Dewey

Dewey

Dewey

Dewey

Synopsis

John Dewey was a pioneer of progressive educational approaches, as well as a politically active liberal and an unconventional philosopher. His highly original version of pragmatism--his "instrumentalism"--has held a pre-eminent place in American philosophy during the first half of this century. The dominant characteristic of Dewey's thought was his desire to resist thinking of the main aspects of human life in isolation from one another, and to resist the institutionalization of their separation. J. E. Tiles traces the consequences of Dewey's philosophy by relating them to the views of his fellow pragmatists, James and Peirce, and confronting them with the criticisms of his contemporaries, such as Russell and Lovejoy. This book also contrasts Dewey's ideas with doctrines advanced by philosophers of the past such as Aristotle and Hume, as well as by philosophers who have risen in prominence since Dewey's death, such as Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel.

Excerpt

Someone relatively new to philosophy might expect from the series title to have here a book about the disputes in which John Dewey engaged with other philosophers. ‘Arguments’ in the present context, however, refers to a general way of articulating thoughts, that is by offering some as reasons for holding others. This certainly takes place in any dispute which is worth following, but it is also the form of articulation which philosophers use when they are not specifically addressing those who disagree with them. A philosopher uses argumentative articulations to convey a vision—or, if that sounds too pretentious, a general view—of human beings and of their relationships to one another and to their environment, especially of those respects in which such relationships are mediated by thought.

Now one might profitably look at how philosophers articulate their general views by examining records of the disputes in which they engaged. In the case of John Dewey these are numerous and readily available. The editors of Dewey’s Works, for example, have thoughtfully included (as appendices to the various volumes) articles which Dewey singled out for criticism, as well as articles which attacked his views and to which he published replies. For debates which were all conducted within the past century, however, these documents are curiously remote and sometimes hard to follow; they do not on the whole illuminate Dewey’s general views; they presuppose them. This phenomenon illustrates in a striking way that arguments do not on their own carry a sense of what is at stake, let alone carry conviction.

In Dewey’s case this phenomenon is no doubt intensified by the fact that his views, which had a considerable following during his life, have fallen into relative neglect. This is not, as some have suggested, because his following was generated entirely by the strength of his personality and could not be sustained without it. Dewey had genuinely original views, a remarkably comprehensive and coherent vision, and is at the . . .

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