Beyond Moral Fundamentalism: John Dewey’s Pragmatic Pluralism in Ethics and Politics

Oxford Handbook of Dewey (2018)
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Drawing on unpublished and published sources from 1926-1932, this chapter builds on John Dewey’s naturalistic pragmatic pluralism in ethical theory. A primary focus is “Three Independent Factors in Morals,” which analyzes good, duty, and virtue as distinct categories that in many cases express different experiential origins. The chapter suggests that a vital role for contemporary theorizing is to lay bare and analyze the sorts of conflicts that constantly underlie moral and political action. Instead of reinforcing moral fundamentalism via an outdated quest for the central and basic source of normative justification, we should foster theories with a range of idioms and emphases which, while accommodating monistic insights, better inform decision-making by opening communication across diverse elements of moral and political life, placing these elements in a wider context in which norms gain practical traction in non-ideal conditions, and expanding prospects for social inquiry and convergence on policy and action.
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