restricted access Two
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

two pragmatism: diversity of subjects in dewey’s philosophy and the present dewey scholarship Stefan Neubert  Diversity of Subjects in Dewey’s Works In addition to the information already given by Larry A. Hickman in Chapter 1, I wish to examine some central philosophical topics from the impressive richness of Dewey’s works and the comprehensive body of his writings, which fill thirty-seven volumes in the critical edition of the Collected Works. I will confine my comments to a brief discussion of each topic, highlighting its importance as an element within Dewey’s overall philosophical approach. It is obvious that any such attempt necessarily involves a simplification of more complex affairs that can be only touched on here. The reader will be provided with references to some of Dewey’s most important writings on each topic as a starting point for more extensive studies. ‘‘Experience’’ as a Philosophical Core Concept Dewey’s philosophical core concept, ‘‘experience,’’ finds its most comprehensive and detailed discussion in the two later works PAGE 19 { 19 } ................. 17147$ $CH2 01-07-09 14:25:38 PS 20 diversity of subjects in dewey’s philosophy Experience and Nature (LW 1) and Art as Experience (LW 10).1 In Experience and Nature, which some have labeled Dewey’s metaphysics, he elaborates on the close relationship between his idea of experience and his understanding of nature, a connection that is indicated not only by the title of the work, but also by Dewey’s characterization of his own philosophical position and method as ‘‘empirical naturalism ’’ or ‘‘naturalistic empiricism’’ at the very outset of the first chapter (LW 1:10). It would be misleading, though, if the two characterizations of Dewey’s position, naturalism and empiricism, were to be reduced to the conventional understanding of these terms in the tradition of Western philosophy. Dewey reconstructed both concepts and used them in a fundamentally new and extended way. So, ‘‘naturalism,’’ for Dewey, does not refer to an understanding of nature as something essentially given, a fixed order of things, beings, or species. Following Darwin, Dewey’s philosophical understanding of nature implies an open, dynamic, and contingent process in which identities and relationships emerge as the actualization of natural potentialities in the context of evolutionary interactions. Like all other natural affairs, human experience, too, emerges from natural interactions. This is why, for Dewey, ‘‘nature and experience are not enemies or alien’’—as is so often suggested in the philosophical tradition. ‘‘There is in the character of human experience . . . a growing progressive self-disclosure of nature itself’’ (LW 1:5). At the same time, Dewey’s empiricism builds on a concept of experience that shows remarkable differences as compared to the classical understanding of that term, e.g., in John Locke and the tradition of British empiricism. Experience, for Dewey, is not restricted to the subjective experiencing of an objectively given reality principally independent from the process of experiencing itself and the one who has the experience. Nor is it, in the first place, a passive event, e.g., of receiving sense impressions. Rather, experience is characterized for Dewey by the two criteria of continuity and interaction (see LW 13:17ff.). The basic unit in his concept of experience is the act, ‘‘and PAGE 20 ................. 17147$ $CH2 01-07-09 14:25:38 PS stefan neubert 21 the act in its full development as a connection between doing and undergoing’’ (LW 11:214) wherein meanings are actively constructed. According to Dewey, experience is always embedded in cultural practices. He further distinguishes between ‘‘primary’’ and ‘‘secondary experience’’ (see LW 1:10ff.). ‘‘Primary experience’’ refers to the immediate qualitative unity of experiencing and experienced that constitutes an empirical whole—a total situation—before we begin to discriminate elements. Experience ‘‘recognizes in its primary integrity no division between act and material, subject and object, but contains them both in an unanalyzed totality’’ (LW 1:18). This totality, however , is partially broken up whenever we find ourselves in a so-called ‘‘problematic situation’’ where our so-far established habits of action and interpretation fail. We begin to reflect on the possible future consequences of actions within an ambiguous, contingent, and ‘‘open’’ situation and construct new meanings of behaviors, objects, and experiences . This is what Dewey calls ‘‘secondary experience’’: it designates the level of reflection, knowledge, and theory, from simple everyday solutions of problematic situations or conflicts to scientific and philosophical inquiries. However refined and sophisticated these secondary products of reflection may be, Dewey takes pains to...


pdf