Home Page | Site Guidance | Site Introduction | Contact Info | Persian division 

Iran of Great Literati

Philosophical Fragment

Fundamental Question

Philosophy Glossary





His Life, His Thoughts, His Philosophy

A Biographical Sketch of John Dewey

Why it is important to know about Dewey’s life in order to understand his importance to public administration. I want to put a human face on public administration.  The main problem the field of public administration has is that it wants to present itself as a human enterprise, one that helps people, serves the public interest, keeps the people informed and involved in what is needed by the public.  It then seeks to accomplish these noble purposes with the methods of the cold, objective professional.  Public administration’s hierarchical framework is the antithesis of  a democratic one. 

I want people to know Dewey, the person.  Dewey had a great capacity for goodness and had a generosity of human spirit that demonstrated honesty with his fellow human beings, open-mindedness that invited communication via dialogue, intelligence that encompassed all criteria in judgment, and the wisdom to expound his ideas to others in philosophical terms.  He had a great belief in democratic ideals and wanted to share those beliefs, ideas, and philosophies with the general public.  He truly believed that each citizen was an officer of the state and had responsibility in the decision-making processes representing the public and the self.  Dewey calls this the public voice and the private voice.  His view was that in a democracy, an individual must determine how one is expressing one’s will in the public sector, in one’s government.  Does one express it for one’s own private interests or should one consider the public’s interest.  Let us meet John Dewey, the man, whose thoughts we want to know, to understand, and to activate in practice so that each American can feel and experience democracy, as John Dewey so deeply felt.  Let us meet John Dewey, as a model for an alternative to the cold, objective professional, who embodied the point of view that “good government” did not necessarily mean government by experts alone.

Recently, on television and in The Miami Herald, advertisements were bombarding the public in Florida to vote against a bill whose purpose was to protect the Everglades.  The advertisements  lambasted bureaucrats, who were said to be milking the public by spending money on expensive limousines, posh restaurants, and indulging in heavy drinking.  It seemed that the purpose of the ads was to provide an image of public bureaucrats as self-interested, self-indulgent, and as using their public positions for self-aggrandizement.  The images of the public officials exhibited them as self-promoting “fat cats” and wheeler-dealers behind the scenes of power in government, loosely spending public monies.  The stereotyping of the individuals and the graphic language used in doing this created a strong impression that tax dollars were being wasted. 

If the public cannot recognize public officials as being honest and practicing in the public interest, citizens will continue to be estranged from public administrators.  John Dewey’s model for citizenship can help us out of the dilemma we are in, where we dislike government officials whom we need to serve the public interest.  That model for citizenship shows citizens as learning how to interact with their government, public administrators as productively interacting with citizens.  Further, the whole social system with all its parts, public and private, could use this model in all aspects of life:  in work, in the arts, and in community life.  This was the personal insight of John Dewey, the man, whose thoughts, were they to be put into practice, would give each American a deeply felt experience of democracy.

John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1859, to Archibald and Lucina Rich Dewey.  Archibald and Lucina came from old-line Vermont families. Dewey’s father left farming to open a grocery store.  He was said to be very interested in the community of Burlington, jovial, and not one to press customers to pay their past-due accounts.  He was fifty years old when John Dewey was born.  He was a “replacement child.”  John was born nine months after his older brother, who was named John, had died a horrible death from falling into scalding water.

The religious atmosphere of Burlington and environs was influenced by the First Congregational Church, to which Lucina had been converted early in her life.  One might, indeed, call Dewey’s mother a religious zealot.  Her piety greatly deepened John’s religiosity but also caused him great pain and ambivalence.  His early writings, which are replete with references to God’s will, are influenced by his religious upbringing.

Though Dewey was born into the middle-class, his mother came from a well-to-do Vermont family, and Lucina had great aspirations for her three sons . She supplemented their education with auxiliary reading materials, since she saw the Burlington schools as leaving much to be desired.  In 1875, John, together with his brother Davis, enrolled at the University of Vermont.  A leading American  transcendentalist, James Marsh, headed the University.  He was very careful  not to offend the townspeople with the pantheism of the transcendentalist theology which he professed.  Therefore, he packed his lectures and writings with references to God.  Marsh’s teachings and influence continued through both the head of the department of philosophy, Joseph Torrey, and his nephew, Henry Torrey.  H. A. P. Torrey conducted studies of Kant’s three Critiques, through which he transmitted Kant’s philosophy to his students.

Dewey said in later years that he owed a great deal to Torrey for his introduction to Kant’s philosophy.  The first two years of Dewey’s educational experience would not have led one to believe a promising student philosopher was to emerge.  He was considered an average student.  The intellectual “fire in his belly” did not develop until he was introduced to the natural sciences--which served as a catalyst for his education in philosophy.  He graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon his graduation, he taught two years in the high school of a small town called Oil City, Pennsylvania, and one year in a small town south of Burlington.  Apparently, these experiences were not good ones.  His students were a rowdy group of boys and his classroom lacked order.  One of his students remarked about Dewey’s teaching, “How terribly the boys behaved, and how long and fervent was the prayer with which he opened each school day.”1

It is in this setting that he later remarked to Max Eastman that he had a “mystical experience.” As an escape from his inexperience as a classroom teacher, he found solace in his interest in philosophy.  He would find himself looking forward to the solitude of the quiet evenings and meditate while looking up in the dark skies.  Conjuring images from Wordsworth and Whitman, he felt a “oneness with the universe,” expressing it in terms that “everything that’s here is here, and you can just lie back on it.”2  Not too happy with his teaching experience, he relished the world of his own thinking.  He wrote an article, “The Metaphysical Assumptions of Materialism,” and submitted it to the Journal of Speculative Philosophy with a note attached.  He asked the editor if the subject at hand was worth pursuing and whether he showed promise in writing about it. The article on philosophy was published and served as the beginning of a lifetime pursuit of philosophical studies which was to span from 1881, (date of the published article) to 1952. 

Writing a second essay, entitled “The Pantheism of Spinoza,” he applied for a fellowship in philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University.  As Johns Hopkins was only five years old, monies for promising students was scarce, especially for graduate students studying philosophy.  He was discouraged from following his inclinations, since there was little promise of college teaching positions after graduation for graduate philosophy students.  In his determination, he borrowed five hundred dollars from an aunt and set out to the university to major in philosophy and  minor in history and political science. Charles Sanders Peirce, together with G. Stanley Hall and George Sylvester Morris, were lecturers in the Philosophy Department at Johns Hopkins University, where Dewey sought a graduate fellowship.  Dewey did not become enthralled with Peirce’s ideas at first, but rather leaned towards George Morris, who became his initial mentor.  Morris, a post-Kantian idealist, introduced Dewey to the writings of Immanuel Kant, the British idealist T. H. Green, and Hegelianism. This immersion into ethics and philosophy served as a catalyst for Dewey as he discovered he had a proclivity towards the subject of epistemology.  He received his Ph.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1884.  Following his graduation, he went to the University of Michigan, where he taught philosophy for ten years.  In 1888, in what appeared as a move to demonstrate his independence from his mentor, George Sylvester Morris, Dewey left Michigan. He accepted a professorship at the University of Minnesota.  While at Minnesota, Morris died unexpectedly.  Dewey then returned to Michigan to head the Philosophy Department.

It is at the University of Michigan that Dewey met his future wife, Alice Chipman, one of his students who found him warm despite other students’ characterization of him as  “cold, impersonal, psychological, sphinx-like, anomalous and petrifying to

flunkers,” . . . .3   Two persons who had a great influence on his life were Alice Chipman Dewey and T. H. Green, a leader of the School of Philosophy known as British idealism.  Alice brought Dewey from the theoretical world into the real world by exposing him to social problems.  She influenced him to engage in politics and in social reform.  This is what he was to do for the rest of his life. She was responsible for his turning away from liberal Congregationalism to espouse a more social Christianity that encompassed the community, leaving behind his association with any organized religion.

In 1894, he left Michigan to be included among those select few to be

appointed to the faculty of the new university in Chicago.  Up until this point, Dewey was not considered a major intellectual force in philosophy.  However, he wanted to be associated with the new university that Rockefeller was promoting; so, in order to make the move, he took a salary cut.  He also took a leave of absence in the hiatus between his association with Michigan and Chicago.  He and his wife, together with their three children, went on a much-needed vacation to Europe.  It was in Milan, Italy, that Morris, their youngest child, contracted diphtheria and died at the age of two.  This devastated Alice and was to have a profound effect on her emotional well-being.  Her grief weighed heavily on her health until her death in July of 1927.  Dewey became head of the department of Philosophy, Psychology, and Pedagogy at the University of Chicago and also served as a professor of education in the Department of Education.  The Philosophy, Psychology, and Pedagogy Department  became known as the center of the “Chicago School” of pragmatism. 

In Chicago, Alice introduced him to Jane Addams of Hull House.  A settlement house, similar to those in New York and London, Hull House, provided a place for immigrants to learn English, be introduced to the arts, and listen to philosophical discussions.  It proved to be a precursor to what our adult education programs and community colleges provide today.  Hull House also became a refuge for women in need.  Jane introduced Dewey to the underside of life in Chicago.  She led him on tours to the red-light district, where he attempted to persuade women to change their way of life, to the meat factories to witness the unsanitary conditions there, and to city hall to see the corruptness in government first hand.  Jane was a true reformer. 

Jane Addams provided a place for immigrants to share their culture and heritage.  She was appalled by the way immigrants were treated.  For example, the Ford Motor Company’s orientation for all new employees would include a demonstration of how an immigrant should dress--i.e., to put aside ethnic dress and don American clothing as the acculturation to American ways, so as to become part of the “melting pot” medium.  Dewey agreed with her in this respect.

However, Dewey tended to be a nationalist in his reformer role.  He believed that immigrants should be educated in the English language and be able to converse in English.  In a way, he believed in the “melting pot” idea, but not to the point where immigrants lost their identity entirely.  He believed in pluralism as the source of America’s strength.  Dewey lectured often at Hull House.  He saw Hull House as an educational institution linked to the community, providing a service to the local residents--adults as well as children.

Taking up the charge of the importance of education to children, Dewey convinced community leaders as well as the administration at the university that a demonstration school needed to be established to conduct research, to observe, and to evaluate different theories of pedagogy, primarily Dewey’s.  He founded the Laboratory School that came to be known as the Lab School.  His wife, Alice, took an active role in the administration of the school.  Dewey was criticized for the nepotism of having his wife on the payroll and playing such an important role in the research project.

He resigned in 1904, being disheartened when his wife was told her appointment was not being renewed by the Education Department.  It has to be said here that funds for his school were a problem from the start, even though Dewey did much fund-raising himself. With no job in sight, he wrote to his friend Catell, who notified the president of Columbia that it would be a coup to get Dewey on the staff.  The president immediately convinced a few people to establish an endowed chair for Dewey.  Dewey  accepted the position with Columbia University, where he was to teach until his retirement in 1930. Following his retirement, it was agreed that he would receive the title Professor Emeritus, get his regular salary, maintain an office, interview graduate students occasionally, and lecture intermittently.  Due to the economic crisis of the Great Depression, this agreement was eventually terminated.  However, Dewey maintained an ever-ready pen, his typewriter clicked away as he wrote abundantly--books and journal articles,  together with his lectures, continued to provide him well financially.  He traveled upon request to China, Japan, Mexico and the Soviet Union.  In China, he lectured at the University of Peking on philosophy and education.  He served as a consultant to the Turkish Government in reorganizing their schools on a national basis.

Dewey maintained an active civic life.  His actions provided proof of his words.  He was at the cutting edge of societal change.  We must remember that innovators frighten people.  He brought discomfort when he expounded on academic freedom and individual rights  He was founder and president of the American Association of University Professors, a vocal activist for academic freedom.  He was one of the founding members of the American Civil Liberties Union.  He was the first president of the People’s Lobby, chairman of The League for Independent Political Action, and helped to found the Liberal Party. He was president of the American Psychological Association as well as honorary life president of the National Education Association.  He was founder of the New School for Social Research in New York, championing the cause for democratic administration of schools and universities.  He was a charter member of the first Teachers Union in New York City but withdrew when it was found to be under the influences of communist groups.

In his intellectual discourse with others, he found himself in a most difficult position.  Whereas his reputation was internationally recognized as a philosopher, liberal thinker, and educator, many sought Dewey as the point man in which to refute his ideas and to propel their own ideas.  He was an anti-Marxist, anti-communist, anti-Stalinist, and against state socialism.  However, he was challenged in his political ideologies on two fronts.  When he visited the Soviet Union upon invitation with a group of educators, he returned to the United States with his observations.  He found it necessary to highlight the strengths of the educational system of the Soviet Union.  He was criticized for any comparisons made between the American and Russian educational system and his visit brought him under scrutiny. When he declared that the “fundamental principal of democracy is that the ends of freedom and individuality for all can be attained only by means that accord with these ends,” he got himself into a web of confusion when he continued with the statement: “I should want to see politics used to forward the formation of a genuinely cooperative society . . . . “4 No one heard the rest of the story. What Dewey wanted everyone to hear was “the absolute importance of democratic action in determining the policies of the government--for only by means of ‘government by the people’ can government for the people be made secure.”5

On the one hand, Dewey would discuss Jeffersonian thought of self-governing communities and ended up being confused with left-wing thinking of the times, when he used words such as “scientific planning.”  He had very little patience with Walter Lippman who became by the mid-thirties as a right-wing thinker.  The confusion over the terms “planned” and with “planning” caused a whirlwind of writings that appeared in periodicals such as the New Republic, the Nation, Common Sense, and Plan Age. 6 Even though he is grouped with the progressives and liberals of the times, Dewey got caught up in the rhetoric of ideologies in flux.  Westbrook describes Dewey in this point in time, 20's and 30's, as “a unique anti-Stalinist radical in that he did not care much for Marx.”7 Dewey argued that the “Soviet dialectical materialism . . . was a pernicious philosophy . . . .”8

Where Dewey got himself into trouble is ironic in itself.  He was against anything that was Stalinist or Trotskyist.  He was considered to be so highly respected for his objectivity and for his earnestness to speak freely upon his ideas, that in March of 1937, he was asked to serve as the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials.  This became known as the Dewey Commission.9 It is at this point that I believe he found himself between a rock and a hard place.  The American liberals and radicals along with Trotskyists were members of the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky of which Dewey was an honorary chairman.  He remained adamantly opposed to anything that resembled communistic but defended “Trotsky’s right to a public trial, although I have no sympathy with what seems to me to be his abstract ideological fanaticism.”10  He tried to keep this committee from using the trial for pro-Trotsky propaganda while attempting to demonstrate the unfairness of the Stalinists. Both sides crushed in on Dewey making him a scapegoat, a target.  Dewey’s conclusions to this political fiasco is rather telling of Dewey’s intellectualism, cool-mindedness, and even-handedness in dealing with the criticisms.  He concluded this by saying: “The lessons for Americans was that they must stop looking to the Soviet Union as a model for solving our own economic difficulties and as a source of defense for democracy against fascism.”11  He was hailed as a “Charlie McCarthy for the Trotskyites” by the American Communist press.  He also fell out of favor by the Soviets.  But more importantly for Dewey, he was utterly shocked to be criticized by the liberals and progressives who found the Dewey Commission to be “threatening the unity of the popular front against fascism.”12

In the early forties, we again find Dewey in the midst of a foreign policy issue of how to deal with Stalin and Russia against Hitler’s Nazism.  He stated that he knew that the United States needed to give aid to the Russians against the Nazi invasion, but he felt America should not close its eyes to “Stalin’s repressions.”13  He used the New York Times as an instrument to vent his thoughts against Ambassador Davies’ memoirs on the Moscow Trials.  He charged that “totalitarianism and democracy will not mix . . .” and felt we must end this “fatuous one-sided love feast now going on in this country.”14

Westbrook believed that Dewey is, in part, to blame for the Cold War climate of fear.  His writings became the groundwork for the emotionally-charged climate that catapulted Senator Joseph McCarthy into the limelight.  The ‘red fear’ became the fuel for a reactionary attack against all who were considered radical thinkers.  An even-handed criticism of Dewey during these times was the fact that it is necessary “to recognize how difficult it was to be an intelligent anticommunist in the early Cold War.”15  In this early part of the McCarthy era, we find Dewey was under surveillance by the FBI.  The irony is that in his defense of “his most cherished end of participatory democratic community,” he bumped into those whose interests were primarily self-promoting leftists as well as the Communist party.16

Dewey was a prolific writer,  authoring over one thousand books, journal articles, and reviews.  He wrote on a broad array of philosophical questions: ethics, logic, psychology, education, the arts, democracy, politics and law, history, science, religion, language, nature and culture, and Marxism.

After Alice died, he remained alone for almost twenty years until he met Roberta Grant Lowitz.  At the age of 87, Dewey married Lowitz, age 42, in 1946. They adopted two Belgian children,  John and Adrienne, who called him “Grandpa.”17   He died at the age of 92 due to complications from a broken hip that he happened to get while playing with his children.

The Intellectual Journey of John Dewey

John Dewey started out as a Kantian philosophical idealist.  The philosophy of Immanuel Kant first captured his attention when he was anundergraduate at Vermont.  Darwin’s theory of evolution also became an underlying theme of his writings on naturalism.  In his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, his professor George Sylvester Morris--his mentor to be--re-introduced him to Kantian ideas again and to Hegelianism.  Kantian ideas at this point had a negative effect on Dewey, and he instead turned to Hegel with profound zeal. Dewey was by nature a person of positive perspective, almost to the point of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses.  In the meantime, William James published an article in the British journal, Mind.18 James commented on how popular Hegel had become in the United States and how interest in Hegel had waned in Europe.  Hegel clubs appeared; Torrey helped to launch the first journal in philosophy, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy. Dewey became involved despite James’ comments that even though Hegel had become popular in the United States, Europeans thought him passé. 

Morris’ influence on Dewey continued for many years.  Morris taught at both Johns Hopkins and Michigan, helping to spread the neo-Hegelian philosophy of idealism that he espoused. While Dewey was at Michigan, both he and Morris collaborated on papers elaborating on the philosophy of idealism.  Idealism soon fell out  of favor with most philosophers, though, and Dewey himself diverged from it as he developed his own brand of philosophy.19 With the industrial revolution and the developing American Democracy, Dewey saw the importance of forging forward away from German epistemology.

Dewey contributed greatly to the new wave of empirical philosophy that developed after the decline of interest in Hegel.20  He began with the writings of William James and G. Stanley Hall, attempting to convince others that a new psychology should replace logic  in philosophy.  He targeted three audiences--the theologically based, the idealists, and the psychologists.  He wanted to convince the first that the new psychology would not affect ideas of God’s place in the universe.  To his associates, the idealists, he argued that psychology should replace logic in philosophy, and to his fellow psychologists, he contended that a superior being existed in the universe, thus seeking to bridge the gap between natural science and religion.

He did not get many converts, so he retreated to his favorite subject, ethics. Josiah Royce lauded Dewey with praise as “one of the most brilliant, clearly conscious, and enviably confident of all our philosophical writers in America.”21  Dewey eventually left the teaching of psychology to “his assistants, James H. Tufts, and then to George Herbert Mead and Alfred H. Lloyd.”22 He concentrated on ethics and political philosophy.  It is in this period that Dewey developed his theory of democracy.  His wife, Alice Dewey and the writings of T.

H. Green greatly impressed upon him the importance of public service.


It is necessary to understand pragmatism by comprehending Dewey’s influence in shaping it.  In turn, Dewey can only be understood from within an understanding of the pragmatist movement generally.  Dewey and pragmatism enable us to move beyond the individualistic, interest-based idea of democratic politics and the government by experts that has come to go along with it.  The pragmatic philosophy of reality, truth, and science and the psychology that goes with it not only deny the present pattern of governance, but reveal that the present pattern distorts both the human condition and the process of democratic governance.

Western philosophy developed primarily from the thought of Classical Greece.  Greek thought was all-inclusive, delving into the problem of understanding the universe, God and supernatural phenomena, religion, aesthetics, logic, ethics, reasoning, politics, science, education, and mathematics.  In the Eighteenth Century, philosophy began to include discussions of psychology and education as had been previously discussed in Classical Greece.  The nineteenth century witnessed further diversification. Scientific thought emerged as a philosophical force with the introduction of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

Pragmatism is a philosophy born on American soil.  However, the exchange that occurred between American thinkers and European thinkers provided germination for seeds in this soil.  Dewey was among one of the American intellectuals who served to facilitate this international exchange of ideas and thought.  Alan Ryan states that Dewey was involved in an international movement of philosophical thought.  He references James Kloppenburg, an expert on the subject of international intellectualism of that day.23   Dewey became a pragmatist at the same time he was helping to create pragmatism.  His exchange of ideas with other great thinkers helped this process of mutual development. Peirce became the undergirding of Dewey, as indicated in the introductory chapter, and understanding Peirce, James, and Mead is to further understand Dewey.  It is their intellectual exchange that fostered the development of pragmatism as a major philosophical force.  Their individual philosophical viewpoints broadened the perspective of pragmatism, not in a singular perspective, but in providing  Gestalt shifts enabling one to understand its depth and breadth.  Again, to reiterate the point, understanding Peirce, James, and Mead is to understand Dewey.

Charles Sanders Peirce.

In addition to what has already been said of Charles Sanders Peirce, it is important to focus on Peirce’s explanation on how fundamental is the act of inquiry in the pursuit of truth.  This is one of the linchpins of Dewey’s educational philosophy for citizenship.  To reiterate, Peirce is the founder of pragmatism.  His pragmatic test of truth was not how much a truth proved to be successful or in attaining the end result, but its staying power.  He believed that a version of the scientific method provided an accurate  road map for the search for truth.  A Peircean truth is that truth that ultimately survives.  In other words, in a Darwinian perspective, in the “ecological” turmoil of searching for truth, the idea that survives is the truth.  Peirce  said it succinctly:   the truth is that which has staying power, that survives.24

Peirce said that every hypothesis, every hypothetical idea, must be forced through a verification process.  The verification process in conducting inquiries could be done by three other methods besides the scientific method--the method of authority, the method of tenacity, and the metaphysico-speculative a priori method. According to Peirce, the scientific method is the best method because it is “self-corrective and stable.”25 When it came to methods in conducting inquiry, Peirce really felt that the method was secondary to actually believing in something.  In other words, once someone declares something to be the truth, it maintains a priority over any kind of method that follows.  The methods play a secondary role to the belief system.26

Peirce is recognized as a principle pioneer of the “presuppositions of inquiry approach.”   As early as 1898, Peirce made a commanding charge that before we begin the search for truth one must have freedom.  “The very first and most fundamental element that we have to assume is a Freedom, or Chance, or Spontaneity. . . .”27   This is what he means when he states that before we can begin in the inquiry approach of searching for truth, one must be in a state of “freedom.”  He goes on to say that once we understand that we begin in the state of freedom, we have to be able to decipher the symbols that would represent our thinking and our research. 

Therefore, the second most fundamental element  Peirce refers to is the importance of understanding “symbols” in order to be able to communicate. Peirce stated: “The woof and warp of all thought and research is symbols, and the life of thought and science is the life inherent in symbols; so that it is wrong to say that a good language is important to good thought, merely, for it is the essence of it.”28  This strong statement, that good language is the essence of thinking, became a Dewey Truism.  In developing a community,  an exchange of ideas that is communicated in a medium that is understood by each communicant is a necessity.

Does Peircean Thought Reflect a Different Point of View from Dewey’s?

A fine line separates Peirce’s philosophy of searching for truth because of Peirce’s emphasis on semiotics.  Even though Peirce initially led the camp of logical positivism (which is more reductionist) and where Dewey tended more toward philosophizing from a practical point of view, their ideas converged in the areas of language and communication.  According to Charles W. Morris, eventually both camps, the logical positivists and the scientific empiricists, began to agree.  We find a convergence of ideas whereby pragmatism encompasses its interpretation of mathematics and logic as the “complex developments of the linguistic process, and so as falling within a general theory of symbolism.”29   This development brings Peircean and Deweyan thoughts under the same umbrella in discussing deliberation--the importance of language and the community.

Peirce is called the founder of pragmatism because he was the first person to use the word “pragmaticism” to explain that the search for truth must reflect a purpose, one in which one believes.  The person who sparked the idea of the philosophy of pragmatism for Peirce was Alexander Bain, in his book, The Emotions and the Will in 1859.30   Murray G. Murphey, The Development of Peirce’s Philosophy, concludes that Bain “supplies a psychological foundation for Peirce’s denial of Cartesian doubt, for Bain holds that men are naturally believers and that doubt is produced only by events which disrupt our beliefs--not by pretense.”31   Peirce picked up on this thought and in pronouncing his theory of inquiry laid the foundations for  the philosophy of pragmaticism as a way of searching for truth through the scientific method.  This is the linkage between scientific method and pragmatic understanding.  What is distinctive about Peirce is that he saw reality as approachable only through signifiers or symbols.  The implication of this is that the only way to discover reality is to bring purpose or intention to it.  This means drawing on a kind of intuition that cannot at the moment of action be described, then seeing the effects of these intentions and discussing them. The final arbiter of truth is the community itself rather than any objective test.

Peirce presented a paper on his theory of inquiry before The Metaphysical Club,32  in 1872.  The original paper does not exist but two essays were published subsequent to the presentation entitled, “The Fixation of Belief” and “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.”   It is the second paper, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear,” where Peirce’s ideas appear, that Scheffler reluctantly terms as Peirce’s “so-called pragmatic maxim.”  In “attaining the third grade of clearness of apprehension,” Peirce explains his maxim thus:  “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have.  Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.”33  Scientific inquiry processes could eventually lead us to some kind of action; even though the process of scientific inquiry is ongoing.

Peirce defended his pragmatic theory from those who criticized it as being utilitarian when he said “the meaning and essence of every conception lies in the application that is to be made of it.”   He further argued that when he wrote that he did not mean to “subordinate the conception to the act, knowing to doing.”34 This idea is reflected in his philosophy of American education when he states that education should not be just for the welfare of the student but should have grander aims.  Peirce obviously would be a supporter of liberal education.  He uses the same premise in stating that religion becomes “spiritual meagerness”35 when religion is practiced for one’s own salvation.  Peirce stated that : “no other occupation of man is so purely and immediately directed to the one end that is alone intrinsically rational as scientific investigation.”36

William James.

Pragmatism did not find its true sense of direction as a social philosophy until William James emerged.  James and Peirce were contemporaries.  They belonged to the same Metaphysical Club in Boston and carried on many philosophical discussions in that context.  Peirce dominated the group’s discourse with his thinking on the search for truth, the scientific method, and the power of the belief system in what one is investigating.   Peirce developed a philosophy of  truth leading to a methodology but it was James who formulated pragmatism’s core--a theory of truth as epistemology. Even though Peirce indicated that  purpose and belief needed to be associated with inquiry, it was James who in 1907 presented Peirce’s pragmatic maxim as not only a theory of action but as an essential part of pragmatism.37    The message was that one does not study an issue just for the glory of study.  One searches for the truth, and acts upon that truth. 

Even though he became a great philosopher and psychologist, James’ early medical training gave him the foundation to pursue his strong interest in the psychological arm of philosophy, an aspect that was new in its development.  He saw science as the way to bridge philosophy and psychology.   His work provided the historical link to nineteenth century psychology, which was a new field of study.  The Principles of Psychology (1890) sustained its prominence as a psychology resource book for many years.  He also applied science to unify

religion with philosophy and psychology.  In his book, Varieties of Religious

Experience (1902), he states that religion cannot stand alone as an idea, in that

it represents collective thought.38  He explains that in unifying philosophy and

religion, one’s search for truth and action becomes disentangled.  This

disentanglement is possible if we look to Peirce’s principle of pragmatism.

James quotes from Peirce’s article, “How To Make Our Ideas Clear,” (1878) to

explain his reasoning:  

“Thought in movement has for its only conceivable motive the attainment of belief, or thought at rest.  Only when our thought about a subject has found its rest in belief can our action on the subject firmly and safely begin . . . .  To develop a thought’s meaning we need therefore only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce; that conduct is for us its sole significance; and the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions is that there is not one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice.” 39

James claimed that if we apply Peirce’s pragmatic principle to God’s metaphysical attributes we would have no trouble in discerning the truth and falsehood, separating the good from the bad.  

James in his lectures on pragmatism and in his book entitled, Pragmatism (1907), remarks that Dewey among others presented the theory of truth as a “power to work.”40   He stated that this was an instrumental view of truth that claims that “ideas (which themselves are but parts of our experience) become true just in so far as they help us to get into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience, . . . .”41  In explaining how the search for truth is a continuous movement and in essence is a developing or growth process, he demonstrates that when we align a new truth with an old truth, we are moving forward and growing.  James tells us in his lectures that Schiller and Dewey are condemned by rationalist thinkers who denounce pragmatism.  It is because pragmatists feel uncomfortable without facts and rationalist thinkers are comfortable only  in discussing abstractions.42

James continues in his dialogue to ask the pragmatic question, “What difference does it make if you have found the truth?”  “What is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”  He answers with the pragmatist’s answer: “True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify.  False ideas are those that we can not.”  He goes on to defend this answer when he states that: “Truth happens to an idea.  It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact, an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself, its veri-fication. Its validity is the process of its validation.”43  It is Scheffler who points out that to James the “truth of our ideas and beliefs are the same thing that they mean in science.”44

James also explains his theory of habit, which eventually becomes a major theme in his writings.  In explaining his concept of habit, he demonstrates how the mind and body are unified through experiences of habit.  The concept of habit is used to explain one’s choices, actions and character.45  In his line of thinking, James applies his philosophical-psychological thinking in explaining to teachers that children need to be educated according to their interests.  Some of these interests are innate and others can be cultivated by the teachers.  But it requires an “effort.”46  Teachers can be the catalyst to a student’s furthering an interest and possibly an innate gift in music, art, or other talents.  But it requires an “effort” on the part of the teacher.

Let us give William James credit where credit is due.  If it were not for William James, Dewey’s pragmatism along with his colleagues would not have been as widely received.  Ryan points out that even Dewey’s daughter reflects that William James’ favorable review of the collected essays by members of Dewey’s department at Chicago gave it a “certain recognition, for the most part hostile.”47   James described the collection as “splendid stuff, and Dewey as a hero.  A real school and real thought.”48  It was James’ influence that steered Dewey away from Idealism to appreciate human intelligence and the practicality of knowledge.  It is not in isolation that Dewey observes the individual.  He recognizes the fact that the individual must be evaluated in the context of his/her environment in society.  Dewey understood the fact that we may have mastered technology but have left unclear the values of human nature and how to expand the horizons of humankind. 

George Herbert Mead. 

According to Scheffler, George Herbert Mead is the better known of “his fellow pragmatists.49  He worked with Josiah Royce and William James at Harvard  in 1887 and 1888.  It was at the University of Michigan, beginning a teaching position in 1891, that Mead met John Dewey.  They became the best of friends and collaborators.50  In fact, when Dewey went to the University of Chicago, he took Mead along with him in 1894, to form the Philosophy, Pedagogy, and Psychology Department.  Mead became a strong advocate of pragmatism and became part of “The Chicago School,” so named by James and subsequently called by Peirce.  Mead’s claim to fame was as a social psychologist, more specifically, a social behaviorist.51

Mead’s corner of the pragmatic philosophy that Dewey keyed in on was the idea that the human self, human identity, is a product of social interaction, thus replacing the traditional idea of “personality.”  Mead believed that the individual could only get out of his selfhood, out of his self-interest and self-centeredness, through experiencing the social process.  The idea of the human being as merely a “unit” that is motivated by interests is an adequate account of human identity.  He proposed and Dewey built upon this idea that one is shaped through a dialogue in community  that is critical to both individual and the collective.  Experience alone for an individual is not adequate but requires the sharing of that experience with other social beings.  Within this process of individuation and interaction with others an individual can reach an objective picture of oneself.   He states in his famous book, Mind, Self, and Society: “We are aware of ourselves, and of what the situation is, but exactly how we will act never gets into experience until after the action takes place. . . .  Taken together [the ‘I’ and the ‘me’] constitute a personality as it appears in social experience.”52

Where Peirce practiced his philosophy in the laboratory, James focused on the individual, and Mead studied the individual in the social process, John Dewey sought to build these basic concepts into a distinctive American philosophy--pragmatism.  Dewey explains “pragmatic” as: “namely the function of consequences as necessary tests of the validity of propositions, provided these consequences are operationally instituted and are such as to resolve the specific problem evoking the operations, . . . .”53  Dewey confirms what American citizens feel is their basic right, viz., to practice and experience governance of their government.  According to Dewey, citizen inclusion in the "dialogue" in the governance processes is the key to experiencing democracy and the key to America’s becoming a “Great Community.”

Dewey’s Philosophy and Theories

Education and Experience.

John Dewey, as the American Pragmatist philosopher, believed that American Democracy is a continuous process and that American Democracy is continually developing.  The key ingredients to this developing process of American Democracy are:  citizens in their public role and private role, the Great Society becoming a Great Community  through communication, and education. These key ingredients are necessary if citizens are to become a meaningful part of  democracy.  Public administrators can then serve as the guarantors and facilitators that provide citizens with the opportunities for exercising true powers of governance.  Public administrators will be able to serve in the roles of teacher and learner as they collaborate with citizens. This is how freedom will be experienced in a democracy according to Dewey.54  His pragmatic philosophy which is imbedded with democratic theory includes democratic organizations who foster democratic ideals whose end result is freedom.55  Follett did not define democracy in terms of participation, but like Dewey, defined it in terms of the “organization, the relating of parts, co-functioning . . . .”56  Follett did not believe that the Lockean principle--consent of the governed--explained the reason for democracy. The true heroes of democracy, then, are the teachers who help the people have “vision, method, and knowledge.”57  Follett quotes Dewey in citing the important role of teachers.  The teachers primary purpose is to “increase freedom.”  Freedom and education become interchangeable terms when understood in this light.  It becomes so easy to come to the conclusion that public administrators could become the teachers Dewey speaks of in fostering democratic ideals whose end result is freedom. 

To understand John Dewey's philosophy of pragmatism is to understand Dewey's philosophy of education as a "lived-experience" philosophy.  It also is a "shared experience" which implies that a person experiences learning with others, hence, the expression "experiential learning."  This “shared experience” becomes a basic tenet of Dewey’s philosophy of pragmatism.  Learning with others is experiencing with others. 

This is the foundation of Dewey's philosophy of education.  The theory of experience as a basic tenet of the philosophy of education brings together the pragmatic lessons of theory and practice.  Through experiencing with others one learns one of the “most important lessons of life, that of mutual accommodation and adaptation.”58

A Dewey Truism: “Education is a mode of life, of action.”59

As education becomes a part of the individual, armed with the scientific method, the “pursuit of happiness” becomes real.  The individual is free to determine what is worthy of pursuit for ones’ self as well as for the community.  The individual experiencing democracy with others is in a continuing mode of education.  One begins to feel and understand the learning cycle that Dewey talks about in all his writings--though not explicitly, but as weaving in and out of

his ideas, in a cyclical manner.  Dewey says it best:

“Education is by its nature an endless circle or spiral.  It is anactivity which includes science within itself.  In its veryprocess it sets more problems to be further studied, whichthen react into the educative process to change it stillfurther, and thus demand more thought, more science, andso on, in everlasting sequence.”60

The underlying theme of Dewey's prolific writing is the concept:  "cycle of learning."  The cycle of learning concept entails growth and development in an expanding experiential sense.  The cycle of learning requires communication in the sharing of ideas.  Dialogue then becomes the vehicle by which this transformation of growth and development take place.  Dewey recognizes "language" as an important ingredient in carrying on this sharing of ideas in achieving an authentic dialogue.  He explains this in his "Principles of Continuity and Interaction"61 concept that leads us to "experiential continuity."62  Continuity is symbolic of growth.  Dewey believes that growth occurs continuously when individuals experience government with others--public administrators, power brokers, and ordinary citizens.  The sharing of ideas through authentic dialogue by all parties concerned is a growth in the learning process.    

Society and Democracy

According to Dewey, democracy is to be practiced in all institutions, using the scientific method and the concept of the cycle of learning--public and private--as a working pattern.  This means educational, cultural, social, religious, sports, and community organizations.63   Dewey felt that just as the Cartesian school of thought went out of fashion when the Galilean-Newtonian method triumphed, it would not be necessary to mention the importance of experience.  Dewey hoped that this would eventually happen in philosophy.  Experience would be considered the orthodox practice of thinking and searching for the truth.64  Dewey felt that the scientific attitude of thought, observation, and inquiry is the chief business of study and learning.65  He believed that by using the scientific method we would understand how necessary it is to be able to coordinate our knowledge and understanding in order to control our lives.66  (It is here that Dewey may have raised a red flag in his discussion of “control of human  relationships.”  This is similar to Follett who also used the word “control” which at that point in time sent an undercurrent of thinking of fascism or other authoritarian means over the human condition, which of course, was far from their intentions, Dewey or Follett.)

“When ideas, hypothesis, begin to play upon facts, when they are methods for experimental use in action, then light dawns; then it becomes possible to discriminate significant from trivial facts, and relations take the place of isolated scraps.  Just as soon as we begin to use the knowledge and skills we have to control social consequences in the interest of shared abundant and secured life, we shall cease to complain of the backwardness of our social knowledge.”67

It is here that Dewey becomes very strong in his belief that one’s intelligence and one’s courage are the source of our focus and strength in achieving practical ends to improving the human condition.  This can only be achieved in the practical use of the scientific method.  In Dewey’s words: “When our faith in scientific method is made manifest in social works,” the possibilities for the future will emerge to conquer human problems as we have shown in science and technology.68

Experiential continuity, Dewey’s method, is to be achieved by using the scientific method as a template for explanation and action.  The pattern, in turn, becomes the cycle of learning for an individual.  This cycle of learning concept can be applied to a group, an institution, a community, a state, or a nation.   Dewey combines his thoughts of the practical ends of knowledge with the use of scientific methods and the practice means to that end. 

“It will ensue when men collectively and cooperatively organize their knowledge for application to achieve and make secure social values; when they systematically use scientific procedures for the

control of human relationships and the direction of the socialeffects of our vast technological machinery.”69

Dewey outlines a plan in the development of purposes, described as the “formation of purposes.”  This includes:                     

1                    Observation of surrounding conditions;

2                    Knowledge of what has happened in similar situationsin the past, a knowledge obtained partly byrecollection and partly from the information, advice, and warning of those who have had a widerexperience; and

3                     Judgment which puts together what is observed and what is recalled to see what they signify.70


Dewey lays the groundwork for this experiential learning by the implementation of democratic social arrangements.71  Democratic working environments become necessary for the individual to experience growth and development to the fullest potential of the individual in life's experience.

A Dewey Truism:  “. . . recognize in the concrete what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead to growth.”72

 The implications for public administration are profound: create democratic working environments.  Such environments provide the air of freedom that allows for “adaptation and mutual accommodation.”   The environment is not dictatorial but is a “co-operative enterprise.”73 What is implied here is that the physical arrangement of a group be democratically oriented and also that the experiences for the members in the group be conducted in a democratic manner.

Dewey explains this when he describes his “existential matrix of inquiry as cultural.”  “The environment in which human beings live, act and inquire is not simply physical.  It is cultural as well.”74  Dewey grounds his arguments on the basis of nature and biology, combining the sociology of human beings with their physical environments.  “Inner harmony is attained only when . . . terms are made with the environment.” 75  Cultural conditions affect the learning capacities of humans.  “The acquisition and understanding of language with proficiency in the arts” is cultural.  “To speak, to read, to exercise any art, industrial, fine or political, are instances of modification wrought within the biological organism by the cultural environment.”76  Dewey explains further how importantly social and cultural conditions affect language formation, understanding, articulation, development of analytical skills, and use of language.  Language is of utmost importance in effecting even the formation of the environment.  The third chapter entitled, “The Existential Matrix of Inquiry:  Cultural,” in his book on logic, becomes the essence of his philosophy of pragmatic action.  If the use of language is of utmost importance, then Dewey’s emphasis on education, on democratic settings, and on democratic practice require a continuing effort toward furthering language development for the benefit of the greater good, the greater community.  It is important to reiterate Dewey’s concept of “cycle of learning” in understanding the idea that while democracy is developing, the individual is developing, and the community is developing, in an ever-changing process.

Education, then, becomes the basic component to democracy.  Through the vehicle of education, democracy can advance, can grow, and can develop. To achieve a democratic state, Dewey holds that education is absolutely necessary.  The individual, who is educated in a democratic environment, who experiences what is learned, who shares in the learning, is best able to deliberate, to carry on a dialogue, to make inquiries, and to experience the process of governance.  Dewey does not say that everyone will participate at all times in the dialogue, but states that every person should be educated in the experiential processes and in a democratic environment so as to be able to experience democracy in the active sense.  Then, and only then, can the government truly be of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Then, and only then, can public administrators serve as catalysts for promoting democratic environments as well as providing an organization that is administered, managed, and supervised in a democratic manner.  Then, and only then, can public officials serve and represent the people.

Dewey expands his thoughts on authentic dialogue in his book, Human Nature and Conduct. By using the scientific method when in deliberation, one realizes that one is experimenting with the use of language.  Deliberation is that process that allows for all to express their thoughts.  Each deliberative expression becomes an experiment for examination.  These examinations become rehearsals for the next deliberative expression.77 Whether one examines an idea physically or verbally, the deliberative process is the same. Choices may result as a conclusion to the process or it may not result in a conclusion.  It may lead to more deliberation or be blocked.  The educational experience gained from the deliberation adds to the cycle of learning and becomes part of a habit one calls an experience.

In public administration, deliberation that includes all parties involved in the decision--the decision-makers together with the recipients--serves to clarify all concerns.  Dewey states that the “variety of competing tendencies enlarges the world.  It brings a diversity of considerations before the mind, and enables action to take place...by a long process of selections and combinations.”78  To be deliberative, “is to be slow, unhurried.”79  Dewey warns us that deliberations begin in anguish and can end in “a course of action” which straightens everything out.80   But in the end, if an individual is not free, deliberation decided upon in any organized manner--whether in legislation, or in any other institutional form--will not matter.  Freedom for the individual comes first, then the organization of the political will, working in harmony, will ensure civil liberties.81   “Freedom for the individual comes first” is a Peircean thought.

As if in a warning to the exigencies of bureaucracy, it is possible to be in a state of “over-organization” that can become a “hindrance to freedom.”82 Organization is necessary for providing structure and regulating a democracy.  In order for democracy to work, organization must exist; but, the organization must in turn practice democracy.  Therefore, the organization must be a democratic organization in praxis and in structure.

Democratic Ideals

In the area of morality, Dewey reiterates a philosophical maxim that came out of the Renaissance era.  He states that the individual in searching for one’s purpose in life finds excellence when applying one’s intelligence into action.83 He confirms the conclusion that this could only have developed through the onset of democracy from ancient Greece.  Dewey alludes to his concern with the founding fathers, who of course emphasized individualism, self-interest and ambition.  But he goes on to conclude that through the developmental process of democracy, it is necessary to experience individualism, self-interest, and ambition.  Dewey calls it part of the “motion”84 that will eventually develop into “social harmony.”85   Once the citizenry is familiar with the process, the result is two-fold.  Responsibility for effecting change is one result.  The public good conducted in an equitable fashion becomes the second part to that sense of responsibility.86

In A Common Faith, Dewey expands upon this kind of thinking when he states that: “Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.”87   Dewey sometimes alludes to common sayings that reflect the people--for example, the expression, “use it or lose it.”  For a democracy to work, one of the requisites of democratic thinking is taking responsibility for oneself.  In order to accept responsibility, the individual must exercise his intelligence.  “Intelligence becomes ours in the degree in which we use it and accept responsibility for consequences.”88

It is reminiscent of a biblical beatitude and a parable that in essence states that God grants one many gifts and talents.  If one uses the gift and talent wisely, one will receive more; if one does not use the gift and talent, one will lose the gift and talent.  Dewey is ever conscious of a Universal God and often implies Christian values in his writings.  Dewey also believed that each individual is born with an intelligence that can be nurtured and developed for critical thinking and inquiry, and that would enable one to deliberate effectively.   One is reminded that Socrates held that intelligence was the highest virtue one could possess. Even as the beatitude and parable is stern about practicing one’s gifts and talents, one can expand the argument.  One could say that if an individual does not exercise his/her intelligence, the individual will have lost the opportunity for further development.  In research studies today, the expression of window of opportunity applies to developing one’s intelligence.  One could say that if an individual does not exercise or experience democracy, that individual will lose his/her freedom.  The argument can be stated in the positive mode that experiencing democracy by citizens will enhance the development of democracy for the next generations to come, and so on.  However, this all takes place in the context of community.

Sense of Community

Dewey concludes that science is the result of civilization.  It is through civilization that intellect has developed science, which effects change and may effect development and growth.  It is through one’s civilized community that one’s intellect becomes an integral part of society. We are all in a sense a reflection of our community.89  Our environment determines our “moral responsibility and our moral judgment.”90  Discussing this in the “cycle of learning” process, Dewey would say that as one participates in the learning process of experiencing community life, one’s intellect is enhanced.  This interaction is subject to deliberation wherein one’s experiences are exposed to a diversity of choices, ideas, and plans. 

The diversity in the deliberation of ideas expands one’s intelligence and capacity to search for more choices, to choose those that will become habits, and to find those that will not.  The more one interacts in one’s community, the more one learns about the surrounding world.  This educational process not only provides us with abstract knowledge of studying a problem.  It should lead us to be able to experiment in the details of solving society’s ills.  Accepting responsibility in society becomes the form of action.  One feels a part of the larger community because one has witnessed, experienced, and deliberated in a democratic manner that has meaning to one’s self, to one’s family, and to one’s community.

Charles Hoch describes the present state of affairs as a grab for power that has alienated people from their government and  disenfranchised people within their communities.  “The bureaucratic message ruptures and fragments community life.”91  He is referring to the planning theories that have permeated into public organizational structures.  He reminds us that we must recall the pragmatism of John Dewey, William James and Charles Peirce.  It is in John Dewey’s pragmatic action theory that we will find the way to “resist the encroachment of illegitimate power relations while contributing to the practical formation of powerful democratic communities.”92

Dewey included the private sector in his basic philosophy of education. Every institution, public and private, has the responsibility to educate people in democratic philosophy.  This is the essence of community building, the essence of language development, the essence of American democracy.  Hierarchical organizational structures that create and establish authoritarian environments inhibit the development of American democracy.  What Hoch describes as communities fraught with “fragmentation,” Habermas refers to as “colonization of the life world.”93   Habermas’s social theory stresses the point that our society depends on communication but uses that communication in capturing power, centralizing that power to the detriment of community.  It is instrumental rationality that has caused this centrifugal force and that  led to self-aggrandizement among professional planners.94

John Forester’s, Critical Theory and Public Life and Critical Theory, concentrates on Habermas’s social theory and Foucault’s theory of power.  They all come to the conclusion from different perspectives that “meaningful democratic practice” is the only saving grace in combating this “social pathology.”95  Dewey turns this around by saying that “the idea that ‘the end justifies the means’ is in as bad repute in moral theory as its adoption is a commonplace of political practice.”96  Concepts such as expediency, efficiency, effectiveness, and economy have become driving forces working against the regime values of our American democracy as established in our Declaration of Independence and our United States Constitution. 


Dewey’s learning cycle is applicable to this discussion.  The institution of education must take on the responsibility of teaching about democracy, democratic principles, and democratic practices.  In a democratic environment with democratic experiences, students will have been inculcated with the language and praxis of democracy.  As each institution becomes acclimated to the learning cycle, they, too, will accept the responsibility for teaching democracy, democratic practices, and building a democratic environment and experience.  Dewey is all inclusive in his theory of education and democracy when he incorporates art and aesthetics as primary in the “remaking of the experience of the community in the direction of greater order and unity.”97

Art form and expression are important here because Dewey considers it another form of language and communication.  “In the end, works of art are the only media of complete and unhindered communication between man and man that can occur in a world full of gulfs and walls that limit community of experience.”98  Dewey quotes Galsworthy, the English writer, who described art “as the imaginative expression of energy . . . .”99  It is this energy that defines experience and that drives for more learning.  Hence, the cycle of learning continues.  The experience of democracy as envisioned by Dewey brings energy to the human person.  That is why Dewey insists on his point that “Esthetic experience is imaginative.”100  Imagination produces a vision in pursuing the truth and acting upon that truth.  Dewey says it even more explicitly: “The aims and ideals that move us are generated through imagination.  But they are not made out of imaginary stuff.  They are made out of the hard stuff of the world of physical and social experience.”101

In a collection of essays from fellow Deweyan pragmatists,  Dewey claims that “experience . . . is full of inference,” unlike the interpretation of ancient philosophies that stated that “in the traditional notion experience and thought are antithetical terms.”102   This traditional notion of experience has “hypnotized European philosophy since the time of Socrates into thinking experiencing is a mode of knowing. . . .”103  In other words, knowledge was considered everything and could substitute for experience.  Dewey is saying that a person requires both knowledge and experience, even when the experience comes first.  For example, as a teaching method for building up the vocabulary of young children to learn how to read and write, especially in a second language, the teacher may ask the students to look at an icon.  The teacher would state: “Tell me what you see, not what you know about the picture.  In this way the human being’s natural inquisitiveness would drive the individual to seek knowledge and to  seek the truth to support or dispute the experience.  Experience energizes the individual to act upon the resolution discovered in the quest for “certainty” or truth.  Of course, this brings us full circle to the beginning of Dewey’s basic premise on the importance of education in democratic principles.

Charles Hoch, in his article entitled, “A Pragmatic Inquiry,” summarizes other present-day philosophers and theorists to support his premise of the importance of resurrecting pragmatism.  Pragmatic influences  can challenge the gridlock we find in governance and in our communities.  John Dewey is the guide, together with his fellow pragmatists, James, Mead, and Peirce, in laying the foundation for the American pragmatic philosophy.  It is John Dewey’s action theories, his philosophies of education, experience, art, and logic that sets the

truest foundation for developing American democracy.


1. Robert B. Westbrook.  John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991, p. 8.

2. Ibid., p. 8.

3. Ibid., p. 35.

4. Ibid., p. 453.

5. Loc. Cit., p. 453.

6. Ibid., p. 455.

7. Ibid., p. 457.

8. Ibid., p. 466.

9. Ibid., p. 480.

10. Ibid., p. 480.

11. Ibid., p. 482.

12. Ibid., p. 483.

13. Ibid., p. 487.

14. Ibid., p. 487.

15. Ibid., p. 494.

16. Ibid., p. 495.

17. Ibid., p. 536.

18. Ibid., p. 13.

19. Alan Ryan.  John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism. New York:

W. W. Norton and Company, 1995, pp. 62-67.

1                    Westbrook, p. 23.

2                    Ibid., p. 33.

3                    Loc. Cit., p. 33.

4                    Ryan, p. 375.  James Kloppenburg’s, Uncertain Victory (New York, 1986), is filled with documentation supporting the acclaim of international intelligentsia exchange between the United States of America and Europe.

5                    Nicholas RescherMethodological Pragmatism: A Systems-Theoretic Approach to the Theory of Knowledge. New York: New York University Press, 1977, pp. 58-60.

6                    Ibid., p. 77.

7                    Ibid., pp. 77-78.

8                    Roberta KevelsonCharles S. Peirce’s Method of Methods. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:  John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1987, p. xi.

9                    Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel.  An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1934, p. 117.

10                Charles W. Morris.  Logical Positivism, Pragmatism, and Scientific Empiricism. Paris: Hermann et cie, Editeurs, 1937, p. 47.

11                Israel SchefflerFour Pragmatists: A Critical Introduction to Peirce, James, Mead, and Dewey. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, first published as a paperback in 1986 from the 1974 publication, p. 58.

12                Ibid., p. 59.

13                Ibid., pp. 14-15.  Peirce founded The Metaphysical Club in 1871.  The Club met in his study or in William James’ study in Cambridge.  The participants were Peirce, James, Chauncey Wright, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr., and Nicholas St John Green.   

14                Ibid., pp. 77-79.  Scheffler states that Peirce’s pragmatism is not a theory of truth but of meaning.  It is a process of clarification of ideas worth pursuing.

15                Ibid., pp. 85-90.

16                Ibid., p. 86.

17                Op cit., p. 86.

18                William James.  Pragmatism. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991, first published in 1907, p. 3.

19                William James.  The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York, New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1986, first published in the United States of America by Longmans, Green, and Co, 1902, pp. 26-27. 

20                Ibid., pp. 444-445.

21                James in Pragmatism, pp. 28-29.

22                Ibid., p. 28.

23                Ibid., pp. 32-33.

24                Ibid., pp. 88-89.  Author’s emphasis.

25                Scheffler, p. 104.

26                Ibid., p. 122.

27                Ibid., p. 146.

28                Alan Ryan.  John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism. 47.47. p.



1                    Ibid., p. 118.

2                    Scheffler, p. 150.

3                    Ryan, p. 123.

4                    Ibid., p. 152.  Charles W. Morris, of the University of Chicago (and one of the members of The Chicago School of Pragmatists), in 1934, edited and wrote an Introduction of Mead’s famous book: Mind, Self and Society: from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist, in which he states that Mead is different from Watson in that he is a social behaviorist focusing on the individual and symbolism in the social sense.

5                    Ibid., p. 166.

6                    John Dewey.  Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1938, p. iv.

7                    John Dewey.  Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books, Tenth Printing, 1969, (copyright, 1938, by Kappa Delta Pi), p. 71.

8                    James A. Stever.  “Technology, Organization, Freedom: The Organizational Theory of John Dewey,” Administration & Society, Vol. 24, No. 4, February, 1993, page



56. Fry, p. 175.

57. Hook, p. 12.

58. Ibid., p. 60. 

59. John Dewey.  The Sources of a Science of Education. New York: Horace Liveright, 1929, p. 75.

60. Ibid., p. 77.

61. Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 51.

62. Ibid., p. 36.

63. William M. Sullivan.  Reconstructing Public Philosophy. Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1982, p. 184.  A Deweyan thought:  “Our need is to extend the spirit of republican democratic life into the sphere of the major economic and administrative institutions.”

64. John J. McDermott, Editor.  The Philosophy of John Dewey: Two Volumes in One; 1. The Structure of Experience, 2. The Lived Experience. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1973, 1981, p. 253.

65. Ibid., p. 394.

66. Ibid., p. 395.

67. Ibid., p. 396.

68. Ibid., p. 397.

69. Ibid., p. 397.

70. Dewey, Experience and Education. p. 69.

71. Ibid., p. 34.

72. Ibid., p. 40.

73. Ibid., p. 72.

74. John Dewey.  Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1938, p. 42.

75. John Dewey.  Art As Experience. New York: Minton, Balch and Company, copyright, 1934, by John Dewey, p. 17.

76. Dewey.   Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, p. 43.

77. John Dewey.  Human Nature and Conduct. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1922,  pp. 189-198.

78. Ibid., 197.

79. Loc. Cit., p. 197.

80. Ibid., p. 199.

81. Ibid., p. 306.

82. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, p. 306.

83. John Dewey.  Ethics. New York: The Columbia University Press, 1908, p. 11.

84. Ibid., p. 15.

85. Ibid., p. 15.

86. Ibid., p. 24.

87. John Dewey.  A Common Faith. New Haven: Yale University Press, copyright 1934, Tenth printing, February, 1950, p. 87.

88. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, p. 314.

89. Ibid., p. 314.

90. Ibid., p. 316.

91. Charles Hoch.  “A Pragmatic Inquiry,” Society. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction, Inc., Volume 26, November-December. 1988, p. 28.

92. Ibid., p. 28.

93. Ibid., p. 30.

94. Ibid., p. 30.

95. Ibid., p. 30.

96. Dewey, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, p. 496.

97. Dewey, Art As Experience, p. 81. Dewey ties nature, biology, art, aesthetics, and environment into the fold of experience and education.

1                    Ibid., p. 105.

2                    Ibid., p. 185.

3                    Ibid., p. 272.

4                    Dewey, A Common Faith, p. 49.

5                    John Dewey.  Creative Intelligence, “A Recovery of Philosophy,” New York: Octagon Books, Reprinted 1970, copyright by John Dewey in 1945, and originally copyrighted in 1917 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., p. 8.

6                    Ibid., p. 48.


  If aren't being done contemplation, will be thought out instead of you

Copyright © 2003-2007 Life of Thought e-Publication.

If you are experiencing any problems or concern, please contact the Webmaster

Although it is impossible for us to answer all of your questions personally, please feel free to follow this link if you want to let us know what you think about Life of Thought. We’re always looking for feedback from the people who use Life of Thought!