John Dewey's Later Logical Theory
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John Dewey's Later Logical Theory

James Scott Johnston

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

John Dewey's Later Logical Theory

James Scott Johnston

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By 1916, Dewey had written two volumes on logical theory. Yet, in light of what he would write in his 1938 Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, much remained to be done. Dewey did not yet have an adequate account of experience suitable to explain how our immediate experiencing becomes the material for logical sequences, series, and causal relations. Nor did he have a refined account of judging, propositions, and conceptions. Above all, his theory of continuity—central to all of his logical endeavors—was rudimentary. The years 1916–1937 saw Dewey remedy these deficiencies. We see in his published and unpublished articles, books, lecture notes and correspondence, the pursuit of a line of thinking that would lead to his magnum opus. John Dewey's Later Logical Theory follows Dewey through his path from Essays in Experimental Logic to the publication of Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, and complements James Scott Johnston's earlier volume, John Dewey's Earlier Logical Theory.

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SUNY Press
Chapter 1
Dewey’s Logical Education, 1915–1937
From Lectures on Types of Logical Theory to Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
In this chapter, I discuss the logical education of Dewey in the period 1915–1937 and the settings and individuals in and from which Dewey’s ongoing development in logical theory took place. Much of Dewey’s development in this period consisted of further refinement of the logical theory first articulated in Studies in Logical Theory (1903) and other early essays and lectures; the whole of which I have called Dewey’s earlier logical theory.1 But novel interventions also occurred in this later period. It is these novel interventions that this chapter highlights. However, before I discuss these novel interventions and those thinkers that Dewey drew upon, it will do to discuss the accomplishments of Dewey’s earlier logical theory. These accomplishments form the material for part 1 of this chapter: Dewey’s logical theory circa 1915. The year 1915 is a milestone in Dewey’s logical education, for it is the year prior to the publication of Dewey’s Essays in Experimental Logic. This was a busy year in which Dewey was gathering his sources for the upcoming book; publishing his lengthy retort against Bertrand Russell, “The Logic of Judgments of Practice”; penning the lengthy introduction to accompany Essays; and delivering the first of two years’ worth of the history of logic in spring courses at Columbia University.2
Part 2 discusses the continuity of these influences and looks at the development of Dewey’s logical theory in the period 1916–1924. In this period, there is evidence of renewed thinking regarding Aristotle and J. S. Mill (especially to be found in the lectures on logical theory of 1915–1916), and a surge of interest in C. S. Peirce. Aristotle, Mill, and particularly Peirce would continue to influence Dewey in the periods beyond. Dewey gave his second course of Types of Logical Theory in 1916, in which detailed discussions of historical logical theories, most importantly (again) Aristotle, Mill, and Russell, were prevalent. The ongoing estimation of Peirce for Dewey’s own logical theory began in earnest in 1916 with the publication of “The Pragmatism of Peirce.” Finally, Dewey’s interlocutors in correspondence, particularly Scudder Klyce, helped him work toward a more thoroughgoing role for experience in logical theory.
Part 3 continues with an examination of Dewey’s logical theory through these themes and pays attention to the ongoing influence of Aristotle, Mill, Russell, and Peirce, together with anthropologist Franz Boas, and the philosophical insights of leading international physicists that Dewey was following in the years 1925–1932. These physicists, including Einstein, Neils Bohr, Arthur Eddington, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg, were important in the debate over the new, or quantum physics and its relevance for philosophical accounts of causality in particular. The arguments they generated proved important for Dewey’s own accounting of material, space, time, and causality. Also important for Dewey’s ongoing logical development are a series of lectures titled Types of Logical Theory that he provided to graduate students at Columbia University in 1927–1928. In these, Dewey again discusses the logics of Aristotle, Mill, as well as formal logicians of significance, such as Russell. With these lectures, novel arguments regarding logical operations, propositions, causality, temporality, and the pattern of inquiry were put forward, arguments that would find their way into Dewey’s 1938 Logic. Most notable during these years is a beginning concentration on the distinctions between universal and generic-existential judgments, a concentration that would continue through to 1938. Beyond this was Dewey’s remarkable account of experience, developed at length in 1925 with Experience and Nature and followed by important articles, particularly “Qualitative Thought” (1930). These key texts on experience would serve Dewey’s ongoing account of double continuity—a continuity of the existential to-and-fro inherent in doing and undergoing conjoined with the logical continuity of serial ordering in and through the operations of inquiry.
Part 4 deals with the years 1933–1937. Having developed a sophisticated theory of experience, and having dealt at length with the role of science to society and to the public, in these years Dewey worked tirelessly to refine his theory of propositions and judgments. Work on Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, although begun as early as 1925, was earnestly undertaken more or less uninterrupted only in these last few years. Increasingly, Dewey’s interlocutors of most benefit to his logical theory were his friends and students, especially including Joseph Ratner, Sidney Hook, and (after 1934) Arthur Bentley. The correspondence between these shows Dewey continuing to hone his arguments for propositions and judgments. By 1938, the year of the Logic’s publication, the functional differentiation of generic and universal propositions—the last significant move in Dewey’s logical theory—was fully in place.
Part 1: Dewey’s Logical Theory circa 1915
By 1915, the year before the publication of Essays in Experimental Logic, Dewey had given twenty-five years of consideration to the topic of logical theory and had devoted many articles, lectures, and a book to the enterprise. When approached by the University of Chicago Press to contribute a second volume on logical theory, Dewey decided to take the essays he wrote for the earlier, Studies in Logical Theory (1903), and conjoin them with various other essays written in the interim. Most of these only peripherally dealt with logical topics, though they included assessments of leading schools of thought (pragmatism as understood by William James, Bertrand Russell’s Analytic Realism, Critical Realism, including the so-called Six Realists); branches of philosophy, including philosophy of psychology and the theory of knowledge; as well as his evolving theory of experience. Dewey also included in Essays his recent “The Logic of Judgments of Practice” (1915), which targeted Russell’s claim there could be no objective judgments of value. To all of this he added a lengthy introduction. Dewey’s themes of instrumentalism, a duly qualified non-naive realism, a theory of experience, together with an apparatus for countering claims of subjectivism and idealism, all factored into the introduction Dewey wrote for Essays. The introduction is particularly notable for the attention Dewey gives to experience and to the (temporal) continuity bound up in experiencing (e.g., MW 10, 320). Experience, in the introduction to Essays, is meant to refer, first, to the inexpressible beyond of our cognition, and second, to the here and now of (all) our existence (e.g., MW 10, 324).3 While reflection is the locus classicus of inquiry, and logical theory thereby, insufficient attention had been given to role of experience in inquiry, and to the beginnings and endings of inquiry. A fuller and instrumental accounting of these beginnings and endings is championed in the pages of the introduction. A fully instrumental theory of experience, Dewey thought, would help logical theory battle a number of faulty characteristics that had dogged it, especially in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Dewey noted a chief problem with logical theory in the latter half of the nineteenth century concerned its reliance on sense-psychology. This reliance was often cashed out in phenomenalism, the view that there were mental intermediaries operating between the world and mind such as sensations, sense-qualia, impressions, and the like, and that the chief job of logic was to give form to this matter (MW 8, 51–52). Dewey though this reliance was in evidence in early thinkers of the empiricist tradition such as Locke, and infected others such as Kant and leading thinkers of the British associationist school, including J. S. Mill and Walter Jevons. It also pervaded the accounts of idealist thinkers such as R. M. Lotze, who figured prominently in Dewey’s Studies. Certain newer realists, most notably Bertrand Russell, were also thought to rely on a faulty sense-psychology, and Dewey took note of this in the introduction to Essays and in an earlier work (republished in Essays) titled “The Existence of the World as a Logical Problem.”4 Giving a proper accounting of experience, or so Dewey thought, would alleviate many of the problems generated by phenomenalism.
Beyond this, Dewey was also keen to oppose those who considered his work on psychology, the theory of knowledge, and philosophy generally, to be in the idealist camp. These charges were mounted by Russell, but also by the so-called Critical Realists. These latter were composed of American philosophers, led by Arthur Lovejoy and E. B. McGilvary, who criticized pragmatism generally and Dewey specifically for a subjectivist view of knowledge whereby the limits imposed by human experience close off the possibility of objective facts beyond the mind-world interface.5 This episode came to a head in 1910 with the publication of “The Program and First Platform of the Six Realists,” followed by a volume of essays titled The New Realism.6 Dewey and E. B. Spaulding debated the platform in 1912, with Dewey concluding that any realism that attempts to draw deductive conclusions from concepts alone is “Platonic-medieval” (MW 6, 138).7
The post-1903 contributions to Essays contained a number of deliberate claims designed to foil critics, all the while maintaining key conclusions from Studies. Post-1903, the central feature of logical theory is not the concept; rather, it is inquiry. Inquiry is reflective, and arises from an unsettled or indeterminate situation. Inquiry is functional, and has a specific task that is set by a concrete and empirical situation (MW 10, 327). Reflection terminates when the situation is settled. The products or outcomes of reflection are turned to meanings. Meanings, in turn, imply relationships. These relationships are brought to bear on further unsettled situations as habit. Meanings serve both as functions and as signs. Reflection is the proper domain of inquiry, and occupies a mediate position between beginning (of an unsettled situation) and ending (the settling of an unsettled situation) (MW 10, 327–28). This is best demonstrated through a genetic-historical accounting of the development of science, which is discussed both in the introduction to Essays (e.g., MW 10, 330–32) and in Studies (e.g., MW 2, 308–9). It is to this that Dewey adds his developing account of experience.
Existences are matters of, and for, experience. Brute existences are the stuff of experience, not colors, sensations, sense-qualia, or impressions. The understanding of existences already shaped by mental processes and put forth as primitive has been the failure of British sense-psychology and associationism, and has infected twentieth-century programs of realism, such as Russell’s. Brute existences are prior to inquiry, and it is in inquiry that existences are differentiated and discriminated; analyzed into separate “components” such as sensations. What we have in brute existences are qualities and “traits”; “specific existential traits uniquely belonging to it; the entities of simple data as such” (MW 10, 343). Things (“res”) have traits that are very often paired, and operate in a double movement; a back-and-forth, a to-and-fro (MW 10, 323). Indeed, this is a thesis Dewey maintained since at least Studies. Individual articles, such as “The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism,” buttressed this claim (MW 3, 116). Beyond this, Dewey challenged the Analytic Realism of Russell and the Critical Realism of the Six Realists, while maintaining his distinction from certain forms of idealism. It is not that Dewey castigates realism or idealism tout court; it is rather that a certain faulty feature, common to many realisms and idealisms, remains to limit their utility in solving logical problems: the neglect of “the temporally intermediate and instrumental place of reflection …” (MW 10, 332). Universal, absolutist, and rationalist systems of logic, whether realist or idealist in name, have a strong tendency to commit to the sidelining of inquiry, and this Dewey cannot abide. An idealist accounting of logical theory that makes room for the temporal, existential, intermediate, and instrumenta...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. List of Tables
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Introduction
  8. Chapter 1 Dewey’s Logical Education, 1915–1937: From Lectures on the Types of Logical Theory to Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
  9. Chapter 2 Dewey’s Logical Development 1916–1924
  10. Chapter 3 Dewey’s Logical Development 1925–1932
  11. Chapter 4 Dewey’s Logical Development 1933–1937
  12. Appendix 1
  13. Notes
  14. References
  15. Index
  16. Back Cover