Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Educated in his native Vermont and at Johns Hopkins University, John Dewey enjoyed a lengthy career as an educator, psychologist, and philosopher. He initiated the progressive laboratory school at the University of Chicago, where his reforms in methods of education could be put into practice. As a professor of philosophy, Dewey taught at Michigan, Chicago, and Columbia University. He was instrumental in founding the American Association of University Professors as a professional organization for post-secondary educators.
Arguably the most influential thinker on education in the twentieth century, Dewey's contribution lies along several fronts. His attention to experience and reflection, democracy and community, and to environments for learning have been seminal. As a scholar and writer, Dewey's oeuvre is extraordinary: forty books and approximately seven hundred articles in over one hundred and forty journals. Many of his most renowned works were published after he was sixty years old. He also served as an early president of the American Philosophical Association and was invited to speak in philosophy's most prestigious lecture series. He developed a broad body of work encompassing virtually all of the main areas of philosophical concern in his day. He also wrote extensively on social issues in such popular publications as the New Republic, thereby gaining a reputation as a leading social commentator of his time. Dewey believe that this life is neither perfectly good not bad; it can be improved only through human effort. Philosophy's motive for existing, then, is to make life better.
One of my favorite article was A Certain Logic.......Selected works of John Dewey, A Mead Project website at Brock University, originally published as: John Dewey. "Habits as social functions," Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology. New York: Modern Library (1922).
Below are excerpts from his writings:
First, Dewey talked about the Place of Habit in Conduct (Habits as Social Functions). He began by saying, breathing is an affair of the air as truly as of the lungs; digesting an affair of food as truly as of tissues of stomach. Seeing involves light just as certainly as it does the eye and optic nerve. Walking implicates the ground as well as the legs; speech demands physical air and human companionship and audience as well as vocal organs. The same air that under certain conditions ruffles the pool or wrecks buildings, under other conditions purifies the blood and conveys thought. The outcome depends upon what air acts upon. Honesty, chastity, malice, peevishness, courage, triviality, industry, irresponsibility are not private possessions of a person. They are working adaptations of personal capacities with environing forces. All virtues and vices are habits which incorporate objective forces. They are interactions of elements contributed by the make-up of an individual with elements supplied by the out-door world.
If an individual were alone in the world, he would form his habits (assuming the impossible, namely, that he would be able to form them) in a moral vacuum. They would belong to him alone, or to him only in reference to physical forces. Responsibility and virtue would be his alone. But since habits involve the support of environing conditions, a society or some specific group of fellow-men, is always accessory before and after the fact. Some activity proceeds from a man; then it sets up reactions in the surroundings. Others approve, disapprove, protest, encourage, share and resist. Even letting a than alone is a definite response. Envy, admiration and imitation are complicities. Neutrality is non-existent. Conduct is always shared; this is the difference between it and a physiological process. It is not an ethical " ought " that conduct should be social. It is social, whether bad or good.
Washing one's hands of the guilt of others is a way of sharing guilt so far as it encourages in others a vicious way of action. Non-resistance to evil which takes the form of paying no attention to it is a way of promoting it. The desire of an individual to keep his own conscience stainless by standing aloof from badness may be a sure means of causing evil and thus of creating personal responsibility for it. To sentimentalize over a criminal— to " forgive " because of a glow of feeling— is to incur liability for production of criminals. But to suppose that infliction of retributive suffering suffices, without reference to concrete consequences, is to leave untouched old causes of criminality and to create new ones by fostering revenge and brutality. Courses of action which put the blame exclusively on a person as if his evil will were the sole cause of wrong-doing and those which condone offense on account of the share of social conditions in producing bad disposition, are equally ways of making an unreal separation of man from his surroundings, mind from the world. Causes for an act always exist, but causes are not excuses. Our entire tradition regarding punitive justice tends to prevent recognition of social partnership in producing crime; it falls in with a belief in metaphysical free-will. By killing an evil-doer or shutting him up behind stone walls, we are enabled to forget both him and our part in creating him. Society excuses itself by laying the blame on the criminal; he retorts by putting the blame on bad early surroundings, the temptations of others, lack of opportunities, and the persecutions of officers of the law. Both are right, except in the wholesale character of their recriminations.
Morals has to do with acts still within our control, acts still to be performed. No amount of guilt on the part of the evil-doer absolves us from responsibility for the consequences upon him and others of our way of treating him, or from our continuing responsibility for the conditions under which persons develop perverse habits. To change the working character or will of another we have to alter objective conditions which enter into his habits. Our own schemes of judgment, of assigning blame and praise, of awarding punishment and honor, are part of these conditions. In practical life, there are many recognitions of the part played by social factors in generating personal traits. One of them is our habit of making social classifications. We attribute distinctive characteristics to rich and poor, slum-dweller and captain of industry, rustic and suburbanite, officials, politicians, professors, to members of races, sets and parties.
A savage can travel after a fashion in a jungle. Civilized activity is too complex to be carried on with out smoothed roads. It requires signals and junction points; traffic authorities and means of easy and rapid transportation. It demands a congenial, antecedently prepared environment. Without it, civilization would relapse into barbarism in spite of the best of subjective intention and internal good disposition. Individuals flourish and wither away like the grass of the fields. But the fruits of their work endure and make possible the development of further activities having fuller significance. It is of grace not of ourselves that we lead civilized lives. There is sound sense in the old pagan notion that gratitude is the root of all virtue. For however much has been done, there always remains more to do. We can retain and transmit our own heritage only by constant remaking of our own environment. Piety to the past is not for its own sake nor for the sake of the past, but for the sake of a present so secure and enriched that it will create a vet better future. Individuals with their exhortations, their preachings anal scoldings. their inner aspirations and sentiments have disappeared, but their habits endure, because these habits incorporate objective conditions in themselves. So will it be with our activities. We may desire abolition of war, industrial justice, greater equality of opportunity for all. But no amount of preaching good will or the golden rule or cultivation of sentiments of love and equity will accomplish the results. There must be change in objective arrangements and institutions. We must work on the environment not merely on the hearts of men. To think otherwise is to suppose that flowers can be raised in a desert or motor cars run in a jungle. Both things can happen and without a miracle. But only by first changing the jungle and desert.
Under Habits and Will, he blamed on our self-love, our refusal to face facts, combined perhaps with a sense of a possible better although unrealized self, that leads us to eject the habit from the thought of ourselves and conceive it as an evil power which has somehow overcome us. We feed our conceit by recalling that the habit was no'' deliberately formed; we never intended to become idlers or gamblers or rouges. And how can anything be deeply ourselves which developed accidentally, without set intention? All habits are demands for certain kinds of activity; and they constitute the self. In any intelligible sense of the word will, they are will. They form our effective desires and they furnish us with our working capacities. They rule our thoughts, determining which shall appear and be strong and which shall pass from light into obscurity.
He also talked about Custom and Habit. Individuals begin their career as infants. For the plasticity of the young presents a temptation to those having greater experience and hence greater power which they rarely resist. It seems putty to be molded according to current designs. That plasticity also means power to change prevailing custom is ignored. Docility is looked upon not as ability to learn whatever the world has to teach, but as subjection to those: instructions of others which reflect their current habits. To be truly docile is to be eager to learn all the lessons of active, inquiring, expanding experience. The inert, stupid quality of current customs perverts learning into a willingness to follow where others point the way, into conformity, constriction, surrender of skepticism and experiment. When we think of the docility of the young we first think of the stocks of information adults wish to impose and the ways of acting they want to reproduce. Then we think of the insolent coercions, the insinuating briberies, the pedagogic solemnities by which the freshness of youth can be faded and its vivid curiosities dulled. Education becomes the art of taking advantage of the helplessness of the young; the forming of habits becomes a guarantee for the maintenance of hedges of custom.
He also explained Plasticity of Impulse. The younger generation has hardly even knocked frankly at the door of adult customs, much less been invited in to rectify through better education the brutalities and inequities established in adult habits. Each new generation has crept blindly and furtively through such chance gaps as have happened to be left open. Otherwise it has been modeled after the old. Original plasticity is warped and docility is taken mean advantage of. It has been used to signify not capacity to learn liberally and generously, but willingness to learn the customs of adult associates, ability to learn just those special things which those having power and authority wish to teach. Original modifiability has not been given a fair chance to act as a trustee for a better human life. It has been loaded with convention, biased by adult convenience. It has been practically rendered into an equivalent of non-assertion of originality, a pliant accommodation to the embodied opinions of others. Docility has been identified with imitativeness, instead of with power to re-make old habits, to re-create. Plasticity and originality have been opposed to each other. In short, among the native activities of the young are some that work towards accommodation, assimilation, reproduction, and others that work toward exploration, discovery and creation. But the weight of adult custom has been thrown upon retaining and strengthening tendencies toward conformity, and against those which make for variation and independence. The habits of the growing person are jealously kept within the limit of adult customs. The delightful originality of the child is tamed. Worship of institutions and personages themselves lacking in imaginative foresight, versatile observation and liberal thought, is enforced.
Very early in life sets of mind are formed without attentive thought, and these sets persist and control the mature mind. The child learns to avoid the shock of unpleasant disagreement, to find the easy way out, to appear to conform to customs which are wholly mysterious to him in order to get his own way that is to display some natural impulse without exciting the unfavorable notice of those in authority. Adults distrust the intelligence which a child has while making upon him demands for a kind of conduct that requires a, high order of intelligence, if it is to be intelligent at all. The inconsistency is reconciled by instilling in him "moral " habits which have a maximum of emotional impressment and adamant hold with a minimum of understanding. These habituates, deeply ingrained before thought is awake and even before the day of experiences which can later he recalled, govern conscious later thought. They are usually deepest and most unforgettable just where critical thought is most needed in morals, religion and politics. These "infantile " account for the mass of irrationalities that prevail among men of otherwise rational tastes. These personal " hang-overs " are the cause of what the student of culture calls survivals. But unfortunately these survivals are much more numerous and pervasive than the anthropologist and historian are wont to admit. To list them would perhaps oust one from " respectable " society.
And yet the intimation never wholly deserts us that there is in the unformed activities of childhood and youth the possibilities of a better life for the community as well as for individuals here and there. This dim sense is the ground of our abiding idealization of childhood. For with all its extravagances and uncertainties, its effusions and reticences, it remains a standing proof of a life wherein growth is normal not an anomaly, activity a delight not a task, and where habit-forming is an expansion of power not its shrinkage. Habit and impulse may war with each other, but it is a combat between the habits of adults and the impulses of the young, and not, as with the adult, a civil warfare whereby personality is rent asunder. Our usual measure for the " goodness " of children is the amount of trouble they make for grownups, which means of course the amount they deviate from adult habits and expectations. Yet by way of expiation we envy children their love of new experiences, their intentness in extracting the last drop of significance from each situation, their vital seriousness in things that to us are outworn.
We compensate for the harshness and monotony of our present insistence upon formed habits by imagining a future heaven in which we too shall respond freshly and generously to each incident of life. In consequence of our divided attitude, our ideals are self-contradictory. On the one hand, we dream of an attained perfection, an ultimate static goal, in which effort shall cease, and desire and execution be once and for all in complete equilibrium. We wish for a character which shall be steadfast, and we then conceive this desired faithfulness as something immutable, a character exactly the same yesterday, today and forever. But we also have a sneaking sympathy for the courage of an Emerson in declaring that consistency should be thrown to the winds when it stands between us and the opportunities of present life.
Dewey goes on to talk about Impulse and Conflict of Habits. Adults have their habits formed, fixed, at least comparatively. They are the subjects, not to say victims, of an environment which they can directly change only by a maximum of effort and disturbance. They may not be able to perceive clearly the needed changes, or be willing to pay the price of effecting them. Yet they wish a different life for the generation to come. In order to realize that wish they may create a special environment whose main function is education. In order that education of the young be efficacious in inducing an improved society, it is not necessary for adults to have a formulated definite ideal of some better state. An educational enterprise conducted in this spirit would probably end merely in substituting one rigidity for another. What is necessary is that habits be formed which are more intelligent, more sensitively percipient, more informed with foresight, more aware of what they are about, more direct and sincere, more flexibly responsive than those now current. Then they will meet their own problems and propose their own improvements.
We realize how little the progress of man has been the product of intelligent guidance, how largely it has been a by-product of accidental upheavals, even though by an apologetic interest in behalf of some privileged institution we later transmute chance into providence. We have depended upon the clash of war, the stress of revolution, the emergence of heroic individuals, the impact of migrations generated by war and famine, the incoming of barbarians, to change established institutions. Instead of constantly utilizing unused impulse to effect continuous reconstruction, we have waited till an accumulation of stresses suddenly breaks through the dikes of custom.
In Changing Human Nature, Dewey said, in truth, man acts anyway, he can't help acting. In every fundamental sense it is false that a man requires a motive to make him do something. To a healthy man inaction is the greatest of woes. Any one who observes children knows that while periods of rest are natural, laziness is an acquired vice - or virtue While a man is awake he will do something, if only to build castles in the air. If we like the form of word we may say that a man eats only because he is 6` moved by hunger. The statement is nevertheless mere tautology. For what does hunger mean except that one of the things which man does naturally, instinctively, is to search for food - that his activity naturally turns that way? Hunger primarily names an act or active process not a motive to an act. It is an act if we take it grossly, like a babe's blind hunt for the mother's breast; it is an activity if we take it minutely as a chemic o-physiological occurrence.
A child naturally grabs food. But he does it in our presence. His manner is socially displeasing and we attribute to his act, up to dais time wholly innocent, the motive of greed or selfishness. Greediness simply means the quality of his act as socially observed and disapproved. But by attributing it to him as his motive for acting in the disapproved way, we induce him to refrain. We analyze his total act and call his attention to an obnoxious element in its outcome. A child with equal spontaneity, or thoughtlessness, gives way to others. We point out to him with approval that he acted considerately, generously. And this quality of action when noted and encouraged becomes a reinforcing stimulus of that factor which will induce similar acts in the future. An element in an act viewed as a tendency to produce such and such consequences is a motive. A motive does not exist prior to an act and produce it. It is an act plus a judgment upon some element of it, the judgment being made in the light of the consequences of the act.
Dewey also clarified Classification of Instincts by saying, an animal cannot live except as it is alive, except that is as its acts have the result of sustaining life, it is concluded that all its acts are instigated by an impulse to self-preservation. Since all acts affect the well-being of their agent in one way or another, and since when a person becomes reflective he prefers consequences in the way of weal to those of woe, therefore all his acts are due to self-love. In actual substance, one statement says that life is life; and the other says that a self is a self. One says that special acts are acts of a living creature and the other that they are acts of a self. In the biological statement the concrete diversity between the acts of say a clam and of a dog are covered up by pointing out that the acts of each tend to self-preservation, ignoring the somewhat important fact that in one case it is the life of a clam and in the other the life of a dog which is continued. In morals, the concrete differences between a Jesus, a Peter, a John and a Judas are covered up by the wise remark that after all they are all selves and all act as selves. In every case, a result or " end" is treated as an actuating cause.
With respect to men who succeed in accumulating wealth it is a mistake to suppose that acquisitiveness plays with most of them a large role, beyond getting control of the tools of the game. Acquisition is necessary as an outcome, but it arises not from love of accumulation but from the fact that without a large stock of possessions one cannot engage effectively in modern business. It is an incident of love of power, of desire to impress fellows, to obtain prestige, to secure influence, to manifest ability, to " succeed " in short under the conditions of the given regime. And if we are to shove a mythological psychology of instincts behind modern economics, we should do better to invent instincts for security, a good time, power and success than to rely upon an acquisitive instinct. We should have also to give much weight to a peculiar sporting instinct. Not acquiring dollars, but chasing them, hunting them is the important thing. Acquisition has its part in the big game, for even the most devoted sportsman prefers, other things being equal, to bring home the fog's brush. A tangible result is the mark to one's self and to others of success in sport.
There is No Separate Instincts, Dewey said. A child gives way to what, grossly speaking, we call anger. Its felt or appreciated quality depend; in the first place upon the condition of his organism at the time, and this is never twice alike. In the second place, the act is at once modified by the environment upon which it impinges so that different consequences are immediately reflected back to the doer. In one case, anger is directed say at older and stronger playmates who immediately avenge themselves upon the offender, perhaps cruelly. In another case, it takes effect upon weaker and impotent children, and the reflected appreciated consequence is one of achievement, victory, power and a knowledge of the means of having one's own way. The notion that anger still remains a single force is a lazy mythology. Even in the cases of hunger and sex, where the channels of action are fairly demarcated by antecedent conditions (or "nature''), the actual content and feel of hunger and sex, are indefinitely varied according to their social contexts. Only when a man is starving, is hunger an unqualified natural impulse; as it approaches this limit, it tends to lose, moreover, its psychological distinctiveness and to become a raven of the entire organism.
Further, Dewey talked about Deliberation and Calculation. The primary fact is that man is a being who responds in action to the stimuli of the environment. This fact is complicated in deliberation, but it certainly is not abolished. We continue to react to an object presented in imagination as we react to objects presented in observation. The baby does not move to the mother's breast because of calculation of the advantages of warmth and food over against the pains of effort. Nor does the miser seek gold, nor the architect strive to make plans, nor the physician to heal, because of reckonings of comparative advantage and disadvantage. Habit, occupation, furnishes the necessity of forward action in one case as instinct does in the other. We do not act from reasoning; but reasoning puts before us objects which are not directly or sensibly present, so that we then may react directly to these objects, with aversion, attraction, indifference or attachment, precisely as we would to the same objects if they were physically present. In the end it results in a case of direct stimulus and response. In one case the stimulus is presented at once through sense; in the other case, it is indirectly reached through memory and constructive imagination. But the matter of directness and indirectness concerns the way the stimulus is reached, not the way in which it operates.
Joy and suffering, pain and pleasure, the agreeable and disagreeable, play their considerable role in deliberation. Not, however, by way of a calculated estimate of future delights and miseries, but by way of experiencing present ones. The reaction of joy and sorrow, elation and depression, is as natural a response to objects presented in imagination as to those presented in sense. Complacency and annoyance follow hard at the heels of any object presented in image as they do upon its sensuous experience. Some objects when thought of are congruent to our existing state of activity. They fit in, they are welcome. They agree, or are agreeable, not as matter of calculation but as matter of experienced fact. Other objects rasp; they cut across activity; they are tiresome, hateful, unwelcome. They disagree with the existing trend of activity, that is, they are disagreeable, and in no other way than as a bore who prolongs his visit, a dun we can't pay, or a pestiferous mosquito who goes on buzzing. We do not think of future losses and expansions. We think, through imagination, of objects into which in the future some course of action will run, and we are now delighted or depressed, pleased or pained at what is presented. This running commentary of likes and dislikes, attractions and disdains, joys and sorrows, reveals to any man who is intelligent enough to note them and to study their occasions his own character. It instructs him as to the composition and direction of the activities that make him what he is. To know what jars an activity and what agrees with it is to know something important. about that activity and about ourselves.
In truth, a man's judgment of future joys and sorrows is but a projection of what now satisfies and annoys him. A man of considerate disposition now feels hurt at the thought of an act bringing harm to others, and so he is on the lookout for consequences of that sort, ranking them as of high importance. He may even be so abnormally sensitive to such consequences that he is held back from needed vigorous action. He fears to do the things which are for the real welfare of others because he shrinks from the thought of the pain to be inflicted upon there by needed measures. A man of an executive type, engrossed in carrying through a scheme, will react in present emotion to everything concerned with its external success ; the pain its execution brings to others will not occur to him, or if it does, his mind will easily glide over it. This sort of consequence will seem to him of slight importance in comparison with the commercial or political changes which bulk in his plans. What a man foresees and fails to foresee, what he appraises highly and at a low rate, what he deems important and trivial, what he dwells upon and what he slurs over, what he easily recalls and what he naturally forgets— all of these things depend upon his character. His estimate of future consequences of the agreeable and annoying is consequently of much greater value as an index of what he now is than as a prediction of future results.
The Uniqueness of Good is explained by Dewey by saying, in quality, the good is never twice alike. It never copies itself. It is new every morning, fresh every evening. It is unique in its every presentation For it marks the resolution of a distinctive complication of competing habits and impulses which can never repeat itself. Only with a habit rigid to the point of immobility could exactly the same good recur twice. And with such rigid routines the same good does not after all recur, for it does not even occur. There is no consciousness at all, either of good or bad. Rigid habits sink below the level. of any meaning at all. And since we live in a moving world, they plunge us finally against conditions to which they are not adapted and so terminate in disaster.
Men shoot and throw, explained Dewey on The Nature of Aims . At first this is done as an "instinctive" or natural reaction to some situation. The result when it is observed gives a new meaning to the activity. Henceforth men in throwing and shooting think of it in terms of its outcome; they act intelligently or have an end. Liking the activity in its acquired meaning, they not only " take aim " when they throw instead of throwing at random, but they find or make targets at which to aim. This is the origin and nature of " goals " of action. In a strict sense an end-in-view is a means in present action; present action is not a means to a remote end. Men do not shoot because targets exist, but they set up targets in order that throwing and shooting may be more effective and significant. A mariner does not sail towards the stars, but by noting the stars he is aided in conducting his present activity of sailing. A port or harbor is his objective, but only in the sense of reaching it not of taking possession of it. The harbor stands in his thought as a significant point at which his activity will need redirection. Activity will not cease when the port is attained, but merely the present direction of activity. The port is as truly the beginning of another mode of activity as it is the termination of the present one. The only reason we ignore this fact is because it is empirically taken for granted. We know without thinking that our " ends " are perforce beginnings. But theories of ends and ideals have converted a theoretical ignoring which is equivalent to practical acknowledgment into an intellectual denial, and have thereby confused and perverted the nature of ends.
In The Good of Activity, Dewey said that men have constructed a strange dream-world when they have supposed that without a fixed ideal of a remote good to inspire them, they have no inducement to get relief from present troubles, no desires for liberation from what oppresses and for clearing-up what confuses present action. It is connected with a self as it is fantastic to idealize personality ,just as personality aside from the question what sort of a person one is. Other persons are selves too. If one's own present experience is to be depreciated in its meaning because it centers in a self, why act for the welfare of others? Selfishness for selfishness, one is as good as another; our own is worth as much as another's. It shows that good is the same in quality wherever it is found, whether in some other self or in one's own.
Concluding, Dewey said that Morality is Social. He said, when a child acts, those about him re-act. They shower encouragement upon him, visit him with approval, or they bestow frowns and rebuke. What others do to us when we act is as natural a consequence of our action as what the fire does to us when we plunge our hands in it. The social environment may be as artificial as you please. But its action in response to ours is natural not artificial. In language and imagination we rehearse the responses of others just as we dramatically enact other consequences. We foreknow how others will act, and the foreknowledge is the beginning of judgment passed on action. We know with them ; there is conscience. Axe assembly is formed within our breast which discusses and appraises proposed and performed acts. The community without becomes a forum and tribunal within, a judgment-seat of charges, assessments and exculpations. Our thoughts of our own actions are saturated with the ideas that others entertain about them, ideas which have been expressed not only in explicit instruction but still more effectively in reaction to our acts. Liability is the beginning of responsibility. We are held accountable by others for the consequences of our acts. They visit their like and dislike of these consequences upon us. In vain do we claim that these are not ours; that they are products of ignorance not design, or are incidents in the execution of a most laudable scheme. Their authorship is imputed to us. We are disapproved, and disapproval is not an inner state of mind but a most definite act. Others say to us by their deeds we do not care a fig whether you did this deliberately or not. We intend that you shall deliberate before you do it again, and that if possible your deliberation shall prevent a repetition of this act we object to. The reference in blame and every unfavorable judgment is prospective, not retrospective. Theories about responsibility may become confused, but in practice no one is stupid enough to try to change the past. Approbation and disapprobation are ways of influencing the formation of habits and aims; that is, of influencing future acts. The individual is held accountable for what he has done in order that he may be responsive in what he is going to do. Gradually Persons learn by dramatic imitation to hold themselves accountable, and liability becomes a voluntary deliberate acknowledgment that deeds are our own, that their consequences come from us. The effect of custom on habit, and of habit upon thought is enough to prove this statement.
All of the actions of an individual bear the stamp of his community as assuredly as does the language he speaks. This social saturation is, a matter of fact, not of what should be, not of what is desirable or undesirable. It does not guarantee the rightness of goodness of an act; there is no excuse for thinking of evil action as individualistic and right action as social. Deliberate unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest is as much conditioned upon social opportunities, training and assistance as is the course of action prompted by a beaming benevolence. The difference lies in the quality and degree of the perception of ties and interdependencies; in the use to which they are put. Consider the form commonly assumed today by self-seeking; namely command of money and economic power. Money is a social institution; property is a legal custom; economic opportunities are dependent upon the state of society; the objects aimed at, the rewards sought for, are what they are because of social admiration, prestige, competition and power. If moneymaking is morally obnoxious it is because of the way these social facts are handled, not because a money-making man has withdrawn from society into an isolated self hood or turned his back upon society. His " individualism " is not found in his original nature but in his habits acquired under social influences. It is found in his concrete aims, and these are reflexes of social conditions. Well-grounded moral objection to a mode of conduct rests upon the kind of social connections that figure, not upon lack of social aim. A man may attempt to utilize social relationships for his own advantage in an inequitable way; he may intentionally or unconsciously try to make them feed one of his own appetites. Then he is denounced as egoistic. But both his course of action and the disapproval he is subject to are facts within society. They are social phenomena. He pursues his unjust advantage as a social asset.
Dewey was a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy in Residence at Columbia between 1930 and 1939. Although retired, Dewey was continually active in the social affairs of the day. He lectured for two years in China to future teachers. In 1937 he was the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the charges against Leon Trotsky brought by the Russian government. Dewey helped establish the New School of Social Research in New York City. He was active in beginning a teachers' union. John Dewey added to his many writings additional works until his death on June 1, 1952, at the age of ninety-two.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
A CERTAIN LOGIC