Sunday, April 8, 2012

Problems in Dewey's Theory of Continuity

Below is an abstract for an article that I wrote.  It concerns a problem in Dewey's theory of continuity.  In short, every situation must be a problematic situation in some sense, else 

There is a paradox at the heart of John Dewey's theory of experience.  Every situation both is and is not a problematic situation.  Experiencing a situation as problematic is a gestalt shift in the continuity of experience, a reorganization of present and emergent elements, that is not emergent ex nihilo.  Since Deweyan naturalism excludes spontaneous causality, and continuity implies that everything has a natural history, the process of a problematic situation must be explained.  I will account for the paradox, elucidate the process, and resolve a conundrum that results.  The conundrum is, why is not every situation experienced as problematic, when logically every situation is problematic.  The explanation includes a synoptic account of Dewey’s theory of experience that emphasizes its processive character as a natural history.  I will also elucidate some implications for agency, intentionality, and the gestalt conditions for problematic experience.

In short, every situation must be a problematic situation in some sense, else a problematic situation emerges ex nihilo.  The essay discusses in what way all situations must be "problematic" or contain a "felt difficulty."  This has several implications.  One, we can only attend to the "problematic" on Dewey's theory.  Two, the emergent "problem" is also the genesis of intentionality; the object calls out our attention to it, though "object" does not have the usual denotation.  Three, if "mind" is an event founded on a "conscious" event and then upon a bodily one, in what way is this event translated or encoded from environment, body, consciousness, and mind?  That is, there is a continuous progression of events; what can be said of the event-structure given a Deweyan framework?  I leave it to later work to compare this to contemporary articulations, e.g., Deacon, Varela, etc.


  1. if you get a chance check out Gendlin:

  2. Thank you! That is a fantastic reference by the looks of it. I have found relatively few process models of embodiment, because most are either (continental) phenomenological, conceive process as a biological methodology rather than a metaphysical background, etc.

    Is that you, Dmf, or another un-named wanderer?

  3. yes sorry it's me, dmf