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, UKEthics and EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: 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:10.1080/17449640903326763To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. 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Terms &Conditions of access and use can be found at and EducationVol. 4, No. 2, October 2009, 131139Beyond monolingualism: philosophy as translation and theunderstanding of other culturesNaoko Saito*Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University, Kyoto, JapanBeyond 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; languageeducationIntroductionIn 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: 17449642 print/ISSN 17449650 online 2009 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/17449640903326763http://www.informaworld.comDownloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 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 to132 N. SaitoDownloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 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 cosmopolitaneducation 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 worldcommunity of justice and reason and basic features of human personhood thatobviously also transcend national boundaries (Nussbaum 1996, 217).The third approach is represented by Charles Taylors multiculturalism, basedupon the idea of the politics of recognition (Taylor 1992). Starting with thedialogical character of human life, Taylor first claims that our understandingof the good things in life can be transformed by our enjoying them in commonwith people we love (33). The recognition given by significant others is crucialin understanding and forming our identity (36). Applying this to the public sphere,Taylor claims: we all recognize the equal value of different cultures (64). Still,through mutual recognition, we can produce what Gadamer has called a fusionof horizons. Such a fusion operates through our developing new vocabulariesof comparison, by means of which we can articulate these contrasts (67). Taylorsuggests a vision of education for understanding other cultures, one that is basedupon a willingness to be open to comparative cultural study of the kind that mustdisplace our horizons in the resulting fusions (73).While these three approaches differ in their views on what it means to understandanother culture, they manifest some common pitfalls. First, they all show a tendencytowards securing the ground in understanding other cultures. In the patrioticapproach, this ground is sought in the native, the familiar culture and language;for the cosmopolitan, the ground is the common principle of humanity; for themulticulturalist, the sense of the good that identifies each different culture must bethe ground on which to stand and from which to compare ones own situationwith that of another. Second, their positions are each based upon a contrastingrelationship between the native (the close, the familiar) and the foreign (the distant,the strange). Even in the cosmopolitan approach, a contrast is made between thedistant and the close. In the multiculturalist approach, the idea of contrastdistinctively indicates this symmetry. Third, in each of these cases, though indifferent ways, there is a drive towards inclusion whether it takes the form perhapsof fusion in the cosmopolitans case, of harmony perhaps in the multiculturalists, orof solidarity in the patriots. Fourth, with respect to the idea of understandingdifferent versions of assumptions about the knowability or approachability of othercultures are indicated. In the patriots case, there is an underlying assumptionthat what is close and immediate is easier to access and know by implication. In thecosmopolitan, there is an expectation that we can exercise our reason in order tocome to know the common principles. Most typically in the multiculturalist case, it isrecognition and articulation that enable us to understand other cultures, despitethe recognition of difficulty in understanding the strange and the unfamiliar (127).With these pitfalls in mind, the following questions arise. Despite theirbenevolent intentions regarding the inclusion of diversity on the principle ofEthics and Education 133Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 equality, is there not still a kind of monolingual mentality a mentality that is blindto the unknown and the incomprehensible? What is missing from, or at best muffled,by these three approaches is the poignant sense of what happens at home, withinhome, in our relationship to what is familiar to us, to what is allegedly native to us,and of what is apparently identifiable as a culture, our own culture. More specificallywhat is invisible is the sense of the rivenness of home, the rift within ourselves.Home cannot be (simply) a stable shelter, the foundation of morality. It is this senseof separation, of being riven, that is covered over by the benevolent language ofinclusive sympathy and recognition of difference.Emersons Devils Child: repression of the gleam of light within a cultureWe thus need a more radical language than these considerations suggest, a languagethat will take us beyond monolingual mentality and release us from the questfor secure ground as the presupposition of understanding other cultures. In search ofsuch language, we shall now turn to Emerson and Cavell and their understandingof the understanding of other cultures. They will destabilize our illusions abouthome ground, but at the same time point beyond inclusion, towards an alternativeway of relating re-orienting ourselves to home.Let us begin by lending our ears to the figure of the child in Emersons essay,Self-Reliance, an essay that starts with the declaration: man should learn to detectand watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within (Emerson1990, 131). The figure of the nonchalant boy in this essay illustrates the meaningof this light: Independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such peopleand facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift,summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome (133).This sounds to be a licentious figure, even to be threatening, because: He wouldutter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, butnecessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear (133). Amore radical figure is the Devils child, who seems compelled to live in conflict withthe sacredness of traditions, to live wholly from within: If I am the Devils child, Iwill live then from the Devil (134). These figures represent Emersons voice: I willnot hide my tastes or aversions (143). The Devils child may confound you, unsettleyou and threaten you. It may be an unbearable voice to hear.In confronting such a child, what would be our response? Perhaps this is Emersonsendorsement of the strong-willed individual, whose motif is, as Cornel West says,power, provocation, and personality (West 1989, 69). Perhaps, alternatively, we willbe prompted to think of the necessity of discipline. We are born into a culture and livein a language community, and hence we must acquire its grammar and norms. As JimGarrison puts this: Until individuals have acquired command of social meanings andvalues, they cannot meaningfully create (Garrison 2006).Yet these responses seem to cover over a hidden dimension of the voice one thatexposes us to the vulnerability and fragility of the human condition.We are fated to beborn into a culture and live in a language community, and hence it is our necessity toacquire social meanings. It is equally necessary, however, that we respond to theunlimited reservoir of our desires, that we live from within, for this is an excess thatcannot be fully contained in those publicly shared meanings. Emersons child voices134 N. SaitoDownloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 the urgency of such need. We must live with the dual necessities, the necessities of fateand freedom, of initiation into culture and deviation from it. And this can create anirresolvable tension not only between the individual and her social surroundings, butalso within the individual, for she is internally torn between inside and outside.Emersons emphasis can then be interpreted in terms not so much of the priority ofindividual freedom over social discipline or cultural initiation, as of the necessity ofundergoing this tension in itself. His foremost concern here is with the extent to whichwe can acknowledge this gap exposed by the voice of theDevils child, by the voice thatdisturbs those apparently shared norms within a culture. As Emerson says: This onefact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns allriches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shovesJesus and Judas equally aside (Emerson 1990, 142).Cavell proposes an alternative way of listening to the Devils child and thisworks in a way that is different both from appeals for articulation and identificationthrough cognitive understanding, the presupposition of universal human reasonand from a fixed, perhaps essentialist sense of good and evil. Cavell would say thatwe should neither acquiesce in a kind of pondering of the limits of knowledge(say, in a reverencing of the unknowable) nor expect simply to solve the problem(say, in a foundationalist securing of knowledge); it is to be dissolved rather thansolved (Cavell 2003, 9). He would rather that we enter into the muddle of lifeexpressed by the child, with the acknowledgement that our way is neither clearnor simple; we are often lost (Cavell 1979, 324). This position is also reflected in hisreinterpretation of Wittgensteins idea of language games and the place of thelunatic child there. In opposition to Saul Kripkes interpretation of Wittgensteinsidea of rule-following, which emphasizes agreement, Cavell says: If the child isseparated out, treated as a lunatic, this shows at once societys power and itsimpotence power to exclude, impotence to include (Cavell 1990, 76). He warns ofthe temptation to muffle the inaudible and the inarticulate in the name of agreement.It is this sense of the unknown and the inaudible that Cavell hears in the voiceof Emersons Devils child. In our sometimes chaotic, often uncertain, and ever-surprising moral struggle, a moral reason can never be a flat answer to thecompetent demand for justification, nor can we simply think and act within clearlines (Cavell 1979, 303, 325). Cavells alternative emphasis is on the need to seekmutual attunements (32) in the coincidence of soul and body, and of mind(language) and world uberhaupt (32, 1089). This echoes Emersons anti-foundationalist way of finding as founding: Foundation reaches no farther thaneach issue of finding (Cavell 1989, 114). While not abrogating a search for afoundation, it never settles finally on secure ground.Cavells reading of Emerson helps us detect the peculiar kind of tragedy that isinvolved in placing the Devils child in a culture: it bears witness to our fatedtendency to denial, the denial of the invisible and inaudible within the familiar. Whenthe voice of a dissident is unbearable or intolerable, we may fall into a state where wespeak as if the tension were resolvable: measures must be taken. And then it is thatrepression takes place, not only the repression of the childs voice, but also therepression of our own fear of confronting the unknown and the strange fragilityof the human condition. Denial of this aspect of the human condition is in itselfa manifestation of the tragic, as defined by Cavell the tragedy of repressing theEthics and Education 135Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 inner light of the child and our forgetting such repression. To recognize this tragedyis to reorder and destabilize the opposition between my culture and others, betweenfriends and strangers, between the familiar and the strange, between home andabroad. It is perhaps also to unsettle our assumptions about the configurationof attachment, solidarity and love as the basis and ideal of human life.Cavells sense of the tragic, however, is tied up with the moment of hope, whichis a distinctive feature of Emersonian perfectionism. The aversive voice of theDevils child disturbs us out of our state of somnolence and encourages us to liveon Chaos and the Dark (Emerson 1990, 132). It is a moment of disjunction fromthe family, the familiar and one that may even move us to say: I shun father andmother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me (134). This suggests the innerlandscape of tension and struggle at home, the glimmer of hope in the vastness of thedespair we confront. The light is prophetic; it offers no guarantee. This duality oftragedy and hope, the sense of limitation and open possibilities being knottedtogether, represents the path of Emersonian moral perfection a perfection withoutfinal perfectibility (Cavell 1990, 12). The Devils child cannot tell beforehand whetherhis words are accepted or not by other members of his language community. In himwe find the gathering impetus to what Thoreau, as an adult, will say: I desire tospeak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in theirwaking moments (Thoreau 1992, 216). The possibility of departure from home is,as Emerson says, a sign of hope: The one thing which we seek with insatiable desireis to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternalmemory, and to do something without knowing how or why; in short, to draw a newcircle (Emerson 1990, 175). It is necessary, therefore, that we respond to theunlimited reservoir of instinct from within, a voice of prophesy, a spiritual excessthat cannot be fully contained in universal reason or any apparently shared criteriaof the good. We may then re-see the Devils child as expressing his insatiable desire.Cavells approach, in contrast to the other three approaches, sheds new lighton our way of understanding other cultures. With the acknowledgment thatestablishing foundations require unfounding, and that gaining stability necessitatesunsettlement, it exhibits a rupture within the native culture. The standpoint is of thedouble within the self, with the neighbourhood within home always to be built(Cavell 1992, 104, 105). If so, understanding other cultures always and already muststart at home. This requires a more thorough recognition of what is beyond the graspof our understanding; and the acknowledgment of the reality of the trauma, of theunresolvable tension between instinct and culture. In listening to the discord withinthe apparent harmony within a culture, Cavell shows that there is no single identitycalled a culture: rather that a culture already entails cultures within.Conclusion: translation beyond monolingualismCavells approach inspires a vision of education that enables us to open our eyes toan otherness within the native and to build neighbourhood within the native.Thoreaus idea of the double, as Cavell reinterprets this in his The senses ofWalden the state of being beside ourselves in a sane sense (Thoreau 1992, 91quoted in Cavell 1992, 102) reiterates this achievement of the outside inside, withthe sense of distance from self (Cavell 1992, 107). This is an encounter with the136 N. SaitoDownloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 strange within the familiar, in a perpetual nextness of the self (108). This is echoedby the aversive voice of Emersons child: O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, Ofriend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am thetruths (Emerson 1990, 143). In response to such a voice, one of the foremost tasksof education for understanding other cultures is to reactivate and release, withinnative culture, the prophetic light of the child. This light symbolizes a part of culturethat already and always entails the unidentifiable, as the residuum unknown,unanalyzable (168). The child is thus recast as a figure which represents the ethics ofself-transcendence a movement towards alterity, on the strength of an alterityalready within ourselves.Such an education requires a peculiar kind of language education, both nativeand foreign one that enables the language of the Devils child not simply to be amanifestation of selfishness or the expression of personal taste: but rather to berepresentative of the human condition, in which the self is constrained to give assentto the language community, while at the same time being committed to addingsomething new to what is given, to what is inherited, through innovation anddeviation. Inheriting language, treasonously, from elders in the language commu-nity is a process of translation the proximity of treason being more evident in theFrench traduction (translation) and in the Italian adage: traduttore traditore(translation is treason). This process of destabilizing both the self and the cultureinevitably involves translation language in translation, and ourselves in translation.Cavell, with Thoreau, and perhaps, beyond Derrida, reconfigures the relationshipbetween speech and writing from the perspective of translation: Writing appearsin Walden not as an extension but as an experience of speech (Cavell 1994, 41).In other words writing, or the experience with the written language, is are-engagement with the mother tongue (which is represented typically by speech),whose mode of language Thoreau and Cavell call the father tongue (Cavell 1992,15, 16). This re-engagement with the language is the very process of translation,involving a discontinuous reconstitution of what has been said, a recounting of thepast, autobiographizing, deriving words from yourself (Cavell 1994, 41). Translationin this broader, and perhaps more original, more originary sense is not a matterof exchange between the established mother tongue and the foreign tongue, butsomething that originates in the process of acquiring the mother tongue. Theexperience of translation always already takes place within ourselves; otherwise put,we ourselves are necessarily involved in the process of translation. The shift of ourattention to the fact of our lives in translation will guide us beyond monolingualism.It will destabilize views on language captured through the tropes of exchange,comparison and mutuality, and foundationalist assumptions of the kind thattypically arise in the prevalent discourse of understanding other cultures.Philosophy as translation is a call for recommitting ones voice in relation to thelanguage community, in order to rediscover ones place in the culture. As Cavellsays, The philosophical appeal to what we say, and the search for our criteria on thebasis of which we say what we say, are claims to community (Cavell 1979, 20). Thisdoes not mean, however, that one must settle down in a certain place in culture asones eternal home. Language in translation requires that the self be on the way, thatit being in a state of immigrancy. Finding ones voice is an eternal and ongoingprocess of deviation from the language community as much as it is one of initiation.Ethics and Education 137Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014 Deviation, however, is not a refusal of participation. As Cavell says, Dissent isnot the undoing of consent but a dispute about its content, a dispute within it overwhether a present arrangement is faithful to it (27). If this is the case, the voice of theDevils child cannot be merely personal:In philosophizing, I have to bring my own language and life into imagination. WhatI require is convening of my cultures criteria, in order to confront them with my wordsand life as I pursue them and as I may imagine them; and at the same time to confrontmy words and life as I pursue them with the life my cultures words may imagine for me:to confront the culture with itself, along the lines in which it meets in me. (125)Finding ones voice entails that the I re-relates itself to culture, conforming toconstraints and yet (therefore) producing something new from within them. The gapwithin the self between, say, ones gleam of light, on the one hand, and inheritancefrom the past and constraints given by culture, on the other cannot be entirelyclosed. One has to live through the gap. Still when one succeeds in finding a perfectpitch in ones voice, the moment for the birth of culture within oneself (Cavell1994, 30, 50), there arrives the moment of awareness when, with a small alteration ofits structure, the world might be taken a small step a half step toward perfection(50). In this reconsidered relationship between the self, language and culture, theunderstanding of other cultures already starts within ones own culture. It involvesfinding the other within ones own.1Note1. The lines of argument in this article have been expanded and further developed inSaito 2009.ReferencesCavell, S. 1979. The claim of reason: Wittgenstein, skepticism, morality, and tragedy. Oxford:Oxford University Press.Cavell, S. 1989. This new yet unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson afterWittgenstein. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Living Batch Press.Cavell, S. 1990. Conditions handsome and unhandsome: The constitution of Emersonianperfectionism. 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The difficulty of imagining other people. In For love of country?,ed. M.C. Nussbaum, Boston: Beacon Press.Taylor, C. 1992. The politics of recognition. Multiculturalism and The politics of recognition:An essay by Charles Taylor, ed. A. Gutmann, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Thoreau, H.D. 1992. Walden and resistance to civil government, ed. R. William. New York:W.W. Norton.West, C. 1989. The American evasion of philosophy: A genealogy of pragmatism. Madison:University of Wisconsin Press.Ethics and Education 139Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 12:40 06 October 2014


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