John Dewey

John Dewey, 1859–1952, American philosopher and educator, b. Burlington, Vt., grad. Univ. of Vermont, 1879, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, 1884. He taught at the universities of Minnesota (1888–89), Michigan (1884–88, 1889–94), and Chicago (1894–1904) and at Columbia from 1904 until his retirement in 1930. His foreign consultancies included two stints at the Univ. of Beijing and a report on the reorganization of the schools of Turkey.

Dewey's original philosophy, called instrumentalism, bears a relationship to the utilitarian and pragmatic schools of thought. Instrumentalism holds that the various modes and forms of human activity are instruments developed by human beings to solve multiple individual and social problems. Since the problems are constantly changing, the instruments for dealing with them must also change. Truth, evolutionary in nature, partakes of no transcendental or eternal reality and is based on experience that can be tested and shared by all who investigate. Dewey conceived of democracy as a primary ethical value, and he did much to formulate working principles for a democratic and industrial society.

In education his influence has been a leading factor in the abandonment of authoritarian methods and in the growing emphasis upon learning through experimentation and practice. In revolt against abstract learning, Dewey considered education as a tool that would enable the citizen to integrate culture and vocation effectively and usefully. Dewey actively participated in movements to forward social welfare and woman's suffrage, protect academic freedom, and effect political reform.

Among his writings, which are concerned with almost all philosophical fields except metaphysics, are Psychology (1887), The School and Society (1899; rev. ed. 1915), Ethics (with James H. Tufts, 1908), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), The Public and Its Problems (1927), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Philosophy and Civilization (1932), A Common Faith (1934), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Experience and Education (1938), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939), and Problems of Men (1946).

See J. A. Boydston and K. Poulos, ed., Checklist of Writings about John Dewey, 1887–1977 (1978) and B. Levine, Works about John Dewey, 1886–1995 (1996); G. Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (1973); J. J. McDermott, ed., Philosophy of John Dewey (2 vol., 1981); biographies by S. C. Rockefeller (1991), R. B. Westbrook (1991), A. Ryan (1995), and J. Martin (2002); studies by G. R. Geiger (1958, repr. 1974), A. Wirth (1966, repr. 1979), F. F. Cruz (1988), L. A. Hickman (1990), H. Cuffaro (1994), and A. Ryan (1996).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

John Dewey: Selected full-text books and articles

The Education of John Dewey: A Biography By Jay Martin Columbia University Press, 2002
FREE! The School and Society By John Dewey University of Chicago Press, 1915 (Revised edition)
FREE! Reconstruction in Philosophy By John Dewey Henry Holt, 1920
Freedom and Culture By John Dewey G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1939
Dewey By J. E. Tiles Routledge, 1990
The Life and Mind of John Dewey By George Dykhuizen; Jo Ann Boydston Southern Illinois University Press, 1973
John Dewey: Rethinking Our Time By Raymond D. Boisvert State University of New York Press, 1998
Faith in Life: John Dewey's Early Philosophy By Donald J. Morse Fordham University Press, 2011
John Dewey's Philosophy of Spirit, with the 1897 Lecture on Hegel By John R. Shook; James A. Good Fordham University Press, 2010
Eminent Educators: Studies in Intellectual Influence By Maurice R. Berube Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "John Dewey: American Genius" and Chap. 3 "John Dewey and the Abstract Expressionists"
Experience and Value: Essays on John Dewey and Pragmatic Naturalism By S. Morris Eames; Elizabeth R. Eames; Richard W. Field Southern Illinois University Press, 2003
Dewey on Democracy By William R. Caspary Cornell University Press, 2000
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.