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John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics Paperback – September 4, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (September 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253215986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253215987
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[J]ohn Dewey and Moral Imagination is a most welcome addition to the scholarship of Dewey's moral philosophy." —Journal of Speculative Philosophy

"This is an important book that provides a superb treatment of the moral imagination. It should be welcome both as a catalyst for the revitalization of ethics and as a needed clarification of Dewey's moral philosophy. It will be useful to a diverse group of scholars and intellectuals, including philosophers, teachers, politicians, sociologists, cognitive scientists and all those who are concerned with enhancing our opportunities for forging more satisfying communities." —Journal of Moral Education

"John Dewey and Moral Imagination sets forth an opportunity for teachers of so-called practical ethics. Fesmire is in effect asking us to find ways to use Dewey’s rich account of moral imagination as a tool for the discovery of more intelligent solutions to the specific morally problematic situations we inevitably encounter in the course of experience." —Ethics

"I found Fesmire’s book lucid, succinct, and a joy to read […] A breath of fresh air in the vast literature on traditional ethical theorizing which can be stifling to individuals trying to become moral individuals." —Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

"[P]rovides a rich reading of the ethical implications of philosophical pragmatism... Highly recommended." —Choice

"[F]esmire's book is not only successful, but it also represents a very important addition to the burgeoning field of pragmatist ethics. His emphasis on the importance of moral imagination is a much-needed corrective, given its neglect in the scholarship. Fesmire is to be commended for offering us this fine book." —Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

From the Inside Flap

While examining the important role of imagination in moral deliberation, John Dewey and Moral Imagination focuses new attention on the relationship between American pragmatism and ethics. Here, Steven Fesmire takes up threads of Dewey's thought that have been largely unexplored and elaborates pragmatism's distinctive contribution to understandings of moral experience, inquiry, and judgment. Building on two Deweyan notions--that moral character, belief, and reasoning are socially and historically contextualized and that moral deliberation is an imaginative, dramatic rehearsal of possibilities--Fesmire shows that moral imagination can be conceived as a process of aesthetic perception and artistic creativity. Fesmire's readings of Dewey shed new light on the imaginative process, human emotional makeup and expression, and the nature of moral judgment. This original book presents a robust and distinctly pragmatic approach to ethics, politics, moral education, and moral conduct.

More About the Author

Steven Fesmire is Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Green Mountain College, Vermont, USA. He is the author of John Dewey and Moral Imagination (Indiana University Press), winner of a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title award. His most recent book is Dewey (Routledge Press), a comprehensive introduction in the Routledge Philosophers series. An interview about this new book can be found on the John Dewey Society website.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Hildebrand on October 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Big Question, as any novice taking Ethics 101 knows, is "How ought one live?" But unless one thinks about what a moral experience is, or how we make sense of it, one cannot adequately answer that question. And while ethical principles are an indispensable part of ethical decision making, they are too often taken as much more than a part-i.e., as wholly sufficient. This imbalanced view usually leads to inflexibility and dogmatism. What we need instead, Fesmire says, is understand how imagination is integral to the way we actually make concrete choices in lived situations. And Fesmire does just that: by delving into the ways our social and historical connections help form our character and our beliefs; by showing that when we deliberate about a choice, we do so in a way that is imaginative and dramatic; and by showing how we can reconceive of moral conduct by interpreting it along more aesthetic and artistic lines.
This is an excellent book, both scholarly and readable. The book's mechanics are beautifully done, and there's a thorough bibliography and index. Fortunately, Fesmire is not an insular scholar, content with limning just the American tradition; he's a philosopher who has thought carefully about ethical approaches across multiple traditions and then explains where the shortfalls are-and why. His explorations of the imagination are done with care and style and they connect back to the ethical realities in which we all have to live and choose.
It's gratifying to see that the resurgent interest in pragmatist epistemology (that has accrued over the past twenty years) is finally blossoming in ethics. Along with recent books by William Caspary and Todd Lekan, Fesmire's book will help those who know pragmatism-and those who don't-to understand the resources and promises of pragmatism as equipment for living.
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