, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 285–291 | Cite as

John Dewey’s Experience and Nature

  • Peter Godfrey-Smith

John Dewey’s Experience and Nature has the potential to transform several areas of philosophy. The book is lengthy and difficult, but it has great importance for a knot of issues in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. It bears also on metaphilosophy, devoting many pages to the discipline’s characteristic pathologies, and advancing a view of what sort of guidance “naturalism” provides. Later chapters move on to discuss art, morality, and value. So this is a major statement by Dewey. It may one day transform moral philosophy as he hopes, but this review will focus on the central ideas of the first two-thirds of the book. Here Dewey does succeed, I think, in motivating us to look at his core topics—experience and nature—in a new way. And though Dewey’s language is often obscure and unhelpful, some of the main ideas are simpler than they look.

Earlier “pragmatist” philosophical work was novel in its focus on the relation between thought and action. This work had a broadly...


Positive Theory Philosophical Work Extended Mind Ontic Structural Realism False Dichotomy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Richard Francis for emphasizing to me the importance of Experience and Nature as the best expression of Dewey’s ideas. Correspondence and discussions with Tim Button have helped this review.


  1. Brandom R (2010) Between saying and doing: toward an analytic pragmatism. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Carruthers P (2002) The cognitive functions of language. Behav Brain Sci 25:657–674Google Scholar
  3. Clark A (2010) Supersizing the mind: embodiment, action, and cognitive extension. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Clark A, Chalmers D (1998) The extended mind. Analysis 58:7–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dennett DC (1991) Consciousness explained. Little, Brown and Co, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Devitt M (1991) Realism and truth, 2nd edn. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  7. Dewey J (1925) Experience and nature. Open Court, La SalleGoogle Scholar
  8. Dewey J (1929) The quest for certainty: a study of the relation of knowledge and action. Minton, Balch and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Emery NC, Clayton NS (2003) The mentality of crows: convergent evolution of intelligence in corvids and apes. Science 306:1903–1907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gallistel R, King A (2010) Memory and the computational brain. Wiley-Blackwell, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Kitcher PS (2010) The importance of Dewey for philosophy (and for much else besides). In: Shook J, Kurtz P (eds) Dewey’s Enduring Impact. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NYGoogle Scholar
  12. Ladyman J (2013) Structural realism. In: Zalta EN (ed) The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition).
  13. Macarthur D, Price H (2007) Pragmatism, quasi-realism and the global challenge. In: Misak C (ed) The new pragmatists. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Marx K (1845). Theses on Feuerbach. Reprinted in K. Marx and F. Engels, The German ideology, including theses on feuerbach. Prometheus, 1998, Amherst, NYGoogle Scholar
  15. McDowell J (1994) Mind and world. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Miller A (2012) Realism. In: Zalta EN (ed) The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Spring.
  17. Rorty R (1982) Consequences of pragmatism: essays 1972–1980. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  18. Rorty R (1986) Pragmatism, Davidson, and truth. In: LePore E (ed) Truth and interpretation: perspectives on the philosophy of Donald Davidson. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 333–355Google Scholar
  19. Spelke E (2003) What makes us smart? core knowledge and natural language. In: Gentner D, Goldin-Meadow S (eds) Language in mind: advances in the investigation of language and thought. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  20. Sutton J (2010) Exograms and interdisciplinarity: history, the extended mind, and the civilizing process. In: Menary R (ed) The extended mind. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp 189–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Vygotsky L (1932/1986) Thought and language. In: Kozulin A (ed) MIT Press, Cambridge, MA Google Scholar
  22. Worrall J (1989) Structural realism: the best of both worlds? Dialectica 43:99–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Program, The Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations