John Dewey (October 20, 1859, Burlington, Vermont – June 1, 1952, New York) – American philosopher, the founder of the instrumentalist version of pragmatism. He wrote more than 30 books covering psychology, epistemology, ethics, logic, aesthetics, social philosophy, education. Upon graduation from Vermont University (1879), he worked as a teacher at the school. He studied at the Johns Hopkins University (since 1884 – Doctor of Philosophy), where he listened to the lectures of C. Pearce, studied the works of Hegel, Darwin, T. Huxley. Their influence affected the acceptance of the principle of processuality. From 1884 he taught at the University of Minnesota, in 1888-89 – in Michigan, in 1902-04 – at the University of Chicago. At the latter, he organized an experimental school and tested the ideas of active learning. Since 1904 he taught at Columbia University (New York), at the same time he founded The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Method (from 1920 – The Journal of Philosophy). In 1929 he moved away from active teaching work. A pragmatist, instrumentalist, behaviorist, in theory, Dewey sought to translate his ideas into practice: he organized the American Association of University Professors, the New School for Social Research, and fought for the introduction of concepts of progressive education, social liberalism, and humanism. He lectured in China, Japan, Mexico. In 1929 he visited the USSR, published “Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World” (Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World, N. Y., 1929). Participated in the public court, which removed from L. Trotsky accusations of Moscow of espionage (Mexico, 1935).
His career Dewey began in the late 19 th century, engaged in psychology and pedagogy. Like U. Jams, he considered the psychology of the time an experimental science that explained man in its integrity and individuality and made the dualistic explanations of philosophers anachronistic, defended the idea of “philosophy as psychology”. Unlike James, Dewey was more influenced by Hegel’s historicist philosophy, believing it possible to correct its transcendentalism with Darwin’s naturalism and common sense empiricism.
The idea of the need for a new type of philosophizing relevant to the modern sociocultural context is presented in expanded form in the book “Reconstruction in Philosophy, Boston, 1920”. Applying the socio-genetic approach to the history of thought, Dewey rejected the intellectualist view that philosophy is a theoretical reflection on theoretical problems and concluded that it expresses not the nature of the world, but the beliefs of people: in a pseudo-theoretical form, metaphysical systems served to preserve historically obsolete cultural attitudes. Adhering to an activist view of philosophy and believing in the possibility of turning it into an instrument for increasing the rationality of people, Dewey advised abandoning theoretical and ontologism and reflexively tackling human value problems, ethics, and social theory. Philosophy of Dewey is a kind of moral teaching, coincides with education, is the Enlightenment with a capital letter. The ultimate foundation on which to build both epistemological and social-ethical constructions of Dewey’s philosophy is the concept of “experience”. In “Experience and Nature, Chi., 1925, Dewey distances himself from Hegelian transcendentalism, Lockean and Kantian variants of empiricism, which contrasted experience and nature and generated the duality of the spiritual and the corporeal, subject and object. He calls his position “empirical naturalism,” emphasizing the intention to show the simultaneous inclusion of nature inexperience, and experience in nature. Experience, according to Dewey, is the whole living world of a man in his organic integrity, numerous connections, and interactions in which a person is involved. It covers the created by the evolution of nature, which sets the dispositions of behavior at the unconscious level, and the legacy of history and culture, and the individual contribution of man. Between nature, consciousness, culture there is continuity, mutual transition, duration. Experience is created in the “field of interacting events”, acting simultaneously as material for reflection, a method of investigation and thinking as such. With the holistic and organismic understanding of experience, elementary and formal methods are inadequate, for his research Dewey proposed other ways – contextual, instrumental, functional, pragmatic.
The Quest for Certainty (1929) is devoted to criticizing the epistemological intention of philosophy aimed at finding the ultimate and reliable foundation of true knowledge. This intention is generated by a false notion of the reflectivity of consciousness and a passive view of the process of cognition. Instead of the concept of “reflection”, Dewey proposed the concept of “research” (inquiry). It is the transformation of an uncertain, problematic situation into a holistic, controlled, resolvable one. The research stages are: the formulation of the problem, the assumptions, the choice of the hypothesis, its approbation by direct or imaginary action, the result is a “satisfactory agreement” of the subjects.
Dewey often referred to his philosophy as instrumentalism, emphasizing the importance for his system of thinking of the relation to concepts, scientific laws, logical methods as tools for investigating and solving a problem situation. In the process of using them, a natural selection of the most practical takes place. Practical, or “pragmatic,” according to Dewey, should be understood as the correlation of methods of thinking and all reflective considerations with consequences for determining their meaning and verification. The consequences can be any – aesthetic, moral, political (Essays in Experimental Logic). According to Dewey, we must rely on the results of science to master the world and strive to apply its methods in philosophy. He considered that scientific knowledge more adequately manifested in engineering, medicine, social disciplines, applicable to the social and moral spheres, rather than in “pure” mathematics or physics.
Dewey entered the history of thought in the 20th century not only as a philosopher but also as a theorist and educator. His work “Schools of the Future” (Schools of Tomorrow, NY, 1915), Democracy and Education (1916), Progressive Education and Science of Education (Washington) , 1928), “Experience and Education” (NY, 1938), Education Today (NY, 1940) had a huge impact on world pedagogical thought. He developed the theory of progressive education and within his framework put forward some new ideas for his time: teaching as research and development of independent thinking skills, training, and retraining of all age categories. Dewey believed (and this was the essential point of his social reformist credo) that education is the most important tool for giving citizens equality of opportunity and the formation of democratic consciousness.
Dewey’s social philosophy is imbued with meliorism and optimistic conviction that the method of “cooperative intellectuality” applies to public affairs. The society, according to Dewey, is organic wholeness, consisting of a multitude of institutions, in their functioning generating imbalances. The latter should be solved in the same way as they are solved in engineering. To prevent them, society needs to be planned following scientific theory, rational program and democratic ideal; social actions should contribute to the realization of the social and moral potential of the individual. For this, “… democracy must become a militant belief” (Liberalism and Social Action).
John Dewey is called the “philosopher No. 1” in the United States, his ideas had powerful roots in the public consciousness and influenced philosophical naturalism, analytical philosophy, feminism, postmodernism (R.Rorty) and other currents.