Beyond monolingualism: philosophy as translation and the understanding of other cultures

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Glasgow]On: 06 October 2014, At: 12:40Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Beyond monolingualism: philosophy astranslation and the understanding ofother culturesNaoko Saito aa Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University , Kyoto, JapanPublished online: 26 Nov 2009.

    To cite this article: Naoko Saito (2009) Beyond monolingualism: philosophy as translationand the understanding of other cultures, Ethics and Education, 4:2, 131-139, DOI:10.1080/17449640903326763

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  • Ethics and EducationVol. 4, No. 2, October 2009, 131139

    Beyond monolingualism: philosophy as translation and theunderstanding of other cultures

    Naoko Saito*

    Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

    Beyond a monolingual mentality and beyond the language that is typicallyobserved in the prevalent discourse of education for understanding othercultures, this article tries to present another approach: Stanley Cavells ideaof philosophy as translation. This Cavellian approach shows that under-standing foreign cultures involves a relation to other cultures already withinones native culture. Foreshadowing the Cavellian sense of tragedy,Emersons Devils child helps us detect the sources of repression andblindness that are hidden behind the foundationalist approach to othercultures. The child represents the human condition in which the self andlanguage are simultaneously in the process of translation. On the strengthof this I propose a possibility of understanding other cultures that iscrucially related to language education, one that can point us beyondmonolingualism. Cavells view of language and the self envisions a way ofreleasing, not repressing, the desire to express ones inner light as a crucialsource of the revival of ones native culture from within, while at the sametime cultivating an eye for the other, the stranger, who is already herewithin oneself. This is to find alterity in the human condition in terms of thetranslation that is inherent to language and the immigrancy of the self.

    Keywords: monolingualism; philosophy as translation; the immigrancy ofthe self; the understanding of other cultures; patriotism; cosmopolitanism;Devils child; home; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Stanley Cavell; languageeducation

    Introduction

    In the age of globalization, the question of how to connect with both ones nativeand foreign cultures has become one of the central challenges for education,especially in citizenship and moral education. In view of the tensions betweendifferent value systems and cultural practices, however, and also in the light of thetide of globalization that is blurring the boundaries of native cultures, education forthe understanding of other cultures whether it starts with the love of the localcommunity and ones own country, or with the love of humanity, and so long as it isbound by the presupposition of native ground as the foundation of understanding faces the real difficulty of imagining other people (Scarry 1996); we are stymied bythe fact, as Charles Taylor has recognized, that for a sufficiently different culture,the very understanding of what it is to be of worth will be strange and unfamiliar

    *Email: saitona@educ.kyoto-u.ac.jp

    ISSN 17449642 print/ISSN 17449650 online

    2009 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/17449640903326763

    http://www.informaworld.com

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  • to us (Taylor 1992, 129). The difficulty here may be paraphrased in terms of theneed simultaneously to conserve ones home ground and to accept the diverserealities and fluid identities of other cultures.

    In response to this challenge, this article tries to present another approach to theunderstanding of other cultures: Stanley Cavells idea of philosophy as translation.This points to an idea of the self in terms of the possibility of finding its home on theway, already with others at home. Going beyond the dichotomy between the nativeand the foreign, and destabilizing the illusion of home ground, this Cavellianapproach shows that understanding foreign cultures involves already a relationto other cultures within ones native culture. Foreshadowing the Cavellian sense oftragedy, Emersons Devils child, as explained below, helps us detect the sourcesof repression and blindness that are hidden behind foundationalist approaches toother cultures. The child represents a human condition in which the self andlanguage are simultaneously in the process of translation. Based upon this Cavellianapproach, I shall propose a possibility of understanding other cultures that iscrucially related to language education, one that can point us beyond monolingualism.This is based upon the idea that the mother tongue already involves translation.Cavells views regarding language and the self envision a way of releasing, notrepressing, the desire to express ones inner light as a crucial source of the revivalof ones native culture from within, while at the same time cultivating an eye to theother, the stranger, who is already here within oneself alterity as the humancondition of translation and immigrancy.

    Where does the understanding of other cultures start?

    Roughly speaking there are three approaches to understanding other cultures:a patriotic approach, a cosmopolitan approach and a multicultural approach basedupon the politics of recognition. In an entangled way, each presents some familiarlimitations. First of all, a patriotic approach can be illustrated by the case ofJapanese education. This currently displays two distinctive tendencies. On the onehand, and by no means as an exception to general trends in the world, its discourse issteeped in an economy of exchange conditioned by a global market. The aim andlanguage of education in the name of globalization are converted into the termsof accountability. On the other hand, there is another supposedly inclusive forceworking, but this time the direction is inward. Love for Japan is one of the phrasesthat has become controversial in moral education and citizenship education. Lovefor people with whom one is intimate is the foundation of love of those whoare distant. In this context the significance of the mother tongue is re-emphasized.In his best-selling book, The dignity of a nation, Masahiko Fujiwara argues:Studying Japanese language is the best way to cultivate genuinely internationalpeople; and that [r]eading books in Japanese is more important than foreignlanguages (Fujiwara 2007, 67, 213). In moral education, a reader called Kokoro-no-noto (Notebook for the heart) encourages children to love their family (complete, ofcourse, with father and mother), their local community, their beautiful country,Japan and then, on the strength of this, the globe.

    In contrast there is the second, cosmopolitan approach to understandingother cultures. In the American context, Martha Nussbaum reacts to appeals to

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  • the emotion of national pride and the sense of shared national identity that,she alleges, lies in Richard Rortys patriotism. To expand the circles of our life,and to raise awareness beyond its boundaries, Nussbaum proposes cosmopolitan

    education education for world citizenship, rather than democratic or nationalcitizenship. Echoing the Stoics, Nussbaum speaks of concentric circles the worldcommunity beginning with the self, moving on to the immediate family, to the localcommunity, to the country and finally to the largest circle, humanity as a whole.Her cosmopolitan stance is universalist in the sense that she appeals to the world

    community of justice and reason and basic features of human per