Kyushu University Academic Staff Educational and Research Activities Database
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ODwyer Richard Shaun Last modified date:2019.07.05

Associate Professor / Faculty of Languages and Cultures

Administration Post

Academic Degree
Bachelor of Arts, University of New England, Postgraduate Diploma in Womens Studies, University of New England, Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Graduate Certificate in TESOL, Bond University
Country of degree conferring institution (Overseas)
Field of Specialization
Political and Moral philosophy, Philosophy of English Language Education
Total Priod of education and research career in the foreign country
Outline Activities
I was educated mostly in Australia, doing my undergraduate and preliminary graduate studies at the University of New England, before studying for a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales. My research interests are quite broad; I have published in different areas of political and moral philosophy, metaphysics, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of English language education, and comparative philosophy. My book "Confucianism's Prospects: A Reassessment" will be published by State University of New York Press in August 2019. From 2019, I will also be preparing a special edited volume on behalf of a Japan based publisher showcasing the research of Japanese and overseas scholars on the subject of "Confucianism in Modern Japan".
In addition to my university work, I have been active in disaster relief volunteering in Japan since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in North Japan, and am currently a co-director in the disaster relief volunteer organization It's Not Just Mud.
Research Interests
  • Contemporary Confucian Philosophy and Liberal Thought
    keyword : Confucianism, Liberal thought, perfectionism, autonomy
Academic Activities
1. O'Dwyer, Shaun, O'Dwyer, Shaun, New Paltz: State University of New York Press, N/A, 352 pages, 2019.08, [URL], Challenges descriptions of East Asian societies as Confucian cultures and critically evaluates communitarian Confucian alternatives to liberal democracy.

In Confucianism’s Prospects, Shaun O’Dwyer offers a rare critical engagement with English language scholarship on Confucianism. Against the background of historical and sociological research into the rapid modernization of East Asian societies, O’Dwyer reviews several key Confucian ethical ideas and proposals for East Asian alternatives to liberal democracy that have emerged from this scholarship. He also puts the following question to Confucian scholars: what prospects do those ideas and proposals have in East Asian societies in which liberal democracy and pluralism are well established, and individualization and declining fertility are impacting deeply upon family life? In making his case, O’Dwyer draws upon the neglected work of Japanese philosophers and intellectuals who were witnesses to Japan’s pioneering East Asian modernization, and protagonists in the rise and disastrous wartime fall of its own modernized Confucianism. He contests a sometimes Sinocentric and ahistorical conception of East Asian societies as “Confucian societies,” while also recognizing that Confucian traditions can contribute importantly to global philosophical dialogue, and to civic and religious life.
1. Shaun O'Dwyer, "Democracy and Confucian Values", published in Philosophy East and West Volume 53, Number 1, January 2003: pp.39-63. , "Philosophy East and West", N/A, 53, 1, 39-63, N/A, 2003.01, [URL], This essay considers a number of proposals for liberal political democracy in East Asian societies, and some of the critical responses such proposals have attracted from political philosophers and from East Asian intellectuals and leaders. These proposals may well be ill-suited to the distinctive traditional values of societies claiming a Confucian inheritance. Offered here instead is a pragmatist- and Confucian-inspired vision of participatory democracy in civic life that is possibly better able to address the problem of conserving and continuing these traditional values through times of economic and social change..
1. Shaun O'Dwyer, Meritocracy and Resentment, Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2019.03, [URL], Lately it has become fashionable to speak of a “political meritocracy” that is distinctive to Chinese political culture, in contrast to the “electoral democracy” of western liberal societies. This distinction underestimates the entrenchment of meritocratic credential norms in the political elites of liberal democracies themselves. Here I consider the moral psychology of an emotion that arguably shadows the history of meritocratic practices in China and in liberal democracies: the emotion of resentment, expressed by agents who fail in, or who consider themselves excluded from and wronged by, the high stakes competition for and elite capture of status, income and power inherent in these practices. I examine the unstable nexus between this emotion and these practices, and draw on Confucian and Qing era vernacular literature and modern sociological studies of educational credentialism for insights into how the socially destabilizing, destructive manifestations of resentment can be mitigated, or channeled into less destructive, dissenting political and cultural expression against the excesses of meritocracy..
Educational Activities
Regarding my teaching in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures, I have three ambitions. First, I would like to teach various Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) courses from my own humanities generalist perspective. Such courses would take into account the academic English learning needs of Kyushu University students while fostering genuine, academically specialized learning environments and learning objectives. Based on my experience in the past seven years teaching a CLIL-based course on applied ethics to Japanese students and study abroad foreign students, I would like to teach a wider selection of such courses in this faculty.

Second, I would like to improve my teaching methods to bring them further into alignment with the academic English study needs of Kyushu University students from diverse faculties. Most students are studying the physical sciences, engineering and medicine, and in those fields it is necessary to learn particular rhetorics, research methods and modes of academic communication. In my teaching of academic English I hope to more deeply incorporate learning materials from these different disciplines.

Third, and at a more general level, my contribution to English language education draws on the following insights. In today’s global society, adult Japanese come into contact with people of various nationalities through their work and travel. The lingua franca of this global society is almost always English.

One more facet of this global society is what the 18th century philosophy Immanuel Kant called “the world society of citizens” in his essay “What is Enlightenment?”; in other words, the global public sphere. On the internet and in social media, these words of Kant’s are still relevant: “What is the public use of one’s reason? It is the use of reason a person makes, as a scholar, before a reading public”. The lingua franca of the global public sphere is almost always English; so people who do not understand it are put in a disadvantaged position in this sphere.

I believe students should come into contact with both facets of this global society.

My current courses are:
Academic English A Production (First year)
Intensive English: Global Issues RW1 Global Ethical issues (First Year)
Intensive English: Japanese Issues 2 (First Year)
Academic English C (theme-based): "Scientific Ethics" (Second Year)
Professional and Outreach Activities
Beginning in May 2011, I helped recruit student volunteers from Meiji University in Tokyo to participate in disaster relief volunteering in Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In 2013 I became a co-director of the Japan-based disaster relief organization It's Just Mud, and have volunteered in Leyte Island in 2014 following Typhoon Yolanda, in Mashiki immediately following the April 2016 earthquake, and in Kure following the flooding and mudslides in July 2018. .