Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pamental, Matthew. Review of Molly Cochran, ed. CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO DEWEY. NDPR (March 2011).

Cochran, Molly, ed.  Cambridge Companion to DeweyCambridge: CUP, 2010.

John Dewey (1859-1952) was America's leading public philosopher for well over half a century. His collected writings take up thirty seven volumes, with several additional volumes devoted to lecture notes provided by his students, and three volumes of correspondence, all published by Southern Illinois University Press. Thus it is inevitable that any collection of writings about Dewey and his thought will be incomplete. In particular, while Dewey's engagement as a public philosopher is mentioned both in Robert Westbrook's intellectual biography and Richard Bernstein's and Molly Cochran's discussions of Dewey's vision of democracy, his public philosophy receives no sustained attention comparable to his epistemology and logic, for example. Given Dewey's commitment to the ideal of philosophy as a tool for resolving the "problems of men," this is a significant lacuna. That said, however, the collection of essays in Cochran's The Cambridge Companion to Dewey ranges impressively -- both widely and deeply -- over Dewey's corpus, including all of Dewey's major works, his intellectual development, and his significance as a philosopher of democracy. In what follows, I will lay out the themes discussed in each section and make a few critical remarks along the way.

Included in the present volume are an introduction by the editor and Westbrook's intellectual biography, followed by thirteen chapters. Cochran helpfully divides these chapters into five sections. The first section consists of chapters by Ruth Anna Putnam, Richard M. Gale, Isaac Levi, and J. E. Tiles, and investigates Dewey's naturalism and logic of inquiry. The second section consists of two essays, by Mark Johnson and Matthias Jung, on Dewey's philosophy of mind and action. In the third section, Jennifer Welchman and James Bohman treat Dewey's ethics, moral and social philosophy. The fourth section is a bit of a catch-all, including essays by Sami Pihlström on Dewey's naturalistic philosophy of religion, Richard Eldridge on Dewey's aesthetics, and Nel Noddings on Dewey's philosophy of education. The final section consists of essays by Bernstein and Cochran on Dewey's conception of democracy and its application to international affairs. . . .


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