John Dewey's Philosophy of Spirit, with the 1897 Lecture on Hegel

By John R. Shook; James A. Good et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

In a brief autobiographical essay published in 1930, John Dewey acknowledged that Hegel had “left a permanent deposit” in his thought, but he was evasive about the details of Hegel’s influence. Dewey’s admission fueled a debate, which shows no sign of abating even now, about the extent to which his later works contain a mixture of Hegelian and pragmatist elements. Since the publication of Morton White’s The Origins of Dewey’s Instrumentalism in 1943, Dewey scholars have held that he made a complete break from Hegelianism around the turn of the twentieth century. Scholars have argued about the exact timing of Dewey’s conversion, but all agree that it occurred and that it happened sometime during the period 1894–1903. This interpretation, however, never put to rest questions about Hegelian elements in Dewey’s mature thought, particularly in Experience and Nature (1925), Art as Experience (1934), and A Common Faith (1934).

John Shook’s book Dewey’s Empirical Theory of Knowledge and Reality (2000) was the first to break with the traditional reading of Dewey’s turn from Hegelianism toward pragmatism, arguing instead that Dewey’s mature philosophy was a gradual and naturalistic modification of his Hegelianism. For evidence, Shook focused primarily on Dewey’s changing relationship to British neo-Hegelian philosophers. James Good’s book A Search for Unity in Diversity: The “Permanent Hegelian Deposit” in the Philosophy of John Dewey (2005) extended Shook’s argument by comparing Dewey’s thought to recent readings of Hegel. His primary argument is that scholars have been mistaken about Dewey’s Hegelianism because they assume that the neo-Hegelian, metaphysical/

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