Pragmatism's pacifism: Reconstructing the Dewey-Bourne debate

Many commentators cite John Dewey's support for Woodrow Wilson's administration and U.S. entry into the First World War as evidence against the claim that he was a pacifist. However, what they ignore is his leadership of the Outlawry of War Movement and his subsequent renunciation of his earlier pro-war views. This paper examines the controversy, beginning with Dewey's debate with Randolph Bourne over American involvement in the war to "make the world safe for democracy" and ending with his activities as a leader of the Outlawry of War Movement. The touchstone essays for the debate between Dewey and Bourne are Dewey's "What America Will Fight For" and Bourne's "Twilight of the Idols." For Dewey's involvement in the Outlawry of War Movement, the essays "If War Were Outlawed" and "What Outlawry of War is Not" are instructive for how we might salvage Dewey's pacifist vision as a resource for the contemporary Peace Movement. I conclude that Dewey's writings and actions do provide good reason to restore his credentials as a philosopher of peace.
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