serious intellectual (in academia)
is to be always in touch with how one is. This simple formula is in fact all
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about my idea of education as self-transformation. It is not that I didn’t know
before some philosophers who said similar saying or the literal meanings of
the saying. But I knew them before only in head or in abstract words. This
time I came to know what it could mean to me through my own experience
of self-transformation, that is, as a lived experience, while I was reading and
writing. This sort of experience was the kind which I had never encountered
before in my earlier education, probably except for by glimpse here and
there. For the first time in my life, reading and writing for my academic
work fully came to my life without alienating myself. Thus, it would not be
an exaggeration to say that I discovered the formula for myself.
I cannot say that my study at TC was always streamlined; it was not
easy to cope with, especially in the beginning, due to linguistic and cultural
barriers. But as getting adjusted, I started to absorb whatever was offered to
me there so freshly and deeply that I felt I was being reborn intellectually. All
of sudden, things appeared to make a sense to me. I was able to make what I
read, think and write closely connected to the reality I was living in one way
or another. My academic work and study did not alienate me anymore! It
was a way of meeting myself, expanding myself, enriching myself, above
all, understanding myself. Now I could even see and articulate why I was so
unhappy in Korea back then. It is hard to pin down what exactly about my
education at Teachers College brought this change to me. It may have been
the books we read in classrooms, the people I met around campus, or even
the way people interacted with each other in the settings which I was part of.
It is really hard to tell. But it somehow led me into the enlightening discovery and allowed me to deal with my experiences and life in an intelligible way. We may name it as the discovery of my ‘subjectivity’, or ‘my
voice’ in Stanley Cavell’s words. What is so powerful about this experience
from the educational perspective is that it gradually allows me to realize the
authority of my voice which I myself can claim to and take responsibility for.
This was an unbelievably empowering experience AS a person. I presume
this is a kind of experience that the western modern education is supposed
to foster in the name of personal autonomy as one of the main aims of
education. I finally felt I could and should stand on my own feet for my life
as a free and responsible individual. This was the kind of inner journey that
I could never even dream of having through my earlier education in Korea.
MP: That is a very powerful and moving narrative of self-transformation. I
suspect that many readers will identify with many of the aspects of your
account and what is so important about it is the way in which the transition
from a good Confucian daughter to a genuine intellectual takes place around
the theme of subjectivity and responsibility. So now I understand how
Stanley Cavell’s work is helpful. Can I ask to you address the main themes
of your research that grows out of this experience and perhaps we can also
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discuss Cavell’s work more directly: what is it in Cavell’s writings that you
think has significance for educational philosophy?
Duck-Joo: Two things to be noted very briefly about the way I was drawn to
Stanley Cavell, my hero philosopher. First of all, it was not that I happened
to encounter him one day and fell in love with him right away. I met his
work for the first time while having been struggling for a long time with
young Lukács’ essay collection called Soul and Form. I was going to write
on that work of Lukács’ for my doctoral thesis. It was because I thought
young Lukács had raised and addressed in that small essay collection the
most essential and significant questions for education as well as for a human
life, such as “What is life?” “How should I live?”, “What sort of person I
want to be?” and so on. He even had a very tragic sense of life in addressing
those questions, which I thought was the most honest attitude toward the life
we were thrown into. I can even say that young Lukács set a framework and
standard for my future philosophical work in terms of philosophical questions
and styles. However, when I started to make something out of his work Soul
and Form for my doctoral thesis, it was extremely difficult to unpack it in
such a way as to make it intelligible to our contemporaries as well as to our
current educational context. I found myself desperately deadlocked without
making much progress for the thesis-writing. This was the very time when
Cavell’s writings came to me; it was my life-saving encounter. Cavell didn’t
address all those Lukácian questions, at least not explicitly. But I immediately
noticed the Lukácian spirit throughout his work. I took Cavell’s writings as
his own version of responding to the exactly same Lukácian questions. For
Cavell, the questions are implicit, hidden in words or between the lines.
Thus, without my familiarity and long-time struggles with young Lukács’
questions and works, I would not probably have recognized Cavell’s work
and the significance of his philosophical project. I somehow noticed that his
very unusual, even unreadable style of philosophical writing was a token of
his seriousness in attempt to respond to those important questions about the
life in general and his own life in particular. And Cavell gave me a language
of contemporary sensibility that I could adopt for my work, language which
allowed me a philosophical formulation in which I could address the Lukácian
questions.
Secondly, I was drawn to Cavell’s work because I was deeply moved by
his style of writing, especially his emphasis on ‘the first person voice.’ In
fact, his writing style is notorious. It is not discursive. It sometimes stops
unexpectedly and other times goes on and on without endings. It is difficult
to follow and understand. But it strikes us as very personal. While reading his
work, if you are attentive enough to the flow of his thoughts and concerns,
you would feel and hear the very sense of his world or himself. Capturing
this sense is so profoundly pleasurable that I cannot help going back to his
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text again and again. Capturing this sense means getting in touch with his
deep personal self, which always leads me to long for getting in touch with
my deep personal self that is unfamiliar even to myself, yet seems larger
than who I was. What Cavell seems to be teaching here is that knowing how
to speak for ourselves in a genuine way is a way of knowing how to speak
for others. These two activities or processes are not identical, yet they are
internally, or probably contagiously, connected to each other. I found this
idea fascinating as a model for (the practice of) good education. Knowing
how to speak for oneself is a form of self-empowering, which is dialogically
connected to a way of empowering others.
How do all these influences of Cavell’s ideas upon me have to do with
my experiences of self-transformation as a transition from a good Confucian
daughter to a genuine(?) intellectual? It is hard to tell. But one thing seems
clear. Cavell’s way of doing philosophy, i.e., self-confessional way of doing
philosophy, and his advocacy on this form of doing philosophy can give me
a good philosophical account of and even a good educational justification of
the way I was transformed from a good Confucian daughter to a genuine
intellectual.
MP: What is it about the “first person voice” that you find attractive and
how is this style different from other approaches in philosophy? Why do you
think it is particularly appropriate for philosophy of education? (I happen to
agree with your preferences but I want to tease out some of the philosophical
aspects of style and its importance in philosophy. Many analytical philosophers abhor the stream of consciousness style and think that the tradition
of “subjectivity and truth”, speaking from personal experience, makes no
progress that can only be based on rigorous argument). Can we use this to
explore the narrative of self-transformation and its importance in education?
Duck-Joo: Thanks for your question. It is really getting into the heart of my
philosophical work, even if I will focus more on the kind of spirit that has
driven me into the kind of work I am doing now. I think Cavell’s emphasis
on “the first person voice” or “speaking for oneself” represents the most
honest way of doing philosophy since this idea acknowledges that doing
philosophy cannot pretend to speak for all men; it would be a big lie if
philosophy pretends to do so. We can take this as Cavell’s critique of the
analytic tradition of philosophy since “speaking for all men” was the original
ambition of that tradition. But, for Cavell, the emphasis on “the first person
voice” does not lead his kind of philosophers into subjectivism or solipsism.
In trying to speak for oneself through doing philosophy we are ordinary yet
honest persons who are concerned with truth about ourselves, who thereby
are always attentive to the gap between what we say and what we mean. In
other words, doing philosophy in the first person voice makes each of us
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care about the relation between “what I say” and “what I mean,” or the way
I relate myself to what I say. The care of this self-relation does not allow us
to privilege ourselves in the self-relation by being mediated by our philosophical self-discovery, i.e., objective discovery of the contingency of our
existence or ordinariness of our language. It leads us to find something
unfamiliar about ourselves, which in turn connect us to others for the reason
that it is all shared by others. Thus, the more we are committed to this
journey for self-relation in finding a way of speaking for oneself, i.e., our
own voice, the better would the first person voice be heard or recognized as
speaking for others. This journey for the self-relation can gradually affect,
form, and transform the orientation of one’s life as well as the style of one’s
philosophical writing. For the two activities, ‘philosophical writing’ and ‘living,’ are not separable in the practice of doing philosophy in the Cavellian
sense, i.e., practice of philosophical writing as an autobiographical selfdialogue in a confessional form. As you can see now, this notion of doing
philosophy is very useful in giving an account of education as a selftransformative practice. I hope this brief description helps.
By the way, I am wondering whether I am also allowed to ask you some
questions in this conversation. So far, you asked and I answered. You seem
to get to know more of me along the way, but I don’t feel myself the same
way about you. I find this a bit tedious. I wonder what made you open this
conversation with me in the first place. What is your philosophical motivation? Why are you so much interested in the east-west encounter stuff? I am
getting interested in the topic of the east-west encounter because I have
realized that this might be the only way I could confront and explore who
and how I am as a teacher and as a person, given my mixed cultural and
educational backgrounds. How about your case? How does this topic affect
you as a white male scholar with the full background of western civilization
and education? Sorry for this abrupt turning. But your answer will give me a
better sense of direction for our conversation to be followed.
MP: You are most certainly allowed to ask me questions and I am happy to
answer to the best of my ability. My philosophical motivation to engage
with you is emblematic of a number of wider projects concerning East-West
dialogue that are close to my heart: this is part of the editorial mission of
Educational Philosophy and Theory (EPAT) which attempts to renew philosophy of education through three principal means. First, greater inclusiveness in order to reclaim subjugated traditions motivated by respect for
cognitive diversity within the western tradition recognizing, for example,
forms of humanist pedagogy in the ancient, Renaissance and modern contexts
(religious, existential, phenomenological and critical pedagogies). Second,
an active engagement with world classical traditions. This is a massive
project which will require generations of work. Third, the attempt to work
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with and alongside indigenous philosophical traditions of world indigenous
populations such as Maori and Australian Aboriginal peoples. EPAT has
published several special issues that bespeak these intentions and we have
issues that we are currently working on. Tina Besley and I worked on this
theme publishing a special issue of Policy Futures in Education on the
European Council’s White Paper on Interculturalism and an edited collection.
I began by exploring the concept of intercultural philosophy in the Western
tradition and the operating assumption of moral universalism of liberal cosmopolitanism. I was interested to investigate the “politics of difference”
inspired by Nietzsche and semiotic accounts of the self and culture developed
by various poststructuralist philosophers as well to explore the adequacy of
Rorty’s pragmatist notion of “the cultural politics of conversation” (“Western
Models of Intercultural Philosophy”). We coedited Interculturalism, Education
and Dialogue (Besley & Peters) for our Peter Lang books series Global
Studies in Education in 2012 and tried to demonstrate this in another way
at EERA 2012 with a symposium called “Cadiz as a Site for Intercultural
Educational Philosophy” examining the influence of Islam on Andulsian
Spain. Most recently we are working on a special issue and collection called
“The End of European Multiculturalism” which is forthcoming next year. In
conjunction with these efforts I began another project of using the concept
of dialogue as a basis for a series of interviews with philosophers especially
women from other cultures. Some of these are recorded at Addleton Academic
Publishers (see for instance http://addletonacademicpublishers.com/ and http://
contemporaryscienceassociation.net/page/iishss). I also established a new
journal called Knowledge Cultures that is in part design to advance these
initiatives: see http://addletonacademicpublishers.com/knowledge-cultures/
journals/kc/about-the-journal.html. The interviews I have completed (some
8–9) sit within and are connected with these projects and I am about to
organize a more permanent site for the interviews. That’s probably enough
for now but I am happy to talk about the underlying philosophical issues as
they bear on the question of the globalization of philosophy and collectively
how we can expand philosophy of education as a means of promoting this
kind of dialogue.
Let me end this paragraph with a question: I wonder what is the history
and current state of Korean philosophy of education? What is the best way
of making a bridge between KPES and PESA?
Duck-Joo: Many thanks for sharing your academic interests and concerns.
KPES was first established in 1964 jointly with historians of education. But
in 1982, it was separated into an independent Society with philosophers of
education only. Since then, it has been developed into a size of about 200member Society, consisting mostly of university professors and graduate
students. Within the Society there are three, sort of competing academic camps
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in accordance with their academic backgrounds and orientations: German,
Anglo-American and East-Asian camps. As you can imagine, even if we
belong to the same academic community it has not been easy for us to converse across the three different traditions of philosophy of education, due to
their different, sometimes incommensurable philosophical languages they
employ. Of course, as in the most cases with human affairs, it may not be
just about intellectual incommensurability; what partly, yet essentially,
underlies the incommensurability may be of political nature. Thus I am very
much interested in crossing these differences among ourselves, whether the
differences may be of political or intellectual nature. I hope an attempt to
build a possible bridge in the future you mentioned between KPES and PESA
can be a good way of crossing these differences among ourselves, more
than any other things. I hope you or PESA can bring some good spirit and
insight in giving us a broader, more global and inclusive perspective on
education, which would, in turn, enable us to see our own Korean perspective on education more distinctively, objectively, and self-reflectively.
Do you have more specific ideas in your mind about how to make a
bridge between KPES and PESA?
MP: There are many academic ways of encouraging closer contact: holding
joint conferences; collaborating on research at the individual and society
levels; promoting academic faculty and student exchanges and so on. I think
that the idea of bridging initially is for members of the two societies to meet
and talk with one another and for the ideas to come from such meetings. One
question that is important for philosophy of education is that of globalization.
We have so far avoided this question. Thanks also for your account of
Cavell. Maybe I can ask you what progress KPES has had in talking across
traditions? And also: is there a Cavellian response to globalization that may
be useful for philosophy of education?
Duck-Joo: I am sure that KPES people would find the idea of academic exchange with PESA people welcoming and even unavoidable given the pressure for globalization all around us. Yet, they would also partly find it
uncomfortable due to language barriers. Some of them, especially homegrown scholars on East-Asian philosophy, tend to take it as an unfair exchange from the beginning since we Koreans are supposed to use YOUR
language, namely English, in the academic exchange. Some of them firmly
stand against the move toward globalization in the academia, viewing it as a
submission to a form of academic colonialism. Thus, any attempt to bridge
the two Societies needs to be approached with moral and political sensitivity on the part of both sides. It may be a good idea to bring Rorty’s idea
of philosophy as cultural politics into the level of our consciousness, treating
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it as an issue common for both Societies in seeking the exchange and collaboration between them.
On the other hands, I dare to say that the KPES people may be described
in some unique sense as more cosmopolitan than the PESA people in their
intellectual exposures. Remember what I said about the three academic
camps that are coexisting within the KPES: the Anglo-American, German,
and East-Asian. But, often enough, we tend not to be aware of this fact, i.e.,
how resourceful we Korean scholars are in academic heritage. This is why I
think KPES’s collaboration with PESA can be very beneficial to us KPES if
it can provide us with a good chance to learn about ourselves by viewing
ourselves in relation to others. But I am not sure how to initiate it as our
first move.
MP: I guess that any possibility of closer contact depends upon whether
participants see it as desirable. I think it has to be remembered that both NZ
and Australia were white settler colonies but that there are indigenous peoplesMaori in NZ, some 36 tribes and as many as 300 separate languages and
600 dialects in Australia. In NZ we have a number of Maori “wananga” or
indigenous universities and theses can be presented in te reo Maori (the
Maori language). Language is a difficult issue as it has been part of a colonial
legacy and attitude that English emerged as a global lingua franca. The story
of English from the Old Norse through Angles and Saxons to the Norman
Conquest is a complex history of plunder and conquest. I understand the
attitude of those in KPES who see the language issue as a barrier and I feel
apologetic that I cannot speak to you in your native language. I would not
want to be prescriptive about any encounter or dialogue between societies –
sometimes it is best if engagements grow out of individual interests. Already
within PESA we have several traditions also: analytic philosophy of education,
forms of Marxism and critical theory/pedagogy, American pragmatism, indigenous philosophy, and various forms of Eastern thought that are a product
of East-West encounters and conferences held recently in Hawaii and Taiwan.
Currently we are working with a Chinese speaking editorial team to produce
one issue of EPAT devoted to issues in Chinese thought. These are only
small beginnings I realize. One further thought about globalization and its
resistance – in the West the nation-state is a recent container and one that
does not always overlap exactly with culture or language. Philosophy while
it purports to be universal is however very much a local product governed
and determined in large measure through local traditions. While there have
been attempts to work at intercultural philosophies they are not successful
in my opinion. To me more critically is the question of what philosophy
might play in an age of global finance capitalism, which has emerged as
perhaps the most powerful global culture. One final thought, for me as I
have attempt to argue on several occasion the word “cosmopolitan” is not a
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fully transparent good especially when seen in terms of the dominant form –
neoliberal economic cosmopolitanism. This is a difference I acutely feel with
my colleagues who embrace a form of political liberalism.
Duck-Joo: I can see now much better of your concerns and perspectives in
doing this interview. I agree with you in saying that philosophy is “very
much a local product governed and determined in large measure through
local traditions”. But I am not sure what you meant in saying that “attempts
to work at intercultural philosophies” are not successful. Do you have a
better idea about doing intercultural philosophies, other than what have been
attempted so far? An experimental attempt to do intercultural philosophies,
this may be your main motivation to do this interview with me in the first
place. Is that right? That is to say, you would like to see if a better idea for
doing intercultural philosophies can come up during this conversation. Right?
As for the issue of cosmopolitanism, I have one thing to tell you. One of
my acquaintances from the Switzerland told me once that a person like me,
who was born and grew from a local town of a small Asian country and, who
then gradually had chances to move around in bigger cities and in bigger
countries, such as Seoul, New York, Hong Kong and London, is the one
who deserves being called “a real cosmopolitan”. For, he continues to say,
she is the one who has experienced being local as well as being in the center
in the world, which would allow her to see how ‘the local’ can be seen from
‘the center’ and vice versa. So a real cosmopolitan is the one who has a
sense of orientation in moving freely between being local and being in the
center or being culturally bound and being culturally free in her inner (trans)formation of who she is. Here what constitutes the cosmopolitan selfhood is
not the experience of physical free moves but the experience of free moves
in one’s perspective in relation to oneself as well as to others. I think this
may be a version of cosmopolitanism that Cavell would willingly endorse
with his view of doing philosophy. It may not provide us with an explicit
theoretical position to defend for cosmopolitanism, merely suggesting its
direction in vague terms; these terms are those that each of us is to interpret
in our own context of individual lives through everyday practice of making
our constant inner little moves self-reflexively to keep us honest and balanced
intellectually and spiritually as cosmopolitans. I wonder if this inner struggle
within oneself may count as a way of doing intercultural philosophies in
your words.

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