Back to listNov 14, 2009

Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue Holds Forum


On November 14, the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue (formerly the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century) held its Sixth Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, titled "John Dewey, Daisaku Ikeda, and the Quest for a New Humanism."

The forum marked the 150th anniversary of John Dewey's birth and featured an introductory lecture from Steven Rockefeller, professor emeritus of religion at Middlebury College, who remarked on the shared aspirations of Dewey and Ikeda: "As religious humanists… they reject all forms of religious authoritarianism, dogmatism and exclusivism without lapsing into a self-centered individualism and a subjective moral relativism. They are concerned to break down the dualism of the sacred and the secular, the religious life and everyday life."


The day featured discussions on "Inner Potential and Self-Transformation" led by Larry Hickman, director of the Center for Dewey Studies and professor of philosophy, Southern Illinois University, and Gonzalo Obelleiro, doctoral student of the Program of Philosophy and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, with Charlene Haddock Seigfried, professor of philosophy, Purdue University, offering comments.

One theme of this session, introduced by Professor Hickman, was the wisdom of avoiding ideological or ontological extremes; for Ikeda this practice is known as the third path and for Dewey it is called adjustment. Both philosophers, explained Hickman, point to paths of transformation that might be described as "guidelines, not blueprints," since this process of adjusting or finding a third path is, for both Dewey and Ikeda, ultimately a very individual one.

Building on this theme, Obelleiro said that personal and social growth need to be worked out in the actual conditions "of every moment."

Professor Seigfried added that the ideals and desires that guide us, though they might never be fully realized, "function as a horizon toward which individuals and communities can direct their energies."

The afternoon session involved a discussion on "Social Self-Actualization" led by Jim Garrison, professor of philosophy of education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Ikeda Center Senior Research Fellow Virginia Benson, with Nel Noddings, Lee L. Jacks Professor Emerita of Education at Stanford University, giving comments.

Professor. Garrison explained that, for Dewey, we cannot develop and realize our potential as individuals without a community in which to test ourselves and conduct our transactions.

Additional presentations were given by Ms. Benson and Professor Noddings; David Hansen, professor and director, Program in Philosophy and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; and Richard Yoshimachi, president and executive director of the Ikeda Center. The audience was also engaged throughout, using a technique called "serial testimony."

[Adapted from an activity report from the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, USA; photos courtesy of Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue]