Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Experience of Truth

Below I discuss the basics of truth and experiencing truth in John Dewey. While reading it, I think it best to keep in mind the modern empiricist tradition, its culmination in Kant, and the alternative solution to Kant proposed by Husserlian phenomenology. Dewey takes another route via Peirce.

The denotative method is Dewey's mature method for understanding experience. It articulates a phenomenological attitude in which we ask how things are experienced, as being what. It opposes overlaying an experience with a theory of experience. The attitude notes experience in its immediacy, which is not primordially true or false, since experience becomes true through operations upon it that integrate the prior experience into a new one. If the truth of an experience is sought, the inherent indeterminateness of the situation leads it to be questionable, and this contextually unique quality guides the development of inquiry. The denotative method is not a Cartesian procedure that determines the truth of experience by external criteria; truth and falsity must be internal to experience to be experienced as such. Though this might sound like idealism, wherein truth is a mental category as opposed to a worldly one, Dewey redefines “experience” to mean the transaction of things in nature. The experience of truth is neither an internal phenomenon of a subject nor a metaphysical description of an object, but a product of human and environmental interaction. A true idea is one that proposes how to act in a situation to produce the anticipated effect, which is to be a demonstrated abductive hypothesis, and the question of whether the idea is like what it represents is not immediately relevant.

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