A Reply to Dewey

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul


We have seen that for Dewey, the classical argument in favor of the theoretic life is rendered obsolete by the reality of modern progress. The scientific and technological revolutions represent “an advance so marvelous that the progress in knowledge in almost uncounted previous millenniums is almost nothing in comparison.” The theory of progress – itself a fruit of Baconianism and the Enlightenment – poses the central challenge to any traditional view which venerates the classical ideals of the past. There are however a number of issues with this notion of progress. The first thing is that the scientific revolution itself cannot be set against the classical theoretical ideal, because it was built on it as its own foundation. It is true that the Greeks possessed no scientific-technological project comparable to what emerges in modernity. At the same time, what was absolutely necessary for this project was a product of the Greek theoretical mind. The modern scientific method brings together the Aristotelian principle of empirical induction with an advanced mathematics developed largely on the foundation of Greek mathematics (Euclid, Diophantus, etc.…). This debt was, as we have seen, acknowledged by Aristotle’s putative anti-type Bacon when he wrote of Aristotle:


  1. Aristotle. Metaphysics 1933 (2003 reprint). Trans. Hugh Tredennick. Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Berdyaev, Nicholas. 1935 (reprinted in the US.) The Fate of Man in the Modern World. London, UK: Student Christian Movement Press,1935 (reprint).Google Scholar
  3. Clark, A.J. 1967. Renaissance Court Schools. In The New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 12, 369–370. Washington, D.C: CUA Press.Google Scholar
  4. de Condorcet, Marquis. 1995. Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Human Mind. In The Portable Enlightenment Reader, ed. Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  5. Dewey, John. 2008. The Collected Works of John Dewey. Vol. 15. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Hutchins, Robert. 1952. The Great Conversation. Accessed May 2018.
  7. Kopff, E. Christian. 2012. Greek to Us: The Death of Classical Education and its Consequences. Accessed 8 Mar 2017.
  8. Kristeller, Paul Oskar. 1978. “Humanism”. Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1978.) Paul Oskar Kristeller. “Humanism” in Minerva. Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1978): 586–595. Springer (Publisher.). Accessed May 2018.
  9. Livingstone, Richard Winn. 1917 A Defence of Classical Education. London, UK: Macmillan Press, 1917 – Reprinted by Forgotten Books. Google Scholar
  10. Marrou, H. I A History of Education in Antiquity. Trans. 1982 (1956 copyright). Trans. George Lamb. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  11. Nightingale, A.W. 2004. Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Advanced Governmental StudiesJohns Hopkins UniversityWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations