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Is Dewey more cosmopolitan than Thoreau?

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Naoko Saito
Kyoto University

This paper critically reexamines the viability of Dewey’s philosophy today in the context of a debate on cosmopolitanism and global citizenship in American philosophy. To take up this task, I shall let Dewey be confronted with another voice of American philosophy – that of Henry D. Thoreau as it is revived by Stanley Cavell. I shall reread Thoreau’s Walden, via Stanley Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy, as offering an alternative mode of becoming cosmopolitan. I shall conclude that Thoreau and Cavell, especially in their idea of philosophy as translation, help us respond to the question of the untranslatable, one that Dewey has left unanswered; and that, to the extent that Thoreau presents us with an alternative vision of becoming cosmopolitan from within – through our reengagement with our own selves, native language and native cultures, he can be more cosmopolitan than Dewey.


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