Dewey’s Denotative Method: A Critical Approach

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In this paper, I critically approach the essence of Dewey’s philosophy: his method. In particular, it is what Dewey termed as denotative method is at the center of my attention. I approach Dewey’s denotative method via what I call the “genealogical deconstruction” that is followed by the “pragmatic reconstruction.” This meta-approach is not alien to Dewey’s philosophy, and in fact was employed by Dewey himself in Experience and Nature. The paper consists of two parts. In Part 1, I genealogically deconstruct the philosophical foundation of the denotative method: the doctrine of immediate empiricism. The latter was originally stated in Dewey’s 1905 seminal “The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism” article, and fully developed twenty years later in his Experience and Nature. I claim that Dewey’s immediate empiricism is essentially incompatible with his pragmatism (instrumentalism) and with pragmatism overall. In Part 2, I pragmatically reconstruct Dewey’s denotative method from the perspective of what I term as the “hermeneutic empiricism” which is grounded in Dewey’s 1896 “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” article. As opposed to the immediate empiricism’s main thesis “things are what they are experienced as,” the motto of the hermeneutic empiricism would be “things are what they are interpreted as”/“things are experienced what they are interpreted as.” The above-mentioned pragmatic reconstruction also leads to the transformation of the notion of “common sense” which is vital to Dewey’s method, into the notion of sound reason.
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Archival date: 2022-05-13
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