Dewey, Second Nature, Social Criticism, and the Hegelian Heritage


Dewey’s notion of second nature is strictly connected with that of habit. I reconstruct the Hegelian heritage of this model and argue that habit qua second nature is understood by Dewey as a something which encompasses both the subjective and the objective dimension – individual dispositions and features of the objective natural and social environment.. Secondly, the notion of habit qua second nature is used by Dewey both in a descriptive and in a critical sense and is as such a dialectical concept which connects ‘impulse’ and ‘habit’, ‘original’ or ‘native’ and ‘acquired’ nature, ‘first’ and ‘second nature’. Thirdly, the ethical model of second nature as habituation and the aesthetic model of second nature as art are for Dewey not opposed to one another, since by distinguishing ‘routine’ and ‘art’ as two modes of habit, he makes space for an expressive and creative notion of second nature. Finally, I argue that the expressive dialectics of habit formation plays a crucial role in Dewey’s critical social philosophy and that first and second nature operate as benchmark concepts for his diagnosis of social pathologies.


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Author's Profile

Italo Testa
University of Parma

References found in this work

Lectures in Social and Political Philosophy.John Dewey - 2015 - European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 7 (2).
The Authority of Life: The Critical Task of Dewey's Social Ontology.Italo Testa - 2017 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 31 (2):231-244.
Hegel, Dewey, and Habits.Steven Levine - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (4):632-656.

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