Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
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The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
How to Cite
Eldridge, M. 2013. Dewey, John. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics.
- Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
It is questionable whether John Dewey (18591952) (see pragmatic ethics) had a moral philosophy; certainly, the foremost American philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century did not have a well-worked out systematic moral philosophy presented in one place or in a series of books or articles (for the latter claim, see Pappas 2008: 4). This is not all that surprising, for Dewey rejected or was ambivalent about many of the usual philosophical categories metaphysics (Seigfried 2004; Eldridge 2005: 6312), epistemology (Eldridge 2005: 632), philosophy of religion (Eldridge 1998: 12669), and political theory (Eldridge 1998: 67). To be sure, he reflected on morality and one can, using his work, engage contemporary moral philosophy, as Pappas (2008), Elizabeth Anderson (2010), and Jennifer Welchman (2010) have done. Pappas has even attempted to develop Dewey's moral vision into a cohesive whole (Pappas 2008: 4). Dewey did philosophically consider morality in such works as Human Nature and Conduct (1922) and the popular textbook Ethics (Dewey and Tufts 1985 ). But he also thought conventional morality was inadequate for the times in which he lived (Anderson 2010) and his naturalistic (see naturalism, ethical) but cognitivist theory (Welchman 2010) was at odds with the prevailing metaethics of G. E. Moore (see moore, g. e.), other intuitionists (see intuitionism, moral), and the ensuing emotivists (see emotivism) and other non-cognitivists (see non-cognitivism) whose work dominated the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Not only was Dewey's normative theory not one of the standard ones (utilitarian, deontological, or virtue ethics) (see utilitarianism; deontology; virtue ethics), but his work shows little concern with universality or realism; rather, he proposed that we engage in intelligent action. A recommendation to be experimental in one's conduct would seem to drain that which is compelling from morality as ordinarily understood.
Keywords: twentieth century; ethics