John Dewey's quest for unity : the journey of a promethean mystic / Richard M. Gale.

Gale, Richard M., 1932- [Browse]
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2010.
215 pages ; 24 cm.


Prometheus lecture series [More in this series]
Summary note
"Gale's portrayal of John Dewey as a "Promethean Mystic" is highly novel and controversial. Running throughout Dewey's philosophy is a mystical quest for unity that involves unification with self, with other persons, and with nature at large. What is distinctive about Dewey's brand of mysticism is its Promethean requirement that these unifications be achieved by humankind's active control of the environment. This control takes the form of Deweyan inquiry in which an indeterminate situation, which lacks proper unification because it contains conflicting elements, is transformed into one in which these elements are synthesized into a higher unity. The paradigm case of this Hegelian esthetic ideal is artistic creation and serves as his model for scientific and moral inquiries, thereby achieving a reduction of the true and the good to the beautiful, all of which invoke this esthetic ideal as their criterion for an inquiry being successful." "Part 1 deals with problems in Dewey's account of inquiry with regard to whether its initiating and terminating situations are unique and thereby ineffable, which would seem to make shared inquiry, the very basis of his moral democracy, impossible. Dewey also is criticized for making inquiry ubiquitous and requiring that all problems be subject to it. Finally, the question is posed whether Dewey's quest for a Hegelian-type unification is a suitable goal for humankind - our greatest good, as he contends." "Part 2 shows that Promethean Mysticism is not enough to satisfy Dewey, for he is, above all, an inveterate intellectual and needs a metaphysical theory that depicts reality as made to order for his Promethean Mystic. The result of his empirical attempt to unearth the generic traits of existence is that they constitute just what is required for inquiry to be possible, namely, a processual reality that combines the precarious and the stable. And since it is through inquiry that mystical-type unifications are achieved, his Promethean Mysticism is given a metaphysical grounding. By seeing how inquiry fits into the larger scheme of things we become more dedicated and effective inquirers. Another alleged result of his empirical metaphysics is that reality cannot consist of separate atomic units, as Humeans would have it. Appeal is made to a Humpty Dumpty Intuition that denies the possibility of there being any direct relation, be it spatial, temporal, or causal, between numerically distinct individuals - individuals capable of existing independently and separately from each other - and instead has them emanate from some background unity. In his absolute idealism phase Dewey called it a "universal consciousness" or "Reason" and in his later, pragmatic phase it was termed "Experience," but this merely poured old wine into new bottles. It would seem that the Humpty Dumpty Intuition is grounded in mystical experiences, but Dewey cannot appeal to their authority since he denies that mystical experiences are cognitive. Was Dewey therefore too quick to dismiss mystical experiences as having only emotional value?"--Jacket.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction
  • Part 1: Growth, inquiry, and unity. Problems with inquiry
  • Esthetic inquiry
  • Inquiry, inquiry, inquiry
  • Why unification?
  • Part 2: The metaphysics of unity. The quest for being qua being
  • Time and individuality
  • The Humpty-Dumpty intuition
  • The mystical.
  • 9781591026303 ((hardcover ; : alk. paper))
  • 159102630X ((hardcover ; : alk. paper))
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