John Dewey: Inquiry, Ethics, and Democracy

Matthew Festenstein

in The Oxford Handbook of American Philosophy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219315
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 John Dewey: Inquiry, Ethics, and Democracy

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  • History of Western Philosophy
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This article outlines John Dewey's conception of inquiry, drawing principally on his late Logic, in order to introduce some key terms and develop a clearer view of the primacy of practical engagement in his understanding of knowledge. It goes on to look at the notion of valuation, as cognitively on all fours with other forms of inquiry. These two sketches set the scene for considering the suspicion that his instrumentalism has nothing determinate to say about the ends to which inquiry is put. One interpretation, put forward by recent sympathetic interpreters of Dewey such as Hilary and Ruth Anna Putnam, is that we should see that certain moral standards are presupposed by the practice of inquiry. It is argued that this is compatible with what Dewey says, and can gather some textual support, but is not the whole story.

Keywords: John Dewey; inquiry; ethics; notion of valuation; instrumentalism; democracy

Article.  9611 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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