Publication:
Emerson, l’éducation et la démocratie

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Date
2010
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EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
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Abstract
The paper aims to present and defend Cavell’s reading of moral perfectionism as an alternative political approach. For several decades, Stanley Cavell has been working to make Emerson’s voice reheard in the core of American philosophy. This activity, though, is not simply historical rehabilitation. What appears very clearly in, e.g., his 2003 collection Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes, but as early as in the 1990 work Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome, is that Cavell also wants to make heard the present-day political pertinence of Emerson’s thinking and conception of democracy. Cavell wants to criticize either the interpretation of Emerson’s tonality which would make him a precursor of liberal individualism, or a precursor of progressive rhetoric, à la Dewey. Cavell has given himself the task of clearly differentiating Emerson from these trends. The author wants to show, however, that transcendentalism and pragmatism together as inheritors of Emerson’s voice allow us to rediscover something essential to democracy: possession of one’s voice – a question equally at the heart of Emerson’s philosophy, under the form of our capacity to speak, to stand up and speak, for oneself or for others as the very demand to trust oneself, which Cavell later calls the “arrogation of voice”.
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Emerson, Cavell, perfectionism
Citation
Sandra Laugier, "Emerson, l’éducation et la démocratie", in: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics, XII (2010) 1, pp. 157−180.