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Change in Dewey’s and Aristotle’s Self

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Part of the Breaking Feminist Waves book series (BFW)

Abstract

The common identification of Aristotle and Dewey as naturalists and philosophers of Bios gives some credence to Randall’s assertion that it would be easy to “exhibit Dewey as an Aristotelian more Aristotelian than Aristotle himself.”1 While it can certainly be said that Dewey and Aristotle share a bond owing to their naturalism and their placement in the sphere of Bios, one should remain cautious, though, of a conflation of their respective philosophies. There are several areas of discord where these two philosophers of nature are concerned, some of which I will return to within the context of an analysis of Dewey’s and Aristotle’s ethics. An examination of the self as moral being will help to further elucidate the relationship between Dewey and Aristotle on the one hand, and will provide a clearer picture of Dewey’s view of selfhood, on the other. In turn, this will allow me to use Dewey’s depiction of the self in explicating a feminist-pragmatist self, and its experience of transformative processes in part II of this book. Since Dewey can only be understood in his relationship to Aristotle, it is vital that this relationship be illuminated with regard to change in moral selfhood, before setting about the establishment of the feminist-pragmatist self.

Keywords

  • Moral Agent
  • Moral Knowledge
  • Virtuous Person
  • Nicomachean Ethic
  • Virtue Theorist

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.

The young are not as yet as subject to the full impact of established customs. Their life of impulsive activity is vivid, flexible, experimenting, curious. Adults have their habits formed, fixed, at least comparatively. They are the subjects, not to say victims, of an environment which they can directly change only by a maximum of effort and disturbance … Yet they wish a different life for the generation to come. In order to realize that wish they may create a special environment whose main function is education.

Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct

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Notes

  1. See Chambliss, J. J., Educational Theory as Theory of Conduct: From Aristotle to Dewey, State University of New York Press, New York, 1987, especially chapter 3.

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  2. Chambliss takes this designation from Fisch, M., “The Poliscraft: A Dialogue” in Philosophy and the Civilising Arts: Essays Presented to Herbert W. Schneider, Walton, C. A., John P. (ed.), Ohio University Press, Athens, 1974.

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  3. See Grey, T. C., “Freestanding Legal Pragmatism” in The Revival of Pragmatism: New Essays on Social Thought, Law, and Culture, Dickstein, M. (ed.), Duke University Press, Durham & London, 1998, p. 260.

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  4. For more on this see Kraut, R., “How to Justify Ethical Propositions: Aristotle’s Method” in The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kraut, R. (ed.), Blackwell, Oxford, 2006.

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  5. Sidgwick, H., The Methods of Ethics, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, Cambridge, 1981, p. 376.

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  6. See Dewey, J., “From Absolutism to Experimentalism” in John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925–1953, Vol. 5: 1929–1930, Boydston, J. A. (ed.), Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale & Edwardsville, 1984, p. 156.

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  7. The complexities involved in interpreting (2) are explored in Williams, B., “Acting as the Virtuous Person Acts” in Aristotle and Moral Realism, Heinaman, R. (ed.), Westview Press, Boulder, 1995.

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  8. See Simpson, P., “Contemporary Virtue Ethics and Aristotle” in Virtue Ethics: A Crticial Reader, Statman, D. (ed.), Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, 1997, p. 249.

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  9. See Hursthouse, R., On Virtue Ethics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p. 36

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  10. Anscombe, G. E. M., “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy, Vol. 33, No. 124, Jan. 1958, pp. 1–19, p. 8.

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  11. For more on this see Statman, D., “Introduction” in Virtue Ethics: A Critical Reader, Statman, D. (ed.), Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, 1997.

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  12. Sichel, B. A., Moral Education: Character, Community, and Ideals, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1988, p. 42.

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  13. Putnam, R. A., “Reciprocity,” Ethics, Vol. 98, No. 2, Jan. 1988, pp. 379–389, p. 381.

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  14. See Mixon, D., “The Place of Habit in the Control of Action” in John Dewey: Critical Assessments, Vol. 1, Tiles, J. E. (ed.), Routledge, London, 1992.

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  15. and Dewey, J., “Philosophy and Education” in John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925–1953, Vol. 5: 1929–1930, Boydston, J. A. (ed.), Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale & Edwardsville, 1984;

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© 2014 Clara Fischer

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Fischer, C. (2014). Change in Dewey’s and Aristotle’s Self. In: Gendered Readings of Change. Breaking Feminist Waves. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137342720_4

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