Dewey’s philosophy is wide-ranging and original. During his lifetime, he published regularly and, after an initial flirtation with Hegelianism, developed his own distinctive philosophical position. Dewey, known as one of the most important of the ‘classical pragmatists’, believed that philosophy should be concerned with practical matters, and, to this end, many of his works were on the philosophy of education, ethics, and social political philosophy (Collinson and Plant 177). John Dewey was born in 1859 and died in 1952. After a period as a schoolteacher, he became a graduate student in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University where the teaching of Professor George Sylvester Morris was influential in forming his philosophy. Morris lectured and provided seminar work in his belief of “demonstrated” truth of the substance of German Idealism, and of belief in its competency to give direction to a live for aspiring thought, emotion, and action. In his autobiographical essay, “From Absolutism to Experimentalism”, Dewey writes of Morris: “I have never known a more single-hearted and whole-souled man — a man of a single piece all the way through; while I long since deviated from his philosophic faith I should be happy to believe that the influence of the spirit of his teaching has been an enduring influence” (Rorty 388). Early in Dewey’s philosophy, he followed the beliefs of the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). The cornerstone of Hegel’s system, or world view, is the notion of freedom, conceived not as simple license to fulfil preferences but as the rare condition of living self-consciously and in a fully rationally organized community or state. (Blackburn) Dewey’s interest in Hegelianism was prompted by his desire to incorporate all dualisms1 into the one unity of the Absolute (Collinson and Plant 177). Dewey states that his acquaintance with Hegel left him with a permanent deposit in his thinking. Dewey believed that there was greater richness and greater variety of insight in Hegel than in any other single systematic philosopher; however, Dewey excluded Plato from his statement who he said provided his favorite philosophic reading. Dewey’s departure from Hegelianism was described by him with the word “drifting” expressing the slow and for a long time, imperceptible character of the movement taking fifteen years (Rorty 390). Although Dewey enjoyed Plato’s writings, he was unable to find in him the all-comprehensive and overriding system. Dewey felt the ancient skeptics overworked another aspect of Plato’s thought when they treated him as their spiritual father, but felt they were nearer the truth than those who forced him into the frame of a rigidly systemized doctrine. Dewey wrote, “nothing could be more helpful to present philosophizing than a “Back to Plato” movement; but it would have to be back to the dramatic, restless, cooperatively inquiring Plato of the Dialogues, trying one mode of attack after another to see what it might yield; back to the Plato whose highest flight of metaphysics always terminated with a social and practical turn, and not to the artificial Plato constructed by unimaginative commentators (Rorty 390). Dewey’s account of the nature of things, which he called his naturalistic metaphysics, can be usefully contrasted to the so-called classical tradition in philosophy. Although that tradition has many variations, it is consistently distinguished by the assumption that true being is perfect, eternal, and unchanging. According to Plato’s theory, for example, all natures, as such, are changeless and eternal (Arrington and Beversluis 217). Dewey rejected the view that human nature has a fixed essence which it either possess or should strive towards as an ideal, and also the that everyone’s social status was a consequence of the unalterable characteristics enshrined in their own individual human natures. Instead he put forward the contention that human nature had...
Cited: Anderson, Elizabeth. The Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Dewey 's Moral Philosophy. Edward N Zalta, 2014. eBook.
Arrington, Robert L and John Beversluis. A Companion to the Philosophers. Oxford, 1999. eBook.
Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, 2014. eBook.
Collinson, Diane and Kathryn Plant. Fifty Major Philosophers. New York: Routledge, 2006. eBook.
Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2 rev. ed). Oxford, 2005. eBook.
Rorty, Amelie Okensberg. The Many Faces of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. eBook.
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