PHILOSOPHY IN TRANSITION: JOHN DEWEY’S “LOST” MANUSCRIPT

History and Theory 53 (3):372-386 (2014)
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Abstract

The intention of this essay is to offer a reading of John Dewey’s recently found manuscript (considered lost for decades), Unmodern Philosophy and Modern Philosophy, as a kind of philosophical history leading up to the formulation of the key problems to be addressed by the general framework of Dewey’s cultural naturalism. I argue, first, that cultural naturalism has direct implications for the way that we think about history, and that Dewey’s recently recovered manuscript reflects this in its conception of the purpose and mode of historical reconstruction. Second, the essay presents a synoptic overview of the historically emergent thought-conditions structuring, according to Dewey’s narrative, the possibilities of the philosophical discourse of modernity. In conclusion, I argue that cultural naturalism allows us to move beyond these problems by a radical revision of the terms in which we construe the idea of “persons.” Specifically, instead of thinking about persons in terms of embodied minds, we should start thinking about them as participants in histories, carving their individual paths through the world of events, with their existence being essentially both temporal and social. I also suggest that this view of persons allows us to outline a promising account of the notion of human freedom, couched in terms of historical social agency.

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Serge Grigoriev
Ithaca College

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