L'Idée d'expérience dans la philosophie de John Dewey [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 24 (3):539-540 (1971)
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G. Deledalle is the author of a Histoire de la philosophie américaine, and of some excellent studies on Dewey, such as La pédagogie de Dewey, philosophie de la continuité, and "Durkheim et Dewey". These are all works that deserve full attention by students of the Golden Age of American philosophy. For a European, Deledalle has an unusual capacity to detect the vitality and freshness, but also the depth, of the growth of higher education in the U.S. in the first half of this century. At the heart of this growth were philosophical ideas, and in particular those of Dewey. Philosophy did not have then dictatorial or competitive designs regarding education, the social and political sciences, psychology, or the natural sciences. It freely mingled with them, not just imparting methodological or epistemological rigor but also contributing some insights and giving the hypotheses and conclusions in these fields the character of "experiences." Experience is the guiding theme of this rich and complicated work, covering a multitude of subjects and positions. The treatment is divided into six parts dealing respectively with Dewey's leanings toward unitary experience, organic experience, dynamic experience, functional experience, instrumental experience, and transactional experience. In the study of the intellectual of Dewey's life practically all of his production is critically examined by Deledalle: a monumental task in itself, made possible by the critical bibliography of Milton Hasley Thomas. There is enough early biographical detail to make this work an effective and affectionate intellectual portrait. The best pages of this work are devoted to a thorough explication and comparative study of Dewey's final synthesis of experience. There are very helpful comparative references to Marx, Freud, Bergson, and Heidegger, and also indispensable parallels and contrasts with Peirce, James, and Whitehead. This is not a modest contribution from a regional point of view: Deledalle is, perhaps more than anybody else, aware of an ongoing international dialogue on Dewey, a dialogue that is preserving experience as a problem-complex at the front line of contemporary reflection.--A. de L. M.



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