John Dewey "on the side of the angels": A critique of Kestenbaum's phenomenological reading of a common faith

Education and Culture 23 (2):pp. 63-75 (2007)
In chapter 8 of The Grace and the Severity of the Ideal, Victor Kestenbaum disputes the naturalistic-instrumentalist reading of John Dewey's A Common Faith. Rather than accept the orthodox reading, he challenges mainstream Dewey scholars to read Dewey's theism from a phenomenological perspective. From this vantage, Kestenbaum contends that Dewey was wagering on transcendence, gambling on an ideal realm of supersensible entities, and hoping that the payoff would be universal acknowledgement of "a widening of the place of transcendence and faith in every area of his philosophy." In a long-neglected correspondence between John Dewey and Albert Balz, Dewey responds to Balz's misreading of his logic as a correspondence theory of truth by stating that through the translation of all the ontological into the logical in the context of inquiry, he is "on the side of the angels." I argue that Dewey is accomplishing much the same thing in A Common Faith by naturalistically unifying the real and the ideal under the heading of the religious. In this respect, Dewey's naturalism and instrumentalism, rather than Kestenbaum's transcendentalism, is firmly "on the side of the angels.".
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