"I desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments."
— Henry D. Thoreau
Naoko Saito is Professor at the Graduate School of Education, University of Kyoto. Her area of research is American philosophy and pragmatism and its implications for education. She has been working as a mediator in cross-cultural settings, especially between Japan and Anglo-American cultures, and more recently European cultures. Her academic research, teaching activities and administrative work are inseparable from these experiences. Her academic interests derive in part from her first degree, when she majored in American Studies. Postgraduate studies with Israel Scheffler and Hilary Putnam at Harvard led her to a deep interest in philosophy of education, especially in John Dewey’s democratic philosophy of education. Later studies with Stanley Cavell furthered her interest in the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, culminating in her Ph. D from Columbia University in October 2000. Most recently she has been working closely with Paul Standish of the Institute of Education, University of London, and this has enabled her to expand her research activities on Dewey and pragmatism into continental philosophies and in connection with European scholars. In 2007 she won the Ila and John Mellow Prize for her paper, “Philosophy as Translation: American Philosophy, perfectionism and cross-cultural understanding,” and in 2012, the Joseph L. Blau Prize for “Is Dewey more cosmopolitan than Thoreau?”, both at the annual meetings of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. Most recently she has won substantial funding at Kyoto University for her international project, “Philosophy as Translation and the Understanding of Other Cultures: Interdisciplinary Research in Philosophy and Education for Bidirectional Internationalization” (2014-2015).
She writes in Japanese and English, with a commitment to crossing cultural borders. She is the author of The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson (2005) and Uchinaru Hikari to Kyoiku: Pragmatism no SaiKochiku (“The Gleam of Light: Reconstruction in Pragmatism” (2009), a Japanese adaptation of The Gleam of Light) as well as numerous articles. In collaboration with Paul Standish, she has co-authored Democracy and Education from Dewey to Cavell (to be published in 2013) and has co-edited the collections Education and the Kyoto School of Philosophy (2012), Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups (2012), Walden in Tokyo: Stanley Cavell and the Thought of Other Cultures (to be published in 2014) and Honyaku no Sanaka ni aru Shakai-Seigi (Social Justice in Translation) (2019). She is the translator of The Senses of Walden (2005), the first book of Cavell’s to be published in Japanese, and of Beyond the Self: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Levinas and the Limits of Language by Paul Standish (2012). She has also contributed chapters to some representative edited books on American philosophy: John Dewey at 150: Reflections for a New Century, A. G. Rud, Jim Garrison, and Lynda Stone, eds. (Purdue University Press, 2009); Emerson and Thoreau: Figures of Friendship, John T. Lysaker and William Rossi, eds. (Indiana University Press, 2009); and John Dewey and Our Educational Project: A Critical Engagement with Democracy and Education, edited by David Hansen (Teachers College Press, 2006).
From her cross-cultural experiences, she has acquired the conviction that education is lifelong, transcending borders and generations, and that philosophy is a process of mutual learning, deepened by translation between different cultures.