Action and Inquiry in Dewey's Philosophy
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 43, Number 1, Winter 2007
- pp. 90-115
- Additional Information
1 Dewey's conception of inquiry is often criticized for misdescribing the complexities of life that outstrip the reach of intelligence. This article argues that we can ascertain his subtle account of inquiry if we read it as a transformation of Aristotle's categories of knowledge: epistèmè, phronèsis, and technè. For Dewey, inquiry is the process by which practical as well as theoretical knowledge emerges. He thus extends the contingency Aristotle attributes to ethical and political life to all domains of action. Knowledge claims become experimental, the result of which makes them revisable in the context of experience. As a result, when we say a person (e.g., scientist, craftsman, or citizen) displays practical wisdom we are reading their judgments within a complex horizon, whose success as judgments require alertness and discernment of salient features in response to an uncertain environment. Contrary to his critics, he seeks to make us attuned to the world's inescapable, and sometimes, tragic complexity.