John Dewey on the Public Responsibility of Intellectuals

Etica E Politica 12 (1):195-206 (2010)

Authors
Ken Stikkers
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
Abstract
What is a “public intellectual”? And, what is the public responsibility of intellectuals? I wish to place these issues at the intersection of John Dewey’s notion of “publics” and his call for a recovery of philosophy, which I take to be a broader call for a recovery of intellectual life generally. My analysis from such a perspective will suggest the public responsibility of intellectuals to be at least three-fold: 1) to identify and maintain citizens’ focus on the concrete problems that define publics, thereby facilitating the bringing of publics into being and maintaining them as long as they continue to be useful for solving such problems; 2) to aid in the creation of experimental methods whereby social intelligence and resources might be better directed to those problems’ resolutions; and 3) to bring publics to self awareness through the redirection of traditional symbols and the forging of new ones so as to create shared meanings and feelings of common interest, i.e., to aid in the transformation of the Great Society into the Great Community
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