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John Dewey Lecture Notes

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Queen's University
PHIL 115
Paul Fairfield

thstWeeks 1819February 12 2013March 1John Dewey Reconstruction in PhilosophyJohn Dewey 18591952Dewey was a friend and colleague of William James as well as a fellow pragmatist He was an incredible prolific philosopher publishing 38 volumes He began publishing in his 20s and continued to publish until he died Reconstruction in Philosophy is around the middle of his works Nonetheless Dewey was shy and modest unlike other philosophers who tend to have big egosDewey was born in Burlington Vermont to a distant father and Christian mother His mother had a strong influence on him especially her belief in Christian moral introspection which Dewey later came to reject His father was a grocer and he and the whole family were known for being very hard workingDewey was a replacement child meaning that the first John Dewey died at age 2 and this John Dewey was born 9 months and 3 days later Dewey always felt that he had to live two livesDewey went to university in Oil City Pennsylvania where he met Alice who would become his wife of 40 years until she died She had a major influence on Dewey especially on his philosophy of education as she was a feminist and intellectual They had six children together He later remarried Roberta Lowitz Grant who was actually younger than his children when he married her She was disliked by his children and friendsAt this time all presidents and principals of universities were clergymen and philosophy departments were dominated by religion Dewey wanted to get his PhD in a secular setting apart from religion The only schools that offered that were either in Europe which was too expensive for Dewey or John Hopkins University in Baltimore which was founded on a secular research model He applied to John Hopkins 3 times before he was finally accepted with no financial aid he was not the top of the applicantsThere was a common view at the time that philosophy could be made scientific Dewey hoped that pragmatic ideas could be given a scientific cast but he didnt believe that philosophy was is or could be a science However he believed that philosophy has the same method of enquiry as sciences and maththey enquire into different matters but it still all the sameDewey obtained a number of teaching and professing jobs across the country While teaching at the University of Chicago Dewey gradually became very well known as he made contributions to a wide variety of philosophical fields He also became known as a public intellectual contributing to magazines and newspapers Deweys last job was at Columbia University where he worked from 1905 until his retirementDewey lived through both world wars He was opposed to American involvement at the beginning of both wars then changed his mind gradually as the wars progressed He was a prominent defender of the outlawry of war movement which wanted to make war illegalDewey was an early critic before it was fashionable of the Soviet Union While others thought that it only needed time for refinement Dewey thought it was a new form of Authoritarianism He also thought by the 1920s that American democracy had been usurped by corporate interestsHe was the most philosophically sophisticated advocate of the progressive education movement They claimed that Dewey supported their main argument but by the 1930s he no longer liked the direction the movement was going in and tried to separate himself from it
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