Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (4):747-777 (2014)

Trevor Pearce
University of North Carolina, Charlotte
I argue in this paper that rather than viewing John Dewey as either a historicist or a naturalist, we should see him as strange but potentially fruitful combination of both. I will demonstrate that the notion of organism-environment interaction central to Dewey’s pragmatism stems from a Hegelian approach to adaptation; his turn to biology was not necessarily a turn away from Hegel. I argue that Dewey’s account of the organism-environment relation derives from the work of Oxford Hegelians such as Edward Caird and Samuel Alexander, who were attempting to reconcile evolutionary ideas with a critique of Herbert Spencer’s environmentalist account of human thought and action. This dialectical account of organism-environment interaction played a key role in Dewey’s philosophy from the 1890s to the 1940s, despite other shifts in his thinking
Keywords John Dewey  G.W.F. Hegel  Richard Lewontin  Dialectics  Samuel Alexander  Edward Caird  John Scott Haldane  Idealism  Biology
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2014.0094
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