Faith in Life: John Dewey's Early Philosophy

Faith in Life: John Dewey's Early Philosophy

Faith in Life: John Dewey's Early Philosophy

Faith in Life: John Dewey's Early Philosophy

Synopsis

This is the first book to consider John Dewey's early philosophy on its own terms and to explicate its key ideas. It does so through the fullest treatment to date of his youthful masterwork, the Psychology. This fuller treatment reveals that the received view, which sees Dewey's early philosophy as unimportant in its own right, is deeply mistaken. In fact, Dewey's early philosophy amounts to an important new form of idealism. More specifically, Dewey's idealism contains a new logic of rupture, which allows us to achieve four things: A focus on discontinuity that challenges all naturalistic views, including Dewey's own later view; A space of critical resistance to events that is at the same time the source of ideals; A faith in the development of ideals that challenges pessimists like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche; and A non-traditional reading of Hegel that invites comparison with cutting-edge Continental philosophers, such as Adorno, Derrida, and Zizek, and even goes beyond them in its systematic approach;In making these discoveries, the author forges a new link between American and European philosophy, showing how they share similar insights and concerns. He also provides an original assessment of Dewey's relationship to his teacher, George Sylvester Morris, and to other important thinkers of the day, giving us a fresh picture of John Dewey, the man and the philosopher, in the early years of his career. Readers will find a wide range of topics discussed, from Dewey's early reflections on Kant and Hegel to the nature of beauty, courage, sympathy, hatred, love, and even death and despair. This is a book for anyone interested in the thought of John Dewey, American pragmatism, Continental Philosophy, or a new idealism appearing on the scene.

Excerpt

This book is the first full-length study of John Dewey’s early philosophy. Most scholars entirely ignore Dewey’s early efforts in favor of his later, more mature thinking. Those scholars who do explore Dewey’s early work, most notably Jim Good and John Shook, who are pioneers in this area, consider the early efforts solely in terms of how they relate to Dewey’s later thought. There has been no single study devoted to understanding and interpreting Dewey’s early philosophy as a whole, taken on its own terms as a sustained philosophical endeavor.

The justification for such a project—a project that might help us better understand one of America’s greatest thinkers—would hardly be required, were it not for the predominance of what I call the standard view of Dewey’s early thinking, which holds that his early ideas are hopelessly naïve and not worth considering. Until recently, the standard view has been so firmly in place that it has dissuaded most scholars from exploring Dewey’s early efforts. Shook and Good have gone a long way toward challenging the standard view, however. They . . .

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