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John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology

Larry A. Hickman

Publication Year: 1990

"... a comprehensive canvass of Dewey's logic, metaphysics, aesthetics, philosophy of history, and social thought."  -- Choice

"... a major addition to the recent accumulation of in-depth studies of Dewey." -- Journal of Speculative Philosophy

"Larry Hickman has done an exemplary job in demonstrating the relevance of John Dewey's philosophy to modern-day discussions of technology."  -- Ethics

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology


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pp. v

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Editor’s Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

Indiana University Press is proud to launch the Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology with the following trio: John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology, by Larry A. Hickman; Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth, by Don Ihde; and Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity:,,,

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pp. ix-x

There are many people without whose help this book could not have come to fruition. The advice of my colleague John J. McDermott has been of inestimable value. My department head, Herman Saatkamp, provided unquestioning logistical support and constant encouragement. The advice of Peter Manicas and Ralph...

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pp. xi-xvi

When I began to think seriously about writing this book, my colleague John J. McDermott provided a metaphor that has since proved invaluable. Dewey's work, he suggested, is an elaborate spider's web, the junctions and lineaments of which its engineer knows well, and in and on which he is able to move about with great facility. But for the outsider who seeks...

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pp. xvii

Citations of the works of John Dewey are to the critical edition published by Southern Illinois University under the editorship of Jo Ann Boydston. At the time of this writing (1989), complete are the five volumes of The Early Works, 1882-1898 and the fifteen volumes of The Middle Works, 1899-1924...

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Chapter 1: Locating Dewey’s Critique of Technology

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pp. 1-16

John Dewey's concern with technology pervades his published work. From his early days at the University of Michigan in the late 1880s until his last published work in the 1950s, Dewey formed his fundamental philosophical insights in response to the problems and opportunities of the developing technological...

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Chapter 2: Knowing as a Technological Artifact

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pp. 17-59

Teehne, the ancestor of "technology," was used by Greek contemporaries of Plato and Aristotle to designate any productive skill. More specifically, the term was used in a demotic sense as "a kind of professional competence as...

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Chapter 3: Productive Skills in the Arts

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pp. 60-79

In the preceding chapter I presented Dewey's theory of inquiry as an account of the rhythms that permeate the interaction of human beings in and with their various experiences. As William James and Charles Peirce before him had done, Dewey isolated two types of experience: that stable phase in which...

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Chapter 4: From Techne to Technology

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pp. 80-106

In his 1927 essay "Philosophy and Civilization," Dewey had much to say about the construction of histories and their place in the broader pattern of constructions we call "civilization." First, he suggested, writers of histories are themselves caught up in history: they are among the creators of its future...

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Chapter 5: Theory, Practice, and Production

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pp. 107-139

In the previous chapter I indicated that Dewey turned Aristotle's order of theoretical, practical, and productive knowing on its head. Like Plato before him, Aristotle treated theoretical knowing as superior to practical and productive knowing. Because of its ties to certainty, because its object was said to...

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Chapter 6: Instruments, History, and Human Freedom

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pp. 140-165

There is probably no issue that has exercised serious critics of technology more relentlessly than the claim advanced by some of them that the development of technology is determined by certain necessary laws or, put another way, that its development is "autonomous" and thus outside human control. This claim and various objections advanced against it are part...

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Chapter 7: Publics as Products

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pp. 166-195

It is an incontrovertible fact of contemporary life that the problems we term public, in societies that are democratic as well as those that are authoritarian, have come to be associated in one way or another with the growth, the implementation, and the prospects of technology. This attitude is a common...

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Epilogue: Responsible Technology

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pp. 196-204

In a paper presented in 1959, at a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Dewey's birth, Edwin A. Burtt suggested that if he had to pick a single word to typify Dewey's philosophical work, it would be "responsibility." Burtt was quick to point out that he did not intend the term in the limited sense that it has had in law, or even in the sense that it has usually...

Appendix: Pagination Key to Works Cited

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pp. 205-212


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pp. 213-228


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pp. 229-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780253114747
E-ISBN-10: 0253114748
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253327475

Illustrations: 2 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 1990

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology