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  • John Dewey, Confucius, and Global Philosophy
  • Ian M. Sullivan
John Dewey, Confucius, and Global Philosophy. By Joseph Grange. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. Pp. xviii + 135. Paper $18.95.

The last decade has seen the rapid rise of China as a global power, and the stability of China-U.S. relations has taken on global significance. The two political giants are meeting in the Middle East, Africa, and even Latin America. As Joseph Grange aptly points out, rising tensions over such issues as human rights and national sovereignty are not simply the result of differing political agendas. Underlying cultural assumptions and historical meanings are at the root of these differences, and opening a [End Page 427] constructive dialogue on these differing cultural assumptions is the key to a fruitful political relationship. This charge is left to philosophy.

In John Dewey, Confucius, and Global Philosophy Joseph Grange provides a valuable addition to the development of this cross-cultural dialogue. Drawing from classical Confucianism and the works of John Dewey, Grange's goal is to develop working connections between the two traditions on the level of the individual's relation to culture and personhood. In addition to helping provide a solid foundation clear of debris for a political dialogue between China and the United States, Grange also hopes to bridge the gap between Asian values and the Western social and political landscape through the Deweyan categories of experience, felt intelligence, and culture and three clusters of Confucian concepts: (1) dao 道, de 德, and ren 仁; (2) li 裡, yi 義, and zhi 智; and (3) he 和, xin 心, xin 信, and junzi 君子.

The first chapter is on experience as a fundamental measure of an individual's humanity and how Dewey's technical understanding of the term "consummatory experience" correlates with the Confucian web of terms dao, de, and ren. Grange writes that for Dewey, the major problem of philosophy in his time was the growing degree of separation that arose as the analysis of human experience reified conceptual abstractions. Dualisms like subject-object, mind-body, and ideal-material were making it more difficult "to feel, think, judge, will, or act as a whole human being" (p. 3). Dewey's solution was the consummatory experience. In this type of experience, these separations and dualisms are overcome and a human life is seen as whole and value-laden. There is a creative integration of the many parts into the whole of experience.

Grange presents dao, de, and ren as the three Confucian terms that provide working connections with the consummatory experience. He sees dao as doing the same work for the Confucian project as experience does for the Deweyan pragmatist project. Among other things, both involve properly situating oneself in a constantly changing environment, where "properly" is understood both ethically and aesthetically. Also, both are inherently personal in that the individual must personally engage in them, while also being couched in a social context. De is presented as the quality of those that walk along the dao and, in Deweyan terms, the pervasive quality of all consummatory experiences. Ren is understood as the most crucial Confucian term in this triad since it is the achieved status of personhood, understood in terms of harmonious integration into one's community relations; in Deweyan terms, it is growth.

The second chapter explores the notion of felt intelligence in Dewey's philosophy and compares it to the triad of li, yi, and zhi. Felt intelligence is the intertwining of thinking and feeling so as to bring meaning back into experience. According to Dewey, the separation of body and mind also work to separate feeling from thinking. And since it is through feeling that we perceive intensity, depth, and breadth of experience, any attempt to recapture meaning in experience must account for the bodily aspect. A second major goal of this chapter is to bring together ethics and aesthetics. Roughly put, ethics deals with practical means while aesthetics deals with consummatory ends. In terms of experience, ethics is the instrumental experience [End Page 428] while aesthetics is the consummatory experience. And just as an instrumental experience is accounted for in the consummatory experience, ethics is accounted for in aesthetics, and means...


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