Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 25-38

First online:

The Concept of Experience by John Dewey Revisited: Conceiving, Feeling and “Enliving”

  • Hansjörg HohrAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Research, University of Oslo Email author 

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The concept of experience by John Dewey revisited: conceiving, feeling and “enliving”. Dewey takes a few steps towards a differentiation of the concept of experience, such as the distinction between primary and secondary experience, or between ordinary (partial, raw, primitive) experience and complete, aesthetic experience. However, he does not provide a systematic elaboration of these distinctions. In the present text, a differentiation of Dewey’s concept of experience is proposed in terms of feeling, “enliving” (a neologism proposed in this paper) and conceiving. Feeling refers to the basic mode of experience where action, emotion, cognition and communication constitute an original unity. Enliving, aesthetic experience, constitutes the lifeworld, as a person-in-world experience. Even though enliving is holistic and relational, a certain distance emerges between action, emotion and cognition which allows contemplation and choice. Conceiving, on the other hand, refers to the isolating and abstracting understanding of the world with even greater distance between action, emotion and cognition. Such a differentiation provides a clearer understanding of the scope of education. It avoids the risks of regressive tendencies in the concept of experience, and it helps to include conceiving within the realm of experience.


Experience John Dewey Aesthetic experience Knowledge