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Title: John Dewey's logical theory
Author: Howard, Delton Thomas
Language: English
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No. 11









It seems unnecessary to offer an apology for an historical treatment of
Professor Dewey's logical theories, since functionalism glories in the
genetic method. To be sure, certain more extreme radicals are opposed to
a genetic interpretation of the history of human thought, but this is
inconsistent. At any rate, the historical method employed in the
following study may escape censure by reason of its simple character,
for it is little more than a critical review of Professor Dewey's
writings in their historical order, with no discussion of influences and
connections, and with little insistence upon rigid lines of development.
It is proposed to "follow the lead of the subject-matter" as far as
possible; to discover what topics interested Professor Dewey, how he
dealt with them, and what conclusions he arrived at. This plan has an
especial advantage when applied to a body of doctrine which, like
Professor Dewey's, does not possess a systematic form of its own, since
it avoids the distortion which a more rigid method would be apt to

It has not been possible, within the limits of the present study, to
take note of all of Professor Dewey's writings, and no reference has
been made to some which are of undoubted interest and importance. Among
these may be mentioned especially his books and papers on educational
topics and a number of his ethical writings. Attention has been devoted
almost exclusively to those writings which have some important bearing
upon his logical theory. The division into chapters is partly arbitrary,
although the periods indicated are quite clearly marked by the different
directions which Professor Dewey's interests took from time to time. It
will be seen that there is considerable chance for error in
distinguishing between the important and the unimportant, and in
selecting the essays which lie in the natural line of the author's
development. But, _valeat quantum_, as William James would say.

The criticisms and comments which have been made from time to time, as
seemed appropriate, may be considered pertinent or irrelevant according
to the views of the reader. It is hoped that they are not entirely
aside from the mark, and that they do not interfere with a fair
presentation of the author's views. The last chapter is devoted to a
direct criticism of Professor Dewey's functionalism, with some comments
on the general nature of philosophical method.

Since this thesis was written, Professor Dewey has published two or
three books and numerous articles, which are perhaps more important than
any of his previous writings. The volume of _Essays in Experimental
Logic_ (1916) is a distinct advance upon _The Influence of Darwin on
Philosophy and Other Essays_, published six years earlier. Most of these
essays, however, are considered here in their original form, and the new
material, while interesting, presents no vital change of standpoint. It
might be well to call attention to the excellent introductory essay
which Professor Dewey has provided for this new volume. Some mention
might also be made of the volume of essays by eight representative
pragmatists, which appeared last year (1917) under the title, _Creative
Intelligence_. My comments on Professor Dewey's contribution to the
volume have been printed elsewhere.[1] It has not seemed necessary, in
the absence of significant developments, to extend the thesis beyond its
original limits, and it goes to press, therefore, substantially as
written two years ago.

I wish to express my gratitude to the members of the faculty of the Sage
School of Philosophy for many valuable suggestions and kindly
encouragement in the course of my work. I am most deeply indebted to
Professor Ernest Albee for his patient guidance and helpful criticism.
Many of his suggestions, both as to plan and detail, have been adopted
and embodied in the thesis, and these have contributed materially to
such logical coherence and technical accuracy as it may possess. The
particular views expressed are, of course, my own. I wish also to thank
Professor J. E. Creighton especially for his friendly interest and for
many suggestions which assisted the progress of my work, as well as for
his kindness in looking over the proofs.


June, 1918.


[1] "The Pragmatic Method," _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and
Scientific Methods_, 1918, Vol. XV, pp. 149-156.


CHAPTER                                                        PAGE

   I. "Psychology as Philosophic Method"                          1

  II. The Development of the Psychological Standpoint            15

 III. "Moral Theory and Practice"                                33

  IV. Functional Psychology                                      47

   V. The Evolutionary Standpoint                                59

  VI. "Studies in Logical Theory"                                72

 VII. The Polemical Period                                       88

VIII. Later Developments                                        105

  IX. Conclusions                                               119



Dewey's earliest standpoint in philosophy is presented in two articles
published in _Mind_ in 1886: "The Psychological Standpoint," and
"Psychology as Philosophic Method."[2] These articles appear to have
been written in connection with his _Psychology_, which was published in
the same year, and which represents the same general point of view as
applied to the study of mental phenomena. For the purposes of the
present study attention may be confined to the two articles in _Mind_.

Dewey begins his argument, in "The Psychological Standpoint," with a
reference to Professor Green's remark that the psychological standpoint
is what marks the difference between transcendentalism and British
empiricism. Dewey takes exception to this view, and asserts that the two
schools hold this standpoint in common, and, furthermore, that the
psychological standpoint has been the strength of British empiricism and
desertion of that standpoint its weakness. Shadworth Hodgson's comment
on this proposal testifies to its audacity. In a review of Dewey's
article, he says: "If for instance we are told by a competent writer,
that Absolute Idealism is not only a truth of experience but one
attained directly by the method of experiential psychology, we should
not allow our astonishment to prevent our examining the arguments, by
virtue of which English psychology attains the results of German
transcendentalism without quitting the ground of experience."[3]

Dewey defines his psychological standpoint as follows: "We are not to
determine the nature of reality or of any object of philosophical
inquiry by examining it as it is in itself, but only as it is an element
in our knowledge, in our experience, only as it is related to our mind,
or is an 'idea'.... Or, in the ordinary way of putting it, the nature
of all objects of philosophical inquiry is to be fixed by finding out
what experience says about them."[4] The implications of this definition
do not appear at first sight, but they become clearer as the discussion

Locke, Dewey continues, deserted the psychological standpoint because he
did not, as he proposed, explain the nature of such things as matter and
mind by reference to experience. On the contrary, he explained
experience through the assumption of the two unknowable substances,
matter and mind. Berkeley also deserted the psychological standpoint, in
effect, by having recourse to a purely transcendent Spirit. Even Hume
deserted it by assuming as the only reals certain unrelated sensations,
and by trying to explain the origin of experience and knowledge by their
combination. These reals were supposed to exist in independence of an
organized experience, and to constitute it by their association. It
might be argued that Hume's sensations are found in experience by
analysis, and this would probably be true. But the sensations are
nothing apart from the consciousness in which they are found. "Such a
sensation," Dewey says, "a sensation which exists only within and for
experience, is not one which can be used to account for experience. It
is but one element in an organic whole, and can no more account for the
whole, than a given digestive act can account for the existence of a
living body."[5]

So far Dewey is merely restating the criticism of English empiricism
that had been made by Green and his followers. Reality, as experienced,
is a whole of organically related parts, not a mechanical compound of
elements. Whatever is to be explained must be taken as a fact of
experience, and its meaning will be revealed in terms of its position
and function within the whole. But while Dewey employs the language of
idealism, it is doubtful whether he has grasped the full significance of
the "concrete universal" of the Hegelian school. The following passage
illustrates the difficulty: "The psychological standpoint as it has
developed itself is this: all that is, is for consciousness or
knowledge. The business of the psychologist is to give a genetic
account of the various elements within this consciousness, and thereby
fix their place, determine their validity, and at the same time show
definitely what the real and eternal nature of this consciousness

Consciousness (used here as identical with 'experience') is apparently
interpreted as a structure made up of elements related in a determinable
order, and having, consequently, a 'real and eternal nature.' The result
is a 'structural' view of reality, and the type of idealism for which
Dewey stands may fittingly be called 'structural' idealism. This type of
idealism does, in fact, hold a position intermediate between English
empiricism and German transcendentalism. But it would not commonly be
considered a synthesis of the best characteristics of the two schools.
'Structural' idealism is, historically considered, a reversion to Kant
which retains the mechanical elements of the _Critique_, but fails to
reckon with the truly organic mode of interpretation in which it
culminates. As experience, from Kant's undeveloped position, is a
structure of sensations and forms, so Dewey's 'consciousness' is a
compound of separate elements or existences related in a 'real and
eternal' order.

Dewey illustrates his method, in the discussion which follows, by
employing it, or showing how it should be employed, in the definition of
certain typical objects of philosophical inquiry. The first to be
considered are subject and object. In dealing with the relation of
subject to object, the psychological method will attempt to show how
consciousness differentiates itself, or 'specifies' itself, into subject
and object. These terms will be viewed as related terms within the whole
of 'consciousness,' rather than as elements existing prior to or in
independence of the whole in which they are found.

There is a type of realism which illustrates the opposite or ontological
method. It is led, through a study of the dependence of the mind upon
the organism, to a position in which subject and object fall apart, out
of relation to each other. The separation of the two leads to the
positing of a third term, an unknown _x_, which is supposed to unite
them. The psychological method would hold that the two objects have
their union, not in an unknown 'real,' but in the 'consciousness' in
which they appear. The individual consciousness as subject, and the
objects over against it, are elements at once distinguished and related
within the whole. All the terms are facts of experience, and none are to
be assumed as ontological reals.

Subjective idealism, Dewey continues, makes a similar error in failing
to discriminate between the ego, or individual consciousness, and the
Absolute Consciousness within which ego and object are differentiated
elements. It fails to see that subject and object are complements, and
inexplicable except as related elements in a larger whole. The
individual consciousness, again, and the universal 'Consciousness,' are
to be defined by reference to experience. It is not to be assumed at the
start, as the subjective idealists assume, that the nature of the
individual consciousness is known. The ego is to be defined, not
assumed, and this is the essence of the psychological method.

So far, two factors in Dewey's standpoint are clearly discernible. In
the first place, all noumena and transcendent reals are to be rejected
as means of explanation, and definition is to be wholly in terms of
experienced elements, as experienced. In the second place, experience is
to be regarded as a rational system of related elements, while
explanation is to consist in tracing out the relations which any element
bears to the whole. The universal 'Consciousness' is the whole, and the
individual mind, again, is an element within the whole, to be explained
by tracing out the relations which it bears to other elements and to the
whole system. It is not easy to avoid the conclusion that Dewey
conceives of 'consciousness' as a construct of existentially distinct

Dewey does not actually treat subject and object, individual and
universal consciousness, in the empirical manner for which he contends.
He merely outlines a method; and, while this has a negative bearing as
against transcendent modes of explanation, it has little content of its
own. But in spite of Dewey's lack of explicitness, it is evident that he
tends to view his 'objects of philosophical inquiry' as so many concrete
particular existences or things. The idea that they can be empirically
marked out and investigated seems to imply this. But subject, object,
individual, and universal are certainly not reducible to particular
sensations, even though it must be admitted that they have a reference
to particulars. These abstract concepts had been a source of difficulty
to the empiricists, because they had not been able to reduce them to
particular impressions, and Dewey's proposed method appears to involve
the same difficulty.

In his second article, on "Psychology as Philosophic Method," Dewey
proposes to show that his standpoint is practically identical with that
of transcendental idealism. This is made possible, he believes, through
the fact that, since experience or consciousness is the only reality,
psychology, as the scientific account of this reality, becomes identical
with philosophy.

In maintaining his position, Dewey finds it necessary to criticise the
tendency, found in certain idealists, to treat psychology merely as a
special science. This view of psychology is attained, Dewey observes, by
regarding man under two arbitrarily determined aspects. Taken as a
finite being acting amid finite things, a knowing, willing, feeling
phenomenon, man is said to be the object of a special science,
psychology. But in another aspect man is infinite, the universal
self-consciousness, and as such is the object of philosophy. This
distinction between the two aspects of man's nature, Dewey believes,
cannot be maintained. As a distinction, it must arise within
consciousness, and it must therefore be a psychological distinction.
Psychology cannot limit itself to anything less than the whole of
experience, and cannot, therefore, be a special science dependent, like
others, upon philosophy for its working concepts. On the contrary, the
method of psychology must be the method of philosophy.

Dewey reaches this result quite easily, because he makes psychology the
science of reality to begin with. "The universe," he says, "except as
realized in an individual, has no existence.... Self-consciousness means
simply an individualized universe; and if this universe has _not_ been
realized in man, if man be not self-conscious, then no philosophy
whatever is possible. If it _has_ been realized, it is in and through
psychological experience that this realization has occurred. Psychology
is the scientific account of this realization, of this individualized
universe, of this self-consciousness."[7]

It is difficult to understand exactly what these expressions meant for
Dewey. Granting that the human mind is both individual and universal,
what objection could be raised against the study of its individual or
finite aspects as the special subject-matter of a particular science?
All the sciences, as Dewey was aware, are abstract in method. Dewey's
position appears to be that the universal and individual aspects of
consciousness are nothing apart from each other, and must be studied
together. But 'consciousness' in Dewey's view is, in fact, two
consciousnesses. Reality as a whole is a Consciousness, and the
individual mind is another consciousness. A problem arises, therefore,
as to their connection. Dewey affirms that, unless they are united,
unless the universal is given in the individual consciousness, there can
be no science of the whole, and therefore no philosophy. The
epistemological problem of the relation of the mind to reality becomes,
accordingly, the _raison d'être_ of his method. The problem was an
inheritance from subjective idealism. It may be pointed out that there
is some similarity between Dewey's standpoint and Berkeley's. Both
conceive of consciousness as a construct of elements, and Dewey's
'Consciousness in general' holds much the same relation to the finite
consciousness that the Divine Mind holds to the individual consciousness
in Berkeley's system. The similarity between the two standpoints must
not be overemphasized, but it is none the less suggestive and

In attempting to determine the proper status of psychology as a science,
Dewey is led into a more detailed exposition of his standpoint. His
position in general is well indicated in the following passage: "In
short, the real _esse_ of things is neither their _percipi_, nor their
_intelligi_ alone; it is their _experiri_."[8] The science of the
_intelligi_ is logic, and of the _percipi_, philosophy of nature. But
these are abstractions from the _experiri_, the science of which is
psychology. If it be denied that the _experiri_, self-consciousness in
its wholeness, can be the subject-matter of psychology, then the
possibility of philosophy is also denied. "If man, as matter of fact,
does not realise the nature of the eternal and the universal _within_
himself, as the essence of his own being; if he does not at one stage of
his experience consciously, and in all stages implicitly, lay hold of
this universal and eternal, then it is mere matter of words to say that
he can give no account of things as they universally and eternally are.
To deny, therefore, that self-consciousness is a matter of psychological
experience is to deny the possibility of any philosophy."[9] Dewey
assures us again that his method alone will solve the epistemological

Self-consciousness, as that within which things exist _sub specie
æternitatis_ and _in ordine ad universum_, must be the object of
psychology. The refusal to take self-consciousness as an experienced
fact, Dewey says, results in such failures as are seen in Kant, Hegel,
and even Green and Caird, to give any adequate account of the nature of
the Absolute. Kant, for purely logical reasons, denied that
self-consciousness could be an object of experience, although he
admitted conceptions and perceptions as matters of experience. As a
result of his attitude, conception and perception were never brought
into organic connection; the self-conscious, eternal order of the world
was referred to something back of experience. Dewey attributes Kant's
failure to his logical method, which led him away from the psychological
standpoint in which he would have found self-consciousness as a directly
presented fact.

This criticism of Kant's 'logical method' fails to take account of the
transitional nature of Kant's standpoint. Looking backward, it is easy
enough to ask why Kant did not begin with the organic view of experience
at which he finally arrived. But the answer must be that the organic
standpoint did not exist until Kant, by his 'logical method,' had
brought it to light. The Kantian interpretation of experience, in which,
as Dewey asserts, conception and perception were never brought into
organic relation, is a half-way stage between mechanism and organism.
But how does Dewey propose to improve upon Kant's position? He will
first of all put Kant's noumenal self back into experience, as a fact in
consciousness. But how will this help to bring perception and conception
into closer union? There seems to be no answer. Dewey's view appears to
be that organic relations are achieved whenever an object is made a part
of experience and so brought into connection with other experienced
facts. 'Organic relation' is interpreted as equivalent to 'mental
relation.' But mental relations are not organic because they are mental.
It would be as easy to assert that they are mechanical. The test lies in
the nature of the relations which are actually found in the mental
sphere and the fitness of the organic categories to express them.
Dewey's 'consciousness,' as has been said before, appears to be a
structure, not an organism. Its parts are external to each other,
however closely they may be related. An organic view of experience would
begin with a denial of the actuality of bare facts or sensations, and
would not waver in maintaining that standpoint to the end.

Hegel's advance upon Kant, Dewey continues, "consisted essentially in
showing that Kant's _logical_ standard was erroneous, and that, as a
matter of logic, the only true criterion or standard was the organic
notion, or _Begriff_, which is a systematic totality, and accordingly
able to explain both itself and also the simpler processes and
principles."[10] The logical reformation which Hegel accomplished was
most important, but the work of Kant still needed to be completed by
"showing self-consciousness as a fact of experience, as well as
perception through organic forms and thinking through organic
principles."[11] This element is latent in Hegel, Dewey believes, but
needs to be brought out.

T. H. Green comes under the same criticism. He followed Kant's logical
method, and as a consequence arrived at the same negative results. The
nature of self-consciousness remains unknown to Green; he can affirm its
existence, but cannot describe its nature. Dewey quotes that passage
from the _Prolegomena to Ethics_ in which Green says:[12] "As to what
that consciousness in itself or in its completeness is, we can only
make negative statements. _That_ there is such a consciousness is
implied in the existence of the world; but _what_ it is we only know
through its so far acting in us as to enable us, however partially and
interruptedly, to have knowledge of a world or an intelligent
experience." If, Dewey observes, Green had begun with the latter point
of view, and had taken self-consciousness as at least partially realized
in finite minds, he would have been able to make some positive
statements about it. Dewey, however, has not given the most adequate
interpretation of Green's 'Spiritual Principle in Nature.' This was
evidently, for Green, a symbol of the intelligibility of the world as
organically conceived, an order which could not be comprehended by the
mechanical categories, but which was nevertheless real. As Green tended
to hypostatize the organic conception, so Dewey would make it a concrete
reality, with the further specification that it must be something given
to psychological observation.

The chief point of Dewey's criticism of the idealists is that they fail
to establish self-consciousness as an experienced fact; and, Dewey
maintains, it must be so established if it is to be anything real and
genuine. If it is anything that can be discussed at all, it must be an
element in experience; and if it is in experience, it must be the
subject-matter of psychology. It is inevitable, from Dewey's standpoint,
that transcendentalism should adopt his psychological method.

In the further development of his standpoint, Dewey considers (1) the
relations of psychology to the special sciences, and (2) the relation of
psychology to logic. Dewey's conception of the relation of psychology to
the special sciences is well illustrated in the following passage:
"Mathematics, physics, biology exist, because conscious experience
reveals itself to be of such a nature, that one may make virtual
abstraction from the whole, and consider a part by itself, without
damage, so long as the treatment is purely scientific, that is, so long
as the implicit connection with the whole is left undisturbed, and the
attempt is not made to present this partial science as metaphysic, or as
an explanation of the whole, as is the usual fashion of our uncritical
so-called 'scientific philosophies.' Nay more, this abstraction of some
one sphere is itself a living function of the psychologic experience. It
is not merely something which it allows: it is something which it
_does_. It is the analytic aspect of its own activity, whereby it
deepens and renders explicit, realizes its own nature.... The analytic
movement constitutes the special sciences; the synthetic constitutes the
philosophy of nature; the self-developing activity itself, as
psychology, constitutes philosophy."[13]

The special sciences are regarded as abstractions from the central or
psychological point of view, but they are legitimate abstractions,
constituted by a proper analytic movement of the total
self-consciousness, which specifies itself into the special branches of
knowledge. If we begin with any special science, and drive it back to
its fundamentals, it reveals its abstractness, and thought is led
forward into other sciences, and finally into philosophy, as the science
of the whole. But philosophy, first appearing as a special science,
turns out to be science; it is presupposed in all the special sciences,
and is their basis. But where does psychology stand in this

At first sight psychology appears to be a special science, abstract like
the others. "As to systematic observation, experiment, conclusion and
verification, it can differ in no essential way from any one of
them."[14] But psychology, like philosophy, turns out to be a science of
the whole. Each special science investigates a special sphere of
conscious experience. "From one science to another we go, asking for
some explanation of conscious experience, until we come to
psychology.... But the very process that has made necessary this new
science reveals also that each of the former sciences existed only in
abstraction from it. Each dealt with some one phase of conscious
experience, and for that very reason could not deal with the totality
which gave it its being, consciousness."[15] Philosophy and psychology
therefore mainly coincide, and the method of psychology, properly
developed, becomes the method of philosophy.

If psychology is to be identified with philosophy in this fashion, the
mere change of name would seem to be superfluous. There would be no
reason for maintaining psychology as a separate discipline. Perhaps
Dewey did not intend that it should be maintained separately. In that
case, the total effect of his argument would be to prescribe certain
methods for philosophy. It seems necessary to suppose that Dewey
proposed to merge philosophy in psychology, and make it an exact science
while retaining its universality. "Science," he argued, "is the
systematic account, or _reason_ of _fact_; Psychology is the completed
systematic account of the ultimate fact, which, as fact, reveals itself
as reason...."[16] Self-consciousness in its ultimate nature is
conceived of as a special fact, over and above what it includes in the
way of particulars. Psychology, as the science of this ultimate fact,
must at the same time be philosophy. The identification of the two
disciplines depends upon taking the 'wholeness' of reality as a 'fact,'
which can be brought under observation. This is a natural conclusion
from Dewey's structural view of reality.

In taking up the subject of the relation of psychology to logic, Dewey
remarks that in philosophy matter and form cannot be separated.
"Self-consciousness is the final truth, and in self-consciousness the
form as organic system and the content as organized system are exactly
equal to each other."[17] Logic abstracts from the whole, gives us only
the form, or _intelligi_ of reality, and is therefore only one moment in
philosophy. Since logic is an abstraction from Nature, we cannot get
from logic back to Nature, by means of logic. We do, as a matter of
fact, make the transition in philosophy, because the facts force us back
to Nature. Just as in Hegel's logic, the category of quality, when
pressed, reveals itself as inadequate to express the facts, and is
compelled to pass into the category of quantity, so does logic as a
whole, when pressed, reveal its inadequacy to express the whole of
reality. The transition from category to category in the Hegelian logic
is not an unfolding of the forms as forms, but results from a compulsion
exerted by the facts, when the categories are used to explain them.
Logic is, and must remain, abstract in all its processes, and its
outcome (with Hegel, _Geist_) may assert the abstract necessity of one
self-conscious whole, but cannot give the reality. "Logic cannot reach,
however much it may point to, an actual individual. The gathering up of
the universe into one self-conscious individuality it may assert as
_necessary_, it cannot give it as _reality_."[18] Taken as an abstract
method, logic is apt to result in a pantheism, "where the only real is
the _Idee_, and where all its factors and moments, including spirit and
nature, are real only at different stages or phases of the _Idee_, but
vanish as imperfect ways of looking at things ... when we reach the

Dewey has in mind logic as a science of the forms of reality taken in
abstraction from their content. In reality, however, there can be no
logic of concepts apart from their concrete application. Hegel certainly
never believed that it was possible to abstract the logical forms from
reality and study them in their isolation. As against a purely formal
logic, if such a thing were possible, Dewey's criticism would be valid,
but the transcendental logic of his time was not formal in this sense.
The psychological method which Dewey offers as a substitute for the
logical method escapes, he believes, the difficulties of the latter
method. At the same time it preserves, in his opinion, the essential
spirit of the Hegelian method. Dewey's comments show that he conceives
his method to be a restatement, in improved form, of the doctrine of the
'concrete universal.' But the 'psychological method' and the method of
idealism are, if anything, antithetical. An excellent summary of Dewey's
theory is afforded by the following passage: "Only a living actual Fact
can preserve within its unity that organic system of differences in
virtue of which it lives and moves and has its being. It is with this
fact, conscious experience in its entirety, that psychology as method
begins. It thus brings to clear light of day the presupposition implicit
in every philosophy, and thereby affords logic, as well as the
philosophy of nature, its basis, ideal and surety. If we have determined
the nature of reality, by a process whose content equals its form, we
can show the meaning, worth and limits of any one moment of this

It would be useless to speculate upon the various possible
interpretations that might be given of Dewey's psychological method. The
most critical examination of the text will not dispel its vagueness, nor
afford an answer to the many questions that arise. It does, however,
throw an interesting light on certain tendencies in Dewey's own

Dewey's attempt to show that English empiricism and transcendentalism
have a common psychological basis must be regarded as a failure. That
the nature of the attempt reveals a misunderstanding, or fatal lack of
appreciation, on the part of Dewey, of the critical philosophy and the
later development of idealism by Hegel, has already been suggested. He
does not appear to have grasped the significance of the movement from
Kant to Hegel. Kant, of course, believed that the _a priori_ forms of
experience could be determined by a process of critical analysis, which
would reveal them in their purity. The constitutive relations of
experience were supposed by him to be limited to the pure forms of
sensibility, space and time, and the twelve categories of the
understanding, which, being imposed upon the manifold of sensations, as
organized by the productive imagination, determined once and for all the
order of the phenomenal world. His logic, therefore, as an account of
the forms of experience, would represent logic of the type which Dewey
criticized. But with the rejection of Kant's noumenal world, the
critical method assumed a different import. It was no longer to be
supposed that reality, as knowable, was organized under the forms of a
determinate number of categories, which could be separated out and
classified. Kant's idea that experience was an intelligible system was
retained, but its intelligibility was not supposed to be wholly
comprised in man's methods of knowing it. The instrumental character of
the categories was recognized. Criticism was directed upon the
categories, with the object of determining their validity, spheres of
relevance, and proper place in the system of knowledge. Such a
criticism, in the nature of things, could not deal with the forms of
thought in abstraction from their application. Direct reference to
experience, therefore, became a necessary element in idealism. At the
same time, philosophy became a 'criticism of categories.' The method is
empirical, but never psychological.

Dewey recognized the need of an empirical method in philosophy, but
failed to show specifically how psychology could deal with philosophical
problems. He appears to have conceived that sensation and meaning, facts
and forms, were present in experience or 'Consciousness,' as if this
were some total understanding which retained the elements in a fixed
union and order. While, according to his method, the forms of this
universal consciousness could not be considered apart from the
particulars in which they inhered, they might be studied by a survey of
experience, a direct appeal to consciousness, in which 'form and content
are equal.' He seems to have held that truth is given in immediate
experience. A study of reality as immediately given, therefore, to
psychological observation, would provide an account of the eternal
nature of things, as they stand in the universal mind. Dewey did not
attempt a criticism of the categories and methods which psychology must
employ in such a task. Had he done so, the advantages of a critical
method might have occurred to him.


[2] Vol. XI, pp. 1-19; pp. 153-173.

[3] "Illusory Psychology," _Mind_, Vol. XI, 1886, p. 478.

[4] "The Psychological Standpoint," _Mind_, 1886, Vol. XI, p. 2.

[5] _Ibid._, p. 7.

[6] _Op. cit._, p. 8 f.

[7] "Psychology as Philosophic Method," _Mind_, 1886, Vol. XI, p. 157.

[8] _Ibid._, p. 160. (Observe that this is a direct reference to

[9] _Op. cit._

[10] _Op. cit._, p. 161.

[11] _Ibid._

[12] Third Edition, p. 54.

[13] _Mind_, Vol. XI, p. 166 f.

[14] _Ibid._, p. 166.

[15] _Ibid._

[16] _Op. cit._, p. 170.

[17] _Ibid._

[18] _Op. cit._, p. 172.

[19] _Ibid._

[20] _Op. cit._



The "psychological method," as so far presented, is an outline which
must be developed in detail before its philosophical import is revealed.
For several years following the publication of his first articles in
_Mind_ Dewey was occupied with the task of working out his method in
greater detail, and giving it more concrete form. His thought during
this period follows a fairly regular order of development, which is to
be sketched in the present chapter.

In 1887 Dewey published in _Mind_ an article entitled "Knowledge as
Idealisation."[21] This article is, in effect, a consideration of one of
the special problems of the "psychological method." If reality is an
eternal and all-inclusive consciousness, in which sensations and
meanings are ordered according to a rational system, what must be the
nature of the finite thought-process which apprehends this reality? In
his previous articles Dewey had proposed the "psychological method" as
an actual mode of investigation, and questions concerning the nature of
the human thought-process naturally forced themselves upon his

The thought-process is, to begin with, a relating activity which gives
meaning to experience. Says Dewey: "When Psychology recognizes that the
relating activity of mind is one not exercised _upon_ sensations, but
one which supplies relations and thereby makes meaning (makes
experience, as Kant said), Psychology will be in a position to explain,
and thus to become Philosophy."[22] This statement raises the more
specific question, what is meaning?

Every idea, Dewey remarks, has two aspects: existence and meaning.
"Recognizing that every psychical fact does have these two aspects, we
shall, for the present, confine ourselves to asking the nature,
function and origin of the aspect of meaning or significance--the
content of the idea as opposed to its existence."[23] The meaning aspect
of the idea cannot be reduced to the centrally excited image existences
which form a part of the existence-aspect of the idea. "I repeat, as
existence, we have only a clustering of sensuous feelings, stronger and
weaker."[24] But the thing is not perceived as a clustering of feelings;
the sensations are immediately interpreted as a significant object.
"Perceiving, to restate a psychological commonplace, is interpreting.
The content of the perception is what is signified."[25] Dewey's
treatment of sensations, at this point, is somewhat uncertain. If it be
a manifold that is given to the act of interpretation, Kant's difficulty
is again presented. The bare sensations taken by themselves mean
nothing, and yet everything does mean something in being apprehended.
The conclusion should be that there is no such thing as mere existence.
Dewey's judgment is undecided on this issue. "It is true enough," he
says, "that without the idea _as existence_ there would be no
experience; the sensuous clustering is a condition _sine qua non_ of
all, even the highest spiritual, consciousness. But it is none the less
true that if we could strip any psychical existence of all its qualities
except bare existence, there would be nothing left, not even existence,
for our intelligence.... If we take out of an experience all that it
_means_, as distinguished from what it _is_--a particular occurrence at
a certain time, there is no psychical experience. The barest fragment of
consciousness that can be hit upon has meaning as well as being."[26] An
interpretation of reality as truly organic would treat mechanical
sensation as a pure fiction. But Dewey clings to 'existence' as a
necessary 'aspect' of the psychical fact. The terms and relations never
entirely fuse, although they are indispensable to each other. There is
danger that the resulting view of experience will be somewhat angular
and structural.

At one point, indeed, Dewey asserts that there is no such thing as a
merely immediate psychical fact, at least for our experience. "So far is
it from being true that we know only what is _immediately_ present in
consciousness, that it should rather be said that what is _immediately_
present is never known."[27] But in the next paragraph Dewey remarks:
"That which is immediately present is the sensuous existence; that which
is known is the content conveyed by this existence."[28] The sensation
is not known, and therefore probably not experienced. In this case Dewey
is departing from his own principles, by introducing non-experienced
factors into his interpretation of experience. The language is
ambiguous. If nothing is immediately given, then the sensuous content is
not so given.

The 'sensuous existences' assumed by Dewey are the ghosts of Kant's
'manifold of sensation.' The difficulty comes out clearly in the
following passage: "It is indifferent to the sensation whether it is
interpreted as a cloud or as a mountain; a danger signal, or a signal of
open passage. The auditory sensation remains unchanged whether it is
interpreted as an evil spirit urging one to murder, or as intra-organic,
due to disordered blood-pressure.... It is not the sensation in and of
itself that means this or that object; it is the sensation as
associated, composed, identified, or discriminated with other
experiences; the sensation, in short, as mediated. The whole worth of
the sensation for intelligence is the meaning it has by virtue of its
relation to the rest of experience."[29]

There is an obvious parallel between this view of experience and Kant's.
Kant, indeed, transcended the notion that experience is a structure of
sensations set in a frame-work of thought forms; but the first
_Critique_ undoubtedly leaves the average reader with such a conception
of experience. It is unjust to Kant, however, to take the mechanical
aspect of his thought as its most important phase. He stands, in the
opinion of modern critics, at a half-way stage between the mechanism of
the eighteenth century and the organic logic of the nineteenth, and his
works point the way from the lower to the higher point of view. This
was recognized by Hegel and by his followers in England. How does it
happen, then, that Dewey, who was well-read in the philosophical
literature of the day, should have persisted in a view of experience
which appears to assume the externally organized manifold of the
_Critique of Pure Reason_? Or, to put the question more explicitly, why
did he retain as a fundamental assumption Kant's 'manifold of

So far, Dewey has been concerned with the nature of meaning. He now
turns to knowledge, and the knowing process as that which gives meaning
to experience. Knowledge, or science, he says, is a process of following
out the ideal element in experience. "The idealisation of science is
simply a further development of this ideal element. It is, in short,
only rendering explicit and definite the meaning, the idea, already
contained in perception."[30] But if perception is already organized by
thought, the sensations must have been related in a 'productive
imagination.' Dewey, however, does not recognize such a necessity. The
factor of meaning is ideal, he continues, because it is not present as
so much immediate content, but is present as symbolized or mediated. But
the question may be asked, "Whence come the ideal elements which give to
experience its meaning?" No answer can be given except by psychology, as
an inquiry into the facts, as contrasted with the logical necessity of

Sensations acquire meaning through being identified with and
discriminated from other sensations to which they are related. But it is
not as mere existences that they are compared and related, but as
already ideas or meanings. "The identification is of the meaning of the
present sensation with some meaning previously experienced, but which,
although previously experienced, still exists because it _is_ meaning,
and not occurrence."[31] The existences to which meanings attach come
and go, and are new for every new appearance of the idea in
consciousness; but the meanings remain. "The experience, as an existence
at a given time, has forever vanished. Its meaning, as an ideal quality,
remains as long as the mind does. Indeed, its remaining is the
remaining of the mind; the conservation of the ideal quality of
experience is what makes the mind a permanence."[32]

It is not possible, Dewey says, to imagine a primitive state in which
unmeaning sensations existed alone. Meaning cannot arise out of that
which has no meaning. "Sensations cannot revive each other except as
members of one whole of meaning; and even if they could, we should have
no beginning of significant experience. Significance, meaning, must be
already there. Intelligence, in short, is the one indispensable
condition of intelligent experience."[33]

Thinking is an act which idealizes experience by transforming sensations
into an intelligible whole. It works by seizing upon the ideal element
which is already there, conserving it, and developing it. It produces
knowledge by supplying relations to experience. Dewey realizes that his
act of intelligence is similar to Kant's 'apperceptive unity.' He says:
"The mention of Kant's name suggests that both his strength and his
weakness lie in the line just mentioned. It is his strength that he
recognizes that an apperceptive unity interpreting sensations through
categories which constitute the synthetic content of self-consciousness
is indispensable to experience. It is his weakness that he conceives
this content as purely logical, and hence as formal."[34] Kant's error
was to treat the self as formal and held apart from its material. "The
self does not work with _a priori_ forms upon an _a posteriori_
material, but intelligence as ideal (or _a priori_) constitutes
experience (or the _a posteriori_) as having meaning."[35] Dewey's
standpoint here seems to be similar to that of Green. But as Kant's
unity of apperception became for Green merely a symbol of the world's
inherent intelligibility, the latter did not regard it as an actual
process of synthesis. Dewey fails to make a distinction, which might
have been useful to him, between Kant's unity of apperception and his
productive imagination. It is the latter which Dewey retains, and he
tends to identify it with the empirical process of the understanding.
Knowing, psychologically considered, is a synthetic process. "And this
is to say that experience grows as intelligence adds out of its own
ideal content ideal quality.... The growth of the power of comparison
implies not a formal growth, but a synthetic internal growth."[36]
Dewey, of course, views understanding as an integral part of reality's
processes rather than as a process apart, but it is for him a very
special activity, which builds up the meaning of experience. "Knowledge
might be indifferently described, therefore, as a process of
idealisation of experience, or of realisation of intelligence. It is
each through the other. Ultimately the growth of experience must consist
in the development out of itself by intelligence of its own implicit
ideal content upon occasion of the solicitation of sensation."[37]

The difficulties of Dewey's original position are numerous. The relation
of the self, as a synthetic activity, to the "Eternal Consciousness," in
which meaning already exists in a completed form, is especially
perplexing. Does the self merely trace out the meaning already present
in reality, or is it a factor in the creation of meaning? It is clear
that if the thinking process is a genuinely synthetic activity, imposing
meaning on sensations, it literally 'makes the world' of our experience.
But, on the other hand, if meaning is given to thought, as a part of its
data, the self merely reproduces in a subjective experience the thought
which exists objectively in the eternal mind. The dilemma arises as a
result of Dewey's initial conception of reality as a structure of
sensations and meanings. This conception of reality must be given up, if
the notion of thought as a process of idealization is to be retained.

In 1888, Dewey's _Leibniz's New Essays Concerning the Human
Understanding_ appeared, and during the two years following he appears
to have become interested in ethical theory, the results of his study
beginning to appear in 1890. Dewey's ethical theories have so important
a bearing upon his logical theory as to demand special attention. They
will be reserved, therefore, for a separate chapter, and attention will
be given here to the more strictly logical studies of the period.

The three years which intervened between the publication of the essay on
"Knowledge as Idealisation" and the appearance of an article "On Some
Current Conceptions of the term 'Self,'" in _Mind_ (1890),[38] did not
serve to divert Dewey's attention from the inquiries in which he had
previously been interested. On the contrary, the later article shows how
persistently his mind must have dwelt upon the problems connected with
the notion of the self as a synthetic activity in experience.

The immediate occasion for the article on the Self was the appearance of
Professor Andrew Seth's work, _Hegelianism and Personality_ (1889).
Dewey appears to have been influenced by Seth at an even earlier
period,[39] and he now found the lectures on Hegel stimulating in
connection with his own problems about thought and reality.

It will not be necessary to go into the details of Dewey's criticism of
the three ideas of the self presented by Seth. Since it is Dewey's own
position that is in question, it is better to begin with his account of
the historical origin of these definitions, "chiefly as found in Kant,
incidentally in Hegel as related to Kant."[40] Dewey turns to the
'Transcendental Deduction,' and follows Kant's description of the
synthetic unity of apperception. "Its gist," he says, "in the second
edition of the _K.d.r.V._, is the proof that the identity of
self-consciousness involves the synthesis of the manifold of feelings
through rules or principles which render this manifold objective, and
that, therefore, the analytic identity of self-consciousness involves an
objective synthetic unity of consciousness."[41] To say that
self-consciousness is identical is a merely analytical proposition, and,
as it stands, unfruitful. "But if we ask how we know this sameness or
identity of consciousness, the barren principle becomes wonderfully
fruitful."[42] In order to know reality as mine, not only must the
consciousness that it is mine accompany each particular impression, but
each must be known as an element in _one_ consciousness. "The sole way
of accounting for this analytic identity of consciousness is through the
activity of consciousness in connecting or 'putting together' the
manifold of sense."[43]

In the 'Deduction' of the first _Critique_, Dewey continues, Kant begins
with the consciousness of objects, rather than with the identity of
self-consciousness. Here also consciousness implies a unity, which is
not merely formal, but one which actually connects the manifold of sense
by an act. "Whether, then, we inquire what is involved in mere sameness
of consciousness, or what is involved in an objective world, we get the
same answer: a consciousness which is not formal or analytic, but which
is synthetic of sense, and which acts universally (according to
principles) in this synthesis."[44]

The term 'Self,' as thus employed by Kant, Dewey says, is the
correlative of the intelligible world. "It is the transcendental self
looked at as 'there,' as a product, instead of as an activity or
process."[45] This, however, by no means exhausts what Kant means by the
self, for while he proceeds in the 'Deduction' as if the manifold of
sense and the synthetic unity of the self were strictly correlative, he
assumes a different attitude elsewhere. The manifold of sense is
something in relation to the thing-in-itself, and the forms of thought
have a reference beyond their mere application to the manifold. In the
other connections the self appears as something purely formal; something
apart from its manifestation in experience. In view of the wider meaning
of the self, Dewey asks, "Can the result of the transcendental deduction
stand without further interpretation?" It would appear that the content
of the self is not the same as the content of the known world. The self
is too great to exhaust itself in relation to sensation. "Sense is, as
it were, inadequate to the relations which constitute
self-consciousness, and thus there must also remain a surplusage in the
self, not entering into the make-up of the known world."[46] This
follows from the fact that, while the self is unconditioned, the
manifold of sensation is conditioned, as given, by the forms of space
and time. "Experience can never be complete enough to have a content
equal to that of self-consciousness, for experience can never escape its
limitation through space and time. Self-consciousness is real, and not
merely logical; it is the ground of the reality of experience; it is
wider than experience, and yet is unknown except so far as it is
reflected through its own determinations in experience,--this is the
result of our analysis of Kant, the _Ding-an-Sich_ being eliminated but
the Kantian method and all presuppositions not involved in the notion of
the _Ding-an-Sich_ being retained."[47]

Dewey's interpretation of Kant's doctrine as presented in the
'Deductions' is no doubt essentially correct. But granting that Kant
found it necessary to introduce a synthesis in imagination to account
for the unity of experience and justify our knowledge of its relations,
it must not be forgotten that this necessity followed from the nature of
his presuppositions. If the primal reality is a 'manifold of
sensations,' proceeding from a noumenal source, and lacking meaning and
relations, it follows that the manifold must be gathered up into a unity
before the experience which we actually apprehend can be accounted for.
But if reality is experience, possessing order and coherence in its own
nature, the productive imagination is rendered superfluous. Dewey,
however, clings to the notion that thought is a "synthetic activity"
which makes experience, and draws support from Kant for his doctrine.

Dewey now inquires what relation this revised Kantian conception of the
self bears to the view advanced by Seth, viz., that the idea of
self-consciousness is the highest category of thought and explanation.
Kant had tried to discover the different forms of synthesis, by a method
somewhat artificial to be sure, and had found twelve of them. While
Hegel's independent derivation and independent placing of the categories
must be accepted, it does not follow that the idea of self-consciousness
can be included in the list, even if it be considered the highest
category. "For it is impossible as long as we retain Kant's fundamental
presupposition--the idea of the partial determination of sensation by
relation to perception, apart from its relation to conception--to employ
self-consciousness as a principle of explaining any fact of
experience."[48] It cannot be said of the self of Kant that it is simply
an hypostatized category. "It is more, because the self of Kant ... is
more than any category: it is a real activity or being."[49]

Hegel, Dewey continues, develops only one aspect of Kant's _Critique_,
that is, the logical aspect, and consequently does not fulfil Kant's
entire purpose. "This is, I repeat, not an immanent 'criticism of
categories' but an analysis of experience into its aspects and really
constituent elements."[50] Dewey, as usual, shows his opposition to a
'merely logical' method in philosophy. He plainly indicates his
dissatisfaction with the Hegelian development of Kant's standpoint. He
is unfair to Hegel, however, in attributing to him a 'merely logical'
method. Kant's self was, as Dewey asserts, something more than a
category of thought, but it is scarcely illuminating to say of Kant that
his purpose was the analysis of experience into its 'constituent
elements.' Kant did, indeed, analyze experience, but this analysis must
be regarded as incidental to a larger purpose. No criticism need be made
of Dewey's preference for the psychological, as opposed to the logical
aspects of Kant's work. The only comment to be made is that this
attitude is not in line with the modern development of idealism.

The question which finally emerges, as the result of Dewey's inquiry, is
this: What is the nature of this self-activity which is more than the
mere category of self-consciousness? "As long as sensation was regarded
as given by a thing-in-itself, it was possible to form a conception of
the self which did not identify it with the world. But when sense is
regarded as having meaning only because it is 'there' as determined by
thought, just as thought is 'there' only as determining sense, it would
seem either that the self is just their synthetic unity (thus equalling
the world) or that it must be thrust back of experience, and become a
thing-in-itself. The activity of the self can hardly be a third
something distinct from thought and from sense, and it cannot be their
synthetic union. What, then, is it?"[51] Green, Dewey says, attempted to
solve the difficulty by his "idea of a completely realized self making
an animal organism the vehicle of its own reproduction in time."[52]
This attempt was at least in the right direction, acknowledging as it
did the fact that the self is something more than the highest category
of thought.

Dewey admits his difficulties in a way that makes extended comment
unnecessary. He does not challenge the validity of the Hegelian
development of the Kantian categories, but proposes to make more of the
self than the Hegelians ordinarily do. This synthetic self-activity must
reveal itself as a concrete process; that is one of the demands of his
psychological standpoint. It is impossible to foresee what this process
would be as an actual fact of experience.

Although the next article which is to be considered does not offer a
direct answer to the problems which have so far been raised, it
nevertheless indicates the general direction which Dewey's thought is to
take. This article, on "The Present Position of Logical Theory," was
published in the _Monist_ in 1891.[53] Dewey appears at this time as the
champion of the transcendental, or Hegelian logic, in opposition to
formal and inductive logic. His attitude toward Hegel undergoes a marked
change at this period. Dewey's general objection to formal logic is well
expressed in the following passage: "It is assumed, in fine, that
thought has a nature of its own independent of facts or subject-matter;
that this thought, _per se_, has certain forms, and that these forms are
not forms which the facts themselves take, varying with the facts, but
are rigid frames, into which the facts are to be set. Now all of this
conception--the notion that the mind has a faculty of thought apart from
things, the notion that this faculty is constructed, in and of itself,
with a fixed framework, the notion that thinking is the imposing of this
fixed framework on some unyielding matter called particular objects, or
facts--all of this conception appears to me as highly scholastic."[54]
The inductive logic, Dewey says, still clings to the notion of thought
as a faculty apart from its material, operating with bare forms upon
sensations. Kant had been guilty of this separation and never overcame
it successfully. Because formal logic views thought as a process apart
from the matter with which it has to deal, it can never be the logic of
science. "For if science means anything, it is that our ideas, our
judgments may in some degree reflect and report the fact itself. Science
means, on one hand, that thought is free to attack and get hold of its
subject-matter, and, on the other, that fact is free to break through
into thought; free to impress itself--or rather to express itself--in
intelligence without vitiation or deflection. Scientific men are true to
the instinct of the scientific spirit in fighting shy of a distinct _a
priori_ factor supplied to fact from the mind. Apriorism of this sort
must seem like an effort to cramp the freedom of intelligence and of
fact, to bring them under the yoke of fixed, external forms."[55]

In opposition to this formal, and, as he calls it, subjective standpoint
in logic, Dewey stands for the transcendental logic, which supposes that
there is some kind of vital connection between thought and fact; "that
thinking, in short, is nothing but the fact in its process of
translation from brute impression to lucent meaning."[56] Hegel holds
this view of logic. "This, then, is why I conceive Hegel--entirely apart
from the value of any special results--to represent the quintessence of
the scientific spirit. He denies not only the possibility of getting
truth out of a formal, apart thought, but he denies the existence of any
faculty of thought which is other than the expression of fact
itself."[57] At another place Dewey expresses his view of Hegel as
follows: "Relations of thought are, to Hegel, the typical forms of
meaning which the subject-matter takes in its various progressive stages
of being understood."[58]

Dewey's defence of the transcendental logic is vigorous. He maintains
that the disrespect into which the transcendental logic had fallen, was
due to the fact that the popular comprehension of the transcendental
movement had been arrested at Kant, and had never gone on to Hegel.

The objection made to Kant's standpoint is that it treated thought as a
process over against experience, imposing its forms upon it from
without. "Kant never dreams, for a moment, of questioning the existence
of a special faculty of thought with its own peculiar and fixed forms.
He states and restates that thought in itself exists apart from fact and
occupies itself with fact given to it from without."[59] While Kant gave
the death blow to a merely formal conception of thought, indirectly, and
opened up the way for an organic interpretation, he did not achieve the
higher standpoint himself. Remaining at the standpoint of Kant,
therefore, the critic of the transcendental logic has much to complain
of. Scientific men deal with facts, look to them for guidance, and must
suppose that thought and fact pass into each other directly, and without
vitiation or deflection. They are correct in opposing a conception which
would interpose conditions between thought on the one hand and the facts
on the other.

But Hegel is true to the scientific spirit. "When Hegel calls thought
objective he means just what he says: that there is no special, apart
faculty of thought belonging to and operated by a mind existing separate
from the outer world. What Hegel means by objective thought is the
meaning, the significance of the fact itself; and by methods of thought
he understands simply the processes in which this meaning of fact is

If Hegel is true to the scientific spirit; if his logic presupposes that
there is an intrinsic connection of thought and fact, and views science
simply as the progressive realization of the world's ideality, then the
only questions to be asked about his logic are questions of fact
concerning his treatment of the categories. Is the world such a
connected system as he holds it to be? "And, if a system, does it, in
particular, present such phases (such relations, categories) as Hegel
shows forth?"[61] These questions are wholly objective. Such a logic as
Hegel's could scarcely make headway when it was first produced, because
the significance of the world, its ideal character, had not been brought
to light through the sciences. We are now reaching a stage, however,
where science has brought the ideality of the world into the foreground,
where it may become as real and objective a material of study as
molecules and vibrations.

This appreciation of Hegel would seem to indicate that Dewey has finally
grasped the significance of Hegel's development of the Kantian
standpoint. A close reading of the article, however, dispels this
impression. Dewey believes that he has found in Hegel a support for his
own psychological method in philosophy. It is scarcely necessary to say
that Hegel's standpoint was anything but psychological. Dewey has
already given up Kant; he will presently desert Hegel. A psychological
interpretation of the thought-process in its relations to reality is not
compatible with the critical method in philosophy.

In the next article to be examined, "The Superstition of Necessity," in
the _Monist_ (1893),[62] Dewey begins to attain the psychological
description of thought at which he had been aiming. This article was
suggested, as Dewey indicates in a foot-note, by Mr. C. S. Pierce's
article, "The Doctrine of Necessity Examined," in the _Monist_
(1892).[63] Although Dewey acknowledges his indebtedness to Pierce for
certain suggestions, the two articles have little in common.

Dewey had consistently maintained that thought is a synthetic activity
through which reality is idealized or takes on meaning. It is from this
standpoint that he approaches the subject of necessity. The following
passage reveals the connection between his former position and the one
that he is now approaching: "The whole, although first in the order of
reality, is last in the order of knowledge. The complete statement of
the whole is the goal, not the beginning of wisdom. We begin, therefore,
with fragments, which are taken for wholes; and it is only by piecing
together these fragments, and by the transformation of them involved in
this combination, that we arrive at the real fact. There comes a stage
at which the recognition of the unity begins to dawn upon us, and yet,
the tradition of the many distinct wholes survives; judgment has to
combine these two contradictory conceptions; it does so by the theory
that the dawning unity is an effect necessarily produced by the
interaction of the former wholes. Only as the consciousness of the unity
grows still more is it seen that instead of a group of independent
facts, held together by 'necessary' ties, there is one reality, of which
we have been apprehending various fragments in succession and
attributing to them a spurious wholeness and independence. We learn (but
only at the end) that instead of discovering and then connecting
together a number of separate realities, we have been engaged in the
progressive definition of one fact."[64]

Dewey adds to his idea that our knowledge of reality is a progressive
development of its implicit ideality through a synthetic
thought-process, the specification that the process of idealization
occurs in connection with particular crises and situations. There comes
a stage, he says, when unity begins to dawn and meaning emerges.
Necessity is a term used in connection with these transitions from
partial to greater realization of the world's total meaning. Necessity
is a middle term, or go-between. It marks a critical stage in the
development of knowledge. No necessity attaches to a whole, as such.
"_Qua_ whole, the fact simply is what it is; while the parts, instead of
being necessitated either by one another or by the whole, are the
analyzed factors constituting, in their complete circuit, the
whole."[65] But when the original whole breaks up, through its inability
to comprehend new facts under its unity, a process of judgment occurs
which aims at the establishment of a new unity. "The judgment of
necessity, in other words, is exactly and solely the transition in our
knowledge from unconnected judgments to a more comprehensive synthesis.
Its value is just the value of this transition; as negating the old
partial and isolated judgments--in its backward look--necessity has
meaning; in its forward look--with reference to the resulting completely
organized subject-matter--it is itself as false as the isolated
judgments which it replaces."[66] We say that things must be so, when we
do not know that they are so; that is, while we are in course of
determining what they are. Necessity has its value exclusively in this

Dewey attempts to show, in a discussion which need not be followed in
detail, that there is nothing radical in his view, and that it finds
support among the idealists and empiricists alike. Thinkers of both
schools (he quotes Caird and Venn) admit that the process of judgment
involves a change in objects, at least as they are for us. There is a
transformation of their value and meaning. "This point being held in
common, both schools must agree that _the progress of judgment is
equivalent to a change in the value of objects_--that objects as they
are for us, as known, change with the development of our judgments."[67]
Dewey proposes to give a more specific description of this process of
transformation, and especially, to show how the idea of necessity is
involved in it.

The process of transformation is occasioned by practical necessity. Men
have a tendency to take objects as just so much and no more; to attach
to a given subject-matter these predicates, and no others. There is a
principle of inertia, or economy, in the mind, which leads it to
maintain objects in their _status quo_ as long as possible. "There is no
doubt that the reluctance of the mind to give up an object once made
lies deep in its economies.... I wish here to call attention to the fact
that the forming of a number of distinct objects has its origin in
practical needs of our nature. The analysis and synthesis which is first
made is that of most practical importance...."[68] We tend to retain
such objects as we have, and it is not until "the original
subject-matter has been overloaded with various and opposing predicates
that we think of doubting the correctness of our first judgments, of
putting our first objects under suspicion."[69] Once the Ptolemaic
system is well established, cycles and epicycles are added without
number, rather than reconstruct the original object. When, finally, we
are compelled to make some change, we tend to invent some new object to
which the predicates can attach. "When qualities arise so incompatible
with the object already formed that they cannot be referred to that
object, it is easier to form a new object on their basis than it is to
doubt the correctness of the old...."[70] Let us suppose, then, that
under stress of practical need, we refer the new predicates to some new
object, and have, as a consequence, two objects. (Dewey illustrates this
situation by specific examples.) This separation of the two objects
cannot continue long, before we begin to discover that the two objects
are related elements in a larger whole. "The wall of partition between
the two separate 'objects' cannot be broken at one attack; they have to
be worn away by the attrition arising from their slow movement into one
another. It is the 'necessary' influence which one exerts upon the other
that finally rubs away the separateness and leaves them revealed as
elements of one unified whole."[71]

The concept of necessity has its validity in such a movement of judgment
as has been described. "Necessity, as the middle term, is the mid-wife
which, from the dying isolation of judgments, delivers the unified
judgment just coming into life--it being understood that the
separateness of the original judgments is not as yet quite negated, nor
the unity of the coming judgment quite attained."[72] The judgment of
necessity connects itself with certain facts in the situation which are
immediately concerned with our practical activities. These are facts
which, before the crisis arises, have been neglected; they are elements
in the situation which have been regarded as unessential, as not yet
making up a part of the original object. "Although after our desire has
been met they have been eliminated as accidental, as irrelevant, yet
when the experience is again desired their integral membership in the
real fact has to be recognized. This is done under the guise of
considering them as means which are necessary to bring about the
end."[73] We have the if so, then so situation. "_If_ we are to reach an
end we _must_ take certain means; while so far as we want an undefined
end, an end in general, conditions which accompany it are mere
accidents."[74] The end of this process of judgment in which necessity
appears as a half-way stage, is the unity of reality; a whole into which
the formerly discordant factors can be gathered together.

Only a detailed study of the original text, with its careful
illustrations, can furnish a thorough understanding of Dewey's position.
Enough has been said, however, to show that this psychological account
of the judgment process is a natural outgrowth of his former views, and
that, as it stands, it is still in conformity with his original
idealism. The article as a whole marks a half-way stage in Dewey's
philosophical development. Looking backward, it is a partial fulfilment
of the demands of "The Psychological Standpoint." It is a psychological
description of the processes whereby self-consciousness specifies itself
into parts which are still related to the whole. Looking forward, it
forecasts the functional theory of knowledge. We have, to begin with,
objects given as familiar or known experiences. So long as these are not
put under suspicion or examined, they simply are themselves, or are
non-cognitionally experienced. But on the occasion of a conflict in
experience between opposed facts and their meanings, a process of
judgment arises, whose function is to restore unity. It is in this
process of judgment as an operation in the interests of the unity of
experience, that the concepts, necessity and contingency, have their
valid application and use. They are instruments for effecting a
transformation of experience. This is the root idea of functional
instrumentalism. It is apparent, therefore, that Dewey's later
functionalism resulted from the natural growth and development of the
psychological standpoint which he adopted at the beginning of his
philosophical career.


[21] Vol. XII, pp. 382-396.

[22] _Ibid._, p. 394.

[23] _Op. cit._, p. 383.

[24] _Ibid._

[25] _Ibid._, p. 384.

[26] _Ibid._

[27] _Op. cit._, p. 385.

[28] _Ibid._

[29] _Ibid._, p. 388.

[30] _Op. cit._, p. 390.

[31] _Ibid._, p. 392.

[32] _Op. cit._

[33] _Ibid._, p. 393.

[34] _Ibid._, p. 394.

[35] _Ibid._, p. 395.

[36] _Op. cit._

[37] _Ibid._, p. 396. (The last sentence forecasts Dewey's later
contention that knowing is a specific act operating upon the occasion of

[38] Vol. XV, pp. 58-74.

[39] See _Mind_, Vol. XI, 1886, p. 170.

[40] _Ibid._, p. 63.

[41] _Ibid._

[42] _Ibid._, p. 64.

[43] _Op. cit._

[44] _Ibid._, p. 65.

[45] _Ibid._

[46] _Op. cit._, p. 67.

[47] _Ibid._, p. 68.

[48] _Op. cit._, p. 70.

[49] _Ibid._, p. 71.

[50] _Ibid._

[51] _Op. cit._, p. 73.

[52] _Ibid._

[53] Vol. II, pp. 1-17.

[54] _Op. cit._, p. 4.

[55] _Ibid._, p. 12.

[56] _Ibid._, p. 3.

[57] _Ibid._, p. 14.

[58] _Ibid._, p. 13.

[59] _Op. cit._, p. 11.

[60] _Ibid._, p. 12 f.

[61] _Op. cit._, p. 14.

[62] Vol. III, pp. 362-379.

[63] Vol. II, pp. 321-337.

[64] _The Monist_, Vol. III, 1893, p. 364.

[65] _Ibid._, p. 363.

[66] _Op. cit._

[67] _Ibid._, p. 364 f.

[68] _Ibid._, p. 367.

[69] _Ibid._, p. 366.

[70] _Op. cit._, p. 367.

[71] _Ibid._, p. 368.

[72] _Ibid._, p. 363.

[73] _Op. cit._, p. 372.

[74] _Ibid._



Dewey's ethical theory, as has already been indicated, stands in close
relation to his general theory of knowledge. Since it has been found
expedient to treat the ethical theory separately, it will be necessary
to go back some two years and trace it from its beginnings. The order of
arrangement that has been chosen is fortunate in this respect, since it
brings into close connection two articles which are really companion
pieces, in spite of the two-year interval which separates them. These
are "The Superstition of Necessity," which was considered at the close
of the last chapter, and "Moral Theory and Practice," an article
published in _The International Journal of Ethics_, in January,
1891.[75] This latter article, now to be examined, is one of Dewey's
first serious undertakings in the field of ethical theory, and probably
represents some of the results of his study in connection with his
text-book, _Outlines of a Critical Theory of Ethics_, published in the
same year (1891).

The immediate occasion for the article is explained by Dewey in his
introductory remarks: "In the first number of this journal four writers
touch upon the same question,--the relation of moral theory to moral
practice."[76] The four writers mentioned were Sidgwick, Adler,
Bosanquet, and Salter. None of them, according to Dewey, had directly
discussed the relation of moral theory to practice. "But," he says,
"finding the subject touched upon ... in so many ways, I was led to
attempt to clear up my own ideas."[77]

There seems to exist, Dewey continues, "the idea that moral theory is
something other than, or something beyond, an analysis of conduct,--the
idea that it is not simply and wholly 'the theory of practice.'"[78] It
is often defined, for instance, as an inquiry into the metaphysics of
morals, which has nothing to do with practice. But, Dewey believes,
there must be some intrinsic connection between the theory of morals and
moral practice. Such intrinsic connection may be denied on the ground
that practice existed long before theory made its appearance. Codes of
morality were in existence before Plato, Kant, or Spencer rose to
speculate upon them. This raises the question, What is theory?

Moral theory is nothing more than a proposed act in idea. It is insight,
or perception of the relations and bearings of the contemplated act. "It
is all one with moral _insight_, and moral insight is the recognition of
the relationships in hand. This is a very tame and prosaic conception.
It makes moral insight, and therefore moral theory, consist simply in
the everyday workings of the same ordinary intelligence that measures
drygoods, drives nails, sells wheat, and invents the telephone."[79] The
nature of theory as idea is more definitely described. "It is the
construction of the act in thought against its outward construction. _It
is, therefore, the doing,--the act itself, in its emerging._"[80]

Theory is practice in idea, or as foreseen; it is the perception of what
ought to be done. This, at least, is what moral theory is. Dewey's
demand that fact and theory must have some intrinsic connection,
unsatisfied in the articles reviewed in the previous chapter, is met
here by discovering a connecting link in _action_. Theory is "_the
doing,--the act itself in its emerging_." The reduction of thought to
terms of action, here implied, is a serious step. It marks a new
tendency in Dewey's speculation. Dewey does not claim, in the present
article, that his remarks hold good for all theory. "Physical science,"
he remarks, "does deal with abstractions, with hypothesis. It says, 'If
this, then that.' It deals with the relations of conditions and not with
facts, or individuals, at all. It says, 'I have nothing to do with your
concrete falling stone, but I can tell you this, that it is a law of
falling bodies that, etc.'"[81] But moral theory is compelled to deal
with concrete situations. It must be a theory which can be applied
directly to the particular case. Moral theory cannot exist simply in a
book. Since, moreover, there is no such thing as theory in the abstract,
there can be no abstract theory of morals.

There can be no difficulty, Dewey believes, in understanding moral
theory as action in idea. All action that is intelligent, all conduct,
that is, involves theory. "For any _act_ (as distinct from mere impulse)
there must be 'theory,' and the wider the act, the greater its import,
the more exigent the demand for theory."[82] This does not, however,
answer the question how any particular moral theory, the Kantian, the
Hedonistic, or the Hegelian, is related to action. These systems
present, not 'moral ideas' as explained above, but 'ideas about
morality.' What relation have ideas about morality to specific moral

The answer to this question is to be obtained through an understanding
of the nature of the moral situation. If an act is moral, it must be
intelligent; as moral conduct, it implies insight into the situation at
hand. This insight is obtained by an examination and analysis of the
concrete situation. "This is evidently a work of analysis. Like every
analysis, it requires that the one making it be in possession of certain
working tools. I cannot resolve this practical situation which faces me
by merely looking at it. I must attack it with such instruments of
analysis as I have at hand. _What we call moral rules are precisely such
tools of analysis._"[83] The Golden Rule is such an instrument of
analysis. Taken by itself, it offers no direct information as to what is
to be done. "The rule is a counsel of perfection; it is a warning that
in my analysis of the moral situation (that is, of the conditions of
practice) I be impartial as to the effects on me and thee.'"[84] Every
rule which is of any use at all is employed in a similar fashion.

But this is not, so far, a statement of the nature of moral theory,
since only particular rules have been considered. Ethical theory, in its
wider significance, is a reflective process in which, as one might say,
the 'tools of analysis' are shaped and adapted to their work. These
rules are not fixed things, made once and for all, but of such a nature
that they preserve their effectiveness only as they are constantly
renewed and reshaped. Ethical theory brings the Golden Rule together
with other general ideas, conforms them to each other, and in this way
gives the moral rule a great scope in practice. All moral theory,
therefore, is finally linked up with practice. "It bears much the same
relation to the particular rule as this to the special case. It is a
tool for the analysis of its meaning, and thereby a tool for giving it
greater effect."[85] In ethical theory we find moral rules in the
making. Ideas about morals are simply moral ideas in the course of being

Dewey presents here an instrumental theory of knowledge and concepts.
But it differs widely from the instrumentalism of the Neo-Hegelian
school both in its form and derivation. Dewey reaches his
instrumentalism through a psychological analysis of the judgment
process. He finds that theory is related to fact through action, and
since he had been unable to give a concrete account of this relationship
at a previous time, the conclusion may be regarded as a discovery of
considerable moment for his philosophical method. Dewey's
instrumentalism rests upon a very special psychological interpretation,
which puts action first and thought second. Unable to discover an overt
connection between fact and thought, he delves underground for it, and
finds it in the activities of the nervous organism. This discovery, he
believes, solves once and for all the ancient riddle of the relation of
thought to reality.

In the concluding part of the article Dewey takes up the consideration
of moral obligation. "What is the relation of knowledge, of theory, to
that Ought which seems to be the very essence of moral conduct?"[86] The
answer anticipates in some measure the position which was taken later,
as has been seen, in regard to necessity. The concept of obligation,
like that of necessity, Dewey believes, has relevance only for the
judgment situation. "But," Dewey says, "limiting the question as best I
can, I should say (first) that the 'ought' always rises from and falls
back into the 'is,' and (secondly) that the 'ought' is itself an
'is,'--the 'is' of action."[87] Obligation is not something added to the
conclusion of a judgment, something which gives a moral aspect to what
had been a coldly intellectual matter. The 'ought' finds an integral
place in the judgment process. "The difference between saying, 'this act
is the one to be done, ...' and saying, 'The act _ought_ to be done,' is
merely verbal. The analysis of action is from the first an analysis of
what is to be done; how, then, should it come out excepting with a 'this
should be done'?"[88] The peculiarity of the 'ought' is that it applies
to conduct or action, whereas the 'is' applies to the facts. It has
reference to doing, or acting, as the situation demands. "This, then, is
the relation of moral theory and practice. Theory is the cross-section
of the given state of action in order to know the conduct that should
be; practice is the realization of the idea thus gained: in is theory in

The parallel between this article and "The Superstition of Necessity" is
too obvious to require formulation, and the same criticism that applies
to the one is applicable to the other. "The Superstition of Necessity"
is more detailed and concrete in its treatment of the judgment process
than this earlier article, as might be expected, but the fundamental
position is essentially the same. The synthetic activity of the self,
the thought-process, finally appears as the servant of action, or, more
exactly, as itself a special mode of organic activity in general.

From the basis of the standpoint which he had now attained Dewey
attempted a criticism of Green's moral theory, in two articles in the
_Philosophical Review_, in 1892 and 1893. The first of these, entitled
"Green's Theory of the Moral Motive,"[90] appeared almost two years
after the article on "Moral Theory and Practice." The continuity of
Dewey's thought during the intervening period, however, is indicated by
the fact that the first four pages of the article to be considered are
given over to an introductory discussion which repeats in almost
identical terms the position taken in "Moral Theory and Practice." Dewey
himself calls attention to this fact in a foot-note.

There must be, Dewey again asserts, some vital connection of theory with
practice. "Ethical theory must be a general statement of the reality
involved in every moral situation. It must be action stated in its more
generic terms, terms so generic that every individual action will fall
within the outlines it sets forth. If the theory agrees with these
requirements, then we have for use in any special case a tool for
analyzing that case; a method for attacking and reducing it, for laying
it open so that the action called for in order to meet, to satisfy it,
may readily appear."[91] Dewey argues that moral theory cannot possibly
give directions for every concrete case, but that it by no means follows
that theory can stand aside from the specific case and say: "What have I
to do with thee? Thou art empirical, and I am the metaphysics of

Dewey's preliminary remarks are introductory to a consideration of
Green's ethical theory. "His theory would, I think," Dewey says, "be
commonly regarded as the best of the modern attempts to form a
metaphysic of ethic. I wish, using this as type, to point out the
inadequacy of such metaphysical theories, on the ground that they fail
to meet the demand just made of truly ethical theory, that it lend
itself to translation into concrete terms, and thereby to the guidance,
the direction of actual conduct."[92] Dewey recognizes that Green is
better than his theory, but says that the theory, taken in logical
strictness, cannot meet individual needs.

Dewey makes a special demand of Green's theory. He demands, that is,
that it supply a body of rules, or guides to action which can be
employed by the moral agent as tools of analysis in cases requiring
moral judgment. It is evident in advance that Green's theory was built
upon a different plan, and can not meet the conditions which Dewey
prescribes. The general nature of Green's inquiry is well stated in the
following summary by Professor Thilly: "The truth in Green's thought is
this: the purpose of all social devotion and reform is, after all, the
perfection of man on the spiritual side, the development of men of
character and ideals.... The final purpose of all moral endeavor must be
the realization of an attitude of the human soul, of some form of noble
consciousness in human personalities.... It is well enough to feed and
house human bodies, but the paramount question will always be: What
kinds of souls are to dwell in these bodies?"[93] To put the matter in
more technical terms, Green is concerned with ends and values. His
question is not, What is the best means of accomplishing a given
purpose, but, What end is worth attaining? Such an inquiry has no
immediate relation to action. It may lead to conclusions which become
determining factors in action, but the process of inquiry has no direct
reference to conduct. Dewey, having reduced thought to a function of
activity, must proceed, by logical necessity, to carry the same
reduction into the field of theory in general. This he does in thorough
style. His demand that moral theory shall concern itself with concrete
and 'specific' situations is a result of the same tendency. Since action
can only be described as response to a 'situation,' thought, as a
function of activity, must likewise be directed upon a 'situation.'
Conduct in general and values in general become impossible under his
system, because there is no such thing as an activity-in-general of the
organism. Ends, in other words, exist only for thought, when thought is
interpreted as transcending action, and being, in some sense,
self-contained. When thought is interpreted as a kind of 'indirect
activity,' its capacity for metaphysical inquiry vanishes along with its

It would have been more in keeping with sound criticism had Dewey
himself taken note of the important divergence in aim and intent between
his work and Green's. As a consequence of his failure to do so, he
fails, necessarily, to do justice to Green's standpoint. The criticism
which he directs against Green's moral theory may be briefly summed up
as follows.

Green tends to repeat the Kantian separation of the self as reason from
the self as want or desire. "The dualism between reason and sense is
given up, indeed, but only to be replaced by a dualism between the end
which would satisfy the self as a unity or whole, and that which
satisfies it in the particular circumstances of actual conduct."[94] As
a consequence of the separation of the ideal from the actual, no action
can satisfy the whole self, and thus no action can be truly moral. "No
thorough-going theory of total depravity ever made righteousness more
impossible to the natural man than Green makes it to a human being by
the very constitution of his being...."[95] Dewey traces this separation
of the self as reason from the self as desire through those passages in
which Green describes the moral agent as one who distinguishes himself
from his desires (Book II, _Prolegomena to Ethics_). "The process of
moral experience involves, therefore, a process in which the self, in
becoming conscious of its want, objectifies that want by setting it over
against itself; distinguishing the want from self and self from want....
Now this theory so far might be developed in either of two

In the first place, the self-distinguishing process may be an activity
by means of which the self specifies its own activity and satisfaction.
"The particular desires and ends would be the modes in which the self
relieved itself of its abstractness, its undeveloped character, and
assumed concrete existence.... The unity of the self would stand in no
opposition to the particularity of the special desire; on the contrary,
the unity of the self and the manifold of definite desires would be the
synthetic and analytic aspects of one and the same reality, neither
having any advantage metaphysical or ethical over the other!"[97] But
Green, unfortunately, does not develop his theory in this concrete
direction. The self does not specify itself in the particulars, but
remains apart from them. "The objectification is not of the self in the
special end; but the self remains behind setting the special object over
against itself as not adequate to itself.... The unity of the self sets
up an ideal of satisfaction for itself as it withdraws from the special
want, and this ideal set up through negation of the particular desire
and its satisfaction constitutes the moral ideal. It is forever
unrealizable, because it forever negates the special activities through
which alone it might, after all, realize itself."[98] In completing this
argument Dewey refers to certain well-known passages in the _Prolegomena
to Ethics_, in which Green states that the moral ideal is never
completely attainable. Green's abstract conception of the self as that
which forever sets itself over against its desires is, Dewey argues, not
only useless as an ideal for action, but positively opposed to moral
striving. "It supervenes, not as a power active in its own satisfaction,
but to make us realize the unsatisfactoriness of such seeming
satisfactions as we may happen to get, and to keep us striving for
something which we can never get!"[99] The most that can be made of
Green's moral ideal is to conceive it as the bare form of unity in
conduct. Employed as a tool of analysis, as a moral rule, it might tell
us, "Whatever the situation, seek for its unity." But it can scarcely go
even as far as this in the direction of concreteness, for it says: "_No_
unity can be found in the situation because the situation is particular,
and therefore set over against the unity."[100]

Most students of Green would undoubtedly say that this account of his
moral theory is entirely one-sided, and fails to reckon with certain
elements which should properly be taken into account. In the first
place, Green is defining the moral agent as he finds him, and is
reporting what seems to him a fact when he says that the moral ideal is
too high to be realized in this life. Having a spiritual nature, man
fails to find satisfaction in the goods of natural life. Dewey should
address himself to the facts in refuting Green's analysis of human
nature. In the second place, with respect to Green's separation of the
self as unity from the self as a manifold of desires, Dewey's criticism
may be flatly rejected. Green raises the question himself: "'Do you
mean,' it may be asked, 'to assert the existence of a mysterious
abstract entity which you call the self of a man, apart from all his
particular feelings, desires, and thoughts--all the experience of his
inner life?'"[101] Green takes time to state his position as clearly as
possible. He repudiates the idea of an abstract self apart from desire.
The following passage is typical of his remarks: "Just as we hold that
our desires, feelings, and thoughts would not be what they are--would
not be those of a man--if not related to a subject which distinguishes
itself from each and all of them; so we hold that this subject would not
be what it is, if it were not related to the particular feelings,
desires, and thoughts, which it thus distinguishes from and presents to
itself."[102] It will be remembered also, that in moral action the agent
identifies himself with his desires, or adopts them as his own, and the
ability to do this is the chief mark of human intelligence. But man
could not identify himself with his desires, or 'specify himself in
them,' as Dewey says, did he not at the same time have the capacity to
differentiate himself from them.

Dewey's further remarks on Green's ideal need not be followed in detail,
since they rest upon a misapprehension of Green's purpose, and add
little to what he has already said. Taking the moral ideal as something
that can never be realized in this life, Dewey inquires what use can be
made of it. He considers three modes in which Green might have given
content to the ideal, as a working principle, and finds that it cannot
be made, in any of these ways, to serve as a tool of analysis. Green was
not prepared to meet these 'pragmatic' requirements. He did not propose
his ideal as a principle of conduct, in Dewey's sense; he stated that,
as a matter of fact, man is more than natural, and that, as such a
being, his ideals can never be completely met by natural objects. How
man is to act, in view of his spiritual nature, is a further question:
but the realization which the individual has of his own spiritual nature
must of necessity be a large factor in the determination of his conduct.
The 'Spiritual Nature,' in Green's terminology, meant a 'not-natural'
nature, and 'not-natural' in turn meant a nature that is not definable
in mechanical or biological terms. Dewey's criticism, therefore, went
wide of the mark.

In November, 1893, Dewey followed his criticism of Green's moral motive
by a second article in the _Philosophical Review_ on "Self-realization
as the Moral Ideal."[103] It continues the criticism which has already
been made of Green, but from a different point of departure.

The idea of self-realization in ethics, Dewey begins, may be helpful or
harmful according to the way in which the ideas of the self and its
realization are worked out in the concrete. The mere idea of a self to
be realized is, of course, abstract; it is merely the statement of a
problem, which needs to be worked out and given content. By way of
introducing his own idea of self-realization, Dewey proposes to
criticize a certain conception of the self which he finds in current
discussion. "The notion which I wish to criticize," he says, "is that of
the self as a presupposed fixed _schema_ or outline, while realization
consists in the filling up of this _schema_. The notion which I would
suggest as substitute is that of the self as always a concrete
_specific_ activity; and, therefore, (to anticipate) of the identity of
self and realization."[104] Such a presupposed fixed self is to be found
in Green's "Eternally complete Consciousness."

The idea of self-realization implies capacities or possibilities. To
translate capacity into actuality, as the conception of the fixed self
seems to do, is to vitiate the whole idea of possibility. There must,
then, be some conception of unrealized powers which will meet this
difficulty. The way to a valid conception is through the realization
that capacities are always specific. "The capacities of a child, for
example, are not simply of _a_ child, not of a man, but of _this_ child,
not of any other."[105] Whatever else capacity may be, whether infinite
or not, it must be an element in an actual situation. As specific
things, moreover, capacities reside in activities, which are now going
on. The capacity of a child to become a musician consists in this fact:
"Even _now_ he has a certain quickness, vividness, and plasticity of
vision, a certain deftness of hand, and a certain motor coördination by
which his hand is stimulated to work in harmony with his eye."[106]

How do these specific, actual activities come to be called capacities?
There is a peculiar psychological reason for this which James has
pointed out, in his statement that essence "is that _which is so
important for my interests_ that, comparatively, other properties may be
omitted."[107] When we pay attention to any activity, there is a natural
tendency to select only that portion of it that is of immediate
interest, and to exclude the rest as irrelevant. "In the act of vision,
for example," Dewey tells us, "the thing that seems nearest us, that
which claims continuously our attention, is the eye itself. We thus come
to abstract the eye from all special acts of seeing; we make the eye the
_essential_ thing in sight, and conceive of the circumstances of vision
as indeed _circumstances_; as more or less accidental concomitants of
the permanent eye."[108] There is no eye in general; the eye is always
given along with other circumstances which in their totality make up a
concrete seeing situation. Nevertheless, we abstract the eye from other
circumstances and set it up as the essence of seeing. But we cannot
retain the eye in absolute abstraction, because the concrete
circumstances of vision force themselves upon the attention. So we lump
these together on the other side as a new object, and take as their
essence the vibrations of ether. "_The eye now becomes the capacity of
seeing; the vibrations of ether, conditions required for the exercise of
the capacity._"[109] We keep the two abstractions, but try to restore
the unity of the situation through taking one as capacity and the other
as the condition of the exercise of capacity.

But we cannot stop even with this double abstraction. "The eye in
general and the vibrations in general do not, even in their unity,
constitute the act of vision. A multitude of other factors are
included."[110] Preserving the original 'core' as capacity, we tend to
treat all the attendant circumstances which occur frequently enough to
require taking account of, as conditions which help realize the
abstracted reality called capacity.

The discussion here is very much like that in "The Superstition of
Necessity" (published in the same year), which was reviewed in the last
chapter. Dewey calls attention to this connection in a foot-note,
remarking that he has already developed at greater length "the idea that
necessity and possibility are simply the two correlative abstractions
into which the one reality falls apart during the process of our
conscious apprehension of it."[111] The danger, Dewey says, is that the
merely relative character of a given capacity may be overlooked, and
that it may be ontologized into a fixed entity. This is the error, he
thinks, into which Green fell. The ideal self, as that which capacity
may realize, is ontologized into an already existent fact. Then we get a
separation between the present self, as capacity, and the ideal self
which is to be realized. The self already realized is opposed to the
self as yet ideal. "This 'realized self' is no reality by itself; it is
simply our partial conception of the self erected into an entity.
Recognizing its incomplete character, we bring in what we have left out
and call it the 'ideal self.' Then by way of dealing with the fact that
we have not two selves here at all, but simply a less and a more
adequate insight into the same self, we insert the idea of one of these
selves realizing the other."[112] It is in this manner that error

But what is the correct attitude toward the self? First of all, the self
must be conceived as "a working, practical self, carrying within the
rhythm of its own process both 'realized' and 'ideal' self. The current
ethics of the self ... are too apt to stop with a metaphysical
definition, which seems to solve problems in general, but at the expense
of the practical problems which alone really demand or admit
solution."[113] The first point of the argument is that the self
activity is individual, concrete, and specific, here and now, and the
second point is that if the self is to be talked of in an intelligent
way it must be taken as something empirically given. "The whole point is
expressed when we say that no possible future activities or conditions
have anything to do with the present action except as they enable us to
take deeper account of the present activity, to get beyond the mere
superficies of the act, to see it in its totality."[114] The phrase,
'realize yourself,' is a direction for knowledge; it means, see the
wider consequences of your act, realize its wider bearings.

Dewey says: "The fixed ideal is as distinctly the bane of ethical
science today as the fixed universe of mediævalism was the bane of the
natural science of the Renascence."[115] This is a strong statement,
which indicates how wide was the gulf which now separated Dewey from
Green, whom he formerly acknowledged as his master.

Dewey's interpretation of Green's ideal self is far from satisfactory,
largely because of its lack of insight and appreciation. The reduction
of thought to a 'form of activity' renders a purely theoretical inquiry
impossible. The 'present activity,' the biological situation, becomes
the measure of all things, even of thought. Ideals, in his own words,
have nothing to do with present action, "except as they enable us to
take deeper account of the present activity." Dewey's self and Green's
are incommensurable. The former is the biological organism, with a
capacity for indirect activity called thinking; the latter is a
not-natural being, whose reality escapes the logic of descriptive
science, because of the fulness of its content. Dewey's failure to
understand this difference is significant. His acquaintance with Green
seems to have been formal from the beginning, never intimate, and the
articles just reviewed mark the end of Dewey's idealistic discipleship.
His psychological idealism, in fact, was fundamentally antithetical to
the Neo-Hegelianism which he had sought to espouse, and the development
of his own standpoint brought out the vital differences which had been
hidden from his earlier understanding. The idealism which seeks to view
reality together and as a whole is forever incompatible with a method
which seeks to interpret the whole in terms of one of its parts.


[75] Vol. I, pp. 186-203.

[76] _Ibid._, p. 186.

[77] _Ibid._

[78] _Op. cit._, p. 187.

[79] _Ibid._, p. 188.

[80] _Ibid._

[81] _Ibid._, p. 191 f.

[82] _Op. cit._, p. 189.

[83] _Ibid._, p. 194. Author's Italics.

[84] _Ibid._

[85] _Op. cit._, p. 195.

[86] _Ibid._, p. 198.

[87] _Op. cit._

[88] _Ibid._, p. 202.

[89] _Ibid._, p. 203.

[90] _Philosophical Review_, Vol. I, 1892, pp. 593-612.

[91] _Op. cit._, p. 596.

[92] _Ibid._, p. 597.

[93] _History of Philosophy_, p. 555.

[94] _Philosophical Review_, Vol. I, 1892, p. 598.

[95] _Ibid._

[96] _Ibid._, p. 599.

[97] _Ibid._ Compare with the passage in "Psychology as Philosophic
Method," _Mind_, Vol. XI, p. 9.

[98] _Op. cit._, p. 600.

[99] _Ibid._, p. 601.

[100] _Ibid._, p. 602.

[101] _Prolegomena to Ethics_, third ed., p. 103.

[102] _Ibid._, p. 104.

[103] Vol. II, pp. 652-664.

[104] _Ibid._, p. 653.

[105] _Ibid._, p. 655.

[106] _Op. cit._, p. 656.

[107] _Ibid._, p. 657.

[108] _Ibid._

[109] _Ibid._, p. 658. Author's italics.

[110] _Ibid._

[111] _Op. cit._, note.

[112] _Ibid._, p. 663.

[113] _Ibid._

[114] _Op. cit._, p. 659.

[115] _Ibid._, p. 664.



It now becomes necessary to review that period of Dewey's philosophical
career which is marked by the definite abandonment of the idealistic
standpoint, and the adoption of the method of instrumental pragmatism.
It has already been seen that there is a close connection between the
"functionalism" which now begins to appear, and the "Psychological
Standpoint" set forth in the preceding pages of this review. It is not
possible, however, to account for all the elements which contribute to
this development. Dewey was active in many fields and received
suggestions from many sources. It seems best, in dealing with this
period, to "follow the lead of the subject-matter" and avoid _a priori_
speculation on the factors which determined the precise form of Dewey's
mature standpoint in philosophy.

Dewey had always kept in mind the idea that the synthetic activity
whereby self-consciousness evolves the ideality of the world must
operate through the human organism. He had frequently referred to
Green's saying that the Eternal Self-Consciousness reproduces itself in
man, and to similar notions in Caird and Kant; but he had never
considered, in a detailed way, how the organism might serve as the
vehicle for such a process. His ethical theory, with its analysis of
individuality into capacity and environment, tended to bring the
body-world relationship into the foreground, and the idea that theory is
relative to action tended to emphasize still more the relation of
thought to the bodily processes. Dewey finally discovers the basis upon
which the synthetic activity of the self, the thought process, may be
described empirically and concretely.
Organism-in-relation-to-environment becomes the key-stone of his theory
of knowledge. Thought is interpreted as a function of the organism,
biologically considered, and the biological psychology which results
from this mode of interpretation is commonly known as 'functional

The functional psychology is presented in a series of articles in the
_Philosophical Review_ and the _Psychological Review_, published between
1894 and 1898. The most important of these is "The Reflex Arc Concept in
Psychology," published in the _Psychological Review_ in 1896.[116] Since
it is the only article in the series which gives a complete view of the
theory, it will be made the basis for the discussion of the functional
theory of psychology.

The reflex arc concept in psychology, Dewey says, recognizes that the
sensory-motor arc is to be taken as the unit of nerve structure, and the
type of nerve function. But psychologists do not avail themselves of the
full value of this conception, because they still retain in connection
with it certain distinctions which were used in the older psychology.
"The older dualism between sensation and idea is repeated in the current
dualism of peripheral and central structures and functions; the older
dualism of body and soul finds a distinct echo in the current dualism of
stimulus and response."[117] These rigid distinctions must be set aside,
and the separated elements must be viewed as elements in one
sensory-motor coördination. Each is to be defined, not as something
existing by itself, but as an element functioning in a concrete whole of
activity. Thus, if we are to study vision, we must first take vision as
a sensory-motor coördination, the act of seeing, and within the whole we
may then be able to distinguish certain elements, sensations, or
movements, and define them according to their function in the total act
of seeing. The reflex arc idea, as commonly employed, takes sensation as
stimulus, and movement as response, as if they were actually separate
existences, apart from a coördination. Response is said to follow
sensation, but it is forgotten that the sensation which preceded was
correlated with a response, and that the response which follows is also
correlated with sensation. Sound, for instance, is not a mere sensation
in itself, apart from sensory-motor coördination. Hearing is an act, and
while sound may, for purposes of study, be abstracted from the total, it
is not, in itself, independent of the total act of hearing.

"But, in spite of all this, it will be urged, there is a distinction
between stimulus and response, between sensation and motion. Precisely;
but we ought now to be in a condition to ask of what nature is the
distinction, instead of taking it for granted as a distinction somehow
lying in the existence of the facts themselves."[118] The distinction
which is to be made between them must be made on a teleological basis.
"The fact is that stimulus and response are not distinctions of
existence, but teleological distinctions, that is, distinctions of
function, or part played, with reference to reaching or maintaining an
end."[119] There are two kinds of teleological distinction that can be
made between stimulus and response, or rather, the teleological
interpretation has two phases.

In the first place, it may be assumed that all of man's activity
furthers some general end, as, for instance, the maintenance of life.
Then man's activity may be viewed as a sequence of acts, which tend to
further this end, and on this basis we may separate out stimulus and
response. "It is only when we regard the sequence of acts _as if_ they
were adapted to reach some end that it occurs to us to speak of one as
stimulus and the other as response. Otherwise, we look at them as a
_mere_ series."[120] In these cases the stimulus is as truly an act as
the response, and what we have is a series of sensory-motor
coördinations. Looking, for instance, is a sensory-motor coördination
which is the stimulus or antecedent of another coördinated act, running
away. The first coördination passes into the second, and the second may
be viewed as a modification or reconstitution of the first.

But this external teleological distinction between sensation and
response is not so important as the distinction now to be made. So far
only fixed coördinations, habitual modes of action, have been
considered. But there are situations in which habitual responses and
fixed modes of action fail: situations in which new habits are formed.
In these situations there arises a special distinction between stimulus
and response, for in these formative situations the stimuli and
responses are consciously present in experience as such. "The circle is
a coördination, some of whose members have come into conflict with each
other. It is the temporary disintegration and need of reconstitution
which occasions, which affords the genesis of, the conscious distinction
into sensory stimulus on one side and motor response on the other."[121]
The distinction which arises between stimulus and response is a
distinction of function within the problematical situation. Suppose that
a sound is heard, the character of which is uncertain, and which, as a
coördination, does not readily pass into its following coördination, or
habitual response. The sound is puzzling, and moves into the center of
attention. It is fixed upon, abstracted, studied on its own account. In
that event, the sound may be spoken of as a sensation. As a sensation,
it is the datum of a reflective process of thought, or conscious
inference, whose aim is to constitute the sound a stimulus, or, in other
words, to find what response belongs to it. When this response is
determined the problem is done with and sensory-motor unity is achieved.

The stimulus, in these cases, is simply "that phase of activity
requiring to be defined in order that a coördination may be
completed."[122] It is not any particular existence, and is not to be
taken as an element apart from others, having an independent existence.
But the conscious process of attending to the sensation and finding a
response to it arises only when coördination is disturbed by conflicting
factors, and the separation of stimulus from response arises only as a
means for bringing unity into the coördination. The sensation, then, is
that element which is to be attended to; upon which further response
depends. This phase of the teleological interpretation defines each
element by the part which it plays in the reflective process.

If this brief summary of the article is difficult to comprehend, a
reading of the original text will do little towards making it more
intelligible. The doctrine presented there, however, is simple and
coherent enough when its bearings and purpose are once understood, and,
at the risk of being over-elaborate, it seems advisable to attempt some
remarks on the general bearing and applications of the theory.

It must be remembered that Dewey is seeking an interpretation of the
thought process which shall reveal it as an actual fact of experience. A
thought which is apart from experience and not _in_ it, which is shut up
to the contemplation of its own mental states is, by its definition,
non-experienced. It is, like Kant's 'productive imagination,' formative
of experience, but not a part of it. Dewey holds to the belief that
experience must be explained in terms of itself; he would do away with
all transcendental factors in the explanation of reality. But modern
psychological theory, Dewey believes, tends to shut thought in to the
contemplation of its own subjective states, and thus gives it an
extra-experiential status. A stimulus is said to strike upon an end
organ, which sends an impulse to the cortex and there gives rise to a
sensation which, as the effect of a stimulus, is representative of the
real, but not real in itself. Thought, again, interprets the sensation,
and sends out a motor impulse appropriate to the situation. These mental
states and the thought which interprets them are, in Dewey's mind,
wholly fictitious. The problem, then, is to give an account of the
perceptual processes which shall eliminate the artificial states of mind
and present mental operations as natural processes.

The difficulty with customary psychological explanation is that it
breaks the reflex arc of the nervous system into three parts whose
relations are successive and causal rather than simultaneous and
organic. There is not first a stimulus, then perception, then response;
these processes are supplementary, not separate. Or, from another point
of view, psychological explanation must begin with a whole process
which, when analyzed, is seen to contain the three moments or phases:
stimulus, sensation, and response. The whole process is primary and
actual, the abstracted phases are secondary and derivative.

With the disappearance of the mechanical interpretation of the
perceptual process, mental states vanish. Representative perceptionism
is thus done away with, together with all the problems which it

The position of conscious, or reflective thought, in Dewey's scheme, is
especially interesting. This mode of thought is not constantly
operative, but arises only in situations of stress and strain, when
habitual modes of response break down. A dualism is established between
reflective thought and the habitual life processes. Dewey does not take
the ground that these processes are supplementary, as he had done in the
case of stimulus, sensation, and response. It will be remembered that
Dewey had defined judgment, in his logical and ethical writings of an
earlier period, as a special activity operating in critical situations.
This conception of judgment is now carried over into his psychology, and
given a biological basis. It is worth noting that this view of judgment
was worked out in logical terms before it was reinforced by biological
data. Nevertheless, it is through biology that Dewey is able to give his
interpretation of the thought process that empirical concreteness which
he demanded from the beginning, but achieved very slowly.

The value of the functional psychology, considered merely as psychology,
is undeniable. It is, in fact, a natural and almost inevitable step in
the development of psychological theory. Dewey's achievement consists in
the establishment of an organic mode of interpretation in psychology,
intended to displace the mechanical interpretation. The mechanical
causal series is displaced by an organic system of internally related
parts. Dewey, however, does not display any interest in the logical
aspects of his doctrine. He takes the biological situation literally, as
a fact empirically given, and to be accepted without criticism.

A discussion of the period now under consideration would not be complete
without reference to certain articles which supplement the essay
discussed above. The first of these is an article on "The Psychology of
Effort," published in the _Philosophical Review_ in 1897.[123]

It is not proposed to follow the argument of this article in detail, but
to center attention upon those parts of it, especially the concluding
pages, which have a special interest in connection with the subject
under discussion. Dewey returns, in this article, to the situation of
effort at adjustment; to the situation in which an effort is made to
determine the proper response to a stimulus. The opening pages are
devoted, in the first place, to a discussion of the distinction between
conscious effort and the mere expenditure of energy or effort as it
appears to an outsider, and, in the second place, to maintaining, by
means of examples, the proposition that the sense of effort is
sensationally mediated. "How then does, say, a case of perception with
effort differ from a case of 'easy' or effortless perception? The
difference, I repeat, shall be wholly in sensory quale; but in _what_
sensory quale?"[124]

The conscious sense of effort arises, Dewey answers, when there is a
rivalry or conflict between two sensational elements in experience. "In
the case of felt effort, certain sensory quales, usually fused, fall
apart in consciousness, and there is an alternation, an oscillation,
between them, accompanied by a disagreeable tone when they are apart,
and an agreeable tone when they become fused again."[125] These two sets
of sensory elements have each a significance in terms of adjustment; one
of them is a correlate of a habit, or fixed mode of response, and the
other is an intruder which resists absorption into, or fusion with, the
dominant images of the current habit or purpose. The same idea of a
natural tendency to persist in a habitual mode of regarding things was
met with in the last two chapters, and is qualified here by the addition
of the idea that each sensory element represents a typical mode of
response on the part of the organism. Dewey illustrates his notion by
the case of learning to ride a bicycle. "Before one mounts one has
perhaps a pretty definite visual image of himself in balance and in
motion. This image persists as a desirability. On the other hand, there
comes into play at once the consciousness of the familiar motor
adjustments,--for the most part, related to walking. The two sets of
sensations refuse to coincide, and the result is an amount of stress and
strain relevant to the most serious problems of the universe."[126] In
another passage, which brings out even more clearly the rivalry of the
two sets of sensations, he says: "It means that the activity already
going on (and, therefore, reporting itself sensationally) resists
displacement, or transformation, by or into another activity which is
beginning, and thus making its sensational report."[127]

The sense of effort, then, reduces itself to an awareness of conflict
between two sensational elements and their motor correlates.
"Practically stated, this means that effort is nothing more, and also
nothing less, than tension between means and ends in action, and that
the sense of effort is the awareness of this conflict."[128]

The important aspect of Dewey's argument, for the present discussion, is
that awareness reduces to these sensational elements and their
attributes. Throughout the article Dewey is opposing his sensational
view of the sense of effort to what he calls the 'spiritual' or
non-sensational view, which supposes that the sense of effort is
something purely psychical, which accompanies the expenditure of
physical energy. The consciousness of effort, Dewey says, is not
something added to the effort, but is itself a certain condition
existing in the sensory quales.

This provision would make it necessary to identify consciousness, and,
therefore, conscious inference, with the tensional situation which has
been described. This being granted, all that pertains to conscious
inference, all the methods and categories of science, would be
applicable only in such situations of stress and strain; they would
appear simply as instruments for effecting a readjustment; they would be
employed exclusively in the interests of action. This is the direction
in which Dewey is tending. No criticism of this treatment of judgment
need be made at this time, beyond pointing out that it presents itself,
at first sight, as an awkward and indirect mode of describing the
relations between organic activity and intelligence, and between
psychology and logic.

Nothing has so far been said of the historical sources of Dewey's
theory, and these may be briefly considered. There are at least two
sources which must be taken into account: the James-Lange theory of the
emotions, and the Neo-Hegelian ethical theory. The latter has already
been considered to some extent, as it manifests itself in Dewey's own
ethical theory, but its relation to his psychology has not been
indicated. In his text-book, the _Outlines of a Critical Theory of
Ethics_ (1891), Dewey advanced certain ideas for which he claimed
originality, at least in treatment. Among these was the analysis of
individuality into function including capacity and environment.[129]

Bradley appears to have been the first among English philosophers to
introduce that synthesis of the internal and external, of the
intuitional and utilitarian modes of judging conduct, which became
characteristic of Neo-Hegelian ethics. The synthesis, of course, is
Hegelian in temper, and the _Ethical Studies_ are much more suggestive,
in general method, of the _Philosophie des Rechts_ than of any previous
English work. Utilitarianism tended to judge the moral act by its
external, _de facto_ results; intuitionism, on the contrary, attributed
morality to the will of the agent. The former found morality to consist
in a certain state of affairs, the latter in a certain internal
attitude. According to the synthetic point of view, these opposed
ethical systems are one-sided representations of the moral situation,
each being true in its own way. To state the matter in another form, the
moral act has a content as well as a purpose. "Let us explain," says
Bradley. "The moral world, as we said, is a whole, and has two sides.
There is an outer side, systems and institutions, from the family to the
nation; this we may call the body of the moral world. And there must
also be a soul, or else the body goes to pieces; every one knows that
institutions without the spirit of them are dead.... We must never let
this out of our sight, that, where the moral world exists, you have and
you must have these two sides."[130] Dewey expresses the same idea in a
more detailed fashion. "What do we mean by individuality? We may
distinguish two factors--or better two aspects, two sides--in
individuality. On one side it means special disposition, temperament,
gifts, bent, or inclination; on the other side it means special station,
situation, limitations, surroundings, opportunities, etc. Or, let us
say, it means _specific capacity_ and _specific environment_. Each of
these elements apart from the other, is a bare abstraction, and without
reality. Nor is it strictly correct to say that individuality is
contributed by these two factors _together_. It is, rather, as intimated
above, that each is individuality looked at from a certain point of
view, from within and from without."[131] It is a fact, empirically
demonstrable, according to Dewey, that body and object, intention and
foreseen consequence, interest and environment, attitude and
objectivity, are parts of one another and of the whole moral situation.
Each is relative to the other. "It is not, then, the environment as
physical of which we are speaking, but as it appears to consciousness,
as it is affected by the make-up of the agent. This is the _practical_
or _moral_ environment."[132] When this relation of the inner to the
outer is taken literally and universally, we have the essence of the
functional psychology. Organism-in-relation-to-environment becomes the
catch-word of instrumental pragmatism.

The other source of Dewey's psychology, which is now to be considered,
is the James-Lange theory of the emotions. The connection here is more
obvious, but perhaps not so vital, as in the case of the ethical theory.
From the numerous references which Dewey made to James's _Principles of
Psychology_ (1890), it is evident that he was much impressed with this
work. The theory of emotion there presented seems to have had a special
interest for him; so much so that he made it the subject of two articles
in the _Psychological Review_, in 1894 and 1895, under the general
title, "The Theory of Emotion."[133] These studies bear a very close
relation to the article on "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology"
(1896), the standpoint being essentially the same, although developed in
reference to a technical problem. Some indications may be given here of
the relationships which they bear to the James-Lange theory on the one
side, and functional psychology on the other. The James-Lange theory is
itself concerned with order and connection between emotional states,
perceptions, and responses. James says: "Our natural way of thinking
about these coarser emotions is that the mental perception of some fact
excites the mental affection called the emotion, and that this latter
state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My theory, on the
contrary, is that _the bodily changes follow directly the perception of
the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they
occur IS the emotion_."[134] It is all a question, James says, of the
order and sequence of these elements, and his contention is that the
bodily changes should be interposed between the two mental states. This
is the question with which Dewey's functional psychology is also
concerned, the relation of response to stimulus, and the manner in which
a stimulus is determined by a reaction 'into it.' Dewey's theory rises
so naturally out of James's theory of the emotions as to seem but little
more than its universal application.

This connection is revealed in several passages in Dewey's study of the
emotions. It is said, for instance, that the emotional situation must be
taken as a whole, as a state, for instance, of 'being angry.' The
several constituents of the state of anger, idea or object, affect or
emotion, and mode of expression or behavior, are not to be taken
separately, but all together as elements in one whole.[135] Another
characteristic doctrine appears in the affirmation that the emotional
attitude is to be distinguished from other attitudes by certain special
features which it possesses. Particularly, it involves a special
relation of stimulus to response.[136] Again, there is a tendency to
translate meaning in terms of projected activity. "The consciousness of
our mode of behavior as affording data for other possible actions
constitutes an objective or ideal content."[137]

It is enough, perhaps, to reveal these two sources as probable factors
in the development of Dewey's psychological method. No speculation upon
them is necessary. At most, they were merely contributory to Dewey's
thought, and by fitting in with his previous ideas enabled him to give a
more concrete presentation of his psychological theory than would
otherwise have been possible.


[116] Vol. III, pp. 357-370.

[117] _Ibid._, p. 357.

[118] _Op. cit._, p. 365.

[119] _Ibid._

[120] _Ibid._, p. 366, note.

[121] _Op. cit._, p. 370.

[122] _Ibid._, p. 368.

[123] Vol. VI, pp. 43-56.

[124] _Op. cit._, p. 46.

[125] _Ibid._, p. 48.

[126] _Op. cit._, p. 50.

[127] _Ibid._, p. 52.

[128] _Ibid._, p. 51.

[129] _Op. cit._, p. viii.

[130] _Ethical Studies_, p. 160 f.

[131] _Outlines of Ethics_, p. 97.

[132] _Ibid._, p. 99.

[133] Vol. I, pp. 553-569; Vol. II, pp. 13-32.

[134] _Principles of Psychology_, Vol. II, p. 449.

[135] _Psy. Rev._, Vol. II, p. 15 f.

[136] _Ibid._, p. 24 f.

[137] _Ibid._, p. 24.



Dewey's psychology is linked up with his logical theory, as has already
been suggested, through the interpretation of the thought-process as a
mode of adjustment involving inference. This conception of thought
implies, of course, that thought is an instrument of adaptation, and
this in turn suggests that the organ of reflection is a product of
evolutionary forces operating on the individual and on the race. In the
period now to be reviewed Dewey, for the first time in his career,
displays an active and intense interest in evolutionary theory,
especially as applied in the fields of ethics and psychology.

An article published in the _Monist_, in 1898, on "Evolution and
Ethics,"[138] deserves special attention. The central thought of the
article is to be found in the following passage: "The belief that
natural selection has ceased to operate [in the human sphere] rests upon
the assumption that there is only one form of such selection: that where
improvement is indirectly effected by the failure of species of a
certain type to continue to reproduce; carrying with it as its
correlative that certain variations continue to multiply, and finally
come to possess the land. This ordeal by death is an extremely important
phase of natural selection, so called.... However, to identify this
procedure absolutely with selection, seems to me to indicate a somewhat
gross and narrow vision. Not only is one form of life as a whole
selected at the expense of other forms, _but one mode of action in the
same individual is constantly selected at the expense of others_. There
is not only the trial by death, but there is the trial by the success or
failure of special acts--the counterpart, I suppose, of physiological
selection so called."[139] We have here a refinement upon the doctrine
of natural selection. The keynote of Dewey's new psychology is a
process of selection constantly occurring within the individual
organism. He points out that, in dealing with man, we have a highly
adaptable, not merely a highly adapted animal. "It is certainly implied
in the idea of natural selection that the most effective modes of
variation should themselves be finally selected."[140] The capacity to
vary, or adapt, is highly developed in man. Through these variations,
the organism is able to react against the environment, changing its
character quite completely. The environment of the modern human is
tremendously complicated by his reaction upon it. "The growth of
science, its application in invention to industrial life, the
multiplication and acceleration of means of transportation and
intercommunication, have created a peculiarly unstable
environment."[141] Under these conditions, the ability of the individual
to adapt himself to changing circumstances is largely determined by his
degree of flexibility in the selection of right acts and responses. "In
the present environment, flexibility of function, the enlargement of the
range of uses to which one and the same organ, grossly considered, may
be put, is a great, almost the supreme, condition of success."[142] The
human mind is to be interpreted as a highly developed organ whose
special function is to make adaptation more flexible and response more
varied and discriminating. "That which was 'tendency to vary' in the
animal is conscious foresight in man. That which was unconscious
adaptation and survival in the animal, taking place by the 'cut and try'
method until it worked itself out, is with man conscious deliberation
and experimentation."[143]

This view of consciousness is worked out on the basis of an evolutionary
metaphysics. Man is viewed as an organism, placed amid the changing
whirl of things, stimulated into action by his needs and wants, adapting
himself to conditions, making the situation over, or meeting it
habitually where he can and suffering the consequences where he cannot
make the necessary adjustment. If this be taken, as would seem, for the
ultimate truth about reality and man's place in it, it must be called a
metaphysics. Against this background Dewey's logical theory is
developed. The most important result, from the standpoint of the student
of mind and spirit, is the reduction of self-conscious reflection to the
position of a nervous function of the organism. The purely theoretical
evidence by which this position is sustained should be subjected to
closer scrutiny than can be undertaken in this limited space.

The purpose of reflection, then, is to enable man to adapt himself to
his environment, understanding by the environment the whole of the
reality which surrounds him. The test of the mind and its newly
projected modes of response [ideas] lies in its ability to meet the
demands of the situation. The capacities and limits of mind are
determined by the purpose for which it was evolved; it can enable a man
to deal more effectively with his environment; it can do nothing else.
It cannot speculate on the nature of reality as such, nor voyage on long
journeys in search of truth! Its business is practical, here and now.
Its problems are always set for it by circumstances, and these
circumstances are concrete and specific. There is no such thing as
adaptation at large or in general.

The business of mind is to have, and to continually reconstruct, useful
habits. So Dewey assures the American Psychological Association in 1899,
in an address on "Psychology and Social Practice."[144] We must
recognize, he says, "that the existing order is determined neither by
fate nor by chance, but is based on law and order, on a system of
existing stimuli and modes of reaction, through knowledge of which we
can modify the practical outcome."[145] Psychology uninterpreted, he
says, will never provide ready-made materials and prescriptions for the
ethical life. "But science, both physical and psychological, makes known
the conditions upon which certain results depend, and therefore puts at
the disposal of life a certain method of controlling them."[146] These
statements show the extent to which Dewey's view of knowledge has come
to be controlled by biological conceptions.

The evolutionary method is investigated in considerable detail in the
next article to be considered, which was published in two parts in the
_Philosophical Review_, 1902, under the title, "The Evolutionary Method
as Applied to Morality."[147]

The fact that some philosophers deny the importance of the evolutionary
method for ethics, holding that morality is purely a matter of value,
and that the evolutionary method tends only to obscure differences of
value, makes it necessary to inquire into the import and nature of this
method. "Anyway," Dewey says, "before we either abuse or recommend
genetic method we ought to have some answers to these questions: Just
what is it? Just what is to come of it and how?"[148]

The experimental method in science has at least some of the traits of a
genetic method. The nature of water, for instance, cannot be determined
by simply observing it. But experiment brings to light the exact
conditions under which it came into being and therefore explains it.
"Through generating water we single out the precise and sole conditions
which have to be fulfilled that water may present itself as an
experienced fact. If this case be typical, then the experimental method
is entitled to rank as genetic method; it is concerned with the manner
or process by which anything comes into experienced existence."[149]

Some would deny this, on the ground that a genuinely historical event
occupies a particular place in a historical series, from which it is
inseparable, while in experimental science the sets or pairs of terms
are not limited to any particular place in a historical series, but
occur and recur. "Water is made over and over again, and, so to speak,
at any date in the cosmic series. This deprives any account of it of
genuinely historic quality."[150] Again, it might be said in opposition
to treating the experimental method as a genetic method, that it is
interested in individual cases not as such, but as samples or instances.
The particular case is only an illustration of the general relation
which is being sought.

It will turn out in the course of the discussion, Dewey says, that,
although science deals with origins, it is not, in strictness, a
historical discipline. The distinction between the historical and other
sciences is based on an abstraction, which has been introduced for the
sake of more adequate control. It is only by abstraction that we get the
pairs of facts that may show up at any time, and by abstraction we
attribute to them a generalized character. The facts, in themselves, are

There is no such thing as water in general, but water is just this
water, at this time, in this place, and it never shows itself twice,
never recurs. The scientist must deal, therefore, with particular
historic cases of water, and with their specific origins. "Experiment
has to do with the conditions of production of a specific amount of
water, at a specific time and place, under specific circumstances: in a
word, it must deal with just _this_ water. The conditions which define
its origin must be stated with equal definiteness and
circumstantiality."[151] The instance has as definite a place in an
historical series as has Julius Caesar. But the difference in treatment
of the water and Caesar is due to the difference in interest. "Julius
Caesar served a purpose which no other individual, at any other time,
could have served. There is a peculiar flavor of human meaning and
accomplishment about him which has no substitute or equivalent. Not so
with water. While each portion is absolutely unique in its occurrence,
yet one lot will serve our intellectual or practical needs just as well
as any other."[152] For this reason the specific case of water is not
dealt with on its own account, but only as giving insight into the
processes of its generation in general. In this way the difference
arises between the generalized statements of physical science and the
individualized form demanded in historical science. The abstract
character of the physical result is recognized by the hypothetical form
of judgment in modern logic; if certain conditions, then certain
consequences. But the counterpart of this must not be forgotten, that
every categorical proposition applies to an individual. Experimental
propositions, therefore, have an historical value. "They take their
rise in, and they find their application to, a world of unique and
changing things: an evolutionary universe."[153] The recognition of the
historical character of experimental science does not in any way
derogate from its value, but, properly understood, gives a deeper
insight into its significance. It should be observed that here also
Dewey treats thought, hypothesis, as coming 'after something, and for
the sake of something.'

This attempt to justify the historical method by showing that it is
implied in physical experiment is of dubious value. Its net result would
seem to be the conclusion that every fact may be dealt with either as a
historical fact or as a datum for physical science. Even here, however,
Dewey slurs over certain difficulties which demand close scrutiny. The
treatment of individuality is most unsatisfactory. While each portion or
instance of water is itself, and has its own unquestionable uniqueness,
no case is a mere particular, but each is a true individual, which means
that it is, as it occurs, an instance of a general phenomenon. While the
scientist must deal with specific cases of water, he has no regard for
their particularity, but chooses them as instances, and is from first to
last occupied with their typical characteristics. The historian, also,
selects relevant and representative instances, in so far as his history
is interpretative and not mere narrative.

A merely factual account of a series of events is not science, and never
could be.

Dewey now turns to the ethical field, with the purpose of showing that
the historical method in ethics does for this science precisely what the
experimental method does for other sciences. "History offers to us the
only available substitute for the isolation and for the cumulative
recombination of experiment. The early periods present us in their
relative crudeness and simplicity with a substitute for the artificial
operation of an experiment: following the phenomenon into the more
complicated and refined form which it assumes later, is a substitute for
the synthesis of the experiment."[154] Hydrogen and oxygen are the
historical antecedents of water, whose synthesis the scientist
observes, and so the more primitive forms of conduct are the elements
which the moralist traces in their process of becoming fused into the
present social fabric. Primitive social practices cannot be artificially
isolated, like the physical elements, but they can be traced to their
historical origins, and their interweaving towards present complex
conditions can be observed.

The historical method is subject to two misunderstandings, Dewey says,
one by the empiricists and materialists, the other by the idealists. The
former, having isolated the primitive facts, suppose them to have a
superior logical and existential value. "The earlier is regarded as
somehow more 'real' than the later, or as furnishing the quality in
terms of which the reality of all the later must be stated."[155] The
later is looked upon as simply a recombination of the earlier
existences. "Writers who ought to know better tell us that if we only
had an adequate knowledge of the 'primitive' state of the world, if we
only had some general formula by which to circumscribe it, we could
deduce down to its last detail the entire existing constitution of the
world, life, and society."[156] The primitive elements, however, take on
new qualities on entering into new combinations. Water is more than
hydrogen and oxygen. There is a similar process intervening between the
earlier and the later in the moral field, of which the primitive state
and the present are merely end terms. Actual study must take account of
the whole process.

The idealistic fallacy is of the opposite nature. It takes the final
term of the process to be exclusively real. "The later reality is,
therefore, to him the persistent reality in contrast with which the
first forms are, if not illusions, at least poor excuses for being....
It is enough for present purposes to note that we have here simply a
particular case of the general fallacy just discussed--the emphasis of a
particular term of the series at the expense of the process operative in
reference to all terms."[157] The true reality is the whole process,
which is represented in empiricism only by the primitive terms, and in
idealism only by the end terms. Only a historical method can deal with
it in its entirety.

In summing up the advantages of the historical method, Dewey says that
it gives a complete account of the origin and development of ethical
ideas, opinions, beliefs, and practices. "It is concerned with the
origin and development of these customs and ideas; and with the question
of their mode of operation after they have arisen. The described
facts--yes; but among the facts described is precisely certain
conditions under which various norms, ideals, and rules of action have
originated and functioned."[158] Dewey finds it irritating that the
facts thus singled out should be treated as mere facts, apart from their
significance. The historical method employs description, to be sure, but
it also aims at interpretation. "The historic method is a method, first,
for determining how specific moral values (whether in the way of
customs, expectations, conceived ends, or rules) came to be; and second,
for determining their significance as indicated in their career."[159]

It is true, as Dewey holds, that the historical method may furnish a
basis for interpretation, as well as description. But the mere scrutiny
of what has happened will not reveal the elements, nor determine their
significance. The historian must approach his material with something
more than his eyes. But there are many historical methods. Which shall
be used in dealing with the development of morals?[160] Chemistry, for
instance, in interpreting the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen into water,
employs a system of atoms related to each other in a mathematical order,
and something similarly definite must underlie the study of morals. The
historical method, in general, needs no defence, but since it takes many
forms, great care must be exercised in its application. Dewey seems to
ignore these difficulties.

Dewey's argument now leads him to a comparison of the evolutionary
methods with the intuitional and empirical methods in ethics. In making
the comparison, he does not propose to raise the question of fact
concerning the existence of intuitions. The question to be confronted is
rather a logical one, concerning the validity of beliefs. "Under what
conditions alone, and in what measure or degree, are we justified in
arguing from the existence of moral intuitions as mental states and acts
to facts taken to correspond to them?"[161]

The answer is that the existence of a belief argues nothing as to its
validity. The intuitionist takes his belief as a brute fact, unrelated
to objective conditions. The 'inexpugnable' character of the belief
cannot establish its validity, because the life of a single individual
occupies but a brief span in the continuity of the social life in which
the belief is embedded. Beliefs last for generations, and then very
often disappear. "What guarantee have we that our present 'intuitions'
have more validity than hundreds of past ideas that have shown
themselves by passing away to be empty opinion or indurated
prejudice?"[162] Intuitionism has no way of guaranteeing its beliefs.

The evolutionary method, on the other hand, is able to determine the
validity of beliefs. "The worth of the intuition depends upon genetic
considerations. In so far as we can state the intuition in terms of the
conditions of its origin, development, and later career, in so far we
have some criterion for passing judgment upon its pretensions to
validity.... But if we cannot find such historic origin and functioning,
the intuition remains a mere state of consciousness, a hallucination, an
illusion, which is not made more worthy by simply multiplying the number
of people who have participated in it."[163] Certain savage races, for
instance, possessed moral intuitions which made the practice of
infanticide an obligation. But the fact that it was universally held
does not establish its validity. It must be condemned or justified by
the results to which it led.

Dewey's criticism of intuitionism scarcely does justice to that method,
whatever may be its inherent weakness. There doubtless have been
thinkers who held that truth is revealed to the reason of man in its
naked purity, in the shape of apodictic intellectual principles. But
even in the case of so extreme a position as that of Kant, there are
important qualifying considerations to be taken into account. There is
no reason to suppose that moral judgment, as Kant conceived it, was
excluded from the consideration of relevant data, such as the knowledge
of actual effects produced by given courses of conduct. His position
seems to have been, not that moral judgment lacked specific content, but
that reason took something with it to the moral situation. The
intuitionists may have over-estimated the original endowment of the
mind, but it must be admitted with them that the mind which approaches
the moral situation empty of concepts cannot make moral decisions. If
man is to hold no beliefs except those proved valid by experience, how
can there be any to validate? Intelligence must have the capacity to
frame beliefs in the light of its past knowledge, and its acts of
judgment, consequently, presuppose a test of the validity of ideas which
belongs to intelligence as such, and not to history taken abstractly.
Beliefs are adapted to their objects in the making, and on this account
are usually found to have had some justification, even where set aside.
'A principle that is suitable for universal legislation already
presupposes a content.'

Dewey next considers the relation of the evolutionary methods to
empiricism. "Empiricism," he says, "is no more historic in character
than is intuitionalism. Empiricism is concerned with the moral idea or
belief as a grouping or association of various elementary feelings. It
regards the idea simply as a complex state which is to be explained by
resolving it into its elementary constituents. By its logic, both the
complex and the elements are isolated from an historic context.... The
empirical and the genetic methods thus imply a very different
relationship between the moral state, idea, or belief, and objective
reality.... The empirical theory holds that the idea arises as a reflex
of some existing object or fact. Hence the test of its objectivity is
the faithfulness with which it reproduces that object as copy. The
genetic theory holds that the idea arises as a response, and that the
test of its validity is found in its later career as manifested with
reference to the needs of the situation that evoked it."[164]

Only a method that takes the world as a changing, historical thing, can
deal with the adaptation of morality to new conditions. "Both empiricism
and intuitionalism, though in very different ways, deny the continuity
of the moralizing process. They set up timeless, and hence absolute and
disconnected, ultimates; thereby they sever the problems and movements
of the present from the past, rob the past, the sole object of calm,
impartial, and genuinely objective study, of all instructing power, and
leave our experience to form undirected, at the mercy of circumstance
and arbitrariness, whether that of dogmatism or scepticism."[165]

In evaluating the article as a whole, it must be said that Dewey's study
is not productive of definite results. The history of the past can
undoubtedly offer to the student a mass of data that is interesting and
instructive. The importance of this or that belief, or its value, can be
gauged by the results which it is known to have produced. But when, in
this day and age, the moralist sets out to find the principles which
shall guide his own conduct, the history of morals is of no more
importance than the observations of every day life, which reveal the
consequences of conduct in the lives of men about him. But more
particularly, it should be added, an estimate of present moral action
depends, not upon truth uttered by the past, but upon truth discovered
and interpreted by an intelligence which surveys the past and makes it
meaningful. The past in itself is nothing; thought alone can create real

Another article, published by Dewey in the _Philosophical Review_ in
1900, "Some Stages of Logical Thought," illustrates the employment of
the genetic method in a more specific way.[166] In his introductory
remarks, Dewey says: "I wish to show how a variety of modes of thinking,
easily recognizable in the progress of both the race and the individual,
may be identified and arranged as successive species of the relationship
which doubting bears to assurance; as various ratios, so to speak, which
the vigor of doubting bears to mere acquiescence. The presumption is
that the function of questioning is one which has continually grown in
intensity and range, that doubt is continually chased back, and, being
cornered, fights more desperately, and thus clears the ground more
thoroughly."[167] Dewey finds four stages of relationship between
questioning and dogmatism: dogmatism, discussion, proof, and empirical
science; and he seeks to show how each stage involves a higher degree of
free inquiry. "Modern scientific procedure, as just set forth, seems to
define the ideal or limit of this process. It is inquiry emancipated,
universalized, whose sole aim and criterion is discovery, and hence it
makes the terminus of our description. It is idle to conceal from
ourselves, however, that this scientific procedure, as a practical
undertaking, has not as yet reflected itself into any coherent and
generally accepted theory of thinking...."[168]

It is not necessary to comment on Dewey's stages of thought. The
similarity of this division to Comte's theological, metaphysical and
scientific stages of explanation will be apparent. Dewey's remarks on
the logic of the scientific stage, however, are interesting. "The simple
fact of the case is," he says, "that there are at least three rival
theories on the ground, each claiming to furnish the sole proper
interpretation of the actual procedure of thought."[169] There is the
Aristotelian logic, with its fixed forms; the empirical logic, which
holds "that only particular facts are self-supporting, and that the
authority allowed to general principles is derivative and second
hand;"[170] and finally there is the transcendental logic, which claims,
"by analysis of science and experience, to justify the conclusion that
the universe itself is a construction of thought, giving evidence
throughout of the pervasive and constitutive action of reason; and
holds, consequently, that our logical processes are simply the reading
off or coming to consciousness of the inherently rational structure
already possessed by the universe in virtue of the presence within it of
this pervasive and constitutive action of thought."[171]

None of these logics, Dewey finds, is capable of dealing with the
actual procedure of science, because none of them treats thought as a
doubt-inquiry process, but rather as something fixed and limited by
conditions which determine its operations in advance. Dewey asks: "Does
not an account or theory of thinking, basing itself on modern scientific
procedure, demand a statement in which all the distinctions and terms of
thought--judgment, concept, inference, subject, predicate and copula of
judgment, etc. _ad indefinitum_--shall be interpreted simply and
entirely as distinctive functions or divisions of labor within the
doubt-inquiry process?"[172]

Seven years before, Dewey had been an ardent champion of the
transcendental logic, on the ground that it was progressive, and he
contrasted it most favorably with the formal logics which treat thought
as a self-contained process. Now, however, he has a new insight. Logic
must be reinterpreted in the light of the evolutionary or biological
method. We shall see how this is accomplished in the next chapter.

To the student of the history of philosophy, Dewey's treatment of the
genetic and historical methods must seem seriously inadequate. The
idealist, moreover, will feel that Dewey should have taken note, in his
criticism of the idealistic standpoint, of the fact that Hegelianism was
from first to last a historical method; that the German idealists gave
the impulse to modern historical research, and provoked a study of the
historical method whose results are still felt. But in turning away from
idealism, Dewey has no word of appreciation for this aspect of the
Hegelian philosophy.

When the truth is boiled down, it appears that Dewey's historical
method, in so far as he had one, was based on biological evolutionism.
He had no interest in any other form of historical interpretation.


[138] Vol. VIII, pp. 321-341. The article is a criticism of Huxley's
essay with the same title.

[139] _Ibid._, p. 337. Italics mine.

[140] _Op. cit._, p. 338.

[141] _Ibid._, p. 340.

[142] _Ibid._

[143] _Ibid._ It should be observed that this conclusion is reached on a
purely theoretical basis.

[144] Printed in the _Psychological Review_, Vol. VII, 1900, pp.

[145] _Ibid._, p. 123.

[146] _Ibid._, p. 124.

[147] Vol. XI, pp. 107-124; 353-371.

[148] _Ibid._, p. 108.

[149] _Ibid._, p. 109.

[150] _Ibid._

[151] _Op. cit._, p. 110.

[152] _Ibid._, p. 111.

[153] _Op. cit._, p. 112.

[154] _Ibid._, p. 113.

[155] _Op. cit._, p. 114.

[156] _Ibid._, p. 116.

[157] _Ibid._, p. 118.

[158] _Op. cit._, p. 355.

[159] _Ibid._, p. 356.

[160] See Bosanquet's _Logic_, second edition, Chapter VII, and
especially page 240.

[161] _Philosophical Review_, Vol. XI, p. 357.

[162] _Ibid._, p. 360.

[163] _Ibid._, p. 358.

[164] _Op. cit._, p. 364 f.

[165] _Op. cit._, p. 370.

[166] Vol. IX, pp. 465-489.

[167] _Op. cit._, p. 465.

[168] _Ibid._, p. 486 f.

[169] _Ibid._, p. 487.

[170] _Ibid._

[171] _Ibid._

[172] _Op. cit._, p. 489.



In 1903 a volume entitled _Studies in Logical Theory_, consisting of
essays on logical topics by Dewey and his colleagues and pupils, was
published under the auspices of the University of Chicago. In a review
of this volume, Professor Pringle-Pattison remarks: "It is, indeed, most
unusual to find a series of philosophical papers by different writers in
which (without repetition or duplication) there is so much unity in the
point of view and harmony in results. That this is so is a striking
evidence of the moulding influence of Professor Dewey upon his pupils
and coadjutors in the Chicago School of Philosophy."[173] It would be a
needless task to review the whole volume, and attention will be confined
to the essays which constitute Dewey's special contribution to the
undertaking. These constitute the first four chapters of the volume, and
are devoted to a critical examination of Lotze's logic.[174] Here, for
the first time, Dewey presents in complete form the logical theory which
stands as the goal of his previous endeavors, and marks the beginning of
his career as a pragmatist.[175]

The first chapter of the "Studies" is devoted to a general consideration
of the nature of logical theory. Dewey begins his discussion with an
account of the naïve view of thought, the view of the man of affairs or
of the scientist, who employs ideas and reflection but has never become
critical of his mental processes; who has never reflected upon
reflection. "If we were to ask," he says, "the thinking of naïve life to
present, with a minimum of theoretical elaboration, its conception of
its own practice, we should get an answer running not unlike this:
Thinking is a kind of activity which we perform at specific need, just
as at other need we engage in other sorts of activity."[176] While the
standpoint of the naïve man is usually hard to determine, there appears
to be considerable justification for Dewey's statement. The common man
does tend to view thinking as a special kind of activity, performed by
an organ which can be 'trained,' and he is inclined to speak of
education as a process of 'training the mind.'[177]

Dewey finds a large measure of truth in this naïve view of thought.
Thought appears to be derivative and secondary. "It comes after
something and out of something, and for the sake of something."[178] It
is employed at need, and ceases to operate when not needed. "Taking some
part of the universe of action, of affection, of social construction,
under its special charge, and having busied itself therewith
sufficiently to meet the special difficulty presented, thought releases
that topic and enters upon further more direct experience."[179] There
is a rhythm of practice and thought; man acts, thinks, and acts again.
The business of thought is to solve practical difficulties, such as
arise in connection with the conduct of life. The purpose for which
thought intervenes is to enable action to get ahead by discovering a way
out of the given difficulty. Ordinarily, the transition from thought to
action and the reverse is accomplished without break or difficulty.

Occasions arise, however, when thought is balked by a situation with
which it is unable to deal, after repeated attempts. Critical reflection
is then directed upon thought itself, and logical theory is the result.
"The general theory of reflection, as over against its concrete
exercise, appears when occasions for reflection are so overwhelming and
so mutually conflicting that specific adequate response in thought is
blocked."[180] The purpose of logical theory is therefore a practical
one, and logical theory, like ordinary reflection, is directed toward
the removal of difficulties which stand in the way of the achievement of
practical ends.

This description of thought and of the nature of logical theory invites
suspicion by its very simplicity. Nobody would deny that thought is
linked up with practice, that the processes of life link up into one
whole organic process, and that it would be a mistake to treat the
cognitive processes as if they were separate from the whole. But Dewey's
account of thought seems to fall into the very abstractness which he is
so anxious to avoid. Experience is represented as a series of acts,
attitudes, or functions, which follow one another in succession.
"Thinking follows, we will say, striving, and doing follows thinking.
Each in the fulfilment of its own function inevitably calls out its
successor."[181] The functions are distinct, but are united to each
other, end to end, like links in a chain. They pass into and out of one
another, but are not simultaneous. This description gives rise, as
Bosanquet observes,[182] to a kind of dualism between thinking and the
other processes of life, which is made deeper because thinking is
regarded as a very special activity, which "passes judgment upon both
the processes and contents of other functions," and whose aim and work
is "distinctively reconstructive or transformatory."[183]

Dewey's description of the processes of experience is undoubtedly
plausible, but should not be accepted without close scrutiny of the
facts. It has been held, in opposition to such a view, that the
cognitive processes are so bound up with perception, feeling, willing,
and doing, that they cannot be separated from the complex.[184] Or it
might be held that thinking and doing are simultaneous and
complementary processes, rather than successive and supplementary. Dewey
does not concern himself with these possibilities, seeming to take it
for granted that his interpretation is the 'natural' one. It must be
said, however, that Dewey's description of thought as a process is by no
means obvious and simple; thought is not easy to describe.

When we turn to logical theory, Dewey says, there are two directions
which may be taken. The general features of logical theory are indicated
by its origin. When ordinary thinking is impeded, an examination of the
thinking function is undertaken, with the purpose of discovering its
business and its mode of operation. The object of the examination is
practical; to enable thinking to be carried on more effectively. If
these conditions are kept in mind, logical theory will be guided into
its proper channels: it will be assumed that every process of reflection
arises with reference to some specific situation, and has to subserve a
specific purpose dependent upon the occasion which calls it forth.
Logical theory will determine the conditions which arouse thought, the
mode of its operation, and the testing of its results. Such a logic,
being true to the problems set for it by practical needs, is in no
danger of being lost in generalities.

But there is another direction which logical theory sometimes takes,
unmindful of the conditions imposed by its origin. This is the
epistemological direction. Epistemological logic concerns itself with
the relation of thought at large to reality at large. It assumes that
thought is a self-contained activity, having no vital connection with
the world which is to be known. Such a logic can never be fruitful, for
it has lost sight of its purpose in the formulation of its problem.

Dewey is quite right in opposing a conception of thought which makes it
a self-contained activity, having no vital connection with other life
processes. Few recent thinkers have been guilty of that error. Lotze, to
be sure, made the mistake of separating thought from the reality to be
known, and therefore serves as a ready foil for Dewey's criticism. But
Lotze's age is past and gone.

When the abstract conception of thought is set aside, and it is agreed
that thought must be treated as a process among the processes of
experience, there is still room for divergence of opinion as to the
exact manner in which thought is related to other functions. Dewey's
logical theory, as outlined above, depends upon a very special
interpretation of the place which thought occupies in experience. For
this reason he considers logic to be inseparable from psychology.
"Psychology ... is indispensable to logical evaluation, the moment we
treat logical theory as an account of thinking as a mode of adaptation
to its own generating conditions, and judge its validity by reference to
its efficiency in meeting its problems."[185] Psychology, in other
words, must substantiate Dewey's account of thought, else his 'logic'
has no foundation. But if it were held that the cognitive processes
cannot be separated (except by abstraction for psychological purposes)
from other processes, there could manifestly be no such logical problem
as Dewey has posited. Logic would be freed from reliance upon
psychology. In this case, logical inquiry would be directed to the study
of concepts, forms of judgment, and methods of knowledge, with the
purpose of determining their relations, proper applications, and spheres
of relevance. Logic would be a 'criticism of categories' rather than a
criticism of the function of thinking. Dewey recognizes that such a
study of method might be useful, but holds that it would be subsidiary
to the larger problems of logic. "The distinctions and classifications
that have been accumulated in 'formal' logic are relevant data; but they
demand interpretation from the standpoint of use as organs of adjustment
to material antecedents and stimuli."[186] It will be seen that the
treatment of the forms of thought as "organs of adjustment" makes logic
subsidiary to psychology, necessarily and completely. All follows,
however, from the original assumption that thought is a special
activity, clearly distinguishable from other experienced processes, and
possessing a special function of its own.

In his further analysis of logical theory, Dewey states that it has two
phases, one general and one specific. The general problem concerns the
relations of the various functions of experience to one another; how
they give rise to each other, and what is their order of succession.
This wider logic is identified with philosophy in general.[187] The
specific phase of logic, logic proper, concerns itself with the function
of knowing as such, inquiring into its typical behavior, occasion of
operation, divisions of labor, content, and successful employment. Dewey
indicates the danger of identifying logic with either of these to the
exclusion of the other, or of supposing that they can be finally
isolated from one another. "It is necessary to work back and forth
between the larger and the narrower fields."[188]

Why is it necessary to make such a distinction at all? And why necessary
to move back and forth between the two provisional standpoints? Dewey
might answer by the following analogy: The thought function may be
studied, first of all, as a special organ, as an anatomist might study
the structure of any special organ of the body; but in order to
understand the part played by this member in the organism as a whole, it
would be necessary to adopt a wider view, so that its place in the
system could be determined. This is probably what Dewey means by his two
standpoints. He says: "We keep our paths straight because we do not
confuse the sequential, efficient, and functional relationship of types
of experience with the contemporaneous, correlative, and structural
distinctions of elements within a given function."[189] The first
objection to be made to this treatment of thought is that it makes
knowing the activity of a special organ, like liver or lungs. If this
objection is surmounted, there remains another from the side of general
method. The biologist not only studies the particular organs as to their
structure and their relationships within the body, but he has a view of
the body as a whole, of its general end and purpose. His study of the
particular organ is in part determined by his knowledge of the relations
between body and environment. But experience as a whole cannot be
treated like a body, because it has no environment. The analogy between
body and its processes and experience and its processes breaks down,
therefore, at a vital point. Dewey's genetic interpretation gains in
plausibility when the human body, and not the whole of experience, is
taken as the ground upon which the 'functions' are to be explained, for
the body has an environment and purposes in relation to that
environment. Experience as a whole possesses no such external reference.

It will be seen that Dewey's interpretation of the function of knowing
is not as empirical as it proposes to be. Its underlying conceptions are
biological in character, and these conceptions are brought ready-made to
the study of thought. Logical theory does not arise naturally and
spontaneously from a study of the facts of mind, but the facts are
aligned and interpreted in terms of categories selected in advance.
Empiricism develops its theories in connection with facts, but
rationalism (in the bad sense of the word) fits the facts into prepared
theories. Dewey's treatment of thought is, after all, more rationalistic
than empirical.

To sum up Dewey's conclusions so far: Logic is the study of the function
of knowing in relation to the other functions of experience. The wider
logic distinguishes the function of knowing from other activities, and
discovers its general purpose; the narrower logic examines the function
of knowing in itself, with the object of determining its structure and
operation. The aim of logic as a whole is to understand the operations
of the concrete activity called knowing, with the purpose of rendering
it more efficient. This concrete treatment of thought contrasts sharply
with the 'epistemological' method, which sets thought over against the
concrete processes of experience, and thus generates the false problem
of the relation of thought in general to reality in general.

Having stated his position, we might expect Dewey, in the course of the
next three chapters, to enter upon a consideration of one phase or other
of his logic. On the contrary, he proposes to take up "some of the
considerations that lie on the borderland between the larger and the
narrower conceptions of logical theory."[190] First, he will consider
the antecedent conditions and cues of the thought-process; the
conditions which lead up to and into the function of knowing. These
conditions lie between the thought-process and the preceding function
(in order of time), and are therefore on the borderland between the
wider and narrower spheres of logic.

In defining the conditions which precede and evoke thought, Dewey says:
"There is always as antecedent to thought an experience of some
subject-matter of the physical or social world, or organized
intellectual world, whose parts are actively at war with each other--so
much so that they threaten to disrupt the entire experience, which
accordingly for its own maintenance requires deliberate re-definition
and re-relation of its tensional parts."[191] Thought is always called
into action by the whole concrete situation in which it occurs, not by
any particular sensation, idea, or feeling.

The opposite interpretation of the nature of the antecedents of thought
is furnished by Lotze, who makes them consist in bare impressions,
'moods of ourselves,' mere states of consciousness. Dewey is quite right
in calling these bare impressions purely fictitious, though the
observation is by no means original. From the manner in which he
approaches the study of the "antecedents of thought" it appears,
however, that Dewey has something in common with Lotze. The functional
theory, that is, allows a certain initial detachment of thought from
reality, which must be bridged over by an empirical demonstration of its
natural connection with preceding processes.

Dewey is wholly justified, again, in maintaining that thought is not a
faculty set apart from reality, and that what is 'given' to thought is a
coherent world, not a mass of unmeaning sensations. He recognizes his
substantial agreement with the modern idealists in these matters.[192]
But the idealists, he believes, hold a constitutive conception of
thought which is in conflict with the empirical description of thinking
as a concrete activity in time. Reality, according to this conception,
is a vast system of sensations brought into a rational order by logical
forms, and finite thought, in its operations, simply apprehends or
discovers the infinite order of the cosmos. "How does it happen," Dewey
asks, "that the absolute constitutive and intuitive Thought does such a
poor and bungling job that it requires a finite discursive activity to
patch up its products?"[193]

Against Lotze, such an indictment has considerable force, but its
applicability to modern idealism is not so obvious. Modern idealism has
insisted upon an empirical treatment of thought, and has definitely
surrendered the abstract sensations of the older psychologies. Nor does
idealism tend to treat finite thought as a process which merely 'copies'
an eternally present nature. The issue between Dewey and the idealists
is this: Does functionalism render an accurate empirical account of the
nature of thought as a concrete process?

In his third chapter Dewey discusses "Thought and its Subject-matter:
The Datum of Thinking." The tensional situation passes into a thought
situation, and reflection enters upon its work of restoring the
equilibrium of experience. Certain characteristic processes attend the
operation of thought. "The conflicting situation inevitably polarizes or
dichotomizes itself. There is somewhat which is untouched in the
contention of incompatibles. There is something which remains secure,
unquestioned. On the other hand, there are elements which are rendered
doubtful and precarious."[194] The unquestioned element is the _datum_;
the uncertain element, the _ideatum_. Ideas are "impressions,
suggestions, guesses, theories, estimates, etc., the facts are crude,
raw, unorganized, brute."[195] There is an approximation to bare meaning
on the one hand, and bare existence on the other.

The first dichotomy passes into a second. "Once more, and briefly, both
datum and ideatum may ... break up, each for itself, into physical and
psychical."[196] The datum, or sense material, is all, somehow, matter
and real, but one part of it turns out to have a psychical, another a
physical form. Similarly, the ideatum divides into what is mere fancy,
the psychical, and what is objectively valid, the physical.

These distinctions are divisions of labor within the thought-process.
"All the distinctions of the thought-function, of conception as over
against sense-perception, of judgment in its various modes and forms, of
inference in its vast diversity of operation--all these distinctions
come within the thought situation as growing out of a characteristic
antecedent typical formation of experience...."[197] Great confusion
results in logical theory, Dewey believes, when it is forgotten that
these distinctions are valid only within the thought process. Their
order of occurrence within the thought process must also be observed, if
confusion is to be prevented. Datum and ideatum come first, psychical
and physical next in order. "Thus the distinction between subjectivity
and objectivity is not one between meaning as such and datum as such. It
is a specification that emerges, correspondently, in _both_ datum and
ideatum, as affairs of the direction of logical movement. That which is
left behind in the evolution of accepted meaning is characterized as
real, but only in a psychical sense; that which is moved toward is
regarded as real in an objective, cosmic sense."[198]

Dewey does well to call attention to the limitations of these
categories, which cannot, indeed, be treated as absolute without serious
error. It may be questioned, however, whether their limitations are of
the precise nature which he describes. All depends upon the initial
conception of the nature of thought. From Dewey's standpoint, these
categories are 'tools of analysis' which function only within the
thinking process; but his description of the function of knowing may be
questioned, in which case his instrumental view of the concepts is
rendered meaningless. A logical, as distinct from a psychological,
treatment of the concepts mentioned, would show that their validity is
limited to a certain 'sphere of relevance;' that they are applicable
within a certain context and to a particular subject-matter. The danger
of indiscriminate use of the categories would be avoided by the logical
criticism even better, perhaps, than by Dewey's method.

The discussion in Dewey's fourth and last chapter, concerning "The
Content and Object of Thought," hinges upon a detailed criticism of
Lotze's position, which cannot be presented here. The general bearing of
the discussion, however, may be indicated. "To regard," says Dewey, "the
thought-forms of conception, judgment, and inference as qualifications
of 'pure thought, apart from any difference in objects,' instead of as
successive dispositions in the progressive organization of the material
(or objects) is the fallacy of rationalism."[199]

Pure thought, of course, cannot be defended. At the same time, Dewey,
like Lotze, tends to regard thought as a special function with a
'content' of its own. If thought is regarded as a special kind of
process, having its own content in the way of instrumental concepts, the
question inevitably arises: How shall these forms be employed to reach
truth? How apply them correctly to the matter in hand?

Dewey answers that the forms and hypotheses of thought, like the tools
and scaffoldings for its operations, are especially designed for the
labor which they have to perform. "There is no miracle in the fact that
tool and material are adapted to each other in the process of reaching a
valid conclusion.... Each has been slowly evolved with reference to its
fit employ in the entire function; and this evolution has been checked
at every point by reference to its own correspondent."[200]

It is no doubt true that established conceptions, no less than temporary
hypotheses, have been evolved in connection with, as a feature or part
of, the subject-matter to which they pertain. But it is quite another
thing to say that these evolved forms belong to thought, if by thought
be meant the functional activity of Dewey's description. Dewey stresses
the relevance of these forms to the thought-process, rather than their
relevance to a particular sphere of discourse. His purpose is to show
that distinctions which are valid within the process of knowing are not
valid elsewhere, and the net result is to limit the faculty of thought
as a whole, as well as the forms of thought.

This result reveals itself most clearly in his discussion of the test of
truth. "In that sense the test of reality is beyond thought, as thought,
just as at the other limit thought originates out of a situation which
is not reflectional in character. Interpret this before and beyond in a
historic sense, as an affair of the place occupied and role played by
thinking as a function in experience in relation to other functions, and
the intermediate and instrumental character of thought, its dependence
upon unreflective antecedents for its existence, and upon a consequent
experience for its test of final validity, becomes significant and
necessary."[201] This notion that the test of thought must be external
to thought depends directly upon the doctrine that thought is a special
activity of the kind heretofore described. It results from the
occasionalism attributed by Dewey to the thinking process.

If the truth or falsity of an idea is not discovered by thought, then by
what faculty might it be discovered? Perhaps by experience as a whole or
in general. Dewey, on occasion, speaks as follows: "Experience is
continually integrating itself into a wholeness of coherent meaning
deepened in significance by passing through an inner distraction in
which by means of conflict certain contents are rendered partial and
hence objectively conscious."[202] Perhaps Dewey means to say that truth
is determined by this cosmic automatism. It is confusing, however, to be
told in one moment that thought transforms experience, and in another
that experience transforms itself.

Experience, not reflection, is, then, the test of truth and thought.
Such a statement would not be possible, except in connection with a
psychology which deliberately sets experience over against reflection,
making the latter a peculiar, although dependent, process. Lotze,
indeed, makes the separation of thought from experience quite complete.
Dewey attempts to bring them together by his psychological method, but
does not completely succeed. In the meantime modern idealism has
suggested that thought and experience are merely parts of one general
process, constantly operating in conjunction. To one who believes that
the various processes or 'functions' of experience constitute a single
organ of life, the proposition that experience, rather than reflection,
is the judge of truth, becomes meaningless.

In an essay on "The Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of
Morality" in another volume of the Chicago Publications of 1903,[203]
Dewey presents a positive statement of his logical theory which is an
excellent supplement to the critical study of Lotze.

Science, Dewey remarks in introducing this essay, is a systematized body
of knowledge. Knowledge may be taken either as a body of facts or as a
process of arranging a body of facts; as results or the acquiring of
results. The latter phase of science is the more important. "As used in
this article, 'scientific' means regular methods of controlling the
formation of judgments regarding some subject-matter."[204] In the
scientific attitude, beliefs are looked upon as _conclusions_, and as
conclusions they look in two directions. They look backward towards the
ground from which they are empirically derived, and which renders them
valid, and they look forward, as meaning, to being the ground from which
further conclusions can be deduced. "So far as we engage in this
procedure, we look at our respective acts of judging not as independent
and detached, but as an interrelated system, within which every
assertion entitles us to other assertions (which must be carefully
deduced since they constitute its meaning) and to which we are entitled
only through other assertions (so that they must be carefully searched
for). 'Scientific' as used in this article thus means the possibility of
establishing an order of judgments such that each one when made is of
use in determining other judgments, thereby securing control of their

This view of science as an order of judgments requires a special
treatment of the generic ideas, the 'conclusions,' or universals of
science. The individual judgment, 'This, _A_, is _B_,' expresses an
identity. But it is much better expressed in hypothetical form.
"Identification, in other words, is secure only when it can be made
through (1) breaking up the analyzed. This of naïve judgment into
determinate traits, (2) breaking up the predicate into a similar
combination of elements, and (3) establishing uniform connection between
some of the elements in the subject and some in the predicate."[206]
Identity exists amid relevant differences, and the more intimately the
system of differents is understood, the more positive is the
determination of identity. This will be recognized as the 'concrete
universal' of the Hegelian logicians.

But, Dewey says, modern logicians tend to disregard judgment as act, and
pay attention to it only as content. The generic ideas are studied in
independence of their applications, as if this were a matter of no
concern in logic. "In truth, there is no such thing as control of one
content by mere reference to another content as such. To recognize this
impossibility is to recognize that the control of the formation of the
judgment is always through the medium of an act by which the respective
contents of both the individual judgment and of the universal
proposition are selected and brought into relationship to each
other."[207] The individual act of judgment is necessary to logical
theory, because the act of the individual forms the connecting link
between the generic idea and the specific details of the situation.
There must be some means whereby the instrumental concept is brought to
bear upon its appropriate material. "The logical process includes, as an
organic part of itself, the selection and reference of that particular
one of the system which is relevant to the particular case. This
individualized selection and adaptation is an integral portion of the
logic of the situation. And such selection and adjustment is clearly in
the nature of an act."[208]

This problem of the relation of the categories to their subject-matter
is an acute one for Dewey, because of limitations placed upon thought.
He decides that the idea must be, in some fashion, self-selective, must
signify its own fitness to a given subject-matter. But it can only be
self-selective by being itself in the nature of an act. It turns out
that the generic idea has been evolved in connection with acts of
judgment, and its own applicability is born in it. "The activity which
selects and employs is logical, not extra-logical, just because the tool
selected and employed has been invented and developed precisely for the
sake of just such future selection and use."[209]

The logic and system of science must be embodied in the individual. He
must be a good logical medium, his acts must be orderly and consecutive,
and generic ideas must have a good motor basis in his organism, if he is
to think successfully. This is the essence of Dewey's argument in the
essay under discussion. The inference seems to be that logic cannot be
separated from biology and psychology, since the act of knowing and the
ideas which it employs have a physiological basis.

It is difficult to see, however, how such a standpoint could prove
useful in the practical study of logic. Certainly little headway could
be made toward a study of the proper use and limitations of the
categories by an investigation of the human nervous system. And to what
extent would physiology illuminate the problem of the relation of the
generic ideas to their appropriate objects? Although Dewey decides that
the relationship must have its ground in the motor activities of the
organism, his conclusion has little empirical evidence to support it.

A practical, workable conception of the relations between generic ideas
and their objects must be based on considerations less obscure. Why not
be content to verify, by criticism, the truth that experience and
thoughts about experience develop together, with the result that each
theory, hypothesis, or method is applicable within the sphere where it
was born? Why wait upon psychology for confirmation of a truth so
obvious and important?

Bosanquet remarks: "Either one may speak as if reality were relative to
the individual mind, a ridiculous idea ..., or one may become interested
in tracing the germination and growth of ideas in the individual mind as
typical facts indeed, but only as one animal's habits are typical of
those of others, and we may slur over the primary basis of logic, which
is its relation to reality. For mental facts unrelated to reality are no
knowledge, and therefore have no place in logic."[210] Bosanquet
emphasizes an important truth neglected by Dewey. Logic is not concerned
with ideas as things existing in individuals, nor with conceptions as
individual modes of response. Truth has little to do with the individual
as such, though the individual might well concern himself about truth.
Truth is objective, super-individual, and logic is the study of the
objective verity of thought. The proposition, 'All life is from the
living,' finds no premises in the nerve tissues of the scientist who
accepts it. How does the proposition square up with reality or
experience? That is the question, and it can only be answered by turning
away from psychology to empirical verification, involving a critical
test of the applicability of the thought to reality.

In the strictly ethical part of the essay, Dewey tries to show that
moral judgments, at least, involve the character of the agent and his
specific acts as data. Intellectual judgments, on the other hand, may
disregard the acts of the individual; they are left out of account,
"when they are so uniform in their exercise that they make no difference
with respect to the _particular_ object or content judged."[211] It will
be seen that the distinction between moral and intellectual judgments is
made on the basis of their content. But Dewey is committed to the
doctrine that judgments are to be differentiated as acts, on a
psychological basis. In any case, if the character and acts of a man are
to be judged, they must be treated objectively, and the relevance of the
judge's ideas to the man's actual character cannot be decided by a
psychological analysis of the judge's mind. Right and wrong, whether
moral or intellectual, are not attributes of the individual nervous


[173] _The Philosophical Radicals_, "Dewey's Studies in Logical Theory,"
p. 179. The essay was originally printed as a critical notice in the
_Philosophical Review_, November, 1904.

[174] Since this was written (1915-16), Dewey's chapters have been
reprinted in a volume entitled _Essays in Experimental Logic_, published
by the University of Chicago Press (June, 1916). They are preceded, in
this new setting, by a special introductory chapter, and numerous
alterations have been made which do not, however, affect the fundamental

[175] See James's review, "The Chicago School," _Psychological
Bulletin_, Vol. I, 1904, pp. 1-5.

[176] _Studies in Logical Theory_, p. 2.

[177] Compare Dewey, _How We Think_ (1910), Chapter II, "The Need for
Training Thought."

[178] _Studies in Logical Theory_, p. 1.

[179] _Ibid._, p. 2.

[180] _Op. cit._, p. 3 f.

[181] _Ibid._, p. 16.

[182] _Logic_, second ed., Vol. II, p. 270.

[183] _Studies in Logical Theory_, p. x.

[184] "Thinking or rationality is not limited to the process of abstract
cognition, but it includes feeling and will, and in the course of its
development carries these along with it. There is, of course, such a
thing as what we have called abstract cognition; but the different
moments are all united in the concrete experience which we may name the
life of thought." Creighton, "Experience and Thought," _Philosophical
Review_, Vol. XV, 1906, p. 487 f.

[185] _Op. cit._, p. 15.

[186] _Ibid._, p. 8.

[187] _Op. cit._, pp. 18-19.

[188] _Ibid._, p. 23.

[189] _Ibid._, p. 17.

[190] _Op. cit._, p. 23.

[191] _Op. cit._, p. 39 f. Bradley suggests a similar idea of the
'tensional situation.' See, for instance, _Ethical Studies_, p. 65,
where he remarks: "We have conflicting desires, say A and B; we feel two
tensions, two drawings (so to speak) but we can not actually affirm
ourselves in both." A more complete statement of the 'tensional
situation' will be found on page 239 of the same work and in various
other passages.

[192] _Ibid._, pp. 43-44.

[193] _Op. cit._, p. 45.

[194] _Ibid._, p. 50.

[195] _Ibid._, p. 52.

[196] _Op. cit._

[197] _Ibid._, p. 47.

[198] _Ibid._, p. 53.

[199] _Op. cit._, p. 61 f.

[200] _Ibid._, p. 80.

[201] _Op. cit._, p. 85.

[202] _Ibid._

[203] _Decennial Publications of the University of Chicago_, First
Series, Vol. III, pp. 115-139.

[204] _Ibid._, p. 115.

[205] _Ibid._, p. 116.

[206] _Op. cit._, p. 120.

[207] _Ibid._, p. 121.

[208] _Ibid._, p. 122.

[209] _Op. cit._

[210] _Logic_, second ed., Vol. I, p. 232.

[211] _Decennial Publication of the University of Chicago_, First
Series, Vol. III, p. 127.



After the publication of the _Studies in Logical Theory_, Dewey entered
upon what may be called the polemical period of his career. He joined
forces with James and Schiller in the promotion of the new movement
called 'Pragmatism.' The _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and
Scientific Methods_, instituted at Columbia University in 1904, the same
year in which Dewey accepted a professorship in that institution, became
a convenient medium for the expression of his views, and every volume of
this periodical will be found to contain notes, discussions, and
articles by Dewey and his followers, bearing on current controversy. He
also published many articles in other journals, technical and popular.
In 1910, the most important of these essays were collected into a
volume, published under the title, _The Influence of Darwin on
Philosophy, and Other Essays_. For purposes of discussion, these essays
may be divided into two classes: those of a more constructive character,
setting forth Dewey's own standpoint, and those which are mainly
polemical, directed against opposing standpoints, chiefly the
idealistic. The constructive writings will be given first consideration.

The essay on "The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism," first published in
the _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods_, in
July, 1905, and later reprinted in the volume of collected essays,
offers a convenient point of departure. Dewey observes that many of the
difficulties in current controversy can be traced to presuppositions
tacitly held by thinkers as to what experience means. Dewey attempts to
make his own presuppositions explicit, with the object of clearing up
this confusion.

"Immediate empiricism," he says, "postulates that things--anything,
everything, in the ordinary or non-technical use of the term
'thing'--are what they are experienced as. Hence, if one wishes to
describe anything truly, his task is to tell what it is experienced as
being."[212] The idealists, on the contrary, hold "that things (or,
ultimately, Reality, Being) _are_ only and just what they are _known_ to
be or that things are, or Reality _is_, what it is for a conscious
knower--whether the knower be conceived primarily as a perceiver or as a
thinker being a further, and secondary, question. This is the
root-paralogism of all idealisms, whether subjective or objective,
psychological or epistemological."[213] Knowing is merely one mode of
experiencing, and things may be experienced in other ways, as, for
instance, aesthetically, morally, technologically, or economically. This
follows Dewey's familiar division of the processes of experience into
separate 'functions' or activities. It becomes the duty of the
philosopher, following this scheme, to find out "_what_ sort of an
experience knowing is--or, concretely how things are experienced when
they are experienced _as_ known things."[214]

Dewey fails, in this essay, to draw a distinction which is highly
important, between knowledge as awareness and knowledge as reflection.
This results in some confusion. For the present, he is concerned with
knowledge as awareness. He employs an illustration to make his meaning
clear; the experience of fright at a noise, which turns out, when
examined and known, to be the tapping of a window shade. What is
originally experienced is a frightful noise. If, after examination, the
'frightfulness' is classified as 'psychical,' while the 'real' fact is
said to be harmless, there is no warrant for reading this distinction
back into the original experience. The argument is directed against that
mode of explaining the difference between the psychical and the physical
which employs a subjective mind or 'knower' as the container of the
merely subjective aspects of reality. Dewey would hold that mind, used
in this sense, is a fiction, having a small explanatory value, and
creating more problems than it solves. The difference between psychical
and physical is relative, not absolute. The frightful noise first heard
was neither psychical nor physical; it was what it was experienced as,
and the experience contained no such distinction, nor did it contain a
'knower.' The noise _as known_, after the intervention of an act of
judgment, contained these elements (except the 'knower'), but the thing
is not merely what it is known as. There is no warrant for reading the
distinctions made by judgment back into a situation where judgment was
not operative. The original fact was precisely what it was experienced

Dewey's purpose, though not well stated, seems to be the complete
rejection of the notion of knowledge as awareness, or of the subjective
knower. He discovers at the same time an opportunity to substantiate his
own descriptive account of knowing (or reflection) as an occasional
function. The two enterprises, however, should be kept distinct.
Granting that the subjective knower of the older epistemology should be
dismissed from philosophy, it does not follow that Dewey's special
interpretation of the function of reflection is the only substitute.

The principle of immediate empiricism, Dewey says, furnishes no positive
truth. It is simply a method. Not a single philosophical proposition can
be deduced from it. The application of the method is indicated in the
following proposition: "If you wish to find out what subjective,
objective, physical, mental, cosmic, psychic, cause, substance, purpose,
activity, evil, being, quality--any philosophic term, in short--means,
go to experience and see what the thing is experienced _as_."[215] This
recipe cannot be taken literally. Dewey probably means that each concept
has, or should have, a positive empirical reference, and is significant
only in that reference. He is a firm believer, however, in the
descriptive method. In a note, he remarks that he would employ in
philosophy "the direct descriptive method that has now made its way in
all the natural sciences, with such modifications, of course, as the
subject itself entails."[216] This remark calls for closer examination
than can be made here. It may be said in passing, however, that
'scientific description' is by no means so simple a method of procedure
as Dewey would seem to indicate. 'Scientific description,' as actually
employed, is a highly elaborated and specialized method of dealing with
experience. The whole subject, indeed, is involved, and requires
cautious treatment. Dewey's somewhat ingenuous hope, that the
identification of his method with the methods of science will add to its
impressiveness, is in danger, unfortunately, of being vitiated through
the suspicion that he is, after all, not in close touch with the methods
of science.

Dewey employs the descriptive method chiefly as a means for
substantiating his special interpretation of the judgment process. His
use of the method in this connection is well illustrated by an article
called "The Experimental Theory of Knowledge"[217] (1906), in which he
attempts "to find out _what_ sort of an experience knowing is" through
an appeal to immediate experience. "It should be possible," he says, "to
discern and describe a knowing as one identifies any object, concern, or
event.... What we want is just something which takes itself as
knowledge, rightly or wrongly."[218] The difficulty lies not in finding
a case of knowing, but in describing it when found. Dewey selects a case
to be described, and, as usual, chooses a simple one.

"This means," he says, "a specific case, a sample.... Our recourse is to
an example so simple, so much on its face as to be as innocent as may be
of assumptions.... Let us suppose a smell, just a floating odor."[219]
The level at which this illustration is taken is significant. Is it
possible to suppose that anything so complex, varied, myriad-sided as
that something we call knowledge, can be discovered and described within
the limits of so simple an instance?

Dewey employs the smell in three situations, the first representing the
'non-cognitional,' the second the 'cognitive,' and the third the
genuinely 'cognitional' situation. The first, or 'non-cognitional'
situation is described as follows: "But, let us say, the smell is not
the smell _of_ the rose; the resulting change of the organism is not a
sense of walking and reaching; the delicious finale is not the
fulfilment of the movement, and, through that, of the original smell;
'is not,' in each case meaning is 'not experienced as' such. We may
take, in short, these experiences in a brutely serial fashion. The
smell, _S_, is replaced (and displaced) by a felt movement, _K_, this is
replaced by the gratification, _G_. Viewed from without, as we are now
regarding it, there is _S-K-G_. But from within, for itself, it is now
_S_, now _K_, now _G_, and so on to the end of the chapter. Nowhere is
there looking before and after; memory and anticipation are not born.
Such an experience neither is, in whole or in part, a knowledge, nor
does it exercise a cognitive function."[220]

It will be seen at once that this is not a description of an actual
human experience, but a schematic story designed to illustrate a
comparatively simple point. In this situation the person concerned does
not deliberately and consciously recognize the smell as the smell of a
rose; he is not aware of any symbolic character in the smell, it does
not enter as a middle term into a process of inference. In such a
situation, Dewey believes, it would be wrong to read into the smell a
cognitive property which it does not, as experienced, possess.

In the second, or 'cognitive' situation, the smell as originally
experienced does not involve the function of knowing, but turns out
after the event, as reflected upon, to have had a significance. "In
saying that the smell is finally experienced as _meaning_ gratification
... we retrospectively attribute intellectual force and function to the
smell--and this is what is signified by 'cognitive.' Yet the smell is
not cognitional, because it did not knowingly intend to mean this; but
is found, after the event, to have meant it."[221] The moral is, as
usual, that the findings of reflection must not be read back into the
former unreflective experience.

In the truly 'cognitional' experience the smell is then and there
experienced as meaning or symbolizing the rose. "An experience is a
knowledge, if in its quale there is an experienced distinction and
connection of two elements of the following sort: _one means or intends
the presence of the other in the same fashion in which itself is already
present, while the other is that which, while not present in the same
fashion, must become so present if the meaning or intention of its
companion or yoke-fellow is to be fulfilled through the operation it
sets up_."[222] In the 'cognitional' situation, the smell is then and
there experienced as signifying the presence of a rose in the vicinity,
and the rose must be experienced as a present fact, before the meaning
of the smell is completely fulfilled and verified.

It will be seen at once that this description of knowing follows the
lines laid down by James in his chapter on "Reasoning" in the
_Principles of Psychology_. In the process of reasoning the situation is
analyzed; some particular feature of it is abstracted and made the
middle term in an inference. The smell, as thus abstracted, is said to
have the function of knowing, or meaning, the rose whose reality it

Dewey's treatment of knowledge, however, is far too simple. The function
of meaning, symbolizing, or 'pointing' does not reside in the abstracted
element as such; for the context in which the judgment occurs determines
the choosing of the 'middle term,' as well as the direction in which it
shall point. The situation as a whole has a rationality which resides in
the distinctions, identities, phases of emphasis, and discriminations of
the total experience. Rationality expresses itself in the organized
system of experience, not in particular elements and their 'pointings.'
Taken in this sense, rationality is present in all experience. The
smell, in Dewey's first situation, is not 'cognitional' because the
situation as a whole does not permit it to be, if such an expression may
be used. The intellectual drift of the moment drives the smell away from
the centre of attention at one time, just as at another it selects it to
serve as an element in judgment. It is only with reference to a system
of some kind that things can be regarded as symbols at all. Things do
not represent one another at haphazard, but definitely and concretely;
they imply an organization of elements having mutual implications. One
thing implies another because both are elements in a whole which
determines their mutual reference. This organization is present in all
experience, not in the form of 'established habits,' but in the form of
will and purpose.

In the course of his further discussion, which need not be followed in
detail, Dewey passes on to a consideration of truth. Truth is concerned
with the worth or validity of ideas. But, before their validity can be
determined, there must be a 'cognitional' experience of the type
described above. "Before the category of confirmation or refutation can
be introduced, there must be something which _means_ to mean something
and which therefore can be guaranteed or nullified by the issue."[223]
Ideas, or meanings, as directly experienced, are neither true nor false,
but are made so by the results in which they issue. Even then, the
outcome must be reflected upon, before they can be designated true or
false. "_Truth and falsity present themselves as significant facts only
in situations in which specific meanings and their already experienced
fulfilments and non-fulfilments are intentionally compared and
contrasted with reference to the question of the worth, as to
reliability of meaning, of the given meaning or class of
meanings._"[224] This makes the whole problem of truth a relatively
simple affair. The symbol and its 'pointing' are taken as a single,
objective fact, to be tested, and, if verified, labelled 'true.'
Meanings, after all, are not so simple as this scheme would imply.

As the intellectual life of man is more subtle and universal than Dewey
represents it to be, so is truth, as that which thought seeks to
establish, something deeper-lying and more comprehensive. Ideas are not
simple and isolated facts; their truth is not strictly their own, but is
reflected into them from the objective order to which they pertain. The
possibility of making observations and experiments, and of having ideas,
rests upon the presence in and through experience of that directing
influence which we call valid knowledge, or truth. An idea, to be true,
must fit in with this general body of truth. Not correspondence with its
single object, but correspondence with the whole organized body of
knowledge, is the test of the truth of an idea. The attempt to describe
knowledge as a particular occurrence, fact, or function, is foredoomed
to failure. It should be noted also that Dewey's 'description,'
throughout this essay, is anything but a direct, empirical examination
of thought. He presents a schematized picture of reality which, like an
engineer's diagram, leaves out the cloying details of the object it is
supposed to represent.

The sceptical and positivistic results of Dewey's treatment of knowledge
are set forth in an article entitled "Some Implications of
Anti-Intellectualism," published in the _Journal of Philosophy,
Psychology, and Scientific Methods_, in 1910.[225] This was not included
in the volume of collected essays published in the same year, but may be
regarded as of some importance.

After some comments on current anti-intellectualistic tendencies, Dewey
proceeds to distinguish his own anti-intellectualism from that of
others. This type "starts from acts, functions, as primary data,
functions both biological and social in character; from organic
responses, readjustments. It treats the knowledge standpoint, in all its
patterns, structures, and purposes, as evolving out of, and operating in
the interests of, the guidance and enrichment of these primary
functions. The vice of intellectualism from this standpoint is not in
making of logical relations and functions in and for knowledge, but in a
false abstraction of knowledge (and the logical) from its working

The manner in which this exaltation of the "primary" functions at the
expense of knowledge affects philosophy is indicated in the following
passage: "Philosophy is itself a mode of knowing, and of knowing wherein
reflective thinking is much in play.... As a mode of knowledge, it
arises, like any intellectual undertaking, out of certain typical
perplexities and conflicts of behavior, and its purpose is to help
straighten these out. Philosophy may indeed render things more
intelligible or give greater insight into existence; but these
considerations are subject to the final criterion of what it means to
acquire insight and to make things intelligible, _i. e._, namely,
service of _special_ purposes in behavior, and limit by the _special_
problems in which the need of insight arises. This is not to say that
instrumentalism is merely a methodology or an epistemology preliminary
to more ultimate philosophic or metaphysical inquiries, for it involves
the doctrine that the origin, structure, and purpose of knowing are such
as to render nugatory any wholesale inquiries into the nature of

In the last analysis, this appears to be a confession, rather than an
argument. It is the inevitable outcome of the functional analysis of
intelligence. Thought is this organ, with these functions, and is
capable of so much and no more. The limit to its capacity is set by the
description of its nature. The nature of the functionalistic limitation
of thought is well expressed in the words 'special' and 'specific.'
Since thought is the servant of the 'primary' modes of experience, it
can only deal with the problems set for it by preceding non-reflective
processes. These problems are 'specific' because they are concrete
problems of action, and are concerned with particular aspects of the
environment. Dewey's formidable positivism would vanish at once,
however, if his special psychology of the thought-process should be
found untenable. Thought is limited, according to Dewey, because it is a
very special form of activity, operating occasionally in the interest of
the direct modes of experiencing.

Probably every philosopher recognizes that speculation cannot be allowed
to run wild. Some problems are worth while, others are artificial and
trivial, and some means must be found for separating the sound and
substantial from the tawdry and sentimental. The question is, however,
whether Dewey's psychology furnishes a ground for such distinctions.
Again, it should be noted that, in spite of the limitations placed upon
thought by its very nature, as described by Dewey, certain philosophers,
by his own confession, are guilty of "wholesale inquiries into the
nature of Being." If thought can deal only with specific problems, then
there can be no question as to whether philosophy _ought_ to be
metaphysical. It is a repetition of the case of psychological _versus_
ethical hedonism.

Modern idealists would resent the imputation that there is any
inclination on their part to deny the need for a critical attitude
toward the problems and methods of philosophy. Kant's criticism of the
'dogmatists' for their undiscriminating employment of the categories in
the interpretation of reality, established an attitude which has been
steadily maintained by his philosophical descendants. The idealist, in
fact, has accused Dewey of laxity in the criticism of his own methods
and presuppositions. The categories of description and natural selection
by means of which his functionalism is established, it is argued, are of
little service in the sphere of mind. And while Dewey accepts an
evolutionary view of reality in general, the idealist has found
evolutionism, at least in its biological form, too limited in scope to
serve the extensive interests of philosophy. Dewey is right in opposing
false problems and fanciful solutions in philosophy; but these evils are
to be corrected, not by functional psychology, but by an empirical
criticism of each method and each problem as it arises.

It has been seen that, even in these more constructive essays, Dewey's
position is largely defined in negatives. What might be expected, then,
of the essays which are primarily critical? Perhaps the best answer will
be afforded by a close analysis of one or more of them. Idealism, as has
been said, receives most of Dewey's attention. There are three essays in
_The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, which bear directly against
idealism. One, "The Intellectualist Criterion of Truth," is directed
against Bradley; another, "Experience and Objective Idealism," is a
historical discussion of idealistic views. The third, which is broadest
in scope, is entitled "Beliefs and Existences." This was originally
delivered as the presidential address at the meeting of the American
Philosophical Association in December, 1905, and was printed in the
_Philosophical Review_ in March, 1906, under the title, "Beliefs and

Dewey begins with a discussion of the personal and human character of
beliefs. "Beliefs," he says, "look both ways, towards persons and
towards things.... They form or judge--justify or condemn--the agents
who entertain them and who insist upon them.... To believe is to ascribe
value, impute meaning, assign import."[228] Beliefs are entertained by
persons; by men as individuals and not as professional beings. Because
they are essentially human, beliefs issue in action, and have their
import in conduct. "That believed better is held to, asserted, affirmed,
acted upon.... That believed worse is fled, resisted, transformed into
an instrument for the better."[229] Beliefs, then, have a human side;
they belong to people, and have a character which is expressed in the
conduct to which they lead.

On the other hand, beliefs look towards things. "'Reality' naturally
instigates belief. It appraises itself and through this self-appraisal
manages its affairs.... It is interpretation; not merely existence aware
of itself as fact, but existence discerning, judging itself, approving
and disapproving."[230] The vital connection between belief as personal,
and as directed upon things, cannot be disregarded. "We cannot keep
connection on one side and throw it away on the other. We cannot
preserve significance and decline the personal attitude in which it is
inscribed and operative...."[231] To take the world as something
existing by itself, is to overlook the fact that it is always somebody's
world, "and you shall not have completed your metaphysics till you have
told whose world is meant and how and what for--in what bias and to what

But philosophers have been guilty of error here. They have thrown aside
all consideration of belief as a personal fact in reality, and have
taken "an oath of allegiance to Reality, objective, universal, complete;
made perhaps of atoms, perhaps of sensations, perhaps of logical
meanings."[233] This Reality leaves no place for belief; for belief, as
having to do with human adventures, can have no place in a cut and dried
cosmos. The search for a world which is eternally fixed in eternal
meanings has developed the present wondrous and formidable technique of

The attempt to exclude the human element from belief has resulted in
philosophical errors. Philosophers have divided reality into two parts,
"one of which shall alone be good and true 'Reality,' ... while the
other part, that which is excluded, shall be referred exclusively to
belief and treated as mere appearance...."[234] To cap the climax, this
division of the world into two parts must be made by some philosopher
who, being human, employs his own beliefs, and classifies things on the
basis of his own experience. Can it be done? We are today in the
presence of a revolt against such tendencies, Dewey says; and he
proposes to give some sketch, "(1) of the historical tendencies which
have shaped the situation in which a Stoic theory of knowledge claims
metaphysical monopoly, and (2) of the tendencies that have furnished the
despised principle of belief opportunity and means of reassertion."[235]

Throughout this introduction Dewey speaks with considerable feeling, as
if the question were a moral one, rather than a disquisition concerning
the best method of dealing with the personal aspects of thought. His
meaning, however, is far from being apparent. What does it mean to say
that a Stoic theory of knowledge holds a monopoly in modern philosophy?
In what sense has the philosophy of the past been misanthropic? _Is_
Humanism a product of the twentieth century? Dewey's assertions are
broad and sweeping; too broad even for a popular discourse, let alone a
philosophical address. Perhaps his attitude will be more fully expressed
in the historical inquiry which follows.

Dewey begins this inquiry with the period of the rise of Christianity,
which, because it emphasized faith and the personal attitude, seemed in
a fair way to do justice to human belief. "That the ultimate principle
of conduct is affectional and volitional; that God is love; that access
to the principle is by faith, a personal attitude; that belief,
surpassing logical basis and warrant, works out through its own
operation its own fulfilling evidence: such was the implied moral
metaphysic of Christianity."[236] But these implications had to be
worked out into a theory, and the only logical or metaphysical systems
which offered themselves as a basis for organization were those Stoic
systems which "identified true existence with the proper object of
logical reason." Aristotle alone among the ancients gave practical
thought its due attention, but he, unfortunately, failed to assimilate
"his idea of theoretical to his notion of practical knowledge."[237] In
the Greek systems generally, "desiring reason culminating in beliefs
relating to imperfect existence, stands forever in contrast with
passionless reason functioning in pure knowledge, logically complete, of
perfect being."[238]

Dewey's discussion moves too rapidly here to be convincing. He does not
take time, for instance, to make a very important distinction between
the Greek and Hellenistic philosophies. He does not do justice to the
purpose which animated the Greeks in their attempt to put thought on a
'theoretical' basis. His confusion of Platonism with Neo-Platonism is
especially annoying. And, most assuredly, his estimate of primitive
Christianity needs corroboration. Probably Christianity, in its
primitive form, did lay great stress upon individual beliefs and
persuasions, but it was expected, nevertheless, that the Holy Spirit
working in men would produce uniform results in the way of belief. When
the uniformity failed to materialize, Christianity was forced, in the
interests of union, to fall back upon some objective standard by which
belief could be tested. After this was established, an end was made of
individual inspiration. From the earliest times, therefore, it may be
said, Christianity sought means for the suppression of free inquiry and
belief, a proceeding utterly opposed to the spirit of ancient Greece.

"I need not remind you," Dewey continues, "how through Neo-Platonism,
St. Augustine, and the Scholastic renaissance, these conceptions became
imbedded in Christian philosophy; and what a reversal occurred of the
original practical principle of Christianity. Belief is henceforth
important because it is the mere antecedent in a finite and fallen
world, a temporal and phenomenal world infected with non-being, of true
knowledge to be achieved only in a world of completed Being."[239]
Through the hundreds of years that intervened before the world's
awakening, the 'Stoic dogma,' enforced by authority, held the world in
thrall. And still Dewey finds the mediaeval Absolutism in many respects
more merciful than the Absolutism of modern philosophy. "For my part, I
can but think that mediaeval absolutism, with its provision for
authoritative supernatural assistance in this world and assertion of
supernatural realization in the next, was more logical, as well as more
humane, then the modern absolutism, that, with the same logical
premises, bids man find adequate consolation and support in the fact
that, after all, his strivings are already eternally fulfilled, his
errors already eternally transcended, his partial beliefs already
eternally comprehended."[240] Dewey takes no note of the fact that
philosophy, as involving really free inquiry, was dead during the whole
period of mediaeval predominance.

The modern age, Dewey continues, brought intelligence back to earth
again, but only partially. Fixed being was still supposed to be the
object of thought. "The principle of the inherent relation of thought to
being was preserved intact, but its practical locus was moved down from
the next world to this."[241] Aristotle's mode of dealing with the
Platonic ideas was followed, and Spinoza was the great exponent of "the
strict correlation of the attribute of matter with the attribute of

But, again, the modern conception of knowledge failed to do justice to
belief, in spite of the compromise that gave the natural world to
intelligence, and the spiritual world to faith. This compromise could
not endure, for Science encroached upon the field of religious belief,
and invaded the sphere of the personal and emotional. "Knowledge, in its
general theory, as philosophy, went the same way. It was pre-committed
to the old notion: the absolutely real is the object of _knowledge_, and
hence is something universal and impersonal. So, whether by the road of
sensationalism or rationalism, by the path of mechanicalism or objective
idealism, it came about that concrete selves, specific feeling and
willing beings, were relegated with the beliefs in which they declare
themselves to the 'phenomenal.'"[242] Feeling, volition, desiring
thought have never received the justice due them in the whole course of
philosophy. This is Dewey's conclusion. Little can be said in praise of
his historical survey. There is scarcely a statement to which exception
could not be taken, for the history of philosophy is not amenable to
generalized treatment of this character.

The reader turns more hopefully toward the third part of the essay, in
which he is promised a positive statement of the new theory which does
full justice to belief. "First, then, the very use of the knowledge
standpoint, the very expression of the knowledge preoccupation, has
produced methods and tests that, when formulated, intimate a radically
different conception of knowledge, and of its relation to existence and
belief, than the orthodox one."[243]

But after this not unpromising introduction, Dewey falls into the
polemical strain again. The argument need not be followed in detail,
since it consists largely in a reassertion of the validity of belief as
an element in knowledge. The general conclusion is that modern
scientific investigation reveals itself, when examined, as nothing more
that the "rendering into a systematic technique, into an art
deliberately and delightfully pursued, the rougher and cruder means by
which practical human beings have in all ages worked out the
implications of their beliefs, tested them, and endeavored in the
interests of economy, efficiency, and freedom, to render them coherent
with one another."[244] This is presumably true. If no more is implied
than is definitely asserted in this passage, the reader is apt to wonder
who would deny it.

Dewey again claims for his theory the support of modern science.
"Biology, psychology, and the social sciences proffer an imposing body
of concrete facts that also point to the rehabilitation of
belief...."[245] Psychology has revised its notions in terms of
beliefs. 'Motor' is writ large on the face of sensation, perception,
conception, cognition in general. Biology shows that the organic
instruments of the intellectual life were evolved for specifically
practical purposes. The historical sciences show that knowledge is a
social instrument for the purpose of meeting social needs. This
testimony is not philosophy, Dewey says, but it has a bearing on
philosophy. The new sciences have at least as much importance as
mathematics and physics. "Such being the case, the reasons for ruling
psychology and sociology and allied sciences out of competency to give
philosophic testimony have more significance than the bare denial of
jurisdiction."[246] The idealists, apparently, have been the worst
offenders in this connection. "One would be almost justified in
construing idealism as a Pickwickian scheme, so willing is it to
idealize the principle of intelligence at the expense of its specific
undertakings, were it not that this reluctance is the necessary outcome
of the Stoic basis and tenor of idealism--its preoccupation with logical
contents and relations in abstraction from their _situs_ and function in
conscious living beings."[247]

In conclusion, Dewey warns against certain possible misunderstandings.
The pragmatic philosopher, he says, is not opposed to objective
realities, and logical and universal thinking. Again, it is not to be
supposed that science is any the less exact by reason of being
instrumental to human beliefs. "Because reason is a scheme of working
out the meanings of convictions in terms of one another and of the
consequences they import in further experience, convictions are the
more, not the less, amenable and responsible to the full exercise of
reason."[248] And finally, Dewey assures the reader that the outcome of
his discussion is not a solution, but a problem. Nobody is apt to
dispute that statement.

This very unsatisfactory essay is, nevertheless, a fair specimen of the
polemical literature which was produced by Dewey and others during these
years. Pragmatism was trying to make converts, and the _argumentum ad
hominem_ was freely employed. If the opposition was painted a good deal
blacker than was necessary, the end was supposed to justify the evident
exaggeration. And so, in this essay, after accusing his contemporaries
of adherence to tenets that they would have indignantly repudiated,
after a wholesale and indiscriminate condemnation of idealism, Dewey
concludes with--a problem. This period of propaganda is now quite
definitely a thing of the past. Philosophical discussion, especially
since the beginning of the great war, has entered upon a new epoch of
sanity, and, perhaps, of constructive effort.


[212] _The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, p. 227.

[213] _Ibid._, p. 228. In connection with the discussion which follows
see Bradley "On Our Knowledge of Immediate Experience," in _Essays on
Truth and Reality_, Chapter VI.

[214] _Ibid._, p. 229.

[215] _Op. cit._, p. 239.

[216] _Ibid._, p. 240.

[217] _The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, pp. 77-111.

[218] _Ibid._, p. 77.

[219] _Ibid._, p. 78.

[220] _Op. cit._

[221] _Ibid._, p. 84.

[222] _Op. cit._, p. 90. Author's italics.

[223] _Op. cit._, p. 87.

[224] _Ibid._, p. 95. Author's italics.

[225] Vol. VII. pp. 477-481.

[226] _Ibid._, p. 478.

[227] _Op. cit._, p. 479.

[228] _Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, p. 169.

[229] _Ibid._, p. 170.

[230] _Ibid._, p. 171.

[231] _Ibid._

[232] _Ibid._

[233] _Ibid._, p. 172.

[234] _Op. cit._, p. 175.

[235] _Ibid._, p. 177.

[236] _Ibid._, p. 17?.

[237] _Op. cit._, p. 179.

[238] _Ibid._

[239] _Op. cit._

[240] _Ibid._, p. 180.

[241] _Ibid._, p. 181.

[242] _Op. cit._, p. 183.

[243] _Ibid._, p. 184.

[244] _Ibid._, p. 187.

[245] _Ibid._, p. 189.

[246] _Op. cit._, p. 190.

[247] _Ibid._, p. 191 f.

[248] _Ibid._, p. 194.



Neo-realism began to flourish in this country after 1900, its rise being
nearly contemporary with the spread of pragmatism. Many neo-realists,
indeed, consider themselves followers of James. Dewey views the new
realism, along with pragmatism and 'naturalistic idealism,' as "part and
parcel of a general movement of intellectual reconstruction."[249] The
neo-realists, like the pragmatists, have been active in the field of
controversy, and the pages of the _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology,
and Scientific Methods_ are filled with exchanges between the
representatives of the two schools, in the form of notes, articles,
discussions, agreements, and disclaimers. Dewey has more sympathy for
realism than for idealism. He finds among the writers of this school,
however, a tendency toward the epistemological interpretation of thought
which he so strongly opposes. An excellent statement of his estimate of
realism is furnished by his "Brief Studies in Realism," published in the
_Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods_, in

In beginning these studies Dewey observes that certain idealistic
writers (not named) have been employing in support of their idealism
certain facts which have an obvious physical nature and explanation.
Such illusions as that of the bent stick in the water, the converging
railway tracks, and the double image that occurs when the eye-ball is
pressed, have, as the realists have well proved, a physical explanation
which is entirely adequate. Why is it that the idealists remain
unimpressed by this demonstration? There is a certain element in the
realistic explanation which undoubtedly explains the reluctance of the
idealists to be convinced. "Many realists, in offering the type of
explanation adduced above, have treated the cases of seen light,
doubled imagery, as perception in a way that ascribes to perception an
inherent cognitive status. They have treated the perceptions as _cases
of knowledge_, instead of as simply natural events...."[251]

Dewey draws a distinction, at this point, between naïve and presentative
realism, employing, by way of illustration, the 'star' illusion, which
turns upon the peculiar fact that a star may be seen upon the earth long
after it has ceased to exist. The naïve realist remains in the sphere of
natural explanation. He accounts for the star illusion in physical
terms. The astronomical star and the perceived star are two physical
events within a continuous physical order or process. But the
presentative realist maintains that, since the two stars are numerically
separate, the astronomical star must be the 'real' star, while the
perceived star is merely mental; the real star exists in independence of
a knowing subject, while the perceived star is related to a mind. The
naïve realist has no need of the hypothesis of a knower, since he can
furnish an adequate physical account of the numerical duplicity of the
star. Dewey favors the naïve standpoint, and affirms that presentative
realism is tainted by an epistemological subjectivism. "Once depart," he
says, "from this thorough naïveté, and substitute for it the
psychological theory that perception is a cognitive presentation of an
object to a mind, and the first step is taken on the road which ends in
an idealistic system."[252]

The presentative realist, Dewey continues, finds himself possessed of
two kinds of knowledge, when he comes to take account of inference; for
inference is "in the field as an obvious and undisputed case of
knowledge." There is the knowledge of perception by a knower, and the
inferential knowledge which passes beyond perception. All reality,
consequently, is related, directly or indirectly, to the knowing
subject, and idealism is triumphant. But the real difficulty of the
realist's position is that, if perception is a mode of knowing, it
stands in unfavorable contrast with knowledge by inference. How can the
inferred reality of the star be established, considering the
subjectivity of all perception?

Dewey is alert to the dangers which result from subjectivism, but does
not distinguish, as carefully as he might, between knowledge as
inference, and knowledge as perceptual awareness. Thus, while it might
be granted that the subjective mind is a vicious abstraction, it does
not follow that Dewey's particular interpretation of the function of
inference is correct. And, although the "unwinking, unremitting eye" of
the subjective knower might make experience merely a mental affair,
there is no reason to believe that the operation of inference in
perception would lead to the same result, for inference and awareness
are quite distinct, in historical meaning and function. It is, in fact,
a mere accident that inference and awareness (in the subjective sense)
should both be called knowledge.

In opposition to presentative realism, Dewey offers his 'naturalistic'
interpretation of knowledge.[253] He finds that the function of
inference, "although embodying the logical relation, is itself a natural
and specifically detectable process among natural things--it is not a
non-natural or epistemological relation, that is, a relation to a mind
or knower not in the natural series...."[254] As has been observed,
Dewey is safe in maintaining that inference is _not_ an operation
performed by a subjective knower, but it does not follow from this that
his interpretation of inference is correct. In fact, a discussion of
inference is irrelevant to the matters which Dewey is here considering.

In the second part of the essay, the discussion passes into a keen and
rather clever recital of the difficulties that result from taking the
knowledge relation to be 'ubiquitous.'[255] Since this relation is a
constant factor in experience, it would seem as if it might be
eliminated from philosophical calculations. The realist would be glad to
eliminate it, but the idealist is not so willing; for, "since the point
at issue is precisely the statement of the most universally defining
trait of existence as existence, the invitation deliberately to
disregard the most universal trait is nothing more or less than an
invitation to philosophic suicide."[256] It is, Dewey says, as if two
philosophers should set out to ascertain the relation which holds
between an organism as 'eater' and the environment as 'food,' and one
should find the essential thing to be the food, the other the eating.
The 'foodists' would represent the realists, the 'eaterists' the
idealists. No advance, he believes, can be made on this basis.

In opposition to the epistemologists, Dewey would consider the knowledge
relation not ubiquitous, but specific and occasional. As man bears other
relations to his environment than that of eater, so is he also something
more than a knower. "If the one who is knower is, in relation to
objects, something else and more than their knower, and if objects are,
_in relation to the one who knows them_, something else and other than
things in a knowledge relation, there is somewhat to define and
discuss...."[2] Dewey proposes to advance certain facts to support his
contention that knowing is "a relation to things which depends upon
other and more primary connections between a self and things; a relation
which grows out of these more fundamental connections and which operates
in their interests at specifiable crises."[257]

This brings the discussion back to familiar ground again, and nothing is
added to his previous statements of the functional conception of
knowledge. While the realist (explicitly or implicitly) conceives the
knowledge relation as obtaining between a subject knower and the
external world, Dewey interprets the knowledge relation in terms of
organism and environment. The 'ubiquity' of the knowledge relation is
disposed of, as has been seen, by conceiving knowledge from an entirely
different standpoint; by reducing all knowledge to inference, and
abolishing the knowing subject. Dewey is plainly under the impression
that the only alternative to the ubiquitous knower is his naturalistic,
biological interpretation of the processes of inference.

In support of his naturalistic logic, Dewey argues as follows: (1) All
perception involves reference to an organism. "We might about as well
talk of the production of a specimen case of water as a presentation of
water to hydrogen as talk in the way we are only too accustomed to talk
about perceptions and the organism."[258] (2) Awareness is only a single
phase of experience. We 'know' only a small part of the causes which
affect us as agents. "This means, of course, that things, the things
that come to be _known_, are primarily not objects of awareness, but
causes of weal and woe, things to get and things to avoid, means and
obstacles, tools and results."[259] (3) Knowing is only a special phase
of the behaver-enjoyer-sufferer situation, but very important as having
to do with means for the practical and scientific control of the

In the final analysis, it will be seen that Dewey refutes the realist by
substituting inference for what the realist calls 'consciousness,' and
settling the issue by this triumph in the field of dialectics, rather
than by an appeal to the facts. Nowhere does Dewey do justice to those
concrete situations which, to the realist, seem to necessitate a
definition of consciousness as awareness. His attitude toward the
realists may be summed up in the statement that he finds in most
realistic systems the fault to which his logical theory is especially
opposed: the tendency to define the problem of logic as that of the
relation of thought at large to reality at large, and to distinguish the
content of mind from the content of the world on an existential rather
than on a functional basis.

One of Dewey's more recent studies, "The Logic of Judgments of
Practise,"[260] seems to add something positive to his interpretation of
knowledge. A practical judgment, Dewey explains at the outset of this
study, is differentiated from others, not by having a separate organ and
source, but by having a specific sort of subject-matter. It is concerned
with things to be done or situations demanding action. "He had better
consult a physician," and "It would be well for you to invest in these
bonds," are examples of the practical judgment.

These propositions, as will be seen, are not cast in what the logician
calls logical form, with regular terms and copula. When put in that
form, they seem to lose the direct reference to action which, Dewey
says, differentiates them from the 'descriptive' judgment of the form
_S_ is _P_.[261] This apparently trivial matter is really important.
Although every statement embodies judgment, some statements do not
reflect the ground upon which they are asserted. In this condition they
may be viewed as opinions, suggestions, or guesses, looking towards
judgment rather than reflecting its results. True judgment is occupied
with reasons, proofs, and grounds, and does not concern itself with
action as action. Only when taken as the expression of an individual's
attitude, do Dewey's practical judgments (or assertions) possess the
direct reference to action which he selects as their chief
characteristic. The statement, "You ought to invest in these bonds,"
does, indeed, suggest a specific action, but in so doing it loses its
character as a judgment. Put in more logical form, "You are one of those
who should invest in these bonds," the proposition is more clearly the
expression of a judgment, and leads back to its premises. Attention
turns from specific action as such to action as a typical or universal
fact. In short, Dewey's practical judgment is not a true judgment; it
will be seen that it is studied, not as a logical, but as a
psychological phenomenon.

In pursuance of his psychological method, Dewey discovers several
interesting facts about judgments of practice.(1) These judgments imply
an incomplete situation,--concretely and specifically incomplete; they
express a need. (2) The judgment is itself a factor in assisting toward
the completion of the situation, since it directs an action necessary to
the fulfilment of the need. (3) The subject-matter of the judgment
expresses the fact that one outcome is to be preferred to another. The
element of preference is peculiar to the practical judgment, for it is
not found in merely descriptive judgments, or those 'confined to the
given.' (4) A practical judgment implies both means and end, the act
that completes, and the completeness. It is in this respect 'binary.'
(5) The judgment of what is to be done demands an accurate statement of
the course of action to be pursued and the means to be employed, and
these are to be determined relatively to the end in view. (6) It finally
appears that what is true of the practical judgment may be true of all
judgments of fact; it may be held that "all judgments of fact have
reference to a determination of courses of action to be tried and the
discovery of means for their attempted realization."[262]

This ingenious reading of functionalism out of the practical judgment
is, after all, merely a drawing forth of the psychological implications
previously placed in it. That judgment is an instrument for completing a
situation; that it is linked up with action through desire and
preference; that it seeks to determine the means for effecting a
practical outcome,--these typically instrumental notions are of one
piece with the system of belief that led Dewey to hit upon the practical
judgment as the embodiment of a direction to action. It is important to
distinguish between the logical and the psychological aspects of these
propositions. Action as psychological is one thing; as the
subject-matter of judgment, it is another. In coming to a decision as to
how to act, the agent sets his proposed action over against himself, and
considers it in its universal and typical character. His motor
tendencies, his feelings, his desires factor in the situation
psychologically considered; but they do not enter judgment as
psychological facts, but rather, if at all, as data which have a
significance beyond their mere particularity. Dewey remains at the
psychological standpoint, giving no attention to the genuinely logical
aspects of his 'judgments of practice.'

From the study of the practical judgment, Dewey passes on to a
consideration of judgments of value, proposing to maintain that "value
judgments are a species of practical judgments."[263] There will be a
distinct gain for moral and economic theory, he believes, in treating
value as concerned with acts necessary to complete a given
need-situation. There is no obvious reason why Dewey should pass to the
pragmatic theory of value through the medium of the practical judgment,
since it could be directly considered on its own account. At any rate,
the discussion of value judgments which follows must stand on its own
merits; it has no vital relation to what precedes.

It is, as usual, the psychological characteristics of the value judgment
that attract Dewey's attention. Any process of judgment, according to
his analysis, deals with a specific subject-matter, not from the
standpoint of any objective quality it may possess, but with reference
to its functional capacity. "Relative, or comparative, durability,
cheapness, suitability, style, esthetic attractiveness [_e. g._, in a
suit of clothes] constitute value traits. They are traits of objects not
_per se_, but _as entering into a possible and foreseen completing of
the situation_. Their value is their force in precisely this

Attention should not be distracted from this interpretation of value,
Dewey warns, through confusing the value sought with the price or market
value of the goods. Price values, like the qualities and patterns of the
goods, are data which must be considered in making the judgment, but
they are not the values which the judgment seeks. The value to be
determined is here, is specific, and must be established by reference to
the specific or psychological situation as it presents itself.

It is true, as Dewey says, that in judgment a value is being established
which has not been determined previously. But it must be insisted that
this value is not estimated by reference to the specific situation in
its limited aspects. The weight of the past bears against the moment;
the act of judgment bases itself upon knowledge objective and
substantial; the test of the value of the thing is its place and
function, not in the here and now, but in the whole system of
experience. Dewey has excluded the reference of the thing to objective,
organized reality, by specifying that its value shall be decided upon
with reference to a specific situation. This limitation of the judgment
situation is imposed upon it from without, and from a special point of
view,--that of functional psychology. Every object and every situation
has its quality of uniqueness and particularity; but the judgment, as
judgment, is not concerned with this aspect of things. Judgment seizes
upon the generic aspect of objects; this kind of a suit of clothes is
the kind that is appropriate to this type of situation. The movement of
judgment is objective and universal, not subjective and psychological.

Dewey finds one alternative especially opposed to his 'specific'
judgment of value; that is, the proposition that evaluation involves a
comparison of the present object with some fixed standard. When the
fixed standard is investigated, it is found to depend on something else,
and this on something else again in an infinite regress. Finally, the
_Summum Bonum_, as the absolute end term of such a _regressus_, turns
out to be a fiction. Dewey is quite right in maintaining that value is
not something eternally fixed. This does not, however, remove the
possibility of 'real' value, as opposed to mere expediency.

Value as established, Dewey continues, must be taken into consideration
in making a value judgment. At the same time, it will not do to accept
the established value from mere force of habit. Ultimately, he finds,
all genuine valuation implies a degree of revaluation. "To many," he
observes, "it will appear to be a survival of an idealistic
epistemology,"[265] presumably because it implies a real change in
reality, as opposed to a fixed and rigid order of external reality. But
practical judgments, Dewey says, as having reference to proposed acts,
necessarily look toward some proposed change which the act is to effect.
It is not in an epistemological, but in a practical sense, that judgment
involves a change in values.

The outcome of the discussion so far, Dewey believes, is to show, first
of all, that "the passage of a proposition into action is not a miracle,
but the realization of its own character--its own meaning as
logical,"[266] and, in the second place, to suggest that all judgments,
not merely practical ones, may have their import in reference to some
difference to be brought about through action.

In the third part of the essay, Dewey's discussion leads him back to
sense perceptions as forms of practical judgment. There is no doubt, in
his mind, that many perceptions do have an import for action. Not merely
sign-posts, and familiar symbols of the kind, but many perceptions
lacking this obvious reference, have a significance for conduct. It must
not, of course, be supposed that all perception, at any one time, has
cognitive properties; for some of the perceptions have esthetic, and
other non-cognitive properties. Only certain elements of a situation
have the function of cognition.

Dewey goes on to say that care must be taken in the use made of these
sign-functions in connection with inference. "There is a great
difference between saying that the perception of a shape affords an
indication of how to act and saying that the perception of shape is
itself an inference."[267] No judgment, Dewey seems to imply, is
involved in responding to the motor cue furnished by a familiar object.
Again, the common idea that present perception consists of sensations as
immediate, plus inferred images, implies that every perception involves
inference. But the merging of sensations and images in perception can be
explained naturally, by the fusion of nervous processes, and no
supplementary (transcendental) act of mind is needed to explain the
integrity of experience.

The tendency to take perception as the object of knowledge, Dewey
continues, instead of as simply cognitive, a term in knowledge, is due
to two chief causes. The first is that in practical judgments the
pointing of the thing towards action is so universal a trait as to be
overlooked, and the second is that signs, because of their importance,
become objects of study on their own account, and in this condition
cease to function directly as cognitive. Dewey means, apparently, that
because the cognitive aspect of things is never attended to except when
they are 'known,' or treated as objects of judgment, there is a tendency
to suppose that they always have the character that pertains to them as
'known' things.

Again, Dewey says, perception may be translated as the effect of a cause
that produced it. But the cause does not ordinarily appear in
experience, and the perceptions, as effects, remain isolated from the
system of things. Truth and error then become matters of the relation of
the perception to its cause. The difficulties attendant upon this view
can be avoided by taking sense perceptions as terms in practical
judgments. Here the 'other term' which is sought is the action proposed
by the perception. "To borrow an illustration of Professor Woodbridge's:
A certain sound indicates to the mother that her baby needs attention.
If there is error it is not because the sound ought to mean so many
vibrations of the air, while as matter of fact it doesn't even suggest
air vibrations, but because there is wrong inference as to the act to be
performed."[268] The idea is tested, not by its correspondence with some
formal reality, but by its ability to lead up to the experience to which
it points.

From the consideration of error as cognitive, Dewey passes on to
consider its status as primitive sense data. He draws a distinction
between sensation as psychological and as logical. Ordinary sensation,
just as it comes, is often too confused to serve as a basis for
inference. "It has often been pointed out that sense qualities being
just what they are, it is illegitimate to introduce such notions as
obscurity or confusion into them: a slightly illuminated color is just
as irretrievably what it is, as clearly itself, as an object in the
broad glare of noon-day."[269] But when a confused object is made a
datum for inference, its confusion is just the thing to be got rid of.
It is broken up by analysis into simple elements, and the psychologist's
sensations are logical products, not psychological facts. "Locke writes
a mythology of the history of knowledge, starting from clear and
distinct meanings, each simple, well-defined, sharply and unambiguously
just what it is on its face, without concealments and complications, and
proceeds by 'natural' compoundings up to the store of complex ideas, and
the perception of simple relations of agreement among ideas: a
perception always certain if the ideas are simple, and always
controllable in the case of the complex ideas if we consider the simple
ideas and connections by which they are reached. Thus he established the
habit of taking logical discriminations as historical or psychological
primitives--as 'sources' of beliefs and knowledge instead of as checks
upon inference."[270] This way of treating perception found its way into
psychology and into empirical logic. The acceptance of the doctrine that
all sense involves knowledge, Dewey believes, leads to an
epistemological logic; but all perception must involve thought if the
'given' is the simple sensation.

There is nothing especially new in this critique of sensationalism.
Historically, sensationalism had been displaced by idealism, and the
idea that reality is a construct of ideas held together by logical
relations was given up long before functionalism arrived on the scene.
But if inference, or rationality, is not present in all experience as
the combiner of simple into complex ideas, it may be present in some
other form, even more vital. Dewey, however, does not consider such

Finally, in an article of slightly earlier date than the studies which
have just been considered, Dewey returns to a consideration of
metaphysics, and the possibility of a metaphysical standpoint in
philosophy. This article, entitled "The Subject-Matter of Metaphysical
Inquiry,"[271] deserves careful notice.

The comments of a number of mechanistic biologists on vitalism furnish
the point of departure for Dewey's discussion. These scientists hold
that, if the organism is considered simply as a part of external nature,
as an existing system, it can be satisfactorily analyzed by the methods
of physico-chemical science. But if the question of ultimate origins is
raised, if it be asked _why_ nature exhibits certain innate
potentialities for producing life, science can give no answer. These
questions belong to metaphysics, and vitalistic or biocentric
conceptions may be valid in the metaphysical sphere.

This raises the question of the nature of metaphysical inquiry. Dewey
says that the ultimate traits or tendencies which give rise to life need
not necessarily be considered ultimate in a temporal sense. On the
contrary, they may be viewed as permanent, 'irreducible traits,' which
are ultimate in the sense of being always present in reality. The
inquiry and search for these ultimate traits is what constitutes valid
metaphysics. "They are found equally and indifferently whether a
subject-matter in question be dated 1915 or ten million years B. C.
Accordingly, they would seem to deserve the name of ultimate, or
irreducible, traits. As such they may be made the object of a kind of
inquiry differing from that which deals with the genesis of a particular
group of existences, a kind of inquiry to which the name metaphysical
may be given."[272]

The irreducible traits which Dewey finds are, in the physical sciences,
plurality, interaction, and change. "These traits have to be begged or
taken in any case," for wherever and whenever we take the world, we must
explain it as "a plurality of diverse interacting and changing
existences."[273] The evolutionary sciences add another trait; that is,
evolution, or development in a direction. "For evolution appears to be
just one of the irreducible traits. In other words, it is a fact to be
reckoned with in considering the traits of diversity, interaction, and
change which have been enumerated as among the traits taken for granted
in all scientific subject-matter."[274]

The doctrine that plurality, interaction, change, and evolution are
permanent traits of reality gains in clearness when contrasted with the
opposed theories which involve creation, absolute origins, or temporal
ultimates. The term 'ultimate origins' may be taken in a merely relative
sense which is valid. The French language has an origin in the Latin
tongues, which is an ultimate origin for French, but this is not an
absolutely ultimate origin, since the Latin tongues, in their turn,
have origins. It is, for instance, meaningless to inquire into the
ultimate origin of the world as a whole; and it is equally futile to
trace any part of the world back to an absolute origin. "That scientific
inquiry does not itself deal with any question of ultimate origins,
except in the purely relative sense already indicated, is, of course,
recognized. But it also seems to follow from what has been said that
scientific inquiry does not generate, or leave over, such a question for
some other discipline, such as metaphysics, to deal with."[275]

Theories like that of Laplace, for instance, trace the world back to an
origin in some undifferentiated universe; or, in Spencer's terms, some
state of homogeneity. From this original state the world is said to
evolve. But the undifferentiated mass lacks the plurality, interaction,
and change which are presupposed in all scientific explanation. These
traits must be present before development can occur. "To get change we
have to assume other structures which interact with it, existences not
covered by the formula."[276] In short, although Dewey only implies
this, all scientific explanation presupposes a system of interacting
parts; nothing can be explained by reference to an undifferentiated
world which lacks such traits.

Dewey is particularly interested in the origin of mind or intelligence.
In dealing with mind, he says, we must begin with the present, and in
the present we find that the world has an organization, "in spots," of
the kind we call intelligence. This existing intelligence cannot be
explained by any theory which reduces it to something inferior. The
"attempt to give an account of any occurrence involves the genuine and
irreducible existence of the thing dealt with."[277] Mind cannot be
explained by being explained away, nor can it be explained as a
development out of an original source in which the potentiality, or
direction of change towards mind, was lacking.

The evolution of things, Dewey says, is a real fact, and is to be
reckoned with. Moreover, if everything that exists changes, then the
evolution of life and mind surely have a bearing on the nature of
physico-chemical things. They must have in them the trait of direction
of change towards life and mind. "To say, accordingly, that the
existence of vital, intellectual, and social organization makes
impossible a purely mechanistic metaphysics is to say something which
the situation calls for."[278] In other words, the world, metaphysically
considered, must have evolution, as well as the physico-chemical traits.
"Without a doctrine of evolution we might be able to say, not that
matter _caused_ life, but that matter under certain conditions of highly
complicated and intensified interaction is living. With the doctrine of
evolution, we can add to this statement that the interactions and
changes of matter are themselves of a kind to bring about that complex
and intensified interaction which is life."[279] Dewey holds that
evolution rests upon the reality of time: "time itself, or genuine
change in a specific direction, is itself one of the ultimate traits of
the world irrespective of date."[280]

This article presents on the whole a distinct advance over the position
taken in the earlier essay, "Some Implications of Anti-Intellectualism,"
which was reviewed in the last chapter. Dewey is not now, to be sure,
instituting a wholesale inquiry into the nature of being, but he betrays
an interest in the general, as opposed to the specific traits of
reality. He inquires into the real nature of the world, and believes
that he discovers its ultimate traits. This essay, of course, is
incomplete, and consequently indefinite in certain important respects.
It may be said, nevertheless, to give an accurate view of the
metaphysical back-ground against which all of Dewey's theories are
projected. His metaphysics, as would be expected, are evolutionary
throughout, and evolution is conceived, where he is at all definite, in
biological terms.


[249] _Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, Introduction, p. iv.

[250] Vol. VIII: "I. Naïve Realism _vs._ Presentative Realism," pp.
393-400. "II. Epistemological Realism: The Alleged Ubiquity of the
Knowledge Relation," pp. 546-554.

[251] _Op. cit._, p. 395.

[252] _Ibid._, p. 397.

[253] In this connection Dewey's disagreements with Professor McGilvary
are of especial interest. See especially McGilvary's article, "Pure
Experience and Reality" (_Philosophical Review_, Vol. XVI, 1907, pp.
266-284) and Dewey's reply, together with McGilvary's rejoinder
(_Ibid._, pp. 419-424). McGilvary failed to understand that Dewey's
argument was conducted on a purely 'naturalistic' basis, an almost
inevitable error, in view of Dewey's practical identification of
psychology, biology, and logic.

[254] _Ibid._, p. 399.

[255] Dewey is here dealing with the 'epistemological' realists, among
whom he includes such writers as Bertrand Russell. In an article
entitled "The Existence of the World as a Problem" (_Philosophical
Review_, Vol. XXIV, 1915, pp. 357-370), Dewey argues that Russell, in
making a problem of the existence of the external world, implies its
existence in his formulation of the problem. Dewey argues that, since
the existence of the world is presupposed in every such formulation, it
cannot be called in question. This is like disposing of Zeno's paradox
on the ground that arrows fly anyway.

[256] _Op. cit._, p. 548.

[257] _Ibid._

[258] _Op. cit._

[259] _Ibid._, p. 553.

[260] _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods_, Vol.
XII, 1915. Parts I and II, pp. 505-523; Part III, pp. 533-543.

[261] _Ibid._, p. 506.

[262] _Op. cit._, p. 511.

[263] _Op. cit._, p. 514.

[264] _Ibid._, p. 515.

[265] _Op. cit._, p. 521.

[266] _Op. cit._, p. 522 f.

[267] _Ibid._, p. 536.

[268] _Op. cit._, p. 538.

[269] _Ibid._, p. 540.

[270] _Op. cit._, p. 541.

[271] _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods_, Vol.
XII, 1915, pp. 337-345.

[272] _Op. cit._, p. 340.

[273] _Ibid._

[274] _Ibid._, p. 345.

[275] _Op. cit._, p. 339.

[276] _Ibid._, p. 343.

[277] _Ibid._, p. 344.

[278] _Op. cit._, p. 345.

[279] _Ibid._

[280] _Ibid._



Dewey's interest as a philosopher centres, from first to last, upon
knowledge and the knowing process. All that is vital in his ethical,
social, and educational theories depends ultimately upon the special
interpretation of the function of knowledge which constitutes his chief
claim to philosophical distinction. Dewey's logical theory, as has been
seen, was the natural and inevitable outcome of his demand for an
empirical and 'psychological' description of thought as a
'transformatory' process working actual changes in reality. If in the
beginning of his career he found the problem of the nature of knowledge
all-important for his own interests, he came in the end to regard it as
the problem of problems for all philosophers. There is no mistaking
Dewey's conviction that the special interpretation of knowledge which he
advocates opens the door to important advances in philosophical
speculation, while it ends all discussion of those pseudo-problems which
result from a false, epistemological formulation of the function of

The history of the development of Dewey's thought, set forth in the
preceding chapters, does not pretend to furnish an adequate estimate of
his philosophical system. The two questions, of origin and worth, are,
after all, distinct. The genetic account of Dewey's theory of knowledge
may serve to make its bearings and implications better understood, may
reveal its deeper meaning and import, but the final estimate of its
value as a philosophical hypothesis depends on other considerations. In
this final chapter, it is proposed to deal with the question of the
positive value of functionalism as a working hypothesis. This criticism
may also serve to gather together the threads of criticism and comment
which run through the previous chapters, and reveal the general ground
upon which the writer's opposition to Dewey's theory is based.

There can be no question that Dewey's theory of knowledge rests,
finally, upon the doctrine of 'immediate empiricism;' upon his belief in
"the necessity of employing in philosophy the direct descriptive method
that has now made its way in all the natural sciences...."[281] This
doctrine is clearly stated in the first essay reviewed in this study,
"The Psychological Standpoint" (1886). To quote again from that essay:
"The psychological standpoint as it has developed itself is this: all
that is, is for consciousness or knowledge. The business of the
psychologist is to give a genetic account of the various elements within
this consciousness, and thereby fix their place, determine their
validity, and at the same time show definitely what the real and eternal
nature of this consciousness is."[282] The descriptive method here
advocated does not differ, as an actual mode of procedure, from that of
Dewey's later empiricism. It lies at the basis of all his speculation,
earlier as well as later, and is undoubtedly the most important single
element in his philosophical system.

In "The Psychological Standpoint" Dewey ascribes the failure of the
earlier empiricists to their desertion of the direct descriptive method
(a criticism repeated frequently in later essays). Locke, for instance,
instead of describing experience as it actually occurs, interprets it in
terms of certain assumed simple sensations, the products of reflection.
These non-experienced elements, Dewey believes, have no place in a
purely empirical philosophy.

But the empiricist must deal in some manner with the products of
reflection. The atoms of chemistry and the elements of the psychologist
are not experienced facts, but still they play a valuable, indispensable
role in the technique of the sciences. What is to be done with them? It
must be made to appear that they are valid within knowledge, but invalid
elsewhere. This leads to a separation of knowing from other modes of
experiencing, and the descriptive method is depended upon to maintain
the empirical validity of the separation. It has been seen how Dewey's
attempt to interpret knowledge led gradually to a distinction between
the 'cognitional' and the 'non-cognitional' processes of experience.

The completed theory of knowledge depends for its validity upon the
distinction thus established between knowing (as reflective thought) and
the practical attitudes of life. The concepts, elements, and other
apparatus of reflection are employed, it is said, only when there is
thinking,--and this is only occasionally. Theory is an instrument to be
used in connection with that special activity, reflective thought, the
general aim of which is the furtherance of the practical ends of life.

One fairly obvious difficulty with this separation of reflection from
the other life activities is that the 'direct descriptive method,' as
here employed, is itself reflective. How does it come, then, that this
particular method achieves such an effective hegemony over the other
modes of reflection? The 'descriptive method,' as the method of pure
experience, is made to determine or supplant all other methods. It
defines the limits and aims of conceptual systems; it marks out the
limits, aims, and tests of reflective thought in general. How, it may be
asked, does the 'direct descriptive method' escape the limitations which
it imposes upon the other forms of reflective thought?

It has been seen that in Dewey's view logic is subsidiary to psychology.
But psychology (his psychology) results from the application of the
'descriptive method' to experience. The 'descriptive method,' it may be
inferred from this, is not subject to logical criticism. On the
contrary, it is the basis of all logic. Logic, as the criticism of
categories, is confined to the study of the instrumental concepts as
functioning within the knowledge experience, and its limits are set by
descriptive psychology. There is, apparently, no means by which the
'direct descriptive method' can itself be brought under criticism.

Dewey says: "By our postulate, things are what they are experienced to
be; and, unless knowing is the sole and only genuine mode of
experiencing, it is fallacious to say that Reality is just and
exclusively what it is or would be to an all-competent all-knower; or
even that it _is_, relatively and piece-meal, what it is to a finite and
partial knower."[283] Reality is not simply what it is known as, for it
is experienced in other ways than by being known. "But I venture to
repeat that ... the inferential factor must _exist_, or must occur, and
that all existence is direct and vital, so that philosophy can pass upon
its nature--as upon the nature of all of the rest of its
subject-matter--only by first ascertaining what it exists or occurs

Reflection, then, is not designed to furnish an insight into the nature
of things. Acquaintance with reality must be obtained, not by reflecting
upon it, but by describing it as it occurs. Whatever else this may mean,
it certainly aims at demonstrating the superiority of description to the
supposedly less effective modes of thought. It cannot be conceded,
however, that 'description,' as employed by Dewey, is non-reflective, or
super-reflective. If things are not what they are known as, then they
are not what they are known as to a describer. The point of this
objection will be obvious if it is remembered that it is the method of
'direct description' which enables Dewey to distinguish between the
'cognitional' and the 'non-cognitional' activities of life, and make
thought the servant of action. If Dewey's descriptive method is not
reflective, then there is no such thing as reflection.

Passing for the moment from this criticism, which is not apt to be
convincing in such abstract form, it may be well to consider for a time
the psychology upon which Dewey's logical theory is grounded: the
psychology which is established by the 'direct descriptive method.'

From the standpoint of the nervous correlates of experience, Dewey's
theory involves two postulates: first, that customary conduct is carried
on by an habitual set of nervous adjustments, and, second, that
reflection is a process whereby new reactions are established when
habitual modes of response fail to meet a critical situation.

It must be clearly recognized that, so far as the nervous system is
concerned, the scheme is highly speculative. The advance made by
physiology towards an analysis and understanding of the minute and
specialized parts of the nervous organism has necessarily been slow and
uncertain. Whatever plausibility Dewey's theory possesses must depend,
not upon the technical results of neurology, but upon the external
evidence which seems to justify some such scheme of nervous

An examination of this evidence shows that it falls under two main
heads: (1) facts drawn from the observation of the outward behavior of
the organism, and (2) facts derived from an introspective analysis of
the thought-process.

The study of behavior shows that man thinks only now and then. Most of
his conduct is, literally, thoughtless. It is said that thought is
outwardly manifested by a characteristic attitude, marked by hesitation
and an obvious effort at adjustment. The introspective analysis of the
thought-process shows that it alone, among experiences, is accompanied
by analysis, abstraction, and mediation. Again, both the internal and
external evidence show that a puzzling situation (whose nervous
correlate is a conflict of impulses) is the stimulus which awakens
thought. These are important items in the list of evidence which
supports the functional theory.

It would be a tedious and unnecessary task to subject each of these bits
of evidence to empirical criticism. It will be better to deal with them
by showing that they do not necessarily imply functionalism, since they
are compatible with a psychology directly opposed to the fundamental
assumptions of Dewey's theory.

It is doubtless true that men think only occasionally and with some
reluctance. This is a common observation. What is to be made of this
intermittance of thought? The evidence merely shows that man is more
wide awake, energetic, and alert at some times than at others. On these
occasions every faculty of the organism is in operation, higher as well
as lower centres are pitched to a high degree of responsiveness, not at
hap-hazard, to be sure, but _apropos_--tuned to the situation. In saying
that men think only now and then nothing more is necessarily implied
than that men are for the most part sluggish and indifferent, and the
periods of high intensification of the normal processes contrast sharply
with the habitual lethargy of conduct.

Against Dewey, it will be maintained here that thought cannot be
defined as a special kind of activity considered from the side of the
organism. The life processes are constantly welded into a single unified
activity, which may, as a whole, be directed upon different objects.
Thus, from the side of its objects, this life activity may be called
eating, running, reading, and whatever else one chooses. Thinking, from
this standpoint, may be defined as the direction of effort upon symbols
and abstract terms. But thinking in this case would be identified on the
basis of its content, not in terms of special nervous activities in the
organism. Whether, therefore, thinking signifies that intense periodical
activity which has been noted, or preoccupation with a certain kind of
subject-matter, it in no case implies the operation of a special organic
faculty of the type described by Dewey.

But, again, it is said that true reflection is marked by a certain
characteristic bodily attitude, which bespeaks inner conflict and a
search for adjustment. This contention seems to have little ground in
fact. The puzzled, hesitating, undecided expression that is usually
supposed to betray deep cogitation may in fact mean simply hesitation
and bewilderment,--the need for thought, rather than its presence. The
expression reveals a certain degree of incompetence and sluggishness in
the individual concerned, and signifies a lack of wide-awakeness and
responsiveness. A student puzzling over his algebra, a speaker
extemporizing an argument, a ball-player using all his resources to
defeat the enemy, have attitudes so unlike that no analysis could
discover in them a common form of expression. And yet it would be
madness to deny that thinking attends their various performances. There
is, in short, no evidence from the side of bodily expression to indicate
the presence in man of a special nervous faculty called reflection.

Consider next the contention that the cue to thought is a puzzling
situation, involving a problem. No problem, no thought; no thought, no
problem. This may mean either that a man finding himself in a difficult
situation uses all his energy and resource to escape from it, or, that
he never concerns himself with abstract symbols except under the spur of
necessity. The former meaning contains some truth, but the latter is
what Dewey would call a 'dark saying.' If by 'thought' be meant that
period of high activity of all the faculties which is only occasional,
it is doubtless true enough that a problem is frequently needed to
awaken it. Man is content to let life glide along with a minimum of
effort; he cannot, if he would, long maintain the state of high activity
here called 'thinking.' As a consequence of not thinking when he should,
man frequently finds himself involved in situations requiring the
exercise of all the energy and resource he possesses. But the really
efficient 'thinker' is the man who keeps his eyes open, who sees ahead.
He is not efficient merely because of the excellence of his established
modes of response, but, more particularly, because he is alive and
alert. His thinking is effective in preventing difficult situations, as
well as in getting out of them.

Defining 'thought,' however, as the direction of activity upon symbols
and conceptions, there seems to be little warrant for asserting that it
functions only on the occasion of a concrete, specific problem. One
would say, on the contrary, that this would be an unfavorable occasion
for the study of fundamental principles, whether scientific or
practical. Summing up the external evidence, then, one would say that it
accords as well with the hypothesis that the life processes constitute a
single activity directed upon various objects, as with the hypothesis
that thought is a very special organic activity, having a special
biological function. At least, the evidence for the existence of such a
special faculty is dubious and uncertain.

What does the internal evidence prove? The analysis of thought contained
in James's chapter on "Reasoning" in the _Principles of Psychology_ has
been the guide for Dewey and other pragmatists in this connection.[285]
James undertakes to show that reasoning is marked off from other
processes by the employment of analysis, abstraction, and the use of
mediating terms. It must be urged here, not only against James, but
against a considerable modern tradition, that this account of thinking
is misleading and inaccurate. The question to be faced, of course, is
whether the processes of thought differ radically from the
non-reflective processes _in kind_, or whether they are simply the
intensification of processes which attend all conscious life. It should
be noted that no concession is made to the notion that thinking is a
special kind of process; only its subject-matter is special, or else
thought is simply a period of wide-awakeness and alertness. In the
latter sense, thought involves an intensification of the powers of
observation, an awakening of memory, a general stimulation of all the
faculties. It calls for the fullest possible apprehension, demands the
most complete insight into the nature of the situation that the
capacities can provide. The contrast between the adequate view of
reality achieved in this manner and the common and inadequate
apprehension of ordinary life is very great, and might easily lead to
the supposition that thinking (so understood) contains elements which
are added through the activities of a special nerve process.

But is it only in such moments that we deliberately resolve a situation
into its elements, and abstract an 'essence' to serve as a middle term
in inference? It is certain that at such moments these processes are
more distinct than at other times; but the whole situation, for that
matter, stands out more clearly and distinctly. Perception is keener,
memory more definite, feeling more intense. In less degree, however, all
attention involves analysis and abstraction. Experience has always a
focus and a margin; there is a constant selecting and analyzing out of
important elements, which in turn lead to further conclusions and acts,
through associations by contiguity and similarity. This process appears
in an intensified form in the high moments of life. In short, thought
and passive perception are differentiated, not by the elements which
compose them, but by the degree of energy that goes into perception,
memory, feeling, and discrimination. There is nothing in the evidence to
show that thinking is a special kind of activity, which operates now and
then. On the contrary, there is every reason to hold to the position
that the life processes are one and inseparable, operating continually
in conjunction.

What shall be said, then, with reference to the assertion that thought
operates in the interests of the non-cognitive life processes? That it
comes 'after something and for the sake of something,' namely, 'direct'
experience? Since the separation of the activities into various
'functions' cannot be allowed, by occasional thought must then be meant
those moments of energetic aliveness described above. Translating,
Dewey's theory would read something like this: Man employs his faculties
to the fullest extent only when he is compelled to do so. He gets along
habitually, that is, with a minimum of effort, as long as he can, but
rouses himself and makes an earnest effort to comprehend the world only
when his environment presents him with difficulties which demand
solution. The test of man's thinking consists in its efficiency in
getting him out of trouble, and enabling him to return to his habitual
modes of sub-conscious conduct with a minimum of annoyance. In short,
thinking is an instrument which subserves man's natural laziness, and
its test is the efficiency with which it promotes an easy, or, at any
rate, a satisfactory mode of existence.

No doubt some men, perhaps many men, do follow such a programme; but it
would not be kind to Nature to assert that she planned it so.

This separation of the activities of life into several distinct
processes having each a special function looks like a survival of the
old faculty psychology, against which modern thought has protested as
much as against anything whatever. The conception of the organic
processes as separate in action has all the faults of a merely
mechanical representation of consciousness. Doubtless some advantage is
to be obtained, for purposes of investigation, by treating thought,
appreciation, and affection separately; but it is a serious error to
take this provisional distinction as real. It is a curious fact that
Dewey, with all his opposition to such modes of procedure, himself falls
into this abstract way of treating the 'functions' of experience, seeing
not the beam that is in his own eye.

It is this very form of treatment, strangely enough, which enables Dewey
to call biology to the support of his interpretation of the function of
knowledge. According to the Darwinian theory, survival of the species is
dependent upon the development of special structures and capacities
which enable the organism to adjust itself to its environment. Dewey
finds, following a familiar argument, that the lower animals are adapted
to their environment by special habits of reaction which are relatively
fixed and inelastic. Man, on the contrary, has an exceedingly plastic
nervous system, which enables him to meet changing conditions. Man is
not only highly adapted, but highly adaptable. This trait of plasticity,
or adaptability, Dewey believes, is a product of natural selection, and,
of course, in the final analysis, this high degree of plasticity is the
thought function.

It is scarcely necessary to say that this treatment of thought is highly
speculative. Dewey offers little concrete evidence to support his
position; indeed, it would require the labor of a Darwin to supply the
needed evidence. Instead of grounding his theories upon the results of
science, Dewey adapts the ever elastic 'evolutionary method' (not really
that of biological evolution, however indeterminate) to his own scheme
of things. It would be hard to discover in philosophical literature a
method more purely theoretical and even dialectical than that whereby
Dewey gives his logical theory the support of evolutionary theory.

The ultimately mechanical tendencies of his argument are conspicuous, in
spite of all disclaimers. The effect of his analysis is to set
plasticity or adaptability off by itself, as a special trait or feature
of the nervous system. The lower forms of life are governed, we are
told, by fixed reflexes, and the trait of adaptability appears at some
higher stage in the process as a superadded capacity of the nervous
system, correlated, no doubt, with special nervous structures.
Evolutionism would not serve Dewey so well, had he not previously made
this separation between the organic functions and their correlated
structures; but, given this abstract treatment of the life processes, he
is able to make the doctrine of selection contribute to its support. In
opposition to Dewey's argument, it would be reasonable to contend that
plasticity is inherent in all nervous substance. The higher organisms
are more adaptable, because there is more to be modified in them,--more
nerves and synapses, more pliability. There is no sound empirical reason
for accepting Dewey's biological conclusions.

Taking Dewey's theory at its face value,--and it would be presumptuous
to search for hidden meanings,--its net result is to place the function
of knowing in an embarrassing situation with respect to its capacity for
giving a correct report of reality. Dewey expressly denies, indeed, that
the purpose of knowing is to give an account of the nature of things.
Reality, he asserts, is whatever it is 'experienced as being,' and it is
normally experienced in other ways than by being known. The nature of
reality is not hidden behind a veil, to be searched out; but is here and
now, as it comes and goes in the form of passing experience. Knowing is
designed to transform experience, not to bring it within the survey of

How does it stand, then, with Dewey's own account of the knowledge
process? He has reflected upon experience, and claims to have given a
correct account of its nature. Dewey's conception of the processes of
experience is genuinely conceptual, a thought product, designed to
furnish a solid basis for belief and calculation. But reflection, by his
own account, is shut in to its own moment, cannot apprehend the true
nature of 'non-cognitional' experiences, and cannot, therefore, deal
adequately with any problems except such as are furnished it by other
'functions.' No wonder that 'anti-intellectualism' should result from
such a conception of knowledge.

Philosophers have always held that the purpose of reflection (whatever
reflection may be, psychologically) is the attainment of a reliable
insight into the nature of the world. Practical considerations compel
this view. Ordinary, casual observation is superficial and unsystematic;
it never penetrates beneath the surface. Doubtless reality is, in some
degree, what it is in unreflective moments; but it is frequently
something more, as man learns to his sorrow. Reflection displaces the
casual, haphazard attitude, in the attempt to get at the real nature of
the world.

The results of reflection, moreover, are cumulative. It tends to build
up, by gradual accretions, a conceptual view of reality which may serve
as a relatively stable basis for conduct and calculation. Thought does,
indeed, possess a transforming function. The reasoned knowledge of
things is gradually extended beyond the occasional moments of inquiring
thought, supplanting the casual view with a more penetrating insight;
reality becomes more and better _known_, and less merely _experienced_.

Dewey reverses this view in a curious manner. It is 'experience' that is
built up by the action of thought, not knowledge itself. This play on
terms might be innocuous, if it were not accompanied by his separation
of the knowing function from others. Dewey makes 'knowing' the servant
of 'direct experience' by giving it the function of reconstructing the
habits of the organism, in order that unreflective experience may be
maintained with a minimum of effort. The non-reflective experience
becomes the valuable experience, and knowledge is made to minister unto
it. This is truly a 'transvaluation of values.'

Dewey asks: "What is it that makes us live alternately in a concrete
world of experience in which thought as such finds not satisfaction, and
in a world of ordered thought which is yet only abstract and
ideal?"[286] This sharp separation of thought from action is vigorously
maintained. Following are some of the terms by means of which the
difference between direct and reflective experience is expressed:
'direct practice,' 'derived theory;' 'primary construction,' 'secondary
criticism;' 'living appreciation,' 'abstract description;' 'active
endeavor,' 'pale reflection.'[287] This casual, easy distinction escapes
criticism because it seems harmless and unimportant. The distinction,
however, is _not_ real. It does not correspond to the simple facts of
life. Thinking, far from being 'pale reflection,' is often a strenuous
and energetic 'activity.' Reflection, not 'direct experience,' is often,
at least, at the high moment of life. Experience becomes unmeaning on
any other basis. 'Living appreciation' and 'primary construction'
involve thought in a high degree; 'pale reflection' is lazy
contemplation, lacking the spark of life that characterizes true

There is no escape from Dewey's needlessly alarming conclusions, except
by maintaining that thought accompanies all conscious life, in greater
or less degree, and that the moment of _real_, earnest thinking is at
the high tide of life, when all the powers are awake and operating.
Thought must be made integral with all other activities, a feature of
the total life organization, rather than an isolated phenomenon. Man is
a thinking organism, not an organism with a thinker.

It is not to be supposed for a moment that by 'thought' is here meant
the activity of a merely subjective knower. Dewey does, indeed, deal
effectively with the subjective ego, and with representative
perceptionism. But by 'thought' is here meant reflection, judgment,
inference; and in this sense thought is said to be present in all
experience. There can be no question of the relation of thought, so
understood, to reality; for the reason that it has been so integrated
with experience as to be inseparable from it. Setting aside knowing as
the awareness of a conscious subject, there remains an issue with Dewey
concerning the actual place of thought, as an empirical process, in
experience, and the issue must be settled on definite and really
empirical grounds. So much, then, for 'functionalism' and its

Something should be said, before closing this discussion, concerning
philosophical methods in general, since Dewey's psychological approach
to the problems of philosophy must be held responsible for his
anti-intellectualistic results, with their sceptical implications. In
the beginning of his career, as has been seen, Dewey adopted the
'psychological method,' and he has adhered to it consistently ever
since. This initial attitude, although he was not aware of it for many
years, cut him off from the community of understanding that exists among
modern idealists concerning the proper aims and purposes of
philosophical inquiry. Although at first a professed follower of Green
and Caird, Dewey's method was not reconcilable with idealistic
procedure, and in a very real sense he never was an idealist. The
virulence of his later attacks on 'intellectualism' may be explained in
terms of his reaction against a philosophical method which interfered
with the development of his own 'naturalistic' tendencies.

The method of idealism, or speculative philosophy, is logical; but it
may perfectly well be empirical at the same time. To the
anti-intellectualist empirical logic is an anomaly, a red blue-bird, so
to speak. The philosophical logician is represented as one who evolves
reality out of his own consciousness; who labors with the concepts which
have their abode in the mental sphere, and, by means of the principle of
contradiction, forces them into harmony until they provide a perfectly
consistent representation of the external world which, because of its
perfect rationality, must somehow correspond with the cosmic reality. In
spite of the fact that no man possesses, at least in a sane condition,
the mental equipment requisite for such a performance, certain critics
have not hesitated to impute this kind of logical procedure to the
idealists. To quote from Dewey himself: "For modern philosophy is, as
every college senior recites, epistemology; and epistemology, as perhaps
our books and lectures sometimes forget to tell the senior, has absorbed
Stoic dogma. Passionless imperturbability, absolute detachment, complete
subjection to a ready-made and finished reality ... is its professed
ideal.... Philosophy has dreamed the dream of a knowledge which is other
than the propitious outgrowth of beliefs that shall develop aforetime
their ulterior implications in order to recast them ..., the dream of a
knowledge that has to do with objects having no nature save to be

This charge against modern idealism has little foundation. Speculative
philosophy repudiated, long ago, the 'epistemological standpoint' as
defined by Dewey. Idealists have not fostered the conception of a
knowing subject shut in to its own states, seeking information about an
impersonal reality over against itself. Note, for example, this comment
of Pringle-Pattison on Kant, made over thirty-five years ago: "The
distinction between mind and the world, which is valid only from a
certain point of view, he took as an absolute separation. He took it, to
use a current phrase, abstractly--that is to say, as a mere fact, a fact
standing by itself and true in any reference. And of course when two
things are completely separate, they can only be brought together by a
bond which is mechanical, external, and accidental to the real nature
of both."[289] Dewey himself never condemned 'epistemology' more
effectively. But it is useless to cite instances, for any serious
student familiar with the literature of modern philosophy ought to know
that 'idealism' has never really been 'epistemological' in the sense
meant by Dewey and his disciples. Subjectivism is not idealism,--the
stolid dogmatism of neo-realism to the contrary notwithstanding.

Idealism holds, speaking more positively, that philosophers must submit
the conceptions and methods which they employ to a preliminary immanent
criticism, in order to determine the limits within which they may be
validly applied. Every genuine category or method is valid within a
certain sphere of relevance, and the business of criticism is to
determine by empirical investigation or by 'ideal experiment' (which
means much the same thing) what concrete significance the conception is
capable of bearing. Dewey, from the standpoint of idealism, is guilty of
a somewhat uncritical use of the categories of 'description' and
'evolution.' Are the categories of biology fitted to explain mind and
spirit? Instead of instituting an inquiry designed to answer that
question, Dewey accepts 'evolutionism' as final, and attempts to force
all phenomena into conformity with his resulting logical scheme. He
misses the valuable checks upon thought which are furnished by the
'critical method,' and is none too sensitive to the technical results of
the special sciences.

The logical approach to philosophy strictly involves certain
implications which have been overlooked by many of its critics. It may
well be admitted that our real categories are not fixed and final, but
are perpetually in process of reconstruction. The process of criticism
inevitably makes manifest the human and empirical character of the
particular forms of reflective thought. It recognizes the fact of
development, both in knowledge and in reality, and by this very
recognition the value of knowledge is enhanced. It is forced, by the
very nature of its method, to recognize the concrete and practical
bearings of thought. Indeed, there is a sense in which idealism would
declare that there is no thought--when thought, that is, is taken to
mean an isolated fact out of relation to the world. It is not possible
to make this retort upon the critics of idealism without recognizing
that there has been a vast misjudgment, amounting almost to
misrepresentation, of the intellectual ideals of modern speculative

To conclude, it is neither by abstract logical processes, nor yet by the
dogmatic employment of scientific categories, that philosophy makes
progress, but by an empirical process which unites criticism and
experiment. In speaking of the development of modern idealism, Bosanquet
says: "All difficulties about the general possibility--the possibility
in principle--of apprehending reality in knowledge and preception were
flung aside as antiquated lumber. What was undertaken was the direct
adventure of knowing; of shaping a view of the universe which should
include and express reality in its completeness. The test and criterion
were not any speculative assumption of any kind whatever. They were the
direct work of the function of knowledge in exhibiting what could and
what could not maintain itself when all the facts were confronted and
set in the order they themselves demanded. The method of inquiry was
ideal experiment."[290]

When all has been said, this method remains the natural and normal one.
Dewey's 'psychological method,' by contrast, seems strained and
far-fetched, an artificial and externally motived attempt to guide the
intellect, which only by depending upon its own resources and its own
increasing insight can hope to attain the distant and difficult, but
never really foreign goal.


[281] _The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, p. 240.

[282] _Op. cit._, Mind, Vol. XI, p. 8 f.

[283] "The Experimental Method," _Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, p.

[284] "The Experimental Method," _Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_, p.

[285] See the review of Dewey's essay, "The Experimental Method," in
Chapter VII of this study, p. 91 ff.

[286] _Studies in Logical Theory_, p. 4.

[287] _Ibid._, p. 2.

[288] "Beliefs and Existences," _The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_,
p. 172 f.

[289] _The Philosophical Radicals_, p. 297. The essay in which it
occurs, "Philosophy as a Criticism of Categories," was first published
in 1883, in the volume _Essays on Philosophical Criticism_.

[290] "Realism and Metaphysics," _Philosophical Review_, Vol. XXVI,
1917, p. 8.

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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.