Evolution's First Philosopher: John Dewey and the Continuity of Nature

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Overview

John Dewey was the first philosopher to recognize that Darwin's thesis about natural selection not only required us to change how we think about ourselves and the life forms around us, but also required a markedly different approach to philosophy. Evolution's First Philosopher shows how Dewey's arguments arose from his recognition of the continuity of natural selection and mindedness, from which he developed his concept of growth. Growth, for Dewey, has no end beyond itself and forms the basis of a naturalized theory of ethics. While other philosophers gave some attention to evolutionary theory, it was Dewey alone who saw that Darwinism provides the basis for a naturalized theory of meaning. This, in turn, portends a new account of knowledge, ethics, and democracy. To clarify evolution's conception of natural selection, Jerome A. Popp looks at brain science and examines the relationship between the genome and experience in terms of the contemporary concepts of preparedness and plasticity. This research shows how comprehensive and penetrating Dewey's thought was in terms of further consequences for the philosophical method entailed by Darwin's thesis. Dewey's foresight is further legitimated when Popp places his work within the context of the current thought of Daniel Dennett.

About the Author:
Jerome A. Popp is Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and the author of Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Education: Toward a Unified Theory of Learning and Teaching and Naturalizing Philosophy of Education: John Dewey in the Postanalytic Period

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This carefully researched and highly readable volume opens up the kernel of one of Dewey’s brightest ideas: his appropriation of Darwin for philosophy. From Dawkins to Dennett, and from genetics to the genesis of norms, Jerome Popp expertly presents a Dewey who is able to hold his own as a major player in a wide range of contemporary debates.” — Larry A. Hickman, The Center for Dewey Studies, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jerome A. Popp is Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and the author of Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Education: Toward a Unified Theory of Learning and Teaching and Naturalizing Philosophy of Education: John Dewey in the Postanalytic Period.

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Table of Contents

Reading Guide     xi
Evolution and Philosophy     1
Introduction     1
Darwin's Influence on Dewey     3
Russell's Rejection of Evolution     5
What about Genetic Determinism?     8
Ultranaturalism     10
The Discussion Thus Far     12
Consider Reading     13
Theory of Evolution
What Is Darwinian Evolution?     17
Introduction     17
Sources of Variation     19
Three Kinds of Selection     25
The X and Y Chromosomes     28
Lamarckian Evolution     31
The Discussion Thus Far     35
Consider Reading     35
Preparedness versus Plasticity     37
Dewey and Unlearned Activities     37
Where Impulses Come From     40
Preparedness versus Plasticity     43
Is Euclidean Geometry Innate?     46
The Discussion Thus Far     50
Consider Reading     51
Brain Development and the Emergence of the Mind     53
The Triune View of the Brain     53
The Brain and Information Processing     54
Neuron Elimination     57
The Theory of Memes     60
From Consciousness to Mindedness     64
The Mind as a Virtual Machine     68
The Discussion Thus Far     70
Consider Reading     71
Morality Naturalized
Can Evolution Tell Us What to Do?     75
Does Natural Selection Have Foresight?     75
The Problem of the Normative     79
Dewey's Solution     81
Democracy as Means     84
Intelligence as End     86
Means-Ends Logic     89
The Discussion Thus Far     93
Consider Reading     94
Democracy and the Baldwin Effect     95
Intelligence as Inherently Social     95
The Moral Context of Growth     97
Dewey's Criteria for Democracy     101
The Baldwin Effect     103
Democracy and the Baldwin Effect     106
Memeopathy as an Obstacle to Growth     110
Developing Autonomous Agents     111
Philosophy for a Small Planet     114
The Discussion Thus Far     117
Consider Reading     117
Evolution and Liberalism     119
Introduction     119
Three Views of the Individual-Society Relationship      120
Classical Liberalism     122
Dewey's New Liberalism     126
Why Nondemocratic Schools Are Miseducative     128
Thomas West's Attack on Dewey's Progressive Liberalism     130
Thomas West versus Thomas Jefferson     134
Is Dewey's Theory of Mind Too Optimistic?     136
The Discussion Thus Far     140
Consider Reading     140
Afterword     141
Bibliography     143
Index     149
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