American Philosophy

John Dewey

What were John Dewey’s main philosophical ideas?

Dewey brought ordinary life into philosophy. His main concept was experience, first for a cognitive Hegelian subject, and later as a more inclusive emotional and active dimension of human life. Dewey argued, against philosophical idealists and indeed most other philosophers of his day, that most of what is important in our experience is not reflective. Unlike the Hegelians, he also insisted that there was not a unified whole of all experience, but many interlocking versions or kinds of experience. Experience, for Dewey, was thus pluralistic. But the experience of the concrete human individual, or the real person, was the primary form of experience for Dewey.

Dewey sought to articulate the anthropological and biological nature of lived human experience. He saw this as a new form of empiricism. Against criticism that he was neglecting what was objective in writing and speaking as though experience was everything, Dewey developed a metaphysical account of experience.


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