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

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/02/2012

“The foundations of democratic respect are, for Dewey, a certain way of experiencing everything, not an exclusive and abstract regard for human rights or justice that is independent of nature. For the truly democratic character, ‘every existence deserving the name of existence has something unique and irreplaceable about it.’ This is the sort of natural piety that Dewey hoped for as a consequence of abolishing hierarchical ways of looking at the world.”

[quoting Dewey] “…the local is the ultimate universal, and as near an absolute as exists.”

“…a warning against taking the usual abstractions about democratic society as antecedent to the unique, direct, and qualitative relations people hold with each other in situations. It would be more accurate to say that a democratic society is one that is composed of democratic associations than to say that a democratic association is one that exists because of a democratic society.”

“…it is through and by the local that I can acquire this sense of connection with what is beyond it…Democracy must grow from within, that is, from what is local, spontaneous, voluntary, and direct. This includes neighborhood, family, classroom, workplace, and grass-roots movements…we must avoid sacrificing the quality of what is had locally merely for the sake of reach [emphasis mine].”

“Genuine listening, especially of those who speak against our beliefs, does more on behalf of participatory democracy than voting.”

“Local communities must be sustained by loyalty and solidarity while also remaining receptive to continuities within the larger context of a pluralistic society.”

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.”

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

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 04/30/2012

“Just as he objected to the ‘museum conception of art’ that isolates the arts from lived experience, Dewey warned against separating morality from relationships…”

“…moral life is a process of creating or transforming value, and not merely of accepting and living by given or former values.”

“As Dewey says, ‘It is not experience which is experienced, but nature – stones, plants, animals, diseases, health, temperature, electricity, and so on.’ My valuing experience of an act of injustice as wrong is about value that I find in the same world where I also find plants and stones. To dismiss the importance of valuing in inquiry because it is merely subjective or a mere psychological reaction is to assume a dualism or to presuppose the supremacy of the theoretical standpoint in revealing what is real.”

“Dewey used science and art as metaphors to understand moral deliberation. This served the purpose of highlighting the continuity between morality and other modes of experience, and it provided a description of moral deliberation as an experimental, emotional, and imaginative process.”

“When experienced, the frightening noise is as real as the eventual knowledge-experience of the cause of the noise. ‘Empirically that noise is fearsome, it really is, not merely phenomenally or subjectively so. That is what it is as experienced as being.’ [quoting Dewey] Insofar as the eventual experience is not misleading it is more true, but this does not make it more real. Similarly moral problems are not experienced as internal or subjective. insofar as a a situation is experienced as morally problematic then it really is problematic. this situation might be transformed into one in which there is no longer a problem, but the second, transformed situation is no more real than the first one.”

[quoting Todd Lekan] “the pragmatist approach maintains that morality is more analogous to non-moral practical skills and arts like medicine, cookery, and baseball than has been acknowledged by most of the tradition of moral philosophy.”

“..the pragmatist is concerned with knowledge only insofar as it is a means to enhance our lived present experience.”

“Dewey’s work…affirms the potential of ordinary experience (concrete life) to be the source of amelioration, admiration, and inspiration. His metaphysics reminds philosophers that the tangled, complex, gross, macroscopic, and crude things we find in everyday life are real, for example, vagueness, ugliness, fantasies, headaches, illusions, spark plugs, a conversation with a friend, parties, diseases, stones, food, tragedy, a conflict with a roommate, a joke, playing backgammon with friends, measles, and marbles. His aesthetics is a philosophical reintegration of the aesthetic with everyday life that is, in effect, a celebration of lived experience…his ethics is an affirmation of morality as experience.”

Steven Fesmire – Moral Imagination

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 04/17/2012

“Central to Dewey’s approach is that ethics is understood as the art of helping people to live richer, more responsive, and more emotionally engaged lives.”

“…the central goal of education is nurturance of a child’s social curiosity into a communicative democratic faith.”

“Sequestering art and the aesthetic from everyday reflection, far from celebrating imagination, is a recipe for moral sterility, fragmentation, and alienation. Imagination cannot be democratic when it is ‘flat and toneless and lifeless,’ it has historically turned to radically individual pursuits, or to promotion of authoritarian control.”

[quoting Dewey] “Conversion into doctrinal teachings of the imaginative relations of life with which great moral artists have dowered humanity has been the great cause of their ossification into harsh dogmas; illuminating insight into the relations and goods of life has been lost, and an arbitrary code or precepts and rules substituted.”

“The moral production is not a dress rehearsal for a ready-made play, as it appears to be in many rule theories. Dewey’s moral stage is atypical. Scenes are actively co-authored with others and with a precarious environment. The acting is improvisational, the performances open-ended. The drama is experimental, not scripted.”

“What is most at stake in moral life is not some quantifiable pleasure or pain, but ‘what kind of person one is to become’ and what kind of world is to develop.”

“As a capacity to engage the present with an eye to what is not immediately at hand, imagination is more than a niche for fictional embellishment, as when someone has an ‘over-active imagination’ or is ‘imagining things.’ Nor is it the exclusive possession of fine artists. It is integrated with everyday life and learning.”

“Reason is embodied, evolving, and practical, and as such it is subject to physical, conceptual, and historical constraints. Further, reasoning is contingent upon perspectives and is characterized by an educated aesthetic response that can emerge from trust in a situation’s potentialities.”

[quoting Peirce] “Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.”

“…pragmatist ethics urges that moral reflection must begin where all genuine inquiry begins: in media res, with tangle of lived experience. Dewey in particular argued that moral deliberation is not disembodied cerebration…but is a form of engaged inquiry touched off by an uncertain situation.”

– Steven Fesmire in John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics

Experience – Theory

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/28/2012

“An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory simply because it is only in experience that theory has vital and verifiable significance.” – John Dewey

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