Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John Dewey's Concept of Natural Freedom

An encounter between myself and Ed Hackett of The Philosophical Chasm blog has lead me to revise a portion of my book to make Dewey's notion of human freedom clearer. He rejects the modernist notion, but in doing so, he commits himself to rethinking much of the "value fields" of philosophy, including ethics, politics, etc. Below is part of my response, and I would like to thank Ed for making its necessary inclusion apparent.

            "The concept of freedom, for Dewey, is not based on the modern notion of freedom from causal determinacy. In that view, we are free if a thought determines itself apart from the influence of nature, yet this is possible only if thought is not natural, which Dewey rejects. Instead, his concept of freedom is based on creativity. We are “free” if we are able to participate in the world such to create new potentialities for action that are also new experiences and meanings. Thus, the contest between impulsive and intelligent desire is also between withering and growing possibilities. Freedom or agency is realized in and through the immanent determination of the object of desire.[ii]"

[i]           James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), 242; see also 264.
[ii]           See also Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 282-286.

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