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ODwyer Richard Shaun Last modified date:2023.06.27

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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, History of Ideas, English Language Education
Total Priod of education and research career in the foreign country
Outline Activities
I would describe myself as an English education specialist in teaching, as well as a humanities generalist. I have published in different areas of political and moral philosophy, history of ideas, English language education, and comparative philosophy. My book "Confucianism's Prospects: A Reassessment" was published by State University of New York Press in August 2019. In 2022 my edited book "Handbook of Confucianism in Modern Japan" was published by Amsterdam University Press.
Research Interests
  • Contemporary Confucian Philosophy and Liberal Thought, political philosophy, moral philosophy, history and memory studies
    keyword : Confucianism, Liberal thought, perfectionism, autonomy
Academic Activities
1. Shaun O'Dwyer (editor and author), Song Qi, Han Shuting, Lee Yu-Ting, Mizuno Hirota, Yamamura Sho, Masako Racel, Chang Kun-chiang, Kang Haesoo, Park Junhyun, Kyle Shuttleworth, Alexandra Mustatea, Eddy Dufourmont, Jiang Dongxian., Shaun O'Dwyer (Handbook of Confucianism in Modern Japan: editor), Japan Documents (East Asia), Amsterdam University Press (Europe and North America), 2022.04, [URL], In mainstream assessments of Confucianism’s modern genealogy there is a Sinocentric bias which is, in part, the result of a general neglect of modern Japanese Confucianism by political and moral philosophers and intellectual historians during the post-war era.

The essays in this volume can be read for the insight they provide into the intellectual and ideological proclivities of reformers, educators and philosophers explicitly reconstructing Confucian thought, or more tacitly influenced by it, during critical phases in Japan’s modernization, imperialist expansionism and post-1945 reconstitution as a liberal democratic polity. They can be read as introductions to the ideas of modern Japanese Confucian thinkers and reformers whose work is little known outside Japan—and sometimes barely remembered inside Japan. They can also be read as a needful corrective to the above-mentioned Sinocentric bias in the 20th century intellectual history of Confucianism. For those Confucian scholars currently exploring how Confucianism is, or can be made compatible with democracy, at least some of the studies in this volume serve as a warning. They enjoin readers to consider how Confucianism was also rendered compatible with the authoritarian ultranationalism and militarism that captured Japan’s political system in the 1930s, and brought war to the Asia-Pacific region.



2. O'Dwyer, Shaun, O'Dwyer, Shaun ("Confucianism's Prospects: A Reassessment", author), New Paltz: State University of New York Press, N/A, 352 pages, 2019.08, [URL], "Confucianism's Prospects: A Reassessment"

This book 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, “On the Duty of Scholars to Aid their Persecuted Peers”. Journal of Applied Philosophy (February 2023), Journal of Applied Philosophy,, Early View, 2023.02, Global threats to academic freedom are multiplying not only in an era of authoritarian resurgence, but also – less overtly – in an era of increasingly managerial governance of higher education sectors in democratic nations, where protection of institutional revenue streams, and of institutional reputation, may take priority over protection of scholars’ and students’ academic freedoms. In such circumstances, justifications for rendering aid to at-risk scholars and students have become obscured. This article argues that the Kantian concept of imperfect duty can be adapted to theorizing collective, institutional obligations to aid those scholars and students, undertaken in light of academic freedom as a constitutive institutional value..
2. Shaun O'Dwyer, “Japanese Confucianism and War”. Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture Vol.38: 15-41 (August 2022)., Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture, DOI:10.22916/jcpc.2022..38.15, 38, 15-41, 2022.08, It is a widely held belief that State Shinto was the main indigenous ideological driver of Japan’s descent into ultranationalism and war in the 1930s. However,
much less is known today of Japanese Confucian justifications for war in the same era. This article joins a small group of other studies researching a now
little-known educational and research association formed in 1918 by Japanese Confucian scholars and Sinologists, the Shibunkai (斯文会) which reached the
peak of its influence and patronage from Japan’s political elite in the 1930’s. This article reviews the Shibunkai’s early efforts to revive traditional Confucian
morality and promote Chinese learning, its pursuit of “Confucian Diplomacy” with the Kong family estate at Qufu in Shandong Province, and its elaboration
of a Confucian Pan-Asian doctrine that accorded Japan, with its supposed purified version of Confucianism, the role of leader and guardian of East Asia’s
spiritual and moral culture.

Last, this article analyses some of the seldom-studied war-era literature produced by Shibunkai scholars to argue that a modern Japanese “Imperial Way” Confucianism played a role in the moral legitimation of Japan’s war against China in 1937-1945. Based on its analysis of the Occidentalism and self-Orientalism in the Shibunkai’s wartime publications, the article concludes that there is a need for more critical reflection on Occidentalist and self-Orientalist trends in Confucian normative theorizing amidst the troubled geopolitical conditions of East Asia today..
3. Shaun O'Dwyer, Meritocracy and Resentment, Philosophy and Social Criticism,, 46, 9, 1146-1164, 2020.08, Lately it has become fashionable to speak of a ‘political meritocracy’ in Chinese political culture, which contrasts with the liberal ‘electoral democracy’ of the west. Here, however, 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 consider themselves to be wronged by the high-stakes competition for status, income and power inherent in these practices. I examine the unstable nexus between this emotion and these practices and draw on Confucian, Qing era vernacular literature and modern studies of educational credentialism for insights into how the potentially destabilizing, destructive manifestations of resentment can be mitigated and channelled into less destructive, dissenting political and cultural expression. I argue that, on balance, electoral democracies have better resources for mitigating such resentment than does the ‘political meritocracy’ attributed to Chinese political culture.
4. Shaun O'Dwyer, Confucianism’s Prospects, Perfectionism and Liberalism, Comparative Political Theory,, 1, 1, 105-116, 2021.06, In this article, I recapitulate the main arguments of my book “Confucianism’s Prospects: a Reassessment” in response to commentators on the book. I elaborate on its capabilities approach normative perspective, its evaluation of Confucian cultural attributions to contemporary East Asian societies, its criticisms of communitarian and political perfectionist arguments for Confucian democracy, and its alternative, modest vision for Confucianism as one of many comprehensive doctrines that can find a safe home within the civil societies of East Asia’s representative democracies..
5. Shaun O'Dwyer, "John Dewey's 'Turkish Tragedy'", Holocaust and Genocide Studies,, 25, 3, 375-403, 2011.12, [URL], In the summer of 1924, American philosopher and education theorist John Dewey traveled to Turkey to advise the Turkish government on the development of a new, secular education system. Dewey later wrote five articles for the New Republic on political and educational affairs in Turkey; one of them, “The Turkish Tragedy,” alluded to the deportations and massacres of the Armenians in 1915–1916 and insinuated that alleged Armenian treachery and atrocities had provoked them. This article explains how and why this influential intellectual compromised his own high epistemic standards and morally mitigated Turkish responsibility for the Armenian Genocide..
6. Shaun O'Dwyer, The Yasukuni Shrine and the Competing Patriotic Pasts of East Asia, History and Memory, 22, 2, 147-177, 2010.10, Criticisms of Japan's controversial Yasukuni Shrine have highlighted two problems: the enshrinement there of the spirits of executed war criminals; and the distorted, patriotic war narrative presented in its war museum, the Yūshūkan. This article focuses on the second problem, while acknowledging the Yūshūkan's recent attempts to defuse it through revisions to its exhibit narrative. It undertakes some philosophical legwork to sort out the categories that the Yūshūkan narrative can be defined under: whether it is a historical narrative or something categorically distinct from that definition. Finally, it argues that even if the Yūshūkan narrative is categorically distinct from both historical and individual memory-based narratives, it is still answerable to their criticisms. This analysis is shown to have application to other national, patriotic narratives of the Asia-Pacific War in East Asia..
7. Shaun O'Dwyer, Deflating the ‘Confucian Heritage Culture’thesis in intercultural and academic English education, Language, Culture and Curriculum,, 30, 2, 198-211, 2017.06, This paper develops an interdisciplinary critical perspective on the concept of ‘Confucian Heritage Cultures’ (CHC), used in intercultural and English language teaching theory to explain the supposed culturally distinct learning habits, expectations and schemas many Asian students bring to academic classrooms in English-speaking countries. Drawing on political scientific, historical and philosophical research, it finds that the CHC thesis has little explanatory value; it does not take into account the effects of rapid social change in Asia, or the cultural diversity within and between contemporary Asian societies, and is often based on highly reductive, essentialist understandings of Confucian traditions themselves. Teachers are well advised to consider other explanations for their students’ learning habits and expectations and for the challenges they face in academic English classrooms..
8. 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..
9. Shaun O'Dwyer, The English Teacher as Facilitator and Authority, TESL-EJ, 9, 4, URL:, 2006.06, Over the past eighty years or so, some education theorists have repudiated the notion that it is the teacher's role to act as an authority in the classroom, transmitting knowledge to students "who do not know." In English as a second or foreign language education, a notion of the teacher as "facilitator" is considered to be more compatible with students' felt needs and autonomy. This paper argues that there are epistemological flaws in prominent rejections of transmission theories of learning. Drawing on British philosopher Michael Oakeshott's distinction between technical and practical knowledge, it argues for a modified understanding of the English teacher both as an authority capable of transmitting these types of knowledge in language, and as a facilitator of cooperative language learning.
1. Shaun O'Dwyer, "Confucianism’s Prospects, Perfectionism and Liberalism", Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2020.09, [URL], In this presentation, I recapitulate the main arguments of my book “Confucianism’s
Prospects: a Reassessment” in response to commentators on the book. I elaborate on
its capabilities approach normative perspective, its evaluation of Confucian cultural
attributions to contemporary East Asian societies, its criticisms of communitarian and
political perfectionist arguments for Confucian democracy, and its alternative, modest
vision for Confucianism as one of many comprehensive doctrines that can find a safe
home within the civil societies of East Asia’s representative democracies..
2. 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.
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.

Since 2012, I have been a regular journalistic and op-ed contributor to the newspaper "The Japan Times", discussing topics in Japanese culture, politics and higher education.

In 2019-20, I was interviewed by Vietnam TV News and by Times Higher Education Magazine on Japanese cultural and higher education issues..