Monday, May 28, 2012

The Asymmetric Continuity of Experience and Nature


Once again, I offer a passage from the book on John Dewey that I am editing concerning the relation of his metaphysics and phenomenology. I will supply a bit of background. The "postulate of immediate empiricism"is his first prominent avowal of a phenomenological method ("The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism,"1905), which was superceded by the "denotative-empirical method" (Experience and Nature, 1925). Many have misunderstood Dewey because they did not recognize that for him experience is asymmetric and continuous with nature, including his own scholars.

"In transitioning from the postulate of immediate empiricism to the denotative method, we see the mature articulation of the relationship of experience and nature. Experience is an emergent phenomenon and is the result of natural transactions that reveal potentialities of nature, yet the relation of experience and nature is asymmetric. For instance, and contra Richard Bernstein, experienced meaning is not reducible to some underlying truth without denying the reality of experience and likewise denying the continuity of experience and nature. Since Berstein denied the continuity of experience and nature, he could not understand why Dewey began his metaphysics with a study of experience. If experience is continuous with nature, then experience should not be treated as a medium to get at something beyond itself, and one critical purpose of Dewey’s metaphysics is to remind us of that. However, experience is not identical with nature. Given the prominence of continuity, it is time for a full articulation of Dewey’ theory of continuity followed by his theory of situations as an entry into his phenomenology."

The theory of continuity is how Dewey is a scholastic realist, but the full details require an explication of his theory of situations. His fundamental descriptive categories, about which he is a scholastic realist, are called the "generic traits of existence." They are all equi-primordial (irreducible) ontological descriptions.

One criticism that I launch in my book is that Dewey misunderstood the implications of his theories, especially phenomenological semiotics and hermeneutics.

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This is an edited passage from copyrighted material to which I reserve all rights.

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