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...
KeywordsPositive Theory Philosophical Work Extended Mind Ontic Structural Realism False Dichotomy
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.
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