requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘dewey

Dewey’s Problems of Publics (1927)

with 2 comments

“There are too many publics and too much of public concern for our existing resources to cope with” (Dewey 1927, 126).

The starting point of Dewey’s argument in The Public and Its Problems is Walter Lippmann’s thesis, expounded in his 1922 Public Opinion and 1925 The Phantom Public, that the public is today, in Dewey’s phrase, “lost” and “bewildered” (116).  The public finds itself midst multiple gluts of misinformation.  It cannot cope.  Inquiry and deliberation are hardly capable of being intelligent.  This can be seen as a serious insult to democracy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

May 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

Dewey on Method in Political Theory (1927)

with 3 comments

In his Public and Its Problems (1927) John Dewey adopts a four-component methodological strategy that is more or less implicit in his earlier broadly philosophical contributions, such as Reconstruction In Philosophy (1920) and Experience and Nature (1925).  Dewey often referred to this method as “instrumentalism” and as “historical-empiricism” but it’s probably best known these days as “pragmatism”.  The method, in short, involves four methodological distinctions, which Dewey lays out in Chapter One.  A proper understanding of his methodological apparatus prepares us to understand the way in which Dewey addresses himself to the pressing problem of pluralism that was his lifelong obsession with respect to liberal democratic theory (as argued in posts from the last two weeks here and here).  Herein a brief review of these four methodological decisions, followed by commentary.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

April 26, 2011 at 3:27 am

Dewey on Society (from 1888 to 1916)

with 2 comments

Contemporary political theory is haunted by a pair of interwoven ambiguities between pluralism and monism on the one hand and proceduralism and moralism on the other.  I find a valuable early example of these ambiguities in the work of democratic theorist and pragmatist philosopher John Dewey.  What follows is a historical redescription of this ambiguity in Dewey as we chart the chronology of his democratic theory from his early Hegelian phase (in 1888) to his later explicitly pragmatist (but still ambiguous) philosophy (in 1916).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

April 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Dewey on Publics and States (in 1920)

with 2 comments

One of John Dewey’s lifelong obsessions with respect to political theory concerned issues of the democratic qualities in virtue of which some publics become capable of self-regulation or, to put it differently, become capable of growth (which for Dewey is always a self-directed process).  This theme emerges most clearly in his 1927 The Public and Its Problems, a text that has obsessed many commentators.  Another location where we find anticipations of that discussion is in chapter 8 of his 1920 Reconstruction In Philosophy.  One can follow the thread of that text through three themes in order to shed some light on Dewey’s conception of the democratic organization of publics, a conception which arguably is the very center of his entire philosophic vision.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

April 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Book Cover, New Job, &c.

with 7 comments

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated anything here.  That’s a sign of business not laziness, of course.  (It’s also a function of the increasingly-useful way in which status updates are handled on facebook.)

Two main pieces of news.

First, I am now living up in Eugene, Oregon where I have a one-year appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Oregon.  I am (if it’s not obvious) quite pleased to be up here: great colleagues, great graduate students, great program, and a great place to live.

Hunkering down for a solid year of solid work in Eugene should give me the opportunity to update the blog more often.  So I plan to start on that.

Second, it now appears as if my book Pragmatism as Transition: Historicity and Hope in James, Dewey, and Rorty will be out with Columbia University Press very soon (sometime next month, apparently).  I was quite pleased that Columbia was able to get the rights to an image of the painting that I have long hoped would grace the cover of the book, Ducham’s Nude Descending a Staircase, no.2.  You can read a little more about the book on Columbia UP’s website.

So, more soon I hope.  I’m investing lots of time in lots of projects right now.  Some of them will be bloggable in short order.

Written by Colin Koopman

October 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm

“There is no understanding of Obama without an understanding of Pragmatism”

with one comment

Check out Aboulafia on Obama’s pragmatism over at TPM (or over at Aboulafia’s blog).

Aboulafia’s point: Obama the experimentalist, Obama the fallibilist, Obama the pluralist.  All that is missing here: Obama the meliorist (a fancy word for ‘hope-ism’).  And that is where he might really make a difference in reinvigorating a pragmatist, an American, a democratic politics of self-governance.

Written by Colin Koopman

December 20, 2008 at 10:10 pm

A Pragmatist Response to the Current Economic Turmoil

with 3 comments

The following is based on a piece entitled “Morals and Markets” which will likely be published sometime in 2009 in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.  I was asked by editors of the journal to conclude this piece with some reflections on the practical upshot of my discussion.  I took their useful advice of considering the current economic turmoil in light of my Dewey and Hayek inspired account of reconsidering the relations between morals and markets.  What follows, then, is drawn from the final pages of that piece.  The whole thing, in a previous iteration, is availble here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1226437.  There is still time for small revisions to this part of the paper so I appreciate any comments readers may have.

The thought with which the discussion excerpted here begins is the following:  Market-based opportunities for ethical innovation have been consistently ignored throughout the history of liberal democratic political theory and they are only just  now being taken seriously in contemporary liberal democratic practice.  Now is an ideal time for taking these opportunities seriously. The paper continues as follows (with slight modifications):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

December 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm