John Dewey (1859-1952) was widely known among the reading public of his time for his humanism, his progressive educational theory, and his commitment to social reform. Near the end of his life, his work had become so influential that the New York Times dubbed him "America's Philosopher."
Among his fellow academics, Dewey was also known as heir to the pragmatism of C. S. Peirce and William James and as an energetic opponent of dualistic metaphysical systems. He was especially critical of the ones that advanced supernatural or transcendent outlooks. He argued that their separation of facts from values and the mental from the physical had stifled human progress.
With the exception of his closest colleagues, however, few during Dewey's lifetime seemed to notice that he was also the first philosopher in America to develop a systematic critique of technology.
Three factors may have contributed to this oversight. First, there was during Dewey's lifetime no academic discipline, nor even a clearly defined set of issues, known as the philosophy of technology. Some philosophers, to be sure, were interested in the theoretical aspects of science. But technology just seemed to most of them too mundane--too practical--to be worthy of serious consideration.
Second, although Dewey wrote books that were devoted to established sub-fields within philosophy, such as ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of art, he never consolidated his philosophy of technology within a single volume. His critique of technology is diffused throughout dozens of books and essays.
Third, Dewey's work was so far ahead of its time that few of his contemporaries were able to grasp its significance. Only now are philosophers beginning to appreciate the extent to which he …