John Dewey wrote Reconstruction in Philosophy in 1920. Out of all the Dewey pieces, this one is the most in line with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James in overtly considering philosophy-as-such and, especially, in taking a position with respect to methodology that represents Pragmatism. It should be compared with Peirce's essay "The Fixation of Belief;" both Dewey's book and Peirce's essay borrow from the thesis of Auguste Comte's ...
John Dewey wrote Reconstruction in Philosophy in 1920. Out of all the Dewey pieces, this one is the most in line with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James in overtly considering philosophy-as-such and, especially, in taking a position with respect to methodology that represents Pragmatism. It should be compared with Peirce's essay "The Fixation of Belief;" both Dewey's book and Peirce's essay borrow from the thesis of Auguste Comte's Introduction to Positive Philosophy (1842).
While both Comte and Peirce presented views of antiquity that were unsympathetic, Dewey was able to see the importance of these beginnings and emphasized the reasonableness of philosophy's growth-and-development out of poetic and mythic tradition. Reasonable or not, however, Dewey also understood that the time had come for a "reconstruction" of philosophy. The rationalization of myth into metaphysical systems had been guided by an emotional need to retain thematic ties with traditional mythic material. As metaphysical systems were constructed, they tended to emphasize logic and rational argument as their foundations, creating a dangerous separation between philosophical system and human experience. All of this inhibited the imaginative process and kept the results of philosophy tied to any and all of the fundamental errors of the distant past. As a practical and necessary pursuit, philosophy cannot afford to be tied to the past in these ways; nor can it afford to be distanced from human experience in unnatural ways. The question of this book, then, is what reconstructing philosophy should mean.
What is an appropriate philosophical methodology for the future?
The fundamental problem in philosophy, in Dewey's view, is the attempt (whether conscious or unconscious) to restore the security of absolutism that is a regular trait of all antiquated mythic tradition. Mythic traditions were modernized and carried forward in the major religious systems. As religious skepticism and reformation occurred, moral, social, and political content had to be defined and defended in new ways and metaphysical systems were created to carry that burden. These systems simply installed new kinds of absolute concepts and essences; the security of moral sentiments seemed in tact. The modern reconstruction of philosophy begins in Kant's attack against metaphysics but Kant's work continues the absolutist past through its heavy emphasis on "pure reason" and his concepts of a priori synthetic knowledge, that is, necessary knowledge about the world. Alas, in the end, Dewey believes, we must give up all of these devices of absolutism, certainty, and security. The issue for humans is the exercise of intelligence and not the need to be wired into any system of absolute reality or truth. Human experience is in process. Thought and action are constants within that process. How do we make the most intelligent use of these?
John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology. He was a major representative of progressive education and liberalism.
Although Dewey is known best for his publications concerning education, he also wrote about many other topics, including experience, nature, art, logic, inquiry, democracy, and ethics.
In his advocacy of democracy, Dewey considered two fundamental elements—schools and civil society—as being major topics needing attention and reconstruction to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality. Dewey asserted that complete democracy was to be obtained not just by extending voting rights but also by ensuring that there exists a fully formed public opinion, accomplished by effective communication among citizens, experts, and politicians, with the latter being accountable for the policies they adopt.
Although Dewey referred to his philosophy as "instrumentalism" rather than pragmatism, he was one of the three major figures in American pragmatism, along with Charles Sanders Peirce, who invented the term, and William James, who popularized it. Dewey worked from strongly Hegelian influences, unlike James, whose intellectual lineage was primarily British, drawing particularly on empiricist and utilitarian ideas. Neither was Dewey so pluralist or relativist as James. He stated that value was a function not of whim nor purely of social construction, but a quality situated in events ("nature itself is wistful and pathetic, turbulent and passionate".
James also stated that experimentation (social, cultural, technological, philosophical) could be used as an approximate arbiter of truth. For example he felt that, for many people who lacked "over-belief" of religious concepts, human life was superficial and rather uninteresting, and that while no one religious belief could be demonstrated as the correct one, we are all responsible for making a gamble on one or another theism, atheism, monism, etc. Dewey, in contrast, while honoring the important function that religious institutions and practices played in human life, rejected belief in any static ideal, such as a personal god.