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John Dewey's Quest for Unity: The Journey of a Promethean Mystic (Prometheus Lecture Series) Hardcover – July 1, 2008
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"The astonishing revival of interest in John Dewey continues to produce thoughtful appreciations and vigorous critiques of his work. Richard Gale's new book is a vibrant attempt to assess Dewey's contribution to philosophy. Although his criticisms of Dewey will be widely criticized, the picture he paints of this philosophical giant cannot be ignored. Gale brings great energy, clear vision and a measure of love for Dewey to his task." --John Lachs, Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author (most recently) of A Community of Individuals (Routledge).
"This admirably compact book presents an integrated view of John Dewey's philosophy of inquiry, metaphysics, education, and aesthetics, and it allows us to see--better than any work that I know--the degree to which Dewey is a systematic thinker. In Gale's convincing systematization of Dewey's thought 'growth' is the summum bonum, with inquiry just below, then moral democracy and education all serving that end. Yet Gale is a critical as well as a systematic thinker, and he is especially good at identifying deep, recurring tensions in Dewey's system in a clear and convincing manner: for example, between Dewey's claim that situations have an ineffable character and the central role of communication in his philosophy of education and theory of inquiry. Readers of Gales' earlier writings on William James will expect a certain ribald character to his examples, which along with autobiographical episodes about his life delivering payola in the recording industry, help define the literary character of one of the best expositors and critics of the classical pragmatists writing today." --Russell B. Goodman, Regents Professor of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, Author of Wittgenstein and William James (Cambridge, 2002), American Philosophy and the Romantic Tradition (Cambridge, 1990); editor, Pragmatism: Critical Concepts in Philosophy (Routledge, 2005), Contending with Stanley Cavell (Oxford, 2005), Pragmatism: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 1995).
"Much of the Dewey scholarship proceeds on the belief that Dewey is never truly criticized, but only misunderstood. This article of faith is shattered by Richard Gale's important new book. Here we have a philosophically nuanced and thoroughly researched critical assessment of Dewey's philosophy. To be sure, the mystical and metaphysical Dewey that emerges from Gale's sharp analyses will disturb contemporary members of Dewey's flock, but Gale's arguments are powerful and compelling. This book introduces into literature a desperately-needed antidote to the Dewey-worship that presently prevails." --Robert B. Talisse, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University,Author of A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy
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John Dewey is surely the best known American pragmatist philosopher. One reason is the influence he had on educators' thinking and practice. Another is the way Dewey used the evolutionist view of cosmic history to frame `a scientific method of inquiry' designed to produce a democratic civilization capable of making life good for every citizen.
For many of us, however, Dewey's writings are too full of elusive or inconsistent appeals to `experience' to be intellectually satisfying. His friend, Morris Cohen, described best the experience of trying to get a clear idea of Dewey's thinking. "For several years as a student of philosophy, I tried in vain to master his philosophic system. No sooner did I suppose that I had at last understood it, than he would publish a paper to prove that I didn't."
Richard Gale has succeeded where Cohen failed. By setting aside Dewey's claim that metaphysics is non-sense and cutting away some of Dewey's errors, Gale has clarified the central ideas that inspired Dewey's thinking. Those ideas are too complex to summarize here, hence studying Gale's book is the only way to get a glimpse of what those key ideas are and how they fit together.
A footnote. Gale wrote an earlier book, The Divided Self of William James, to show that it is impossible to unify that famous pragmatist's thinking. Perhaps he will now turn his interpretive skills to a study of C. S Peirce, the alleged founder of pragmatist philosophy.