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John Dewey

Dewey (1859-1952) was a psychologist and an educational reformer, described by Bertrand Russell, as "the leading living philosopher in America" and as having "had a profound influence, not only among philosophers, but on students of education, aesthetics, and political theory." He is described as having been a key figure in the rebirth of modern humanism.

After one year teaching in an elementary school in a small town in Vermont and two years as a high-school teacher in Pennsylvania, Dewey earned PhD at Johns Hopkins University, and in 1884 (age 25) he accepted a faculty position at the University of Michigan. (His PhD dissertation was titled "The Psychology of Kant.")

Dewey is known for his belief in democracy. He was considered a liberal, and some conservatives portrayed him a "dangerously radical." Marxist-Leninists also disliked him for his anti-Stalinism and his philosophical differences with Karl Marx. Dewey identified himself as a democratic socialist. He saw democracy as an ethical ideal rather than merely a political arrangement. He advocated thinking of women as human individuals and a supporter of women's suffrage.

Believing in democracy and rejecting authoritarianism, Dewey was focused on people learning to think for themselves and students developing problems solving skills. He viewed elementary and secondary schools as too often repressive and as often failing to promote exploration and growth. He rejected the old fashioned method of children learning by rote memory. And he wrote of education as something apart from propaganda.

Regarding journalism, Dewey rejected the model attributed to Walter Lippmann that denigrates public thought and action. Dewey believed that politics is the work and duty of each individual in the course of his or her daily routine and that journalism has a role to play in informing the public.

Dewey's ideas on education were put into practice in 1896 at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, working on education theory for nursery schools through the 12th grade. It was labeled progressive education. It was described as learning by doing and involved becoming aware of a problem, defining the problem, proposing a hypothesis to solve it and evaluating the consequences of the hypotheses. He was concerned about the rights and academic autonomy of teachers. He was a member of the first teacher's union in New York City, and he was a founder of the American Association of University Professors.

Dewey was influenced by the Principles of Psychology, published in 1890, by William James, who connected mental life and human behavior with adaptation to one's environment. Like James, in epistemology Dewey was a pragmatist, what he called "instrumentalism." He justified his belief in empiricism, for example, on the empirical method was a tool that humans used in interacting with their environment. He is said to have believed that communication creates a great community and that citizens who participate actively with public life contribute to that community.

Russell disagreed with this Dewey's epistemology. Russell was concerned with maintaining an awareness of "truth" as something independent of control. This, he believed, would help limit an "intoxication of power" that had invaded philosophy and was "the greatest danger of our time." Indeed, Mussolini considered himself a philosophical pragmatist. And in the 1920s some liberals in the United States praised Mussolini for his having made capitalism work, including making trains run on time.

Dewey shared with logical positivists (including Russell) concern with language and meaning. He was aware that sentences and words should be "adjudged only by means of context," and he held that only statements verifiable through empirical observation are cognitively meaningful. The was part of the new "scientific philosophy" of his time — an attempt to prevent the confusion that rises from unclear language and unverifiable claims.

Peter Beinart, in his book, Icarus Syndrome (published in 2011), complains that Dewey and his colleague, Charles Beard, were two of the "loudest academic cheerleaders" for US entry into World War I (seduced apparently by what was viewed as the morality of British and French democracies against the Germany and Austria-Hungary.) Beinart writes that Dewey predicted that wartime mobilization "would shift power from private to public hands, from selfish tribes to unbiased experts." They were racing beyond their empiricism and disciplined reasoning to a disappointment that turned both of them into opponents of war. In the early 1920s, Dewey urged Congress to draft legislation to abolish war. According to Beinart, "Dewey and Beard were moral perfectionists, men who would allow the greatest of evils to triumph for fear of implicating themselves in the lesser evil of war."

According to William Brooks ("Was Dewey a Marxist?") by the 1950s and '60s educational literature had "a wide spectrum of reaction to Dewey, from extravagant enthusiasm to violent denunciation." Brooks writes that Dewey denied that he was attracted to the ideas of Marx, describing himself as committed to peaceful evolution and "growth," in other words reforms rather than a violent class struggle.

There was dislike of Dewey's atheism. The science he believed in was, of course, non-theistic (agnostic), and Dewey had his own definition of God: whatever it was that made people want to strive to be their best. He favored preserving brotherhood, sisterhood and the devotion to community that exists among the faithful.


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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.

 

 

whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with the philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the fathers of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Dewey as the 93rd most cited psychologist of the 20th century.[3] A well-known public intellectual, he was also a major voice of progressive education and liberalism.[4][5] Although Dewey is known best for his publications about education, he also wrote about many other topics, including epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, social theory, and ethics. He was a major educational reformer for the 20th century.

On what ground do I justify my belief that science is a discipline better in achieving awareness of reality than mere invention and assumption of those into metaphysics. Philosophy gets bound up in word collections, words being instruments in reality seeking, and the word instrumentalism has been used to identify the position I take regarding empiricism as my way of judging reality. Another word for "instrumentalism" is "pragmatism" — a philosophical position that needs clarity.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) has been accused of misrepresenting the pragmatism of William James (1842-1910), described as a founder of pragmatism. Russell didn't buy the idea that religious beliefs should be deemed "true" if and only if they have good effects. God exists, thought Russell, only if God, as a matter of fact, exists.

In the US, the philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) described his philosophy as "instrumentalism" rather than pragmatism, and he didn't confuse his instrumentalism with "truth dependent on good effects" — as I simply do not. Dewey was influenced by the publication of William James' Principles of Psychology, published in 1890. James was trained as a medical doctor and developed a philosophy of psychology that connected mental life and behavior with adaptation to one's environment, and James favored the development of psychological theories not readily testable by controlled experiments. Dewey participated in the study of psychology connected to his interest in theory of education. In epistemology, Dewey was a pragmatist, like James. What Dewey called "instrumentalism" held that the truth or falsity of an idea was to be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts. Russell wrote that he agreed with Dewey on many matters but that he regretted that he was "compelled to dissent" regarding Dewey's theory of knowledge.

Dewey's education, aesthetics, and political theory." ewey believed in democracy, and he focused on the connection between democracy and people learning to think for themselves. He was against the old belief that common people were too dumb to know what was good for themselves and should remain dependent on authority in questions as to what was to be done. Dewey viewed schools, particularly elementary and secondary schools, as often repressive and often failing to promote exploration and growth. He advocated reforms designed to develop students' abilities at problem solving. He rejected the old method that limited children to learning by rote memory – which was to continue to exist in the authoritarian Islamic Madrasah schools in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

During the last half of the 20th century, for the purpose of clarity, pragmatism was woven with quibble, complexity, and confusion into questions about knowledge, language, meaning, and belief.

...... D Dewey wrote of education as something apart from propaganda: Apart from the thought of participation in social life the school has no end nor aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated institution we have no final directing ethical principles, because we have no object or ideal. (Morris & Shapiro, 1993, p. 97) Dewey's ideas on education were put into practice in 1896 at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, working on education theory for nursery schools through the 12th grade. It was labeled progressive education. It was described as learning by doing and involved becoming aware of a problem, defining the problem, proposing an hypothesis to solve it and evaluating the consequences of the hypotheses. Dewey's move away from authoritarians included a belief that there should be at least a little student participation in decisions that affect their learning. He also had concern for the rights and academic autonomy of teachers. He was a member of the first teacher's union in New York City, and he was a founder of the American Association of University Professors. Russell believed that people should consider their ability to ascertain truth with a degree of modesty. The perfect model of truth, wrote Russell, is the multiplication table, "which is precise and certain and free from all temporal dross." Russell was concerned with maintaining an awareness of "truth" as something independent of human control. This, he believed, would help limit an "intoxication of power" that had invaded philosophy and was "the greatest danger of our time." Indeed, Mussolini considered himself a philosophical pragmatist. And in the 1920s some liberals in the United States praised him with enthusiasm for his having made capitalism work, including making trains run on time. And, still on the subject of pragmatism, there was praise in the US for Mussolini having turned back the tide of materialism and anti-clericalism and for having stimulated the virtue of patriotism. Before Mussolini was appointed prime minister, his Fascist squads had learned that violence applied against their opponents – socialists and liberals – worked. It was a truth about violence limited to circumstances in Italy at the time. But Russell was interested in truth beyond some immediate pragmatism. Dewey and the World Wars In his book, Icarius Syndrome, Peter Beinart describes Dewey and his colleague, Charles Beard, as two of the "loudest academic cheerleaders" for US entry into World War I. Beinart writes that Dewey predicted that wartime mobilization "would shift power from private to public hands, from selfish tribes to unbiased experts." (p. 40) The war turned Dewey and Beard into opponents of involvement in another war. In the early 1920s Dewey urged the US Congress to draft legislation to abolish war. (p. 59.) According to Beinart, "in their opposition to American entry into World War II... Dewey and Beard were moral perfectionists, men who would allow the greatest of evils to triumph for fear of implicating themselves in the lesser evil of war." (p. 82) n a 1920 speech to the Komsomol, Lenin said that communists subordinate morality to the class struggle. Good was anything that destroyed “the old exploiting society” and helped to build a “new communist society. ,,,,,, Marxism became obsolete even before Marx died. As the industrial revolution accelerated sharply, worker’s movements switched en masse from Marxism to social-democracy, that is from trying to blow up the system to negotiating for a lager piece of an increasing pie. The only ones who remained faithful to Marxism were fringe intellectuals,


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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.