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, along with Charles Sanders pierce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism and of functional psychology. He was a major representative of the progressive and progressive populist philosophies of schooling during the first half of the 20th century in the USA.
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.
Dewey and functional psychology
At university of Michigan, Dewey published his first two books, Psychology (1887), and leibniz's New Essays Concerning the Human Understanding (1888), both of which expressed Dewey's early commitment to British neo-Hegelianism. in psychology, Dewey attempted a synthesis between idealism and experimental science.
While still professor of philosophy at Michigan, Dewey and his junior colleagues, James Hayden Tufts and George Herbert Mead, together with his student James Rowland Angell, all influenced strongly by the recent publication of William James' Principles of Psychology (1890), began to reformulate psychology, emphasizing the social environment and on the activity of mind and behavior rather than the physiological psychology of Wundt and his followers.
By 1894, Dewey had joined tufts, with which he would later write Ethics (1908), at the recently founded university of Chicago and invited Mead and Angell to follow him, the four men forming the basis of the so-called "Chicago group" of psychology.
Their new style of psychology, later dubbed functional psychology, had a practical emphasis on action and application. In Dewey's article the Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology which appeared in psychological review in 1896, he reasons against the traditional stimulus-response understanding of the reflex arc in favor of a "circular" account in which what serves as "stimulus" and what as "response" depends on how one considers the situation, and defends the unitary nature of the sensory motor circuit. While he does not deny the existence of stimulus, sensation, and response, he disagreed that they were separate, juxtaposed events happening like links in a chain. He developed the idea that there is a coordination by which the stimulation is enriched by the results of previous experiences. The response is modulated by sensorial experience.
Dewey was elected president of the American psychological association in 1899.
John Dewey's USA stamp in 1984, the American psychological association announced that Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878–1972) had become the first psychologist to be commemorated on a United States postage stamp. However, psychologists Gary Brucato Jr. and John D. Hogan later made the case that this distinction actually belonged to John Dewey, who had been celebrated on an American stamp 17 years earlier. While some psychology historians consider Dewey more of a philosopher than a bona fide psychologist, the authors noted that Dewey was a founding member of the A.P.A., served as the A.P.A.'s eighth president in 1899, and was the author of an 1896 article on the reflex arc which is now considered a basis of American functional psychology.
Dewey also expressed interest in work in the psychology of visual perception performed by Dartmouth research professor Delbert Ames, jr. he had great trouble with listening, however, because it is known Dewey could not distinguish musical pitches - in other words was tone deaf.
Pragmatism and instrumentalism
Although Dewey did not identify himself as a pragmatist per se, but instead referred to his philosophy as "instrumentalism", he is considered 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 neither of whim nor purely of social construction, but a quality situated in events ("nature itself is wistful and pathetic, turbulent and passionate" (experience and nature)).
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 theistic god. Dewey felt that only scientific method could reliably increase human good.
Of the idea of god, Dewey said, "it denotes the unity of all ideal ends arousing us to desire and actions."
As with the reemergence of progressive philosophy of education, Dewey's contributions to philosophy as such (he was, after all, much more a professional philosopher than an educator) have also reemerged with the reassessment of pragmatism, beginning in the late 1970s, by philosophers like Richard Rorty, Richard J. Bernstein and Hans Joas.
Because of his process-oriented and sociologically conscious opinion of the world and knowledge, his ideology is considered sometimes as a useful alternative to both modern and postmodern ideology. Dewey's non-foundational method pre-dates postmodernism by more than half a century. recent exponents (like Rorty) have not always remained faithful to Dewey's original ideas, though this itself is completely consistent with Dewey's own usage of other writers and with his own philosophy— for Dewey, past doctrines always require reconstruction in order to remain useful for the present time.
Dewey's philosophy has had other names than "pragmatism". He has been called an instrumentalist, an experimentalist, an empiricist, a functionalist, and a naturalist. the term "transactional" may better describe his views, a term emphasized by Dewey in his later years to describe his theories of knowledge and experience.
Art as experience (1934) is Dewey's major writing on aesthetics. it is, according to his place in the pragmatist tradition that emphasizes community, a study of the individual art object as embedded in (and inextricable from) the experiences of a local culture. See his experience and nature for an extended discussion of 'experience' in Dewey's philosophy.
Dewey's educational theories were presented in my pedagogic creed (1897), the school and society (1900), the child and curriculum (1902), democracy and education (1916) and experience and education (1938).
His recurrent and intertwining themes of education, democracy and communication are effectively summed up in the following excerpt from the first chapter, "education as a necessity of life", of his 1916 book, democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education: "what nutrition and reproduction are to physiological life, education is to social life. This education consists primarily in transmission through communication. Communication is a process of sharing experience till it becomes a common possession."
As well as his very active and direct involvement in setting up educational institutions such as the university of Chicago laboratory schools (1896) and the new school for social research (1919), many of Dewey's ideas influenced the founding of Bennington College in Vermont, where he served on the board of trustees.
Dewey's works and philosophy also held great influence in the creation of the short-lived black mountain college in North Carolina, an experimental college focused on interdisciplinary study, and whose faculty included Buckminster Fuller, Willem De Kooning, Charles Olson, Franz Kline, Robert Duncan, and Robert Creeley, among others. Black Mountain College was the locus of the "black mountain poets" a group of avant-garde poets closely linked with the beat generation and the San Francisco renaissance.
Dewey was an educational reformer, who emphasized that the traditional teaching's concern with delivering knowledge needed to be balanced with a much greater concern with the students' actual experiences and active learning.
At the same time, Dewey was alarmed by many of the "child-centered" excesses of educational-school pedagogues who claimed to be his followers. In how we think, Dewey wrote
The older type of instruction tended to treat the teacher as a dictatorial ruler. The newer type sometimes treats the teacher as a negligible factor, almost as an evil, though a necessary one. In reality, the teacher is the intellectual leader of a social group; he is a leader, not in virtue of official position, but because of wider and deeper knowledge and matured experience. The supposition that the teacher must abdicate its leadership is merely silly.
Dewey was the most famous proponent of hands-on learning or experiential education, which is related to, but not synonymous with experiential learning. Dewey went on to influence many other influential experiential models and advocates. Many researchers credit him with the influence of Project Based Learning (PBL) which places students in the active role of researchers.
Dewey's theories influenced many Chinese scholars including Hu Shi, Zhang Boling and Tao Xingzhi while they studied under him in Columbia University.