In 1947 America’s premier philosopher, educator, and public intellectual John Dewey purportedly lost his last manuscript on modern philosophy in the back of a taxicab. Now, sixty-five years later, Dewey’s fresh and unpretentious take on the history and theory of knowledge is finally available. Editor Phillip Deen has taken on the task of editing Dewey’s unfinished work, carefully compiling the fragments and multiple drafts of each chapter that he discovered in the folders of the Dewey Papers at the Special Collections (...) Research Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has used Dewey’s last known outline for the manuscript, aiming to create a finished product that faithfully represents Dewey’s original intent. An introduction and editor’s notes by Deen and a foreword by Larry A. Hickman, director of the Center for Dewey Studies, frame this previously lost work. In Unmodern Philosophy and Modern Philosophy, Dewey argues that modern philosophy is anything but; instead, it retains the baggage of outdated and misguided philosophical traditions and dualisms carried forward from Greek and medieval traditions. Drawing on cultural anthropology, Dewey moves past the philosophical themes of the past, instead proposing a functional model of humanity as emotional, inquiring, purposive organisms embedded in a natural and cultural environment. Dewey begins by tracing the problematic history of philosophy, demonstrating how, from the time of the Greeks to the Empiricists and Rationalists, the subject has been mired in the search for immutable absolutes outside human experience and has relied on dualisms between mind and body, theory and practice, and the material and the ideal, ultimately dividing humanity from nature. The result, he posits, is the epistemological problem of how it is possible to have knowledge at all. In the second half of the volume, Dewey roots philosophy in the conflicting beliefs and cultural tensions of the human condition, maintaining that these issues are much more pertinent to philosophy and knowledge than the sharp dichotomies of the past and abstract questions of the body and mind. Ultimately, Dewey argues that the mind is not separate from the world, criticizes the denigration of practice in the name of theory, addresses the dualism between matter and ideals, and questions why the human and the natural were ever separated in philosophy. The result is a deeper understanding of the relationship among the scientific, the moral, and the aesthetic. More than just historically significant in its rediscovery, Unmodern Philosophy and Modern Philosophy provides an intriguing critique of the history of modern thought and a positive account of John Dewey’s naturalized theory of knowing. This volume marks a significant contribution to the history of American thought and finally resolves one of the mysteries of pragmatic philosophy. (shrink)
Bill Cosby’s immorality has raised intriguing aesthetic and ethical issues. Do the crimes that he has been convicted of lessen the aesthetic value of his stand-up and, even if we can enjoy it, should we? This article first discusses the intimate relationship between the comedian and audience. The art form itself is structurally intimate, and at the same time the comedian claims to express an authentic self on stage. After drawing an analogy between the question of the moral character of (...) comedians and the aesthetic value of their stand-up and the debate over the ethical criticism of art, this article argues that it is reasonable to find a comedian’s performance less funny, because stand-up’s artistic success relies on this intimacy. It contrasts the comedy of Bill Cosby with that of Louis C.K. C.K.’s moral flaws are much more present in his comedy, and it is therefore more difficult to find him funny. Last, it is ethically permissible to enjoy their comedy, if no harm to others results, both because it does not corrupt the audience’s character and because amusement is valuable. (shrink)
This article discusses whether a sense of humor is a political virtue. It argues that a sense of humor is conducive to the central political virtues. We must first, however, delineate different types of humor (benevolent or malicious) and the different political virtues (sociability, prudence, and justice) to which they correspond. Generally speaking, a sense of humor is politically virtuous when it encourages good will toward fellow citizens, an awareness of the limits of power, and a tendency not to take (...) oneself too seriously or when it condemns moral or intellectual vice. An analysis of President Donald Trumps deeply flawed sense of humor is used to ground this account. (shrink)
Dave Chappelle took an extended leave from comedy for moral reasons. I argue that, while he had every right to leave comedy because of his moral concerns, he was not obliged to do so. To make this case, I present Chappelle’s argument that the potential negative consequences of his racial humor obliged him to leave. Next, I argue against Chappelle’s argument about avoidable harms as the harms are not his responsibility, he was not being negligent, and the benefits of his (...) humor outweigh the harms. I also argue in support of the intuition that another’s failure of comprehension or moral character, even if that failure will predictably result in harms to others, should not convert moral acts into immoral ones. (shrink)
Dewey’s book is the first systematic attempt at a pragmatistic logic (since the work of Peirce). Because of the ambiguity of the concept of pragmatism, the author rejects the concept in general. But, if one interprets pragmatism correctly, then this book is ‘through and through Pragmatistic’. What he understands as ‘correct’ will become clear in the following account. The book takes its subject matter far beyond the traditional works on logic. It is a material logic first in the sense that (...) the matter of logic (the ‘objects’, that with which logical thought has to do) is thoroughly included in the cycle of investigation, and logical ‘forms’ are discussed only in their constitutional connection with this .. (shrink)
Despite accepting Robert Talisse's pluralist critique of models of democratic legitimacy that rely on substantive images of the common good, there is insufficient reason to dismiss Dewey's thought from future attempts at a pragmatist philosophy of democracy. First, Dewey's use of substantive arguments does not prevent him from also making epistemic arguments that proceed from the general conditions of inquiry. Second, Dewey's account of the mean-ends transaction shows that ends-in-view are developed from within the process of democratic inquiry, not imposed (...) from without. Third, Talisse's model does not satisfy another general norm of inquiry - that of charity. (shrink)
Contemporary comedy audiences are accused by some comedians of being too morally sensitive to appreciate humor. To get closer to an idea of what this means, I will first briefly present the argument over audience sensitivity as found in the non-philosophical literature. Second, I then turn to the philosophical literature and begin from the idea that “funny” is a response-dependent property. I present a criticism of this response-dependence account of “funny” based in the claim that funniness is not de- termined (...) by what normal audiences actually laugh at, but by what merits laughter. Third, I argue that excessive or deficient moral sensitivity distorts audience receptivity to humor. Fourth, I turn to candidates for ideally sensitive audiences. I conclude by returning to the particular cases of supposed oversensitivity or undersensitivity to jokes to see how we might judge them. (shrink)
It is tempting to dismiss the first half of Unmodern Philosophy and Modern Philosophy. At first blush, it would not seem to be essential to Dewey’s foremost concern to provide a naturalized account of knowing that avoids the hoary philosophical dualisms of body/mind, thing/person, material/ideal, and practical/theoretical. The load-bearing chapters would seem to be in the latter philosophical half in which he takes on the task of developing a positive account rather than the early historical...
The Onion, a widely known satirical newspaper, frequently finds its articles taken as the literal truth. One article from May 2011, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” featured teenage girls gushing over the amusement park amenities like a ten-screen theater, nightclub and “lazy river” and a fake PR representative touting, “Whether she’s a high school junior who doesn’t want to go to prom pregnant, a go-getter professional who can’t be bothered with the time commitment of raising a child, or a (...) prostitute who knows getting an abortion is the easiest form of birth control—all are welcome” and “Our hope is for this facility to become a regular destination where a woman in her second trimester can whoop it up at karaoke and then kick back while we vacuum out the contents of her uterus.”The Onion, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex” . Given the extremity and arguable tastelessness of this joke, it is nearly impossible to imagine this as anything .. (shrink)
Recent attempts to legislate climate science out of existence raises the question of whether citizens are obliged to obey such laws. The authority of democratic law is rooted in both truth and popular consent, but neither is sufficient and they may conflict. These are reconciled in theory and, more importantly, in practice once we incorporate insights from the pragmatist theory of inquiry.
Henry Sheffer’s 1908 Harvard Ph.D. thesis contains an interesting appendix on a central feature of the logical work of his thesis advisor, Josiah Royce. This is the claim in Royce’s 1905 article “The Relations of the Principles of Logic to the Foundations of Geometry” that an unsymmetric ordering relation can be defined on the single symmetric O-relation for which he gives postulates in that paper. Sheffer criticizes Royce’s specific definition from the point of view of the evolving twentieth century conception (...) of axiomatic method and also shows more generally that an unsymmetric1 order relation cannot be defined in the system of the 1905 paper based on the O-relation. In this article I wish to consider the nature.. (shrink)
American pragmatist John Dewey's economic thought has remained relatively unknown by both philosophers and economists. This article addresses this lack of interest and replies to criticism of pragmatism as the philosophy of ‘corporate liberalism’ by tracing one source of Dewey's economic thought to British New Liberal John Atkinson Hobson. General similarities are discussed first, followed by a presentation of Dewey's use of Hobson's theory of underconsumption during the Great Depression. It concludes by presenting Dewey's understanding of a liberalism that had (...) truly become corporate. (shrink)
Philosophical Pragmatism and International Relations bridges the gap between philosophical pragmatism and international relations, two disciplinary perspectives that together shed light on how to advance the study and conduct of foreign affairs. Authors in this collection discuss a broad range of issues, from policy relevance to peacekeeping operations, with an eye to understanding how this distinctly American philosophy, pragmatism, can improve both international relations research and foreign policy practice.
This article discusses whether a sense of humor is a political virtue. It argues that a sense of humor is conducive to the central political virtues. We must first, however, delineate different types of humor (benevolent or malicious) and the different political virtues (sociability, prudence, and justice) to which they correspond. Generally speaking, a sense of humor is politically virtuous when it encourages good will toward fellow citizens, an awareness of the limits of power, and a tendency not to take (...) oneself too seriously or when it condemns moral or intellectual vice. An analysis of President Donald Trump's deeply flawed sense of humor is used to ground this account. (shrink)
John Dewey’s Unmodern Philosophy and Modern Philosophy aspires to overcome the antiquated philosophical baggage of so-called “modern” philosophy and replace it with a philosophy that is truly modern, having incorporated the technoscientific revolution. As the philosophical revolution is incomplete, so is Dewey’s own text. In an attempt to flesh out a Deweyan conception of modernity, this chapter turns to another philosopher who has argued that modernity is still an unfinished project: Jürgen Habermas. This chapter compares their accounts of the meaning (...) of modernity, its pathologies, and their proposed cures through a turn from subjective reason to intersubjective action and concludes that their essential difference lies in the emancipatory potential of scientific-technological reason itself. (shrink)
This dissertation sets out Dewey's theory of society, as outlined in the lecture notes for his courses on social and political philosophy between 1923 and 1928. I argue that Dewey had tripartite theory of economic processes, political/legal structures and social-moral functions that focuses on the relationship between material/technological forces and the institutions established to direct them. ;The first section presents and then refutes the charge that pragmatic social thought reduces thought to sheer efficiency and is therefore unable to resist ideology. (...) The primary dispute was between the turn toward objectivist methodology in American social science, frequently attributed to Dewey's influence, and those who saw this turn as a decline into crude, instrumental reason. Unlike the objectivists, instrumentalism incorporated ideas of intersubjectivity, value, and reflexivity. He did not believe that democracy could be best served by a managerial elite who sharply divides facts from values and means from ends. ;The second section comprises the positive presentation of Dewey's social theory. Chapter three discusses economic processes. I set out the organic model that guides his early and late economic theory and how Dewey draws from J. A. Hobson's theory of underconsumption to organize a coherent set of specific economic proposals during the Great Depression. Chapter four presents Dewey's theory of political structures, laws, institutions and habits that shape the direction of material life. But these structures may come in time to restrain further economic and technological growth. The final chapter takes up the breakdown of traditional structures, the reconstruction of which Dewey believed to be the fundamental problem of modernity. There is a need for new customs and institutions that continue traditional ideals of liberalism while being grounded in modern material conditions. The need, Dewey believed, was for a social theory that would understand the interplay of forces and institutions and direct them toward a democratic culture. ;I end with an epilogue on uses of Dewey's thought within contemporary social theory. The cheerful pursuit of instrumental reason by the neo-pragmatists Richard Rorty, Stanley Fish and Richard Posner is contrasted with recent work in the communitarianism/liberalism debate. (shrink)