Study Guide for Dewey
Reconstruction in Philosophy

Revised: March 24, 2004

Instructor: Jan Garrett

Page numbers below refer to the numbering in the Beacon Press (1985) edition.

Chapter I - Chapter II - Chapter III
Chapter IV - Chapter V - Chapter VI
Chapter VII - Chapter VIII

Chapter I: Changing Conceptions of Philosophy

1. What does Dewey tell us on p. 5 that helps us understand his purpose in pp. 1-5?

2. What two stages must "original material" pass through before it becomes philosophy proper? (7-10)

3. What activities give rise to "homely generalizations . . . about the observed facts and sequences of nature"? (10)

4. How "for a long time" are differences between matter of fact knowledge and "the imaginative body of beliefs" handled? (12-13)

5. In Dewey's view, where did "philosophy proper" originate? (13) Aside from the text, why is his claim here bound to be controversial among historians of philosophy?

6. What conflict does Dewey regard as important for the group of thinkers in question? (13-14)

7. What, in Dewey's view, limits the development of "specific and verified knowledge of the environment" among the ancient Greeks? What Platonic contrasts give evidence for this? (14-15)

8. To what end were the critical methods developed by Socrates and Plato put? For what is metaphysics a substitute? (17)

9. To what was philosophy pre-committed? (18) In what sense was it radical and "dangerous"? (19)

10. Why, in Dewey's view, does pre-modern philosophy make "such a parade of logical form"? To what has this reduced philosophy "at the worst"? (20-21)

11. What, on traditional assumptions, would seem like a negation of philosophy itself? (22)

12. At what has reflective thought traditionally aimed? Why? (22)

13. What have "all philosophies of the classical type" done? What has philosophy "arrogated to itself"? What, therefore, has it claimed? (22-23)

14. Why does Dewey say "this account [i.e., his own] . . . of the origin of philosophy has been given with malice prepense [malice aforethought]"? (24) With what "reasonable hypothesis" does he wish to leave us?

15. How does Dewey want to view the history of philosophy? (25-26)

Chapter II: Historical Factors in Philosphical Reconstruction

1. What is the most important thing that Francis Bacon says? (30) What did he find wrong with Aristotelian method? (30-31) What method or logic did he seek? (31-32)

2. How are scientific principles and laws to be discovered? (32) What is the aim and test of genuine knowledge? (33)

3. Comment on the temporality of a logic of discovery as distinct from Aristotelian logic. (33)

4. What is the chief value of old truth? (34) What is the test of genuine logic, according to Bacon? (34)

5. What were the two parts of the supposed knowledge of Bacon's time, in his view? What, again, was wrong with traditional logic? (35)

6. What was Bacon's "great positive prophecy"? What does B. wish to substitute for the Empire of Man over Man? (37)

7. Of what does Dewey regard Bacon a prophet? (38)

8. What is the relation between modern industry and modern science? (41-42) What is the gist of scientific knowledge? What four facts have been inextricably bound together? (42)

9. What "defines the specific problem of philosophical reconstruction at the present time"? (43)

10. What does Dewey find valuable in the contract theory of the origin of the state? (44-45)

11. What philosophical significance does Dewey seem to attribute to the movements in northern Europe at the time of the Reformation? Where did the greatest influence of Protestantism lie? (45-47)

12. What four points does D. note (47-49)?

13. What must a principle now do (I suppose, to be accepted)? (48, under the second point)

14. What has been the greatest effect of the new responsibilities and opportunities of philosophy? (49)

15. What happens in the philosophical transition from the metaphysical idealism of the Middle Ages to the idealism of Kant? (50-51)

16. What criticisms does Dewey make of this Kantian solution? (51-52)

Chapter III: The Scientific Factor

1. State the main features of the ancient and medieval conception of the world which Dewey outlines on pp. 54-60, 61-62.

2. What does modern science present instead of a closed universe? (60-61)

3. What does the modern scientist mean by law? How has the meaning of "constant" changed since ancient times? (61)

4. What was the first step taken by modern science against the ancient-medieval world picture? (65)

5. How does the earth now give the key to understanding the heavens? (65)

6. What "democratic" point does Dewey make (in imperial Japan at that!)? (65-66)

7. Compare the ancient Greek notion of finiteness and infinity with the modern view represented and anticipated by Giordano Bruno. (66-67)

8. Given that the Greeks made considerable progress with the science of mechanics, why, in Dewey's view, did they advance so little in the direction of modern science? (67-68)

9. About what do "all the scientific reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century" agree? (68)

10. What does mechanics become in modern science? (69)

11. What apparently negative things result from the "banishing of ends and forms"? (69-70) What does Dewey see as positive in this change? (70)

12. What point does D make about the subordination of (what Locke calls) secondary qualities to (what Locke calls) primary qualities? What does man gain from this? (71-72)

13. According to D, what does it mean to "respect matter"? How is this related to "showing respect for ends and purposes"? (72) What does he have in mind with his references to "moral materialism" and "sentimentalism"? (73)

14. What strikes us about "almost all the thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries"? (74-75)

15. Where can we find the "older order of conceptions in full possession of the popular mind"? (75-76)

16. What is the "intellectual task of the twentieth century"? (75-76)

Chapter IV: Experience and Reason

1. What was the shared view of traditional philosophy concerning the limitations of experience? (78)

2. How did the empiricists agree with traditional philosophy? (78)

3. In what sense did they depart from “transcendentalists”? (78)

4. How is Dewey about to go beyond empiricism? (78)

5. Of what was the ancient notion of experience (empeiria) a product? (79) How did Plato and Aristotle understand experience? (79-80) (This account closely follows Aristotle’s Metaphysics book i.)

6. In ancient thought, what do conceptions and principles do relative to experience? (81)

7. What is the primary significance of the philosophical empiricism initiated by Locke? (82)

8. What does empiricism produce that seems to require the rationalistic idealism of Kant and his successors? (83)

9. What conception of psychology has been reversed by the development of biology? (84)

10. What does psychology now say that the dominant psychology of the 18th and 19th century didn’t say? (84-85) What does D tell us about the relation of experience to doing and undergoing? (86-87)

11. What important consequences for philosophy follow--what is the basic category? How does knowledge fit in here? How do the sense-impressions change their role? (87)

12. According to Dewey, what are sensations as conscious elements? Do they belong in the sphere of knowing or elsewhere? (88) Explain. How was the rationalist right about sensations? How wrong? (89-90)

13. How does the new conception of experience liberate us from a hopeless task left us by classical empiricism? (90)

14. Do we need the Kantian idealist machinery of a priori concepts and categories [imposed by the mind upon the otherwise chaotic sensuous manifold that enters via the senses, according to Kant]? (90-91)

15. What is the true “stuff” of experience? (91) What does experience “carry within itself”? What “affords the basis” for the development of “intelligence as an organizing factor within experience”? (91)

16. What is a more empirical source of categories than the Kantian a priori? (92)

17. What radical change occurs in the conception of experience? (94-95) What is now the relation between science (“reason”) and experience? (95) What has been achieved by the application of the new insight in technological fields? (95)

18. To what is the name intelligence given? (96)

19. What is the new conception of reason, according to Dewey? (96-97, several points to be noted in this passage)

20. What criticisms does Dewey make of “historic rationalism”? (97)

21. How has the modern world often suffered from philosophy? What happens when men are thrown back upon “common sense”? How has the liberal and progressive movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth century been harmed? (100-101)

22. What would the philosophical reconstruction which Dewey advocates achieve? (101)

Chapter V: The Ideal and the Real

1. What point about human psychology does Dewey make on pp. 103-105?

2. How does this apply to the ancient Greek gods? To the Platonic forms? Even to Aristotelian forms? (105)

3. What have major philosophers from Plato through Hegel taught? (106)

4. What, according to Dewey, is the usual complaint of poet and moralist? (106-107) Of what, according to this view, is instability the proof? So, what must complete and true reality be like? In what respect did Aristotle fundamentally agree with Plato? (107)

5. What basic contrast does Dewey sketch on 108? (What philosophical system comes closest to Dewey’s description of the allegedly positive side?)

6. Besides a basic dualism, what other feature does this view exhibit? (108-109)

7. On this view, what kind of knowledge is the best? (109)

8. What does this view think of the knowing of the artisan? Of moral and political action? Have we encountered this view in our course? (110)

9. What does philosophy become therefore? Why does philosophical study (in the sense of learning) fall short of perfection? (111)

10. How did these philosophical views end up affecting multitudes, according to Dewey? (111-12)

11. What does Dewey mean by the spectator conception of knowledge? By contrast what has the actual progress of science demonstrated? (112-13)

12. What does the physicist or chemist do if he wants to know something? (113)

13. How is the valuation of change altered when one moves from traditional philosophy and religion to modern science? (114)

14. How is the world as it presents itself at any given time treated? (114) What concerns the builder in the wood, stone, etc. that confronts him? (114) How does the builder discover the properties of things? (115)

15. What range of attitudes did the older or classical conception breed? (115) What happens when the active conception of knowledge emerges? Now what does change signify? What is now to be done with conditions and events? (116)

16. What does Dewey say about intellectualism, or the spectator view of knowing on p. 117? What is morally irresponsible about it? (117)

17. In classic philosophy what is the ideal world? (118)

18. When knowledge is active and operative, what is the ideal realm? What new approach is taken to the troubles men undergo? What does one now do with “the picture of the better”? What is an idea now? (118)

19. On pp. 118-121 Dewey describes the ancient-medieval philosophical and religious approach to the problem of communication in a spatial world, and then the modern scientific approach to the same problem. Summarize the ways in which these two approaches differ from one another, with emphasis on the different roles of the ideal in the two approaches. (See also pp. 121-22.)

20. What does knowing mean for the experimental sciences? If philosophy is not to sever its relations with science, what does this imply for philosophy? (121-22)

21. What is the prime function of philosophy now? What are we still far from? (122)

22. What is the point of the contrast between the artist and the spectator here? (122-23)

23. If knowing were habitually conceived as active and operative, what would be the first effect for philosophy, according to Dewey? (123)

24. With its traditional problems dissolved what could philosophy turn to next? (123-24) What does Dewey concede or rather assert? (125)

25. What serious moral disturbances have arisen with the technological successes of modern industry? (125)

26. What special problem does Dewey mention on pp. 125-26?

27. Is the relation between the real and the ideal the private problem of philosophy, in Dewey’s view? (See his description of World War I on p. 128.)

28. What two views (of which Dewey is undoubtedly critical) does he mention on p. 129?

29. Do the evils of the situation arise from the absence of ideals? In what do wrong ideals have their foundation? (130)

30. How can philosophy lighten the burden of humanity? (130) How can philosophy positively help? (130)

Chapter VI

1. What views of logic does Dewey reject? Given that thinking is the way in which deliberate reorganization of experience is secured, what is logic? (134-35)

2. Upon what empirical material is logic based? What record is of special importance in the development of a contemporary logic? (135-36)

3. How can empirical study of logic yield logical norms? (136)

4. From what does thinking take its departure? (138-39) What three conditions essentially make thinking impossible? (139)

5. What non-"thinking" way is also used to seek personal solution of difficulties? (139)

6. What is the first distinguishing characteristic of thinking? What has done the greatest harm to the successful conduct of thinking? (140)

7. What does the isolation of thinking from confrontation with facts encourage? How does thinking as a method of reconstruction treat observation of facts? (141)

8. With what does specific and wide observation of fact always correspond? (142) How does Dewey understand an idea here? (143) See also what he says about "ideas, meanings, conceptions" (144).

9. What does intelligent thinking mean? (144)

10. How are notions, theories, systems to be regarded? In what does their value reside? (145)

11. When is inquiry free? (145)

12. What misconception about instrumentalism (Dewey's view that thinking is instrumental) does Dewey take up and reject? (145-46)

13. What problem arises from the social division of labor according to which some are investigators and others are not? (147)

14. What is the only guarantee of impartial disinterested inquiry? (147-48)

15. What advantage do intellectual tools have in comparison with nonintellectual tools? (149)

16. In what does the value of abstraction lie? (149-150) Distinguish and relate abstraction and generalization? (151) What is the role of deduction? (151)

17. How does Dewey agree with nominalism and conceptualism? Where did they go wrong? (152-53)

18. Dewey says "there is a genuine objective standard for the goodness of special classifications." What is it? (154)

19. How does classification link past to future? (154-55)

20. How does Dewey (and pragmatist philosophy) understand truth? (155-57)

21. What is a common mistake regarding this pragmatist conception of truth? (157)

22. What is the chief obstacle to the reception of this notion of truth? (158-59)

Chapter VII

1. How did ethical theory begin? What kind of objects and laws did it supply? (161)

2. What does ethics seem to think it needs to discover? Give examples of the ways in which this assumption is worked out? (161-62)

3. How does ethics relate to the hierarchical structure of feudal society? (162)

4. What challenge does modern natural science bring to the feudal view? (162)

5. What does Dewey counterpose to traditional ethics concerning goods and laws? (162-63)

6. What is the primary significance of the morally ultimate character of the situation? What does Dewey seem to mean by intelligence? (163-64)

7. What virtues must be cultivated along with intelligence? (164)

8. To what does the theory of fixed ends inevitably lead? (166) What suffers from the results of this preoccupation? (166-67)

9. What grammatical point does Dewey use to emphasize the situational nature of values? (167)

10. In what way do general ideas about justice and other goods have value? (168-69)

11. In the contrast between "artistic" and "mechanical," what does the former word connote? (168-69)

12. Is there any such thing as the good? When do goods exist? (169)

13. Why does Dewey criticize the traditional distinction between instrumental and intrinsic good? (170-71)

14. In what ways are we to reinsert intrinsic value into the material life? (171-72)

15. Why does Dewey attack the traditional distinction between natural and moral goods (roughly the same as the Stoic distinction between preferred indifferents and goods)? (172)

16. What happens to the sharp distinction between science and ethics, or science and the humanities, when "the experimental logic [is] carried into morals"? (172-73) What does Dewey call "the greatest dualism which now weighs humanity down"? (173)

17. How does reason in ethics now take on flesh? (174) How should we treat moral mistakes? (175)

18. What approach to moral evaluation does Dewey propose that "makes one severe in judging himself and humane in judging others"? (176)

19. What sort of "end" does Dewey seem to advocate? (177)

20. How should we reconceive the problem of evil? (177) How does Dewey understand optimism? What is meliorism? (177-78)

21. Where is happiness found? What does he seem to mean? (179-80)

22. What did utilitarianism have right? What two criticisms does Dewey make of utilitarianism? (180-83)

23. How does Dewey understand education? (184-85)

24. What view of education does Dewey attack? (185-86)

25. What, according to Dewey, is the job of government, business, and religious institutions? (186)