Roughly this time last year we advertised a symposium—“Perfectionism and Education: Kant and Cavell on Ethics and Aesthetics in Society“—taking place in Stockholm. The papers that came out of that symposium have since been published as special issue in the Journal of Aesthetic Education. Below you’ll find the introduction, as well as the table of contents with links to each of the articles. (Thanks to Viktor Johansson for bringing this to my attention!)
Immanuel Kant’s conception of ethics and aesthetics, including his philosophy of judgment and practical knowledge, are widely discussed today among scholars in various fields: philosophy, political science, aesthetics, educational science, and others. His ideas continue to inspire and encourage an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue, 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.
Early on in his career, 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. In this connection, he also found a fruitful way of dealing with philosophical problems in response to modern art and music. Commentators have found in Cavell’s work powerful criticisms of, and novel support for, a Kantian aesthetics. Cavell was also one of the first to describe Wittgenstein as working within a Kantian framework.
In both Kant’s and Cavell’s aesthetics, moral practice and education play an absolutely central role. Both philosophers see art as crucial to moral education, in its capacity to cultivate and expand our moral experience. It is, therefore, surprising how little has been written on their contribution to education, in particular, on how their views on the relation between ethics and aesthetics matter to education and contemporary educational theory.
The aim of this collection of papers is to discuss the value, significance, and relevance of Kant’s and Cavell’s conceptions of education, ethics, and aesthetics in relation to contemporary educational theory. In particular, Kant’s and Cavell’s conceptions of moral perfectionism and education are in focus. The first contribution is an original paper by Paul Guyer (Brown University), one of the world’s leading scholars on Kant and a student of Cavell’s. Guyer has written on almost every aspect of Kant’s philosophy, including education, and he has developed novel and highly influential interpretations throughout his academic career.
Guyer’s paper serves as the starting point for the other contributions, written by (in order of appearance) Klas Roth (Stockholm university), Pradeep Dillon (University of Illinois at urbana-Champaign), Viktor Johansson (Stockholm university), Richard Eldridge (Swarthmore College), Alice Crary (New School for Social Research), Martin Gustafsson (Åbo Akademi University), and Timothy Gould (Metropolitan State University).