John Dewey pp 37-46 | Cite as

Knower Makers

  • John BaldacchinoEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)


Human intelligence has many facets and it cannot be considered in a vacuum. It presumes the ability to create and speculate without being tied to mechanical imperatives of reason. Dewey shows that freedom is socially bound and it cannot be reduced to the simplistic negation of obstacles or limitations. Likewise, knowledge belongs to the actuality of human experience and the entirety of what it comes to represent for us. If knowledge came flat-packed like a shelving system from IKEA, there will be no need to create or make anything. Just as Marx argued for a philosophy that changes rather than interprets the world, one could argue that there is no merit in merely assembling a world without having any role in making it. This recalls the 17th century philosopher Giambattista Vico who connected what we know with what we make. Following Vico we have come to articulate the horizon of knowing and making more effectively, especially through the experimental approaches taken by philosophers like Dewey. This removes the human intellect away from the image of a processing machine. Like Vico and Hegel, Dewey rejected any split between knowing as an act and knowledge as a body of certainties. Rather, knowing is the outcome of continuous transactional negotiation through a process of cooperation. Dewey also takes experience beyond the borders of a limited body of known facts. He reminds us that what is experienced is not entirely known. In drawing a distinction between knowledge and experience, he shows that what happens through experience moves beyond what is known. This helps us begin to understand and appreciate how experience in se is extensive and far more patterned, nuanced, irregular and somewhat irrational. Given that in the last three or four decades, education is often conflated with the so-called knowledge industry, Dewey’s philosophy gains stronger significance in any discussion of education, and more so, in the critique of such a conflation. The magnitude of experience must move beyond what is industrialized as a commodity within the schooled parameters of a quantifiable assumption of knowledge. This raises a further question: Given that experience exceeds knowledge, shouldn’t then experience be regarded as the foundation of all that we know by what we make? After Dewey, our answer is a categorical “No”. Experience is distinct from any quantifiable rendition of knowledge. As Dewey reminds his readers, “the scientific revolution, which put science upon the road of steady advance and ever increasing fertility, is connected with substitution of knowledge ‘by art’ for that said to be ‘by nature.’ The connection is not remote nor recondite.”


Knowledge Knowing Making Growth Experience Negotiation 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeDundeeUK

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