Gregory Pappas – Dewey’s Ethics – Democracy as Experience [Part II]

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/01/2012

“Criticism and reflection, the examined life, are important constituents of moral life because they are capable of enriching its immediate quality and not because they lead us to the Truth or to actualize some essence.”

“…the most important learning a person can acquire in a situation is not information (or rules), but the indirect cultivation of the habits that are going to affect the quality of future situations.”

“Making the goodness of our character the conscious object of our moral concern can in fact be counterproductive. Too much concern for our character can become a distraction…The best way to improve our moral characters is to attend to what we ought to do in a particular situation. Dewey thought that just as there is a hedonistic paradox, there is a moralistic paradox: ‘the way to get goodness is to cease to think of it – as something separate – and to devote ourselves to the realization of the full value of the practical situations in which we find ourselves.’ ”

“Product-oriented views of morality overemphasize our acquisitive capacities at the expense of the creative ones. if the best we can do with our present moral struggles is endure them for the sake of some remote end, then present experience is a mere means, and moral life is experienced as unaesthetic drudgery.”

“Given the variety of forms open-mindedness takes, and since it is not merely an intellectual trait, it is more appropriate to describe this virtue in terms of a general attitude, one Dewey describes as and attitude of hospitality toward the new.”

[quoting Dewey – emphasis mine] “When the thought of the end becomes so adequate that it compels translation into the means that embody it, or when attention to the means is inspired by recognition of the end they serve, we have the attitude typical of the artist, an attitude that may be displayed in all activities, even though they are not conventionally designated ‘arts.’

“What good is my negative freedom to do and consume when I am unable to intelligently reflect and choose? Democracy requires more than the capacity to go to the mall and choose between varieties of goods.”

“The shift from democracy as a political system to democracy as experience means that there is more to equality than legal and institutional guarantees. It has to go beyond judging others according to some impartial standard. Equality is an abstract name for something that can be qualitatively and directly experienced in our relations with others…Democratic respect is not only about how we treat others (a doing) but also about how we experience them (an undergoing). It is, in effect, the most generous experience we can have of others. In our deliberations and judgments of others we must be as sensitive as possible to their unique characteristics. This is the key to democratic generosity.”

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