What are some key facts about John Dewey's life and career?

Dewey was born in 1859 in Burlington, Vermont, where his father was a grocer. He attended the University of Vermont and then taught classics, science, and algebra at a high school in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and then in Burlington, Vermont. Unsure of his future direction, but encouraged by former teachers, he applied to the new graduate program in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University but was turned down for a fellowship twice. Dewey finally borrowed $500 from an aunt to attend. He thereby became part of the first generation able to obtain Ph.D.s in philosophy in the United States. Dewey's teachers at Johns Hopkins were philosophers George Sylvester Morris (1840-1889) and Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), and psychologist G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924).

At first, Dewey was very interested in Hegelian ideas of organism, that the living being interacts with its environment, and that society is an organic whole that can be viewed as an organism. After writing a dissertation on Immanuel Kant (17241804), he taught at the University of Michigan from 1884 to 1894. At this time he became interested in public education and progressive politics, as well as psychology. In 1894 Dewey became chair of the department of philosophy, psychology, and education at the University of Chicago. At Chicago, working with colleagues, he began to develop activist social theories. This resulted in the 1903 Studies in Logical Theory, which was dedicated to William James (1842-1910).

Dewey had a national reputation when he left Chicago for Columbia Uni versity. The Journal of Philosophy, published by the Columbia Philosophy Department, became an outlet for his ideas and a forum for discussion of them over the decades. Dewey lectured in Tokyo, Peking, and Nanking, and studied education in Turkey, Mexico, and Russia.

John Dewey was the most famous philosopher in the United States during the early twentieth century (AP).

John Dewey was the most famous philosopher in the United States during the early twentieth century (AP).

In retirement, Dewey chaired the 1937 Mexican commission investigating charges against Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, which produced a report, Not Guilty. He also defended Bertrand Russell in 1941, when Russell was denied a teaching opportunity at City College , New York, because of his political ideas.

What were John Dewey's main philosophical ideas?

Dewey brought ordinary life into philosophy. His main concept was experience, first for a cognitive Hegelian subject, and later as a more inclusive emotional and active dimension of human life. Dewey argued, against philosophical idealists and indeed most other philosophers of his day, that most of what is important in our experience is not reflective. Unlike the Hegelians, he also insisted that there was not a unified whole of all experience, but many interlocking versions or kinds of experience. Experience, for Dewey, was thus pluralistic. But the experience of the concrete human individual, or the real person, was the primary form of experience for Dewey.

Dewey sought to articulate the anthropological and biological nature of lived human experience. He saw this as a new form of empiricism. Against criticism that he was neglecting what was objective in writing and speaking as though experience was everything, Dewey developed a metaphysical account of experience.

What was John Dewey's metaphysics?

Dewey held that nature has different "transactions," or kinds of action, that have mutual causes and effects between or among their components. Dewey's transactions are thus interactions. There are three evolutionary levels, or "plateaus," of transactions: physiochemical, psychophysical, and human experience. Physiochemical reactions are simply what can be studied by physics and chemistry; psychophysical transactions are connections between mind and body; human experience is exactly how things seem to human beings as they go about their lives.

What was John Dewey's theory of art?

First, Dewey thought that inquiry is an art, and he rejected what he called the "spectator theory of knowledge," whereby knowing is believed to be passive contemplation. According to Dewey, ordinary human life itself is a form of art because it is permeated with aesthetic qualities in human experience. For Dewey, all experience, or anything that can be called "an experience," has an aesthetic quality that can be directly appreciated. An experience has an immediacy that is directly felt or had and which unites its constituents into the same whole. Dewey meant by this that we are not aware of the physical or chemical aspects of our experience but of holistic actions and qualities. For example, the runner does not experience her sprained ankle in the same way that the sports doctor examining her does. She has a united qualitative experience of strain and pain, whereas the sports doctor understands her condition in terms of which exact tissues have been damaged.

Did John Dewey hold views on education for children?

Yes, and some have considered this unusual in a philosopher. He was married twice and had six children himself and adopted three. Although Dewey did not want to be known as an "educator," because it would detract from his philosophical reputation, his contribution to education was at least as lasting as his philosophical innovations.

When Dewey began to consider education, school children were expected to sit quietly and absorb information passively. While Dewey did not believe in a completely child-centered method of instruction, he emphasized the activity of learning, with an understanding that children are already curious and energetic participants in common, ordinary life outside the classroom.

Dewey thought that children should be taught skills to solve problems, including moral problems. When he became chair of the department of philosophy, psychology, and education at the University of Chicago, he founded The Laboratory School. It was based on his theory of education, the motto of which was "Learn by Doing!"

However, he acknowledged practical advice from Ella Flagg Young, the first woman president of the National Education Association, who was able to translate his ideas into actual practices and exercises in the classroom. He was also in contact with Jane Addams, who had cofounded the educational mission at Hull House. Dewey spent considerable time there himself, talking to working people about their problems and aspirations. His 1899 The School and Society was a best seller. Dewey's subsequent works on education were The Child and the Curriculum (1902), How We Think (1910), and Democracy and Education (1916).

Dewey called the aesthetic qualities of experience "tertiary qualities." Because experience is a kind of transaction, the aesthetic quality of an experience can change and become more meaningful toward a "consummation." A consummation is the reconstruction of an experience by intelligence: for example, solving a problem. What is not aesthetic according to Dewey is what is slack or overly rigid. There is nothing in either scientific inquiry or practical action that precludes the presence of aesthetic qualities.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >