Democracy as Culture: Deweyan Pragmatism in a Globalizing World

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Democracy as Culture: Deweyan Pragmatism in a Globalizing World

Democracy as Culture This page intentionally left blank. DEMOCRACY AS CULTURE DEWEYAN PRAGMATISM IN A GLOBALIZING WO

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Democracy as Culture

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Edited by

Sor-hoon Tan John Whalen-Bridge

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Published by

State University of New York Press Albany © 2008 State University of New York All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

For information, address State University of New York Press, 90 State Stree, Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207 Production, Laurie Searl Marketing,

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Democracy as culture : Dewey pragmatism in a globalizing world / edited by Sor-hoon Tan and John Whalen-Bridge. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7914-7587-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Pragmatism. 2. Democracy—Philosophy. 3. Democracy—United States. 4. Dewey, John, 1859-1952. 5. Culture. 6. Globalization. I. Tan, Sor-hoon, 1965– II. Whalen-Bridge, John, 1961– B832.D46 2008 321.8—dc22 2008004403











To the memory of Richard Rorty

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On Richard Rorty


Bruce Robbins


Introduction: Pragmatism’s Passport—Dewey, Democracy, and Globalization


Sor-hoon Tan and John Whalen-Bridge


Universalizing Democracy Pragmatically


The Genesis of Democratic Norms: Some Insights from Classical Pragmatism


Larry A. Hickman


Reconstructing ‘Culture’: A Deweyan Response to Antidemocratic Culturalism


Sor-hoon Tan

II Imposing Democracy 4

Globalizing Democracy: A Deweyan Critique of Bush’s Second-Term National Security Strategy


Sun Youzhong


Can Democratic Inquiry Be Exported? Dewey and the Globalization of Education James Scott Johnston vii





Jane Addams: Pragmatist-Feminist Democracy in a Global Context


Judy D. Whipps


War Without Belief: On Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America


Bruce Robbins

III De-centering Dewey 8

Dewey’s Difficult Recovery, Analytic Philosophy’s Attempted Turn


John Holbo


Descartes, Dewey, and Democracy


Cecilia Wee

10 Nonduality and Aesthetic Experience: Dewey’s Theory and Johnson’s Practice


John Whalen-Bridge

11 When Dewey’s Confucian Admirer Meets His Liberal Critic: Liang Shuming and Eamonn Callan on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education


Jessica Ching-Sze Wang

12 Tang Junyi and the Very ‘Idea’ of Confucian Democracy


Roger T. Ames

Works Cited


List of Contributors





Before there can be a book, there has to be an idea about which a book might be made, though some such ideas take their lead from prior articles or books. In 1995, at the Seventh East-West Philosophers Conference in Hawaii, James Tiles presented a paper entitled “Democracy as Culture,” one of several works connecting Deweyan democracy to culture, for which we are grateful. This particular project began as an interdisciplinary coffee break between Sorhoon Tan, John Whalen-Bridge, and Ian Gordon (of Philosophy, English Language and Literature, and History), and the idea continued to take shape with support from Robbie Goh (Head of English) and C.L. Ten (Head of Philosophy). We thank the National University of Singapore for a grant for this project (R-106-000-011-112), without which this book would not have been possible. We were fortunate to be able to bring together a diverse group of scholars from various parts of the world to discuss the relation between democracy and culture in connection with the continued relevance of John Dewey to today’s globalizing world. This volume includes some well-known Dewey scholars, some new kids on the block, and some contributors from related fields who have helped augment the terms of discussion. We are grateful to all of them for participating in this project. This book owes its existence entirely to their expertise, their dedication to scholarship, and their patient, good-natured cooperation throughout the whole process. Like most research projects, this one benefited from the assistance of several student assistants, both undergraduates and graduates, especially JohnPaul Foenander, Mark Lawrence Santiago, Sun Wei, and Joseph Nathan Cruz. Jane Wong’s help was invaluable in preparing the manuscript for publication. It has, as always, been a great pleasure to work with Nancy Ellegate, Senior Acquisitions Editor at SUNY Press. When planning this volume over coffee, we decided to invite the philosopher credited with reconstructing Deweyan pragmatism in ways that have ix



given it a prominent place within contemporary philosophical conversation, albeit with much criticism from some Dewey scholars. He accepted our invitation but unfortunately had to withdraw due to serious illness. At several points the discussion turned to Richard Rorty’s work and his personal example. This volume is dedicated to his memory. Sor-hoon Tan John Whalen-Bridge Singapore, 2007

On Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty, who died in June 2007, was a very private public intellectual. He did not weigh in as often as possible on as many issues as possible. He had a minimalist home page. If his self-deprecation was an act, it was a very convincing one. His response to the appalling record of the George W. Bush presidency was to be shocked into honorable silence. He neither urged America into nor recanted his earlier support for any wars. It was only in the Clinton years that he found his distinctive public voice: the affable, ironic bluntness of someone talking at his kitchen table. He could denounce with such verve in those years because he could also be hopeful. Contemporary tributes to the distinguished dead often exhibit one peculiar piece of traditionalism. Like hip versions of the pastoral elegy, they tend to mourn not just an extraordinary individual but a whole way of life, as if with the person’s passing an era has passed, the like of which we shall not see again, and so forth. I shudder to think what Rorty would think of the idea that with him a whole era has ended. I think he would be “appalled”—a favorite word of his—to be praised as the last of anything. That would be a betrayal of his hope for the project of social justice, the hope that made him so much more to us all than just another smart philosopher. It was Rorty’s gift for hopefulness that thrust celebrity upon him, as well as his exasperation with those, such as my generation, the generation of the sixties, who held themselves back from hope. His accomplishments as a technical philosopher would not have done it, though he got a start by making the case that the sort of philosophy he had been practicing was both arrogant and trivial. The fi rst time I heard Rorty speak was at a conference on realism and representation at Rutgers University in 1989. The conference brought together literary critics and philosophers of science to debate objective truth, or whether what we were describing was reality, an issue that was not exactly front-page news.. I still have my conference T-shirt somewhere. It says “No Reality Without Representation.” The other T-shirt said “Get Real.” Rorty xi



was there as a spokesperson for what the “Get Real” people were calling relativism. He argued that rival truth claims were usually better thought of as rival ideas about what was most important, not as more or less accurate mirrorings of nature. In a sense, thinking about what was most important meant getting real. But among the philosophers this was clearly a minority position. A year later he was famous. In 1990 the New York Times Magazine ran a profi le of him that told the story of his winning a reputation the hard way—by technical accomplishment in analytic philosophy—and then repudiating the analytic tradition, devoting his energies instead to making a popular case for pragmatism, the one homegrown American school of philosophy. To many, pragmatism seemed threatening, but the Times had clearly decided Rorty was not. The accompanying photo shows him casually dressed in his home. His hands and face are illuminated, even radiant, and his eyes look straight at the reader. The room is done in rich colors that indicate an equally rich interiority, though a slice of window hints that this interior richness is not closed off from the world. The photo stretches expansively across two pages. Space given to Richard Rorty was space democratically given to us all. This was a period when the Times was making up its mind about a suddenly notorious crew of truth-murderers. Were they a public menace? If you look through the Times archive, you can see Rorty emerge as a sort of chosen emissary. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz is shown outside but not dressed for the field. His eyes are downcast, making no contact with the reader, and his Thinker-like posture suggests that thought is noble but not much fun and probably not your sort of thing. In a profi le of fellow-pragmatist Stanley Fish, now a Times columnist, a photo of the unsmiling Fish is a postmodern collage of highly uncertain tone and significance. Cornel West is shown speaking at a rally, a praiseworthy but strenuous task, and not for everyone. The only figure who is allowed as much effortless personal depth as Rorty is, remarkably, Jacques Derrida. Derrida’s eyes lock soulfully with yours, drawing you into a subject he has been thinking about a lot lately: death. Death as a universal human limit was a not unsympathetic translation of Derrida’s focus on the uncertainty in which we are obliged to dwell. The last time I talked to him, Rorty told me how grateful he was to have been turned on to Derrida early. Uncertainty was important common ground between them. It framed the modesty of Rorty’s philosophical program, or his program of philosophical modesty: staying with what we can do, leaving aside what we can’t (timelessly objective truth), and devoting ourselves to the most important tasks while perpetually re-evaluating their importance. The Times cleverly suggested that instead of killing off his discipline, Rorty had “invigorated philosophy by writing its epitaph.” That may turn out



to be the case. But in the years that followed, he had other aims in mind. The profi le gives no hint of the desperate indignation over inequality in America that would drive him during the rest of the decade. The second time I heard Richard Rorty speak was at a conference in New York in 1996. The conference was supposed to get academics of the Left back together with the labor movement. The project was not going too well. One of the sources of visible discord between the academics and labor was the question of non-Americans and how important they ought to be. At lunch, Michael Bérubé asked me whether I believed we should open U.S. borders to anyone who wanted to enter—a question that neither of us, perhaps, had ever asked ourselves. It occurs to me now that Rorty intuited our lack of thoughtfulness on these matters and intended to give us a jolt. The early years of the labor movement, he told us, “were a history of the skulls of strikers being broken by truncheons, decade after decade.” He reminded us that although American schoolchildren get at least a cursory introduction to the civil rights movement, they “usually have no idea of how it came about that most American workers have an eight-hour day and a five-day week.” If this was liberalism, it was certainly not complacent or even law-abiding liberalism. The labor movement, Rorty said, “owed its successes to repeated and deliberate criminal acts—acts that we now think of as heroic civil disobedience, but that were brutally punished.” “The whole point of America,” he said, “was that it was going to be the world’s fi rst classless society.” Historically speaking, that’s just not so, and the falseness of that proposition might make you wonder, postmodernist though you may be, how you feel about Rorty’s claim in Achieving Our Country that “stories about what a nation has been and should try to be are not attempts at accurate representation, but rather attempts to forge a moral identity.” Rorty didn’t much like so-called identity politics, but at the national scale he himself was an unabashed practitioner. “America” was the one identity worth forging. It had become for him the one true vehicle of hope and a virtual synonym of the project of social justice. Since social justice was the deep truth of the American nation, it was easy for Rorty to blame the break between the labor movement and the academy exclusively on the academy—especially on the student movement against the Vietnam War—while declining to implicate unions for supporting the war. Rorty asked the unions to “forgive and forget the stupid and self-defeating anti-American rhetoric” in which the universities had indulged. Though he hated bullies fiercely, he didn’t seem to realize how many people saw the United States as the worst of the world’s bullies, nor how much evidence the U.S. was helpfully continuing to offer them. Still, with a generosity that



every generation can learn from, he kept thinking and rethinking his positions. Less than two weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he gave a lecture in Nepal in which, staunch and defiant patriot though he was, he chose to discuss how inflammatory American foreign policy had been to the rest of the world. The last time I saw Rorty was at Stanford University in April 2005 at a conference devoted to the work of Immanuel Wallerstein, the Marxist sociologist and most famous exponent of so-called world-systems theory, which attempts to explain the persistent disparities of wealth between the global North and the global South. With his usual frankness, Rorty said that before preparing for this conference he’d never read a word by Wallerstein but was very glad he now had. He mentioned some things he had learned, and he mentioned some things he disagreed with, especially Wallerstein’s predictions of imminent systemic disaster. I was looking forward to seeing him last summer at a conference in his honor in Singapore, but he was too sick to come. In his absence, the rest of us talked about Dewey and Confucianism and whether there was common ground between them, just the sort of subject on which Rorty would have excelled. Among the things I will miss most about Richard Rorty is his intelligent and self-correcting hopefulness. Hope is often associated with religion, but in Rorty it was adamantly and unrepentantly secular. Another thing many of us will miss is his secularism. His critics often declared that the “irony” he championed, a way of holding one’s beliefs lightly, was the posture of an elitist. But holding one’s beliefs open to unending contestation, never giving in to the flat declarative certainties of those around you, must have been unusually hard work. He didn’t demand this work of everyone, but it defi ned those he admired most. His heroes, Whitman and Dewey, were secularists in the sense that neither had room in his conception of America “for obedience to a nonhuman authority.” Philosophical truth was a sort of theology, he wrote, “a surrogate parent who, unlike any real parent, embodied love, power, and justice in equal measure,” and Rorty didn’t want to have anything to do with theology. Let us stop and celebrate this one among his many accomplishments and controversial stances (not mutually exclusive categories). He took his private secularism, a belief in uncertainty or the ultimate openness of things to future correction, and tried to give it a larger public place. It is a cause to which he made, in the best sense, a modest contribution. Bruce Robbins July 3, 2007


Introduction Pragmatism’s Passport—Dewey, Democracy, and Globalization


Much has been written about John Dewey and democracy, but very little has been said about Dewey’s understanding of the intimate relationship between democracy and culture. One misinformed critic even suggests that “Culture was not one of Dewey’s strong suits,” when on the contrary, as many authors in this volume will argue, it is impossible to appreciate Dewey’s understanding of democracy apart from those aspects of life we typically call cultural rather than political. Deweyan democracy is less usefully understood as a political system than as a way of life, “a set of practices, attitudes, and expectations, which, in an ideal society, would pervade every aspect of human interaction” (Tiles, Democracy as Culture 121). We also miss the mark if we attempt to locate “Deweyan democracy” as if it were one static set of relations, since Dewey is a cultural pluralist. By examining the implications for conceiving of democracy as culture, rather than as something that precedes or follows from cultural formations, the essays in this volume consider Dewey’s adumbrations of democracy as one face of globalization. The word globalization is now used so frequently that one is tempted 1



to say, after Bruno Latour, that “we have never been global.” Yet Dewey’s approach to the intrinsically social nature of the individual’s quest for growth at the very least anticipates the utopian voices in the globalization chorus. On the other hand, Dewey’s high standards regarding what should really count as democracy anticipates the dystopian ranges of opinion as well. The contributors to this volume both explore Dewey’s constructive ideals of democracy as culture and contrast them with the extracultural façades of democracy that mask the international actions of the world’s one superpower. While some would argue that the universalization of democracy is an integral aspect of globalization, the latter process closes gaps between distinctly different cultures by bringing them into frequent and intensive contact in ways that facilitate the spread not only of cultural goods but also of threats of various sorts. Politics and culture have become so intertwined in these debates that pragmatic discussions of democracy cannot ignore culture. The “guns instead of butter” approach that passes for pragmatism in journalistic usage has very little in common with the classical pragmatism of John Dewey, who certainly did not propose the imposition of a prefabricated democracy on peoples not lucky enough to be born in the benighted modern metropolitan centers. A pragmatist approach to globalization, rather, will be pluralistic and experimental as it asks what notion of democracy, if any, could provide a criterion for judging and reconstructing all “habits, customs, and institutions” across cultural differences. To ask whether or not a culture is conducive to “democracy” as experienced, say, in the United States bespeaks a nondialectical relationship between cultural activity and political system that will, from a Deweyan point of view, be profoundly antidemocratic no matter how such a formation gets labeled. Instead of an essentialistic defi nition of democracy that will, intentionally or not, reify the liberal democratic notions of mid- to late twentieth-century America, the Deweyan notion of democracy that can be applied to international exchanges will describe social arrangements that can lead to “liberation of the potentialities of members of a group in harmony with the interests and goods which are common” (LW.2.328).1 At this point we can ask those questions that arise so often in globalization talk: Are specific cultural changes preconditions for democratization? Would a universalization of democracy be a form of cultural homogenization or hegemony? If our sense of democracy is reconstructed along Deweyan lines, the discussions that follow from such questions will be markedly less melodramatic. Samuel Huntington has suggested that the major fault lines in post– Cold War global politics will coincide with civilizational-cultural divides, and it is clear that the interethnic violence of the last two decades leaves no



room for complacency. If we were to conceive of globalization as a janiform phenomenon—one face looking toward a market-oriented “McWorld” and the other toward an antimodern “Jihad”—we would be implicitly acceding to the sort of Manichean division that conceives of identities apart from the dynamic social exchanges through which selves not only create but sustain themselves. Dewey is the cure for intellectual melodrama. Unless our notion of democracy is reconstructed accordingly, “democracy” will always be bundled (as is Explorer with Windows) with Western political systems. Headlines in Europe and America have debated whether the imposition of such values and structures is a “least worst” alternative for countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. This hubris increases resistance, not only to Western-style modernization but also to “democracy” in the other senses here considered, in ways that make a “clash of civilizations” a self-fulfi lling prophecy. If democracy really has a global destiny, it must grow out of, rather than replace, the values of different cultures, for any democracy promoted by the West that is construed as culturally hegemonic will be a democracy in name only. The renewed interest in Dewey among philosophers, largely due to the influence of Richard Rorty, gathered momentum quickly because of a continuously growing body of high-quality monographs and collections of essays on Dewey’s thought. These resources exist thanks to the sustained and steady scholarship of many others who have studied Dewey and continued his pragmatic reconstruction of philosophy and culture even when he was “out of fashion.”2 Outside philosophy, Dewey had remained influential in some disciplines, especially in education. Does Dewey still have anything relevant to offer to the present times? Many ask this question even as pragmatism, and especially Dewey’s philosophy, has enjoyed something of a revival in recent decades. Many will still wonder if he has much to say in the globalization conversation, especially regarding the complexities of “culture.” At home Dewey was no stranger to multicultural social environments or to the shortsightedness of attempting to impose a way of life on citizenry and then calling it “democracy.” Furthermore, his own ideas had gained international currency far beyond “the West” even while he was alive. Deweyan thought is again experiencing a resurgence abroad following the neopragmatism boom partly because of long-term interest in Dewey among certain intellectuals in various countries. While globalization in some sense is not entirely new, it took Dewey several weeks to sail from California to Japan in 1919, and although commercial air travel was available before his death in 1952, it was nowhere as common as today. Of course, globalization involves much more than inexpensive plane fares. New technologies and forms of



social interaction, such as e-mail, blogging, and teleconferences, have transformed the lives of many people all over the world. Someone in 1952 might have thought the “digital divide” referred to the space between the fi ngers rather than the technological gap between the developed North and the yetunplugged countries of the South or between the rich and poor in individual countries. New problems have emerged that demand new inquiries, and Dewey bequeathed to us a pragmatic concern and method for reconstructing experience in the light of such new problems. Insofar as legacies of the past, including Dewey’s own legacy, enter our present experience, they must in turn be reconstructed. New centers for Dewey studies continue to be established in different parts of the world. One at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, is currently translating Dewey’s Collected Works into Mandarin, as only a few individual works by Dewey had been translated previously. Translation of Dewey’s works continues all over the world. For example, the Dewey List recently received an enquiry from a Brazilian publisher who is interested in translating Dewey’s works into Portuguese. The last few years have seen works published on Dewey’s influence outside the United States and on the affi nities between Dewey’s philosophy and other philosophical traditions, such as Chinese philosophy. To this prima facie evidence of Dewey’s timeliness this volume adds the work of scholars from a number of different disciplines and countries, who reconsider the Deweyan tradition—including writers such as Jane Addams, Richard Rorty, and Hilary Putnam, who have made significant contributions to the pragmatic tradition—in light of problems arising from the relation between democracy and culture. By insistently approaching culture as a rich ecosystem that includes law and politics, industry and commerce, science and technology, fi ne arts and communicative patterns, and not least morals, values, and social philosophy in relation to the debates about globalization, the chapters in this volume re-examine Dewey’s cross-cultural experience and affi nities with thinkers one would not normally associate with pragmatism. These juxtapositions open the way for unexpected reconstructions of Dewey’s own recommendations that have the potential to expand pragmatism across both traditional and newly articulated boundaries. Section One, “Universalizing Democracy Pragmatically,” designates the foundational concerns for those who wish to consider the significance of worldwide democratization. How can Deweyan democracy be “universalized,” the fi rst two chapters ask, without succumbing to either the sins of ethnocentrism or a cultural relativism that undermines the global intercultural aspiration of democracy? Entering the debate over how to justify, maintain,



and advance democracies, Larry Hickman compares Dewey’s experimentalist democracy with Chantal Mouffe’s “agonistic” model of democracy, which claims to offer a third way between “universalist-rationalists” such as Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and early Jürgen Habermas on one side and contextualists such as Michael Walzer and Richard Rorty on the other. Hickman points out that Mouffe’s “new style of theorizing,” attributed to Wittgenstein and Hanna Pitkin, is not so new after all. Mouffe’s examination of “the craving for certainty” and her attempts “to accept and live with the illusionless human condition” are in fact present in Dewey’s works, in particular How We Think, The Quest for Certainty, and A Common Faith. Comparing Mouffe’s “third way” with Dewey’s naturalistic view of the genesis of political norms, Hickman shows that both reject the privileging of religious institutions visà-vis other constituting publics within democracies. The two also share an interest in the relation between the ethical and the political. Dewey would agree with Mouffe that a strong sense of community as the basis of political venture should recognize the “dark side” of human sociability. Where they differ, Hickman criticizes Mouffe’s appeal to controversial psychoanalytic theories that treat the self as an object of analysis in terms of intersubjectivity and speech. Dewey’s more fluid and flexible psychology recognizes the self as comprising various “me’s” that are “historically constituted in a broad cultural sense.” Dewey’s conception of democracy avoids the problems associated with the contextualist reliance on “solidarity” more successfully than Mouffe’s, which still views democratic norms as the result of “a manifold of practices and pragmatic moves aiming at persuading people to broaden the range of their commitments to others, to build a more inclusive community.” In contrast, Dewey’s naturalism provides a processional rather than a static understanding of ethical or political norms. Hickman delineates Dewey’s approach, whereby democratic norms are generated from ethical or political practice through an experimentalism that “involves active, systematic, and controlled attempts to determine, for example, which forms of life—which language games and which pragmatic moves—are best positioned to achieve the desired balance between the goals of freedom and equality.” The development of a participatory way of life dedicated to “the liberation of the potentialities of [its] members” requires processes by which different cultures (and groups within a given culture, and individuals divided by innumerable other differences) can cooperate to solve problems, which in turn requires ways of saying what a “problem” is in a world where one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. How can we begin to think of a universalist or



robustly cross-cultural notion of democracy when our first move is always to suspect the motives of any historically specific speaker’s discourse? By replacing the rationalist account of universalized norms with a notion of objective norms which are, in Hickman’s terminology, “universalizable” under certain conditions, a Deweyan philosophy of democracy can leave plenty of room for cultural differences. By not jettisoning “truth” in a wholesale manner, a Deweyan approach will also temper the acceptance of historical-cultural contingency with a belief that norms are not merely subjective preferences or symptoms of hegemonic totalization but can be based on a “knowledge of things as they are” which is acquired through experimentalist inquiry. Such an approach to norms avoids the contextualist descent into aimless and endless “conversation” at the expense of politically engaged actions contributing to the reconstruction of “cultures of democracy.” Chapter Three enters the discussion of Deweyan paths between universalism and relativism through an examination of antidemocratic culturalism, which Sor-hoon Tan locates within the justifications deployed by antidemocratic societies in terms of their respective cultures. Drawing on research in the social sciences, she notes that adherents of culturalism tend to adopt a reductionist, essentialist, static, totalizing, and hegemonic conception of culture, which results from seeing culture as the answer to questions rather than a problem that needs solving. She takes up the task of reconstructing the concept of culture, begun in Dewey’s philosophy, to show that democracy is a cultural problem in the sense that its different components and their interconnections must be reconstructed in ways most appropriate to itself, not in the sense that some inherited (Western) culture must be imposed on all. . Tan begins by reviewing Dewey’s conception of culture, which eschews the elitism of seeing culture as past heritage with limited access and the dualism of seeing culture as opposed to nature. With the Deweyan antidualist conception of culture in mind, we can see that democracy may still refer to the political institutions that facilitate such open-ended processes but that this is the least inspiring understanding of democracy. Deweyan democracy is distinctive in being a way of life as well as a set of institutions. Democracy is culture, for it is also “a dynamic open-ended humanizing process that liberates individuality even as it nurtures sociality.” For Tan, the processes by which social groups negotiate demands between larger groups and subgroups is not limited to any particular cultures, and so Tan extends Hickman’s argument that Deweyan democracy is not ethnocentric despite being rooted in American experience. An ideal is not a replica of that experience, but rather a representation of the positive elements of that experience “carried to its fi nal



limit, viewed as completed, perfected” (LW.2.328). More importantly, the ideal is to be revised through further inquiries when put into practice in new contexts. Democracy is a universal ideal in the sense that it is universalizable under certain conditions. A (Deweyan) democratic ideal, for example, does not justify Americanization or Westernization, because “government by the people” will take different forms in different cultures. Accommodation of cultural diversity must extend to contesting the meaning of the democratic ideal. Such a contest will be resolved only through social inquiries into varied experiences, and its resolution will expand and enrich both the ideals and the experience. Section Two, “Imposing Democracy,” reviews the charges against universalist democracy with more attention to particular worldly contexts. It considers the imposition of Western values upon other cultures under the aegis of democracy, and it reconsiders the struggles within pragmatic thought to account for the introduction of hegemonic values into a discussion dedicated to government (and culture) “by the people.” The discussion moves from a defense of Dewey’s theoretical framework to the use of a Deweyan conception of democracy in understanding international politics and its usefulness across international borders, both in the past and the present. If President Bush were able to tell the story his way, global democracy would be a veritable slam-dunk extension of American liberal democracy from sea to shining sea. Needless to say, Bush’s certitude that he has the right model of democracy for the whole world is fundamentally opposed to pragmatic fallibilism. Criticizing the Bush administration’s own fallible assumptions from a Deweyan perspective in Chapter Four, Sun Youzhong measures how far the United States, in its current vulgar understanding of democracy, has strayed from Deweyan democratic commitments. From a Deweyan perspective, democracy cannot be globalized by imposing any existing political system on the world. As Jan Aart Scholte remarks, “the shape of global democracy would need to be subject to more intercultural negotiation and adjustment than it has been to date.” A Deweyan global democracy would be a way of living “to be cooperatively constructed and constantly ameliorated by the peoples of all nations according to their particular historical, economic, cultural and political contexts.” While democracy may be a “universalizable” ideal, Sun points out that for various reasons the Western liberal model is not well suited to many currently nondemocratic countries. For democratic empowerment to succeed, self-empowering groups will need to devise cultural infrastructures according to their own needs and culturally specific priorities. Democratic ends can only



be achieved through democratic means—this is something Dewey learned but which has escaped the notice of the Bush administration, which, in its zeal to discharge America’s “responsibility to promote human freedom,” sees “no need for free communication between America and the undemocratic nations of the globe.” Sun concludes with a suggestion that the Bush administration learn from Dewey’s experience in China. During his visit between 1919 and 1921, Dewey saw a China struggling to build a republic on imperial ruins. His advice to his fellow Americans at the time was to refrain from meddling and to give China time to deal with her problems. To equate Iraq in 2006 with China in 1920 would be committing the fallacy of neglecting context, and it might be too optimistic to assume that only time is needed to clear up the present debacle. However, Dewey is probably right that the people must not only be consulted but must have the time and other resources to participate in creating democratic solutions to their problems if democracy is to take root anywhere in the world. In chapter five, Scott Johnston also draws on Dewey’s writings on China to defend Dewey against critics who accuse him of ethnocentrism. By focusing on education, Johnston extends Sun’s argument about the undemocratic tendencies of current attempts to globalize democracy. Not only is it contrary to Dewey’s philosophy to impose a Western political system on other countries, neither Deweyan democratic inquiry nor its techniques, attitudes, tempers, or methods can be imposed. To be truly democratic, inquiry must develop out of the shared problems, concerns, and issues of the publics that it serves. Johnston further argues that those who portray Dewey as “exporting” Western methods and practices to places such as Japan, China, and Turkey miss the point; “It is not that Dewey wants to make these available: they are already available and are being taken up. The point is, rather, how they are taken up is fundamental to the question of associated living—of community life.” Where Dewey’s influence has had positive results, invariably those who have “adopted” his philosophy did not fall victim to one-sided appropriation of Western methods and practices but were able to use these in creative ways to augment the authentic traits of their own existence to broaden and deepen their own unique experience. Dewey’s ideas work for them only when appropriately adapted to their own unique contexts. Such adaptations introduce new perspectives and enrich Dewey’s philosophy in ways that Dewey could not have anticipated and thus ensure its continued relevance. The critique of “imposing democracy” also has analogues within poststructuralist and feminist thought, as Judy Whipps demonstrates in Chapter Six. Jane Addams and Hull House, a settlement house providing social services



and support to the poor industrial immigrant population of Chicago, were significant influences on John Dewey during his years in Chicago. His philosophy of democracy and education developed from the experience of that period. Whipps looks at Addams’s pragmatist-feminist philosophy in the postcolonial global context. Addams’s conception of democracy and education is broadly Deweyan in contours; one might even say it developed jointly with Dewey’s thinking in the same experiential context of the Hull House project and the social movements of the Progressive era. Addams’s experience convinced her that democracy copes better with cultural differences than any other political system or way of life, because diversity is the key to democratic growth. Her experiential and dialogical methodology enabled her, like other feminists, to appreciate “the necessity of empathic imagination, to relate to and include the voices of many others through their stories” in working toward the survival of democracy. Addams herself was a powerful storyteller who developed her ideas more often in literary narratives than in philosophical treatises. Whipps argues that Addams’s conception of democracy stands up well to postcolonial feminist critiques of global capitalism, such as Mohanty’s, for the purpose of constructing and maintaining “ideologies of masculinity/femininity, technological superiority, appropriate development, skilled/unskilled labor, and so on” in the so-called third world. Indeed, Addams made similar criticisms of capitalism in her own time. The postcolonial critique of democracy as a Westernizing force also does not pertain to Addams, who shared with Dewey “a lifelong commitment to marginalized people.” They both recognized that “democracy cannot be done to people—they must actively be creating the process in order for it to be ‘worth having’.” Whipps notes that “this understanding of democracy fl ies in the face of current American projects of ‘bringing’ democracy to other nations in the world.” In Chapter Seven, Bruce Robbins takes up the issue of pragmatism and war in the context of Louis Menand’s story of American pragmatists. The United States has gone to war more than once to promote democracy, or at least it says it has. Robbins reinforces the importance of storytelling mentioned in Whipps’ account of Addams’s conception of democracy. Stories are not told to an unengaged audience from a value-neutral standpoint, and so we must also consider the narrative imposition of democratic values alongside militaristic and economic strategies to obtain compliance. While Addams played a prominent role in the international peace movement, Dewey reversed his initial opposition to the First World War to support Wilson’s attempt to “make the world safe for democracy.” In Robbins’s reading, Menand’s story “has at its center the strangely topical issue of American military intervention.”



Beginning with the Civil War experience of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Menand portrays a growing movement within pragmatism that turns on war and the decision to go to war. Robbins shows how the story “has an obvious and acute value as an anticipatory critique of the Bush administration’s case for war based on God-given certitude.” Noting the conundrum in Menand’s story, which begins with why (as Holmes belatedly realized) it was wrong for the North to enter the American Civil War, yet ends with why (so Dewey thought) the United States was right to enter World War I, Robbins narrates the failure of pragmatism to resist war even when pragmatism “makes it harder for people to be driven to violence by their beliefs.” War could be waged without belief and, instead, simply out of solidarity with one’s community. Rather than focusing on the antifoundational denial of certitude and beliefs, we would do better to look to Dewey’s idea of publics as central to democracy if we hope to locate resources with which to resist the martial imposition of “democracy.” As “a form of conversation or storytelling in which, as Dewey wanted, the input from all speakers would matter,” publics cross national boundaries, especially on the question of war. The problem of a public that is global in scope and complexity offers a much greater challenge to pragmatists today than that faced by Dewey in The Public and its Problems. Robbins concludes that “democracy at the level of the nation is not enough to stop wars. The only sort of democracy that would have a chance of stopping war is a truly global democracy.” Section III, “Decentering Dewey,” discusses Dewey’s thought in the wake of the contextual factors of its time and place. Some chapters examine Dewey’s ideas in relation to constructions and reconstructions of philosophy as a specifically Western discipline, and other chapters reorient readers in relation to Dewey at the dawn of what some have called “the Pacific Century,” focusing on Dewey in relation to his Chinese interpreters and to Chinese philosophical traditions.3 That Dewey sometimes fi nds more sympathetic and sensitive hearing outside his own native land indicates for some supporters that Dewey was not an ethnocentric thinker. The chapters in Section III foreground some surprising affi nities between Dewey and both Eastern and Western thinkers who are not normally associated with pragmatism, offering a glimpse of what “diasporic pragmatism” might look like. A consideration of movements and shifts within Deweyan studies must consider the impact of Richard Rorty’s revival of pragmatist thought, which is the focus of discussion in Chapter Eight. John Holbo, extremely skeptical of the pragmatist attempt to reform philosophy, examines Rorty’s and Hilary Putnam’s turn away from analytic philosophy. For Holbo, pragmatists do not



seem to have a distinctive experimental method that is anything more than the good old Socratic method. Arguing that pragmatists praise Platonic method while deploring Platonic ends, he urges readers to back up and notice that “it’s hard to have one without the other pragmatically.” Through an analysis of Putnam’s Ethics without Ontology, this chapter tries to show that pragmatic philosophy might turn out to be the kind of consequence at which one can never directly aim. Rejection of an indefi nite cluster of realist and foundationalist metaphysical and epistemological doctrines in favor of conceptual pluralism appears redundant in contemporary academic culture, leading Holbo to remark that “a great deal of incidental, interdisciplinary comedy results from the fact that philosophers take Plato seriously, and no one else does.” Putnam might have employed the resources of analytic philosophy against the traditional analytic game while losing faith in the ability of this game to achieve insight into ethics, but in Holbo’s assessment, Putnam has not really found a new game. Even if Rorty is right in asserting that analytic philosophy cancels itself out, that in itself is not sufficient to impart to philosophy any distinctive pragmatic impetus, which, Holbo insists, makes poor cultural politics. However edifying Rorty might be about philosophers and writers, his literary criticism, storytelling, and expressions of hope do not amount to an argument for the kind of ideal community he wants. Holbo criticizes Rorty for an implausibly narrow view of the principal function of vocabularies—“to tell stories about future outcomes which compensate for present sacrifices.” Moreover, Rorty’s pragmatic call for meliorism through literature is bound for failure because common vocabularies are not “the sorts of things one can work to achieve; not directly, anyway.” If aiming at common vocabularies is pragmatically self-defeating, aiming at a common culture is worse, since such an attempt is arguably even more of an unanticipated by-product than is the attempt to form a common vocabulary. In Holbo’s view, “if democracy is culture, it might turn out that democracy is nothing you can aim at.” Can pragmatism stand up to such critique? One could defend Dewey by pointing out that it is not necessary for pragmatism to claim that it has discovered a completely new method. Why reinvent the wheel? Dewey’s call for the reconstruction of philosophy is rather an insistence that the new game must treat philosophy as a method for solving real problems of real men and women, while the old game was to solve “philosophers’ problems.” If it has indeed been difficult to “recover Dewey” using analytic methods, it is because these methods have once again driven their practitioners into the maze of “philosophers’ problems.” The test of whether



the philosophy of someone like Rorty or Putnam lives up to pragmatism’s promise must be sought not in academic philosophy but in the extent to which the conceptual tools they have fashioned or modified and the stories they tell succeed in helping ordinary people reconstruct their associated living. We are told to drive our cart and plow over the bones of the dead, which philosophical reconstructionists are only too eager to do, but this invigorating if rough approach may lead us to overlook the correspondences between supposed opponents. Chapter Nine, in a completely different way, stresses the commonality between purportedly disjunctive philosophical traditions. Cecilia Wee’s examination of Descartes’ philosophy reveals some unexpected affi nities with Dewey, despite Dewey’s attack on the Cartesian legacy within Western philosophy. Wee rejects the common interpretation of Descartes’ ethics as egoistic, a consequence of his metaphysical dualism of mind and body. She also fi nds evidence that Descartes’ metaphysics both recognize the individual as part of a universal order created by God and support an ethics that values sociality while acknowledging the claims of individuality. Despite their different religious views, Descartes’ account of how the individual’s consciousness of her place in the larger whole is consonant with Dewey’s understanding of how the individual relates to the community in a democracy. Wee argues that if Descartes’ religious and metaphysical commitment to a universal order could support Deweyan democracy in practice, then the latter could also be nurtured in East Asian and other cultural traditions with similar metaphysical and religious commitments. According to Wee, Dewey’s view of the democratic process as active and interactive, never fi nal in its structures and claims, was shaped by his view of human psychology, especially the role of intelligence in human action and interaction with the environment to bring about knowledge. She argues that Descartes’ account of reason in practical deliberation bears some resemblance to Dewey’s understanding of intelligence and knowledge, despite Dewey’s rejection of the Cartesian notion of reason. According to Wee, the Cartesian reason that Dewey rejects applies only in the quest for metaphysical truths; reason functions quite differently in practical deliberation, where it functions not in isolation but together with the physical senses. Practical judgments are revisable in the light of experience, and others’ views could play a positive role. In this respect, Descartes’ pragmatism rests on a dualism of metaphysical reason and practical reason, whereas a Deweyan would be tempted to press the point that metaphysical reason is as useless (and perhaps harmful) as metaphysical truths, and Cartesians would be better off just deliberating practically.



Much as Descartes specialists would emphasize quite rightly that there is more to Descartes’ philosophy than mind-body dualism, this remains the most notorious legacy associated with Descartes. This dualism is at the center of John Whalen-Bridge’s analysis of the American writer Charles Johnson, among whose works is a short story about Descartes. Alongside it is a story about a strip-mall martial arts dojo where a black man, belatedly experiencing his mid-life crisis, goes to a martial arts school and reconstructs himself. Johnson’s story illuminates Deweyan aesthetics of art as experience and experience as art. A consummatory moment, in which the protagonist performs a physical movement no one thought possible, clarifies and transforms a web of experiences in a dramatic and retrospective manner. Chapter Ten reiterates the point Chapters Six and Seven made about the power of storytelling, as stories shape and reshape our vocabularies as well as providing the medium through which these vocabularies shape our experience. More generally, Whalen-Bridge considers the use of literature in Rorty’s reconstructed pragmatism to promote the virtue of self-fashioning, which necessarily operates in specific social contexts. In the particular context of “achieving our country,” Rorty criticizes the American Left for withdrawing into self-righteous paralysis instead of actively working for change. Because telling the right kind of stories is central to the task of fulfi lling social hope, Rorty’s attempt to recapture patriotism, piety, and confidence through literature and literary criticism is seen by Whalen-Bridge as an attempt to recover the religious component of democracy. Comparing Rorty with Dewey from this perspective uncovers the democratic contours of Dewey’s “ecology of art, politics and religion.” Whalen-Bridge contrasts Rorty’s presentation of literature, as a power to defend embattled selves both at individual and state levels, with Dewey’s aesthetics, which understand “consummatory experience” in a way similar to Buddhist experience of nonduality, or a release from self-hood. This chapter compares the pragmatic rejection of “the common dualism of nature and spirit” with the Buddhist nonduality of body-mind, mind-world, and worldnirvana as explored by Charles Johnson’s stories and more explicitly discussed by Zen masters such as Lin-chi. It argues that pragmatists would do well to reconsider Dewey’s dismissal of nirvana as a transcendent escape that rejects experience, which might have been too hasty or based on an inadequate understanding of Buddhism. The theme of intercultural exchange is developed further in Chapter Eleven. Jessica Wang compares two readings of Dewey’s Democracy and Education, one based on a review in the 1920s by Liang Shuming (1893–1988),



who is probably best known in the West through Guy Alitto’s intellectual biography, The Last Confucian, and the other a more recent (1981) liberal critique of Dewey by Eamonn Callan. Wang argues that Dewey’s view of democracy as culture and as an art of life has lessons for today’s globalizing world, as we face, perhaps even more than in Dewey’s own time, the problem “that much of the intimate social connection is lost in the impersonality of a world market.” Wang’s comparison highlights the emphasis on active and interactive life in Dewey’s philosophy of education and democracy. This emphasis is bound up with his rejection of any dualistic opposition between individual and society and his conception of the individual as social, which is the target of attacks on Dewey by liberals who subscribe to a radically individualistic understanding of autonomy that is by no means essential to liberalism per se. In contrast, Liang Shuming found resonance between Confucius’s teachings and Dewey’s philosophy and understanding of social individuals. Liang’s sympathetic reading of Democracy and Education is not uncritical, for his own metaphysical commitments lead him to criticize Dewey for missing the essence of morality. However, Wee’s arguments in Chapter Nine, reconciling pragmatism with Cartesian metaphysics, may encourage readers to reconsider the question of whether Dewey’s pragmatism can ever be compatible with neo-Confucian metaphysics. Lest one jump to the conclusion that Dewey was praised by Liang and attacked by Callan because only the Chinese value sociality, Wang’s assessment of the two contrasting reactions to Dewey is complemented by an account of her personal experience in a small Midwestern town’s museum, which provides a concrete example of individuality grounded in human sociality. Claims about what it is to be human aspire by their very nature to cross cultural boundaries. While cultural particularities ensure that the forms individuality and sociality take will vary, and while such variety should be valued for enriching human existence, an assumption of commonality that enables communication is arguably the starting point, at the level of philosophical reflection on experience, for understanding others and expanding our horizons. This is not a matter of simplemindedly assuming that others are like us, but rather involves conscientious, open, and sensitive attempts to understand our common humanity and construct common ideals in the light of different cultural expressions of humanity. Chapter Twelve reinforces the view that Dewey’s philosophy is a “radical disjunction within the Western philosophical narrative” and deepens the comparison between pragmatism and Confucianism. Examining the works of Tang Junyi (1909–1978), an important figure in the modern New Confucian



movement who can profitably be compared with Dewey, Roger Ames finds a parallel between Tang’s “idea” of Confucianism and Dewey’s “idea” of democracy that can “enable us to anticipate the core values if not the specific contours of a Confucian democracy.” The exploratory play between Dewey’s vocabulary on the one hand—redefi ning experience, habits, liberty, equality and democracy itself—and Tang’s propositions of Chinese natural cosmology on the other—of ceaseless procreativity with no fi xed substance and no fi xed fate, wherein “nothing advances but to return,” and there is “continuity between determinacy and indeterminacy, motion and equilibrium”—elucidates how Confucian democracy would resemble Dewey’s communitarian democracy in being “resolutely hierarchical, historicist, particularist, and emergent” but differ from it in emphasizing the family as the organizing metaphor for human experience. Comparable cosmological assumptions about persons, relational efficacy, and the world in Tang’s and Dewey’s philosophies seek to promote similar conditions in the continuing process of democratization. However, they also differ due to their different cultural environments. Dewey is culturally revolutionary in confronting the inertia of democratic forms that might have outlived their usefulness; Tang is known as a cultural conservative for his attempt to keep Confucianism alive against the onslaught of Western modernity. The building of a Confucian democracy will require forward-looking, imaginative envisioning and reconfiguring of existing models of democracy as well as an intelligent appreciation and use of tradition in the transformative process. Rather than simply accepting democracy as a Western import, democratization in China will succeed only if “living Confucianism as the cultural aspirations of a given population” plays a determinative role in the democratization process. If successful, the process will also expand and enrich our understanding of democracy as a human ideal.

The ideas of Dewey have traveled around the world and been well used, and at various points his passport has been renewed. If globalization has become a fact of material existence, directly influencing job markets, the commodities one may fi nd on supermarket shelves, or the air one breathes, it has also impressed itself on the metaphors through which we understand and, to some extent, construct ourselves in the world. To be a global citizen of the postmodern bourgeois liberal sort one must have a literal passport, but ideas also must have their own official papers if they wish to travel. A passport assumes some commonality regarding laws, notions of personhood, and so forth—a



commonality if not a universality. Even though some people on Earth have passports and some do not, all will perforce face the same questions when approaching those cultural and political lines we call borders. Whether or not citizenship and democracy are universal or universalizable, in the global context the advice given in the American Express advertisements holds: “Don’t leave home without it.” What is a passport? What is a citizen, and on what does such a notion depend? Does it have rights, and are those rights transferable between contexts? Should they be the same in all places? Hickman and Tan discuss the clarifications available in Dewey’s texts regarding these kinds of questions. Holbo also takes up foundational questions. What does it mean to challenge a way of doing philosophy? Does challenging philosophy philosophically put one outside philosophy? If one tries to philosophically oppose philosophy, will one wind up trapped in an airport, like Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal? One might hope for a globalized world in which passports, metonymic for national identity, no longer exist, as Bruce Robbins and, in some of his writings, Richard Rorty might want. Others might want an exchange that is genuinely fair, a two-way street of sorts between one culture and another. Sun, Johnson, Whipps, Wang, Ames, and Whalen-Bridge describe foreign exchanges that work well and enrich our understanding of both democracy and culture by drawing our attention to migrations across the borders that order our experience of intellectual space. Some identities have an either/or construction, as though one could not simultaneously be a citizen of both the United States and North Korea or be, at once, both a Cartesian and a Deweyan, but Cecilia Wee suggests that we look very closely at some of the assumptions generated by our mapping of philosophical territories. This volume considers some of Dewey’s passport, though certainly not all of its pages, for his ideas have traveled further than this account could indicate. However, incompleteness in no way precludes beauty: Dewey’s notions about democracy as culture have in the past been faulted for being partial, but these authors show that those ideas are attractive to thinkers from diverse countries and cultures precisely because they do not presume a predetermined historical end point or political ideal. NOTES 1. Standard references to John Dewey’s work are to the critical (print) edition, The Collected Works of John Dewey, 1882–1953, edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969–1991) and published



in three series as The Early Works (EW), The Middle Works (MW), and The Later Works (LW). 2. These include James Tiles, Larry Hickman, Thomas Alexander, Hilary Putnam, Richard Shusterman, Charlene Haddock Seigfried, James Campbell, Raymond Boisvert, Joseph Margolis, Tom Burke, John Stuhr, Susan Haack, Michael Eldridge, and William Gavin, to name only a few. 3. For information on the 10-hour PBS program on “The Pacific Century,” see

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Universalizing Democracy Pragmatically

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The Genesis of Democratic Norms Some Insights from Classical Pragmatism


One of the more interesting and persistent debates within current social and political philosophy involves the manner by which democracies can be considered to be grounded, justified, maintained, and advanced. More specifically, the issue involves the nature of political norms.1 Generally speaking, on one side of this debate are the proponents of a universalist-rationalist approach. On the other side are the contextualists. I have chosen a recent book by Chantal Mouffe to help focus my discussion of these matters, since her work is both widely known and highly regarded. As Mouffe has characterized this debate (62), on one side there are those, such as Dworkin, the early Rawls, and Habermas, who want to “assert that the aim of political theory is to establish universal truths, valid for all independently of the historico-cultural context” (63). On the other side of the debate are the proponents of contextualism, including Michael Walzer and Richard Rorty, who, she indicates, have been influenced by Wittgenstein and who deny “the availability of a point of view that could be situated outside the practices and the institutions of a given culture and from where universal, ‘context-independent’ judgments could be made” (63).




My introduction of the work of John Dewey into this debate is by no means gratuitous, given Mouffe’s claim that she is following a “new style of theorizing” advanced by Wittgenstein and more particularly laid out, she writes, in the “pioneering work of Hanna Pitkin.” What is this new style of theorizing? “By examining the craving for certainty, [Wittgenstein’s] later philosophy is, [Pitkin] says, ‘an attempt to accept and live with the illusionless human condition—relativity, doubt and the absence of God’” (337). Even a cursory reading of Dewey, however, reveals that the style of theorizing Mouffe describes is hardly novel. It is adumbrated in the work of Nietzsche, to be sure. But I also take the liberty of drawing your attention to the years 1910, 1929, and 1934. These are the years in which John Dewey published How We Think, The Quest for Certainty, and A Common Faith, respectively. In the fi rst of these works, Dewey addressed the role of doubt as a substantial—and positive, it should be added—aspect of human experience. In the second, several decades before the publication of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty, Dewey addressed what Mouffe terms “the craving for certainty.” And in the third (as elsewhere), Dewey addressed the question of how we are to form human communities that can flourish in the absence of belief in transcendent deities or other ideological commitments that claim to trump what is experientially and experimentally available. In all three works, Dewey provided suggestions concerning how we can “accept and live with the illusionless human condition,” to quote Mouffe quoting Pitkin. This leads us to Mouffe’s remarks concerning the chasm that she understands to exist between the two positions, universalism and contextualism, regarding the status of political norms. She attempts to construct an alternative view or a third position—but not the “third way” of centrist consensualism developed by Clinton, Blair, and Schroeder, which she rejects. Mouffe’s alternative, based on the insights of Wittgenstein and Derrida with its roots in the work of Carl Schmitt, is what she terms an “agonistic” (but not antagonistic) model of democracy. The parties to her proposed form of democracy, or “agonistic pluralism,” are not antagonistic in the sense of being enemies per se (shooting enemies, for example), but agonistic in the sense of “friendly enemies” who “share a common symbolic space” but who want to “organize this common symbolic space in a different way” (13). As I write, the geopolitics of the Middle East appear to furnish appropriate examples of her distinction: the confl ict between Hamas and Al-Fatah within the Palestinian Authority counts as an example of antagonism, and the confl ict between Likud and Labor within the Israeli democracy counts as an example of agonism. Her point, following Schmitt, seems to be that even in democracies there must be an “enemy.”



Mouffe wants to tell us that “contrary to what Habermas and his followers argue, the epistemological side of the Enlightenment is not to be seen as the precondition for its political side, the democratic project” (132). This is because there is a “dark side” to human sociability that Enlightenment thinkers and their heirs neglected and that she thinks must be taken into account. As for the contextualists, although Mouffe expresses more sympathy for their project, she nevertheless complains that they “either avoid or do not emphasize enough the need to put some limits to pluralism, and they do not acknowledge the hegemonic nature of every possible consensus and the ineradicable violence that this implies” (134). Mouffe’s “agonistic pluralism” is constructed on a Derrida-type account of undecidability, according to which choices can never be fully justified and which “acknowledges the conceptual impossibility of a democracy in which justice and harmony would be instantiated” (137). In other words, “social division is constitutive. . . . New objects and relations between objects become thinkable, and this has crucial consequences for a non-rationalist understanding of the political” (139). At fi rst glance, Mouffe’s “alternative” to the extremes of universalism and contextualism looks a lot like Dewey’s treatment in The Public and its Problems of the manner in which publics interact and his call in Liberalism and Social Action for reconstruction of “liberalism.” But further examination reveals some crucial differences. What are these similarities and differences, and why are they important? First, it is implicit in Mouffe’s position, as it is explicit in Dewey’s, that even though religious institutions and associations can and do play various important roles as constituent and constituting publics within democracies, their voices must not be privileged above those that are secular in nature. In democracies generally termed “Judeo-Christian,” such as the United States, for example, and even in democracies with some form of state-sponsored religion, such as Germany and Italy, there must be a de facto “attempt to accept and live with the illusionless human condition—relativity, doubt and the absence of God,” at least in the space in which various publics interact with one another. In other words, theocracy and democracy are not compatible. In democracies, even the most devout—perhaps it would be better to say especially the most devout—must learn to accept religious and other forms of pluralism as a condition for entering into the give and take of the activities that determine the contours of political arrangements.2 Second, both Mouffe and Dewey are keenly interested in the relation of the ethical to the political. For her part, Mouffe, unlike Dewey,



draws inspiration from certain psychoanalytic models. Following Lacan, for example, she attempts to develop an ethics that “strives to create among us a new form of bond, a bond that recognizes us as divided subjects . . .” (139). She argues that pluralistic-democratic societies will need, fi rst, to recognize the basic facts of antagonism and violence and, second, to engage in “a neverending interrogation of the political by the ethical” (140). Despite his well-known dislike of psychoanalysis, Dewey was hardly unaware of the multiple vectors within the self. Along with William James, in fact, he was one of the founders of the type of functionalism that was largely successful in banishing “soul” and “consciousness” as entities to be taken seriously within the new science of psychology. Moreover, it is clear that Dewey, probably following the lead of his colleague G. H. Mead, accepted the model of a self composed of various “me’s” related to various individuals, groups, or objects, sometimes cooperating and sometimes competing among themselves. Dewey’s psychology is, however, ultimately more fluid and flexible than that of some—or even most—forms of psychoanalysis, since it rejects what it regards as an altogether too highly structured tripartite Freudian model of the self, as well as a lack of proper emphasis within certain alternative forms of psychoanalysis on the ways in which the self is historically constituted in a broad cultural sense and not simply one that is primarily the object of analysis in terms of intersubjectivity and speech. Given the controversial nature of most psychoanalytic theories, one is left to wonder why Mouffe thinks she needs to appeal to them to support her claims that there is a dark side to humanity and that successful political ventures depend in part on a strong sense of community.3 When it comes to “interrogation of the political by the ethical,” as Mouffe puts it, Dewey provides the basis for evaluating the ways in which various publics articulate themselves internally in terms of interests that are single or multiple, narrow or wide, stable or unstable, and the ways in which publics relate to other publics in terms that are isolationist or cooperative, appropriate or inappropriate. In all of this, publics are subjected to the tests of ethical and political norms that are continually evolving yet objective, having been generated by natural beings living in a natural world. Ethical and political norms for Dewey may thus be objective in the sense that they are public; that their warrant lies in the results of tests that have demonstrated their successes; that they are applicable to relevantly similar cases in the present and immediate future; and that they can be objected to in ways that allow for their reconstruction with a view to accommodating emerging conditions. I trust that you will note that this characterization of objectivity avoids the extremes of both universalism and contextualism.



In Dewey’s view, the genesis of these norms is not dissimilar to the genesis of the norms of agricultural practice, especially the norms of constructing agricultural machinery. In a 1916 lecture presented at Columbia University, he reminded his audience that agricultural machinery is generated not by farming but from farming (MW.10.94). Ethical and political norms, as natural and as objective, are generated in the same manner, not by ethical or political practice but from ethical or political practice. The effect of this move from by to from is to move from the empiricism of Aristotle to the type of experimentalism that was inspired by the successes that the technosciences have enjoyed since the seventeenth century. The former empiricism involves what Mouffe terms “a manifold of practices and pragmatic moves aiming at persuading people to broaden the range of their commitments to others, to build a more inclusive community” (66). The latter experimentalism involves active, systematic, and controlled attempts to determine, for example, which forms of life—which language games and which pragmatic moves—are best positioned to achieve the desired balance between the goals of freedom and equality.4 In all this, of course, Dewey was hardly naive about the infelicitous ways in which publics often interact. Living in Chicago during the Pullman strike, he was acutely aware of “the basic facts of antagonism and violence,” that are also Mouffe’s concern. As I read him, however, he was unwilling to accept the idea put forward by Mouffe that “democracy does not require a theory of truth” (65). Truth in the sense of warranted assertibility is for Dewey the outcome of inquiry when inquiry is successful. What has been warranted as assertible as a political norm is neither unconditional nor universal. Rather it is conditioned on the ability and the willingness to accept the outcome of reputable research, and it is universalizable when relevantly similar conditions are present. One need not look far to fi nd examples of political norms that have been developed as a result of experimental activity. In a basic and simplified way, for example, the laws of vehicular traffic exhibit significant features of the genesis of political norms. They are developed in ways that tend to balance liberty and equality on the basis of (from) inquiry into: a. conventions based on long-held custom, such as whether one drives on the left or the right side of the road; b. research that has led to maximizing safe practices through the instituting of standards pertaining to right of way, for example, especially as they pertain to new types of traffic interchanges so that the necessity for continual renegotiation is obviated;



c. agreement about procedures for enforcement that go beyond what is merely local, but not so far as to involve claims of universality, in the sense that policing practices are the object of study and improvement and thus increasingly universalizable; and even d. research into better ways to delegate certain tasks of enforcement to nonhuman objects such as speed bumps for example, or traffic signals.

It is important to note that when Mouffe says that there must be “a neverending interrogation of the political by the ethical,” the term political takes on a sense that is quite different from what one fi nds in Dewey’s work. For Mouffe, the concept of the political has its roots in the work of Carl Schmitt, which in turn has its roots in conservative Christian theology. In both cases, one relatively malign and the other relatively benign, there is a tendency to hypostatize something called “the political” that lies behind the ethical. Dewey’s ideas are much more radical in this regard. In his view, the larger function of the play of various publics involves the activities of a state. In this regard, his views are closer to those of anti-essentialist sociologists such as Bruno Latour than to those of Mouffe and Schmitt. Seen from the viewpoint of Dewey’s version of classical pragmatism, Mouffe’s alternative suffers from a failure to give sufficient weight to experimentalism. Dewey emphasized the instrumental-experimental aspects of human inquiry no less in social and political inquiry than in the technosciences. His alternative to the universalist/contextualist debate thus took a different turn than Mouffe’s. He thought it important to take into account and emphasize the objective (but not universal or universalized) norms of political life as well as their inevitable contextual (but not inevitably local) characteristics. In other words, Dewey’s view softens the rationalists’ account by reconstructing their notion of “universalized” as “objective,” thus introducing a crucial conditional element, that is, “universalizable” under certain conditions. This position leaves considerable space in which to honor cultural differences, and it militates against the idea that democracy can be exported or treated as if it were a one-size-fits-all garment. Dewey also stiffens the contextualists’ position by embracing both historical/cultural contingency and a theory of truth that is rooted in the type of experimentalism that has been successful in the technosciences. What this means in practice is that, contrary to the claims of some of his critics, Dewey held that truth as it is related to political norms, and as it is related to norms of other sorts as well, involves satisfaction of objective conditions and not simply the subjective preferences



and desires of individuals or groups involved in various language games or attempting to raise levels of solidarity. Viewed from a Deweyan perspective, this last condition is either missing or so thoroughly submerged in Mouffe’s account that it becomes invisible. “Indeed,” she writes, “we are led to acknowledge that democracy does not require a theory of truth and notions like unconditionality and universal validity, but a manifold of practices and pragmatic moves aiming at persuading people to broaden the range of their commitments to others, to build a more inclusive community” (65–66). This is a complex statement, some of which seems to me to work, and some of which does not. In any case, it should be noted that this statement alone aligns Mouffe’s position quite closely with that of Richard Rorty, and thus with his well-known contextualist emphasis on “solidarity.” Mouffe is, I think, right to criticize the attempts of the heirs of the European Enlightenment—the Enlightenment of Kant and the French philosophes—to achieve results based on unconditional universality and rationality. But it is important to recall that there was also an Enlightenment in Britain that took a very different direction and that furnishes very different models for understanding the genesis of political norms. This was the Enlightenment of Newton, Boyle, and the Royal Society, and it is very much in evidence in Dewey’s published work. Whereas the Enlightenment of continental Europe tended to promise the type of unrealizable universalism and unattainable rationalism to which the critics of Habermas and Rawls have rightly objected, the British Enlightenment developed a type of objectivity that was realizable because it was rooted in carefully constructed experiments from which concrete results were obtainable. Even if an attempt is made to tell the story of the Royal Society as a particular type of language game, the game is quite different than the ones that Mouffe seems to recognize. Describing one aspect of this British Enlightenment, Steven Shapin has written: The things whose testimony [Robert] Boyle wanted credited were his things. He gave them voice and he wrote their scripts. They spoke either through the mouths of men he knew to be trustworthy, or in texts emerging from experimental scenes over which he presided and the meaning of which he had the undeniable rights to set. Giving assent to pressure-gauges and pewter-bottles was giving assent to their spokesman. Not to believe what these things ‘said’ was not to believe Boyle (Shapin 265–66).

This remark reveals the double impact of the type of universalizability developed by Boyle and other figures of the British Enlightenment on accounts of



the genesis of democratic norms. The first concerns the development of experimental methods. The second concerns the results that such methods produce. To be sure, Boyle was interested in building solidarity, that is, a more inclusive community. But this would not be just any community. It would be a community of what has been proven trustworthy and accurate by procedures that involved carefully controlled experimental procedures that trump nonexperimental efforts at building solidarity, however earnest those efforts might be. Viewed from this perspective, it is simply not enough that individuals should “broaden the range of their commitments to others, [and] build a more inclusive community,” as Mouffe puts the matter, unless their broadened commitments are based on what is trustworthy and accurate and unless the more inclusive community includes the testimony of things. Failing this, there can be no objectivity. The type of solidarity recommended by contextualists such as Rorty cannot suffice unless it is grounded on what Dewey terms “knowledge of things as they are.” Such knowledge, Dewey says, “is the only solid ground for communication and sharing; all other communication means the subjection of some persons to the personal opinion of other persons” (LW.14.229). In 1939 [a year that did not smile on democracies] Dewey wrote that democracy is belief in the ability of human experience to generate the aims and methods by which further experience will grow in ordered richness. Every other form of moral and social faith rests upon the idea that experience must be subjected at some point or other to some form of external control; to some “authority” alleged to exist outside the processes of experience. Democracy is the faith that the process of experience is more important than any special result attained, so that special results achieved are of ultimate value only as they are used to enrich and order the ongoing process. Since the process of experience is capable of being educative, faith in democracy is all one with faith in experience and education. All ends and values that are cut off from the ongoing process become arrests, fi xations. They strive to fi xate what has been gained instead of using it to open the road and point the way to new and better experiences. If one asks what is meant by experience in this connection my reply is that it is that free interaction of individual human beings with surrounding conditions, especially the human surroundings, which develops and satisfies need and desire by increasing knowledge of things as they are. Knowledge of conditions as they are is the only solid ground for communication and sharing; all other communication means the subjection of some persons to the personal opinion of other persons. Need and desire—out of which grow purpose and direction of energy—go beyond what exists, and hence beyond



knowledge, beyond science. They continually open the way into the unexplored and unattained future (LW.14.229).

There is a great deal packed into these remarks. First, democracy is characterized as a belief, rather than a form or government or an existing state of affairs. Belief, in this sense, requires the positing of ends-in-view that are sufficiently flexible that they can take many forms, dependent upon cultural context and circumstances, for example. But at the same time such ends-in-view must not be so vague that they are merely arbitrary. Their genesis lies not merely in attempts to establish solidarity, as some have argued, but in the objective successes and failures of experimental activity related to the problems and prospects of associated living. Second, democracy is belief in a particular type of activity; it is a commitment to work for the attainment of the object of belief and a readiness to follow wherever experimental results lead. Within the context of well-known tensions between classical liberalism, whose interests tend to focus on liberty, and democracy, whose interests involve equality, Dewey offers an experimentalism that provides the basis for fi nding balance points between these competing goals. This is in fact the major thrust of his arguments in Liberalism and Social Action, where he calls for a reconstructed liberalism that would be based on public initiatives, including public education, that would increase the liberty of all by increasing equality of opportunity. Third, democracy is belief that there is no place for the imposition of norms from putative sources that lie outside the realm of the empirical/experimental dimensions of human life. In other words, although publics based upon religious authority or political ideology can and do have legitimate places within democratic life, it is nevertheless the practical consequences of religious or political commitments, and not the origins or ontological commitments of such publics, that form the basis for assessing their contributions to enlarged and enriched experience. Fourth, democracy is faith that processes that are educational in the fullest sense of the word will generate the new “aims and methods by which further experience will grow in ordered richness.” The idea is that the educational process itself, not educational theory, opens up new avenues of insight into the problems of associated living. Fifth, democratic norms are objective in the sense that they depend on a type of experimental inquiry that itself rests upon prior inquiries that have involved satisfaction of objective conditions. Norms are as objective as any platform from which further constructive activities are performed. This is a point that tends to be conspicuously absent in the work of contextualists.



Sixth, and fi nally, the type of experimentalism under discussion is not scientistic. Its explicit claim is that the needs and desires that motivate democracy as belief reach well beyond the physical sciences to the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and the most basic hopes and dreams of humankind.5 Whereas the technosciences have blazed a trail for all who would engage in systematic inquiry, inquiry in the social sciences, the arts and the humanities, for example, also have an important role to play in the maintenance of democratic societies. NOTES 1. To some it may sound strange to speak of a “justification” of democracy. Nevertheless, I believe that the current growth of theocratic and other a prioristic forms of government warrants increased discussion of this issue. 2. In case anyone questions my use of the term must in this paragraph, it signals a necessary condition for the type of associated living that Dewey termed “democracy.” 3. It is one thing to recognize this “dark side” and to note that attempts to effect political order are prone to violence and hegemony. It is quite another to argue that this observation constitutes a significant objection to attempts to form democratic institutions. This is precisely the issue that Dewey’s student and colleague Sidney Hook took up in his 1944 essay “Naturalism and Democracy.” He pointed out that Mosca, Pareto, and others observed that political change usually “consists of the substitution of one ruling minority for another.” “This rule,” he continued, “rests upon three pillars: vital myths which cement human relationships and conceal differences of interest; fraud or manipulation which negotiates differences of interests; and force which ultimately settles differences of interest” (62–63). Their conclusion was that democracy can never be victorious. Hook pointed out what he took to be several significant errors in their position and then noted that Mosca nevertheless admitted “the superiority of parliamentary democracy over all other alternatives” (63). 4. Without going into detail, I will just mention two examples of such systematic and controlled experimental exercises—social security and federal insurance for bank accounts (the FDIC)—have so far been relatively successful in the United States in terms of balancing freedom and security. . 5. Scientism usually involves three claims: a) that the methods of the natural sciences are paradigmatic for all areas of experience, b) that the conclusions of the natural sciences are applicable to all areas of experience, and c) that the natural sciences are “value free.” Dewey rejected all three claims.


Reconstructing ‘Culture’ A Deweyan Response to Antidemocratic Culturalism


It has become fashionable in some quarters to oppose democracy on the grounds of preserving indigenous cultural traditions or maintaining cultural identity.1 Culturalists explain why a society is undemocratic or justify its norms primarily in terms of its culture. Antidemocratic culturalism views Western promotion of democracy as ethnocentric: being rooted in Western experience, the concept and practice of democracy are therefore not suited to societies with radically different cultures and histories. At fi rst glance, John Dewey’s conception of democracy as a way of life may seem vulnerable to such culturalist criticisms. Since a people’s way of life is their culture, democracy as a way of life is also a culture; given that Dewey’s understanding of democracy was rooted in American experience, is his conception of democracy inherently ethnocentric? Are those who recommend democracy, in particular Deweyan democracy, to Asian societies thereby proposing Westernization, or even Americanization? This chapter examines the basis of antidemocratic culturalist thinking and suggests a way out of the ethnocentric bind into which respect for cultural 31



diversity and linking democracy with culture might inadvertently entangle us. Through an examination of Dewey’s reconstruction of the concept of culture, it aims to provide a nonethnocentric Deweyan justification of democracy as culture. THE PROBLEM OF CULTURALISM

A typical culturalist argument is found in Fareed Zakaria’s interview with Singapore’s former Prime Minister (now Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew, titled “Culture is destiny.” Lee maintains that while systems of government in Asia are changing, they will not end up like the American or Western European systems because of enduring cultural differences, especially the different views about the individual and family. While Asians want to modernize, they would resist being Westernized (118). Reflecting on that conversation, a skeptical Fareed nevertheless admitted that Lee was very much part of a trend. “Culture is in. From business consultants to military strategists, people talk about culture as the deepest and most determinative aspect of human life” (125). Many still associate Lee and a group of Singapore diplomats with the idea of Asian values that is used to challenge Western liberal democratic norms and the alleged imperialism of a human rights discourse defi ned primarily by Western ideas. While the intervention of politicians and government officials tends to muddy intellectual waters, it is not just political expediency that drives the Asian values debate. The political importance of culture, and the notion that culture could pose serious obstacles to economic and political development, modernization, and democratization, has been central to some areas of social science research for some time. Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba conducted a study of cultural factors that govern the stability of democratic systems in five countries in The Civic Culture. Lucian Pye, probably the foremost practitioner of political science research on political culture as well as an internationally recognized and highly respected specialist on contemporary China, has published half a dozen books on Chinese politics exploring the unique national and personality traits that shape Chinese political culture, which in turn explains the nature and the workings of Chinese political system. In his comparative study of Asian politics, Pye tries to show that the Confucian ideal of paternalistic authority and its corresponding dependency on the overall subordination of the individual to the collective are responsible for the prevalence of authoritarian politics in East Asia, even though he acknowledges in a footnote that “there is nothing in Confucianism that idealizes autocratic,



authoritarian government” (Chinese Democracy 218). Though mindful of the complexity of culture and the presence of sometimes contradictory tendencies and traits within any political culture, the overwhelming impact of Pye’s political culture studies is to reinforce the conventional impression that Confucianism poses cultural obstacles to democracy. Pye’s influence is evident in the account of Confucianism that leads to Samuel Huntington’s conclusion that “‘Confucian democracy’ is clearly a contradiction in terms” (307).2 Pye’s political culture studies are culturalist in claiming that cultural variations are decisive in explanations, whether they are causal and deterministic or more interpretive and holistic. Such explanatory culturalism in political inquiry need not be antidemocratic unless it denies the possibility of cultural change. Unveiling the complex cultural bases of authoritarianism and democracy could aid democratization by showing which conditions need to change. Pye is defi nitely committed to promoting democracy. He is critical of the Asian values argument perpetrated by “enemies of democracy” who also subscribe to explanatory culturalism but who go beyond that to a normative conservative culturalism (Democracy 35). Such normative conservative culturalists believe that every culture should preserve its own norms and traditions, including antidemocratic norms, and reject democracy as a Western cultural norm. To them, attempts to impose Western democratic systems on other cultures are ethnocentric and in international relations may be no more than a thin disguise for the realpolitik of domination and exploitation. Pye believes his own commitment to democracy to be free from ethnocentrism, because democracy has “universal appeal.” Quite apart from the doubtful empirical basis for such a claim, disagreements about the meaning of democracy undermine any such claim of universal appeal, since people may be affi rming different things when they express support for democracy. I believe that a more adequate response to antidemocratic culturalism requires a closer examination of its conception of culture. Critics of culturalism find its concept of culture reductionist, static, essentialist, totalizing, and consequently hegemonic. Arif Dirlik sees culturalism as an ideology which not only reduces everything to questions of culture but also has a reductionist conception of culture. He criticizes American historians of China for espousing a culturalism which implicates them in the hegemony between the West and China as well as within China itself (see Culture, Society).3 Steven Vertovec, arguing for “more multi, less culturalism” in contemporary discourses of multiculturalism, identifies culturalism with a set of implicit meanings of culture as a discrete and bounded package of traits, values, and practices tied historically to one place which is mysteriously, almost genetically, transmitted



between generations, hence leading to conflation with race; which is static and unaffected by history or context; which determines behavior; which is totalizing in considering people not as individuals but as collectives; which is essentializing in assuming culture is shared by all its members; and in which sharing a common culture means constituting a “community” whose interests could be represented by a “leader” (see Vertovec). Sociologists Raymond Boudon and François Bourricaud identify five propositions of culturalism which have been transposed from cultural anthropology to sociology: 1. The structure of personality is dependent on the characteristic culture of a particular society, and culture is understood as the fundamental value system of that society which is transmitted from one generation to another through socialization. 2. Each society tends to constitute a single cultural entity. 3. Culture as value system of societies tends to be characterized by the dominant or modal values, despite the presence of deviating and variable values. 4. The culture of a society tends to organize itself into a collection of coherent, mutually complementary elements. 5. Cultural relativism arises from the claim that all reality is symbolic and people of each culture create their own symbolic universe.

Bourdon and Bourricaud criticize the culturalist concept of culture for its oversimplification and its failure to recognize that the claim of a common value system is often a simplification and a rationalization produced by certain social actors, often with hegemonic consequences. It often adopts a problematic representation of the mechanisms of socialization that results in cultural determinism, when in fact the values and attitudes internalized by individuals can only serve as parameters rather than as determinants of behavior. Culturalism tends to ignore other elements of social reality because of its reductionist assumption that all reality is symbolic. It exaggerates the coherence of “cultural systems.” This exaggeration results from adopting a static approach to culture while ignoring its embeddedness in the context of historical processes (Boudon and Bourricaud 94–95). Research that gives priority to culture can avoid the above weaknesses. However, when culture is emphasized to defi ne or defend the identity of a minority or ethnic group, a nation-state, or a civilization, and when it is deployed against democratizing pressures that are perceived as Western hegemony or imperialism, its conception almost invariably becomes reductionist,



essentialist, static, totalizing, and hegemonic. From a Deweyan perspective, conceptual reconstruction is required for a more adequate approach to culture. To avoid the weaknesses of culturalism, we need to stop treating culture as an explanatory or justificatory answer. Attempts to render culture specific and defi nite enough to provide either a justification for action or policy or a rigorous explanation, often in positivistic and pseudoscientific terms, turn it into something static, essentialist, totalizing, and reductionist. Culture is not the answer to explanatory or justificatory problems; it is itself a problem, or rather a series of problems, that needs solving. RECONSTRUCTING “CULTURE”: DEWEY’S PHILOSOPHY OF CULTURAL PROBLEMS

According to Dewey, “philosophy deals with cultural problems, using culture in the broad sense which the anthropologists have made clear to us—dealing with the patterns of human relationships. It includes such subjects as language, religion, industry, politics, fi ne arts, in so far as there is a common pattern running through them rather than as so many separate and independent things” (LW.17.466).4 In his unfi nished introduction (1948–1951) to Experience and Nature (1925), Dewey proposes that experience in the title should be replaced with culture in the anthropological sense to clarify his philosophy of experience, to designate both “what is experienced and ways of experiencing it.”5 What Dewey wants is a concept that will dissolve the dualisms in modern philosophy of subject versus object, mind versus the world, psychological versus physical, material versus ideal, individual versus social. He thinks that the inclusive subject-matter of what he meant by experience is better elucidated by the meanings of culture, which he believes has been fi rmly established by anthropology (LW.17.361–4). This all-inclusive culture includes politics as one of its many components and is clearly too comprehensive and general if one is looking for an explanation or justification of specific political system or behavior. This more comprehensive conception of culture serves better as the important context of any explanatory or justificatory endeavor. In Freedom and Culture, Dewey cites anthropological works as pointing to the conclusion that culture “determines the patterns of behavior that mark out the activities of any group, family, clan, people, sect, faction, class” in opposition to those who explain and justify sociopolitical institutions solely in terms of human nature; but he goes on to highlight that “the problem is to fi nd out the way in which the elements of a culture interact with each other and the way in which elements of human nature are caused to interact



with one another under conditions set by their interaction with the existing environment” (LW.13.75–6). The work is not so much “a study of the cultural elements contributing to the maintenance of political freedom” (LW.13. xv) as a study of the interaction between cultural elements that would yield a culture of freedom. In that work, Dewey defi nes culture as “the complex of conditions which taxes the terms upon which human beings associate and live together” (LW.13.67). The state of culture is a state of interaction of many factors, the chief of which are law and politics, industry and commerce, science and technology, the arts of expression and communication, and of morals, or the values men prize and the ways in which they evaluate them; and fi nally, though indirectly, the system of general ideas used by men to justify and to criticize the fundamental conditions under which they live, their social philosophy. (LW.13.79)

Dewey himself admits that the discussion is more concerned with the problem than the solutions, and “the problem of freedom of cooperative individualities is then a problem to be viewed in the context of culture” (LW.13.79, italics added). Dewey strongly opposes any monistic approaches that attempt to isolate any one element of culture as the predominant cause so that other factors are secondary and derived effects. He advocated instead a pluralistic approach wherein the various cultural elements, “economics, morals, arts, science and so on [are] only so many aspects of the interaction of a number of factors, each of which acts upon and is acted upon by others” (LW.13.74). Politics, like other elements of the cultural complex, is both cause and effect of other elements therein. While culturalist explanations of politics tend to contrast culture with other possible explanans, for example economic factors, as mutually exclusive alternatives, the analysis of the interaction between economics and politics is the focus of Dewey’s clarification of the cultural problem of freedom. Furthermore, economic relations and habits, while influencing and influenced by politics, cannot be set apart in isolation from the state and development of science, the arts (including the fi ne arts), morals, religion, and social philosophies or ideologies. Effecting desirable changes in any one cultural element requires correlative changes in other elements, and bringing about cooperative democratic freedom requires transformation of all cultural elements in their complex interdependent connections. While the economic element may be the most salient during some particular crisis, every element of culture interacts constantly and significantly with politics.



Dewey also argues that science, through its incorporation into culture, has an important role to play in bringing about democracy. The interaction between science and other elements of culture—e.g., political, economic, educational, artistic, moral and religious aspects—also determines whether a culture is free. Citing Marxism as an example, Dewey warns that “a monistic theory is accompanied in its practical execution by one-party control of press, schools, radio and theatre and every means of education, even to effective restrictions imposed on private gatherings and private conversations” (LW.13.127). The authoritarian ideal of uniformity in Communist thought perverts the scientific claim of Marxism into a claim of one absolute Truth, and science into a kind of infallibility (LW.13.131). Dewey maintains that, on the contrary, “it is in the nature of science not so much to tolerate as to welcome diversity of opinion, while it insists that inquiry brings the evidence of observed facts to bear to effect a consensus of conclusions—and even then to hold the conclusion subject to what is ascertained and made public in further new inquiries” (LW.13.135). Only free cultures nurture such habits of mind that employ the experimental method, the method of intelligence, to resolve disagreements and confl icts, and to guide action. The scientific method is also the democratic method. According to Dewey, democratic politics is the selforganization of publics by participating in social inquiry in order to resolve problems of transactions having indirect consequences that are extensive and enduring enough to require regulation. Problems are solved democratically through consultation, persuasion, negotiation, and cooperative intelligence. Social inquiry eschews the notion of a single preconceived, determinate, and fi xed end that subordinates all thought and action, and instead observes and investigates the connections between specific transactions and their relevant consequences. Social inquiry is not a search for uniform social laws equivalent to so-called laws of nature; Dewey rejects the assimilation of human science to physical science, which “represents only another form of absolutist logic” (LW.2.359; LW.13.184). Human science is concerned with culture, with the complex connections between cultural elements which contextualize human actions which in turn create and modify culture. Nevertheless, the method of social inquiry is experimental in shaping and testing as tools of inquiry all concepts, general principles, theories, and dialectical developments of systematic knowledge and in treating policies and proposals for social action as working hypotheses “entertained subject to constant and well-equipped observation of the consequences they entail when acted upon, and subject to ready and flexible revision in the light of observed consequences” (LW.2.362).



Dewey’s conception of culture takes shape through a critique of prevailing conceptions; his critical uses constitute a conceptual reconstruction that clarifies and contributes to the solution of cultural problems. Dewey was an active participant in the debates of his time that pit culture against industry and vocational training in education. The general conception of culture in education refers to “a kind of intellectual and artistic polish which may indicate genuine refi nement or which may be an external veneer,” and takes its most elevated form in Arnold’s defi nition of culture as “acquaintance with the best that has been known and said.” Yet for Dewey, “In either case, it implies a contrast of social classes, not necessarily of rich as distinct from the poor, but at least of superior social opportunities” (MW.6.405). Dewey criticizes such conceptions, which can be traced to the ancient Greeks, for being “still tainted with inheritance from the period of the aristocratic seclusion of a leisure class” (MW.1.309). It entrenches a political dualism that draws fi xed lines between classes, each with a different aim of life: “the few who are educated are to live on a plane of exclusive and isolated culture, while the many toil below on the level of practical endeavor directed at material commodity” (MW.1.310). Education in and for democracy must get rid of this dualism. Although it would be unrealistic to expect everybody to achieve the same level of cultural accomplishment, and there must be a variety of different cultural activities to cater to different individual choices, culture in a democracy must in general be accessible to all and it must humanize all life activity, including the varied kinds of work found in modern industrial societies. Conceptions of culture inherited from nondemocratic societies are usually presupposed by those who criticize democracy for being inhospitable to intellectual and artistic distinction, which is assumed to be only attainable by a minority, that is, the cultural elite. Dewey points out that the experiment of creating a democratic culture has yet to be tried, and the jury is out on whether the quality of culture is in inverse proportion to the number of people sharing it. From his analysis, economic factors rather than limitations of human nature account for a greater part of the low cultural level of the masses (LW.6.43–6). Whatever the limitations by nature, the masses will attain higher levels of culture if they are appropriately educated—not in terms of acquisition of an inherited “high culture” but as growth of each individual’s unique potentialities. “Education—in the broad sense of formation of fundamental attitudes of imagination, desire, and thinking—is strictly correlative with culture in its inclusive social sense” (LW.5.103). Culture in this sense is “nurture of powers of growth and increased fullness of the life of the mind” (LW.7.364). Dewey maintains that “the only



test and justification of any form of political and economic society is in its contribution to art and science—to what may roundly be called culture” (MW.10.198). Dewey is referring not to an inherited culture to be preserved against foreign hegemony or vulgar popularization, but to a culture yet to be created for the use and enjoyment of all. Dewey’s reconstruction of the concept of culture allows him to oppose elitist conclusions in education and social philosophy by arguing that democracy best meets the culturalist prioritizing of culture because it is most inclusive in its efforts to “awaken curiosity and inquiry in worthy directions” and “to render men and women more sensitive to beauty and truth; more disposed to act in creative ways, more skilled in voluntary cooperation” (LW.7.364), and democratic methods are most likely to succeed in the enterprise of culture. Dewey is critical of conceptions of culture that refer to the purely “inner” and oppose it to nature. He sees this dualism of culture and nature as the result of German reaction against Rousseau’s claim that human nature is good and equal in its raw and unrefi ned condition but becomes corrupted by the social conditions and practices which constitute culture. In opposing Rousseau, German thinkers interpret all history as progressing through the refi nement and transformation of the original animal nature of man into the distinctively human. This refi nement and transformation is Bildung, education as the formation of personality through assimilating culture understood as the spiritual products of the past. This dualism of culture and nature implies a whole host of other dualisms of physical versus psychological, material versus ideal/spiritual, subjective versus objective, and individual versus social, which lie at the root of many modern cultural problems. The dualistic opposition of individual and social in particular obscures the real problems and has resulted in misguided political philosophies. As Dewey understands it, even though “Marx and every Marxist after him unconsciously assumes the existence and operation of factors in the constitution of human nature which must cooperate with ‘external’ economic or ‘material’ conditions in producing what actually happens” (LW.13.134), Marxism is “an example of a uniformitarian theory, basing itself on ‘objective’ factors of the environment in separation from their interaction with the factors of human nature” (LW.13.132). Such theories, from Hobbes to National Socialism, glorify culture over raw human nature, and concomitantly subordinate individual freedom to social control. In contrast, Dewey believes that the fi ndings of science support his insistence on the plasticity of original human nature, whose significance depends upon the consequences produced when it interacts with cultural conditions. Different views of an unchangeable human nature are used in different ways



to justify different social arrangement and political ideal in different cultures. This does not mean that we should dismiss the idea of human nature as a mere rationalization; rather it means that we must avoid sweeping generalizations about human nature when explaining or justifying social phenomena. Instead we should rely on observation and testing in an inquiry that takes full account of the observed interaction between specific elements of human nature and culture and its consequences in particular cases. The continuity of human nature and culture has implications for democracy. Democratic culture takes fundamental account of human nature by giving it freer play than any nondemocratic cultures. This requires an adequate theory of human nature, which is sadly lacking. Historically, the ideal of democracy has been justified by a theory of human nature as a combination of self-interest and sympathy which, when freed from arbitrary external restrictions, will secure freedom and ensure the successful operation of democratic institutions. This theory is no longer adequate. Dewey’s conception of democracy understands human nature to be changeable within a dynamic cultural context. Democracy is a culture with faith in the potentialities of human nature and the means to develop those potentialities—it is a humanistic culture (LW.13.151).6 In Dewey’s humanistic conception of culture, culture is a “humanizing” process. It is not, however, concerned with “humanizing” isolated individuals, since for Dewey individual means individuals-in-society. Dewey is explicit that, as a humanizing process, culture is “the habit of mind which perceives and estimates all matters with reference to their bearing on social values and aims” (MW.6.406). This is the broadest conception of culture that is suitable as an educational ideal. However, it is best cultivated not as a specific and direct aim, although it is a consequence of educative activities in which broad human interests enter. Being more cultured is not so much doing different things or doing things for different purposes as it is doing things differently. For example, one need not switch from reading comics to reading classics to become cultured, nor does one need to read comics with the purpose of becoming cultured; reading comics produces a cultured reader when the reader’s human capacities for excellence are developed and given room to flourish by the manner of reading. When mistaken for a specific and direct educational aim, culture tends to narrow into a rigid set of educational contents—the products of an inherited culture, consisting mostly of historical and literary texts—to be transmitted from teacher to student. To Dewey, Arnold’s defi nition of culture errs not in its end of “the best,” but in the exclusive reliance upon the subject matter of the humanities narrowly defi ned as the means. The preponderance of the literary factor in education often blinds



educationists to “the fundamental importance of knowledge of nature as a necessary condition of reaching both all-round individual development and an equable social improvement” (MW.6. 406). The resulting education tends to neglect the importance of science, and science enters the curriculum as either passive acquisition of information about the physical world or as theory divorced from application. The cultural import of science, its capacity to guide and ameliorate social life, is ignored. The failure of widespread propagation of the attitude of science embodied in habits of employing certain methods of observation, reflection, and testing undermines the pursuit of democracy. For Dewey, “the future of democracy is allied with the spread of the scientific attitude. It is the sole guarantee against wholesale misleading by propaganda. More important still, it is the only assurance of the possibility of a public opinion intelligent enough to meet present social problems” (LW.13.168). Unless ideas and beliefs are subject to intelligent criticism and action is guided by intelligence, the way is open for the tyranny of external authority, which may be political or may be cloaked in the mantle of culture. Dewey remarks that “fear of the consequences of thought underlines most reverence for culture” (MW.15.51). He points out that “such labels as ‘discipline’ and ‘culture’ have operated as fortresses to protect established habits from intelligent criticism and cross examination” (MW.8.126). In such instances, culture is conceived as a static set of essential beliefs, norms, or values; it is tradition as something “currently accepted in a community which is handed down from generation to generation, being accepted on the authority of its past currency rather than because of any independent examination and verification” (MW.7.356). As such, “a tradition may result in habits that obstruct observation of what is actually going on” (LW.13.102). Dewey is concerned that “overemphasis on the past tends to create the closed and dogmatic mind. It tends to make us believe that all information is here and all the evidence known” (LW.11.573). Such traditions tend to perpetuate the social divisions of the undemocratic societies in which they originated, and they are often enlisted by class interests threatened by new social realities against critical inquiry and constructive invention in dealing with social problems. Perceived as static, tradition becomes divorced from life as it is lived here and now, thereby having to depend on special agencies for its transmission rather than being part of actual day-to-day experience. As a result, traditions become attenuated, feeble and incapable of being a vital constituent in the life of the many. They fail to give satisfactory guidance even while they retain a sufficient hold on people’s minds to prevent the formation of more appropriate ideas, norms, or values (LW.6.128). Such contradictions lead to intellectual



and moral insecurity, confusion, and confl ict, which can precipitate periods of cultural crises, such as the period leading up to the Second World War when people were confused by “a mixture of incompatible, clashing ideas and values,” and whole populations appeared “caught between the new and the old.” In Dewey’s view, we need to “get rid of those elements of our heritage from the past which hamper, load down and distort clear and coherent intellectual articulation of the attitudes, interests and movements which are distinctively modern” (LW.14.315). Dewey’s sometimes hostile tone in discussing the power of the past expresses not so much an iconoclastic passion as his frustration at the lack of intelligence in most people’s attitudes toward the past. Unless they are vitally related to present realities and future possibilities, traditions as inherited culture have neither intellectual nor moral value; traditions, therefore, have no place in our thought or social action. This is by no means a complete rejection of the past, which in any case would be impossible. Even the most vehement critic of past and present social reality, determined to create a new social order, cannot escape the use of transmitted materials and existing habits as means of bringing about change. “The problem is to use existing knowledge, habits, institutions, as means of producing characters that, in being sensitive to what is best in existing civilization, shall also be critical of its defects, and equipped for its improvement” (MW.13.402). According to Dewey, intelligence means “the power of using past experience to shape and transform future experience” (MW.11.346). When approached intelligently, the past has much of value. Indeed, “the past is a wonderful thing, and never more so than as an instrument to help us deal with the problems of the present” (LW.11. 573). The problem of modern civilization is “the problem of reorganizing our heritage from the past and the insights of present knowledge into a coherent and integrated imaginative union” (LW.10.340). Dewey recognized that tradition, in its wider meaning as a process “used to cover the entire operation of transmission by which a society maintains the continuity of its intellectual and moral life,” is indispensable to human life (MW.7.356). This transmission is not mere repetition or imitation but the entry of tradition into our minds as an active element in the process of thinking. Dewey’s reconstructed concept of tradition implies a dynamic conception of culture as a stream from which all human endeavors, whether science, art, or philosophy, must draw their substance, and into which all human accomplishments flow to be carried into the future. Culture thus conceived is a living process instead of a dead relic. Transmission must go hand in hand with creation. A living culture is always in the process of being



created and recreated. Its identity is dynamic and lies not in some immutable essence but in the meaningful and productive continuity that connects past to present to future. In so far as education “has to do with perpetuation of the positive values of inherited culture by embodying them in the dispositions of individuals who are to transmit culture into the future,” it also has to do “with the creation of attitudes, understanding, and desire that will produce a better future culture” (LW.13.260). Culture as educational ideal is “the growth of the imagination in flexibility, in scope, and in sympathy, till the life which the individual lives is informed with the life of nature and of society” (MW.1.38). “Culture must mean a present refi ning, broadening, and fostering of processes of growing, if it is to be an aim available for guidance” (MW.13.404). Culture is not and does not have an external authority or a fi xed goal; as a living process, it is part of the larger process of human life and growth, a dynamic open-ended process that is its own end rather than being directed at something fi xed and changeless beyond growth. While Dewey emphasizes culture in his philosophical inquiry, he avoids a reductionist concept of culture by treating culture as context of inquiry, as presenting problems more than solutions, as a complex of conditions which does not offer any isolated causes in linear, deterministic relations, but instead requires pluralistic approaches to understand its interdependent interactions in specific situations. His reconstructed concept of culture provides no essence consisting in a set of traits, qualities, or entities spiritual or material that can defi ne the identity of a group. Instead it redefi nes cultural identity as a matter of creative continuity, always in the making, never quite complete or fi xed. As a dynamic, open-ended process, culture is not static, nor is it totalizing since it insists on the continuity of individual and society; instead of treating a people sharing a culture as a collective subordinating individuality, culture is an individual achievement (MW.10.200) as well as a collective creation (LW.11.193). Culture as a humanizing process liberates individuality even as it nurtures sociality. Dewey’s conception of culture’s role in education and democracy is the opposite of hegemonic, since he insists on culture being the liberating growth of human potentialities, which is socially inclusive and something to be created in a process that moves toward democracy. He explicitly rejects inherited culture that might give a historically privileged group continued power over others. Dewey’s culturalism is inherently democratic. For him, no culture begins as democratic; a truly democratic culture remains to be created. The fact that one’s culture was undemocratic in the past does not mean that one should reject democracy, since preserving one’s cultural identity does not



mean clinging to static traditions. But is Dewey’s democratic culturalism itself an ethnocentric product of a culture which has developed democratically? Granted that undemocratic cultures could become democratic without people losing their cultural identity, why should democratic values be preferred in the making of people’s future cultural identity? In the remaining section, I shall try to show that Dewey’s moral ideal of democracy, which is intended to apply across different cultures, is not ethnocentric. CREATIVE DEMOCRACY: HUMANISM WITHOUT ETHNOCENTRISM

Dewey values cultural diversity. He fi nds the concept of “uniformity and unanimity in culture” rather repellent. He rejects a world in which everyone speaks the same language and cultivates the same thoughts, the same beliefs, and the same ideals. “Variety is the spice of life, and the richness and attractiveness of social institutions depend upon cultural diversity among separate units” (MW.10.288). However, Dewey is not a cultural relativist who denies the validity of all cross-cultural criticisms.7 “The existence of almost every conceivable kind of social institution at some time and place in the history of the world is evidence of the plasticity of human nature. This fact does not prove that all these different social systems are of equal value, materially, morally, and culturally” (LW.13.292–3). Dewey maintains that it is possible to criticize cultures and values as being better or worse than others through inquiry into their causes and consequences. In such social inquiry, a moral ideal such as democracy is a conceptual tool that helps formulate practical judgments of social action, and the consequences of its being put into practice determine its meaning and validity. Dewey sees democracy as an experiment. The value of democracy to people of all cultures is not realized by imposing the institutions and norms of one culture on others. American cultural norms and institutions, which have served as the means toward an ideal of “government by the people” in the United States, are contingent historical products, in Dewey’s analysis, in need of modification, even radical change, if democracy is to continue to work and flourish in America. Every society must conduct its own experimental inquiry to discover for itself whether democracy is a universal moral ideal and to determine what kind of cultural norms and practices will realize it within its own environment. It is not a pre-given universal end to which different cultures must fi nd their own particular means. As an effective tool of social criticism, the democratic ideal functions as an end-in-view which renders valuable some actions or arrangements but not others. The democratic ideal as end constrains the



choice of means to realize it, but at the same time the actual means adopted could transform the meaning of the democratic end. Since the actual means depend on the conditions of a specific situation, an inquiry into those conditions may suggest means that throw new light on the end: the meaning of the democratic ideal may change in the rearrangement of the connections of human experience brought about by new means of realizing it. For example, new communication tools and technology could radically transform election processes and other modes of social interaction, making “government by the people” something very different from what it was before television and the Internet. Accommodation of cultural diversity must extend to the contest over the meaning of the democratic ideal, as well as to cultural differences with regard to institutional means. However, this contest, its resolution, and the permitted diversity of meanings, must be grounded in inquiry into human experience, in connection with the discovery or invention of actual means. Consequently, there could be a number of different institutional arrangements, each specific to a particular culture, that are all democratic, whose legitimacy is still governed by a common democratic ideal and whose meanings are accepted across cultures on the basis of integrating and reconciling the various experiments of democracy in those different cultures. In other words, existing democracies must be prepared to modify their own understanding of democracy based on the outcomes of new experiments, besides allowing for variation of democratic institutions in new democracies, and perhaps even learning from those innovations. Instead of Western liberal democracies telling others how to be democratic, everyone must be engaged in a continuous process of learning what democracy means. Dewey avoids ethnocentrism without succumbing to cultural relativism. Because his moral philosophy balances moral universalism, emphasizing commonality, with moral relativism, emphasizing differences, he characteristically refuses to see them as a dualism. Dewey believes “relativity in the actual content of morals at different times and places is consistent with a considerable degree of stability and even of uniformity in certain generic ethical relationships and ideals” (LW.3.22). Given Dewey’s choice of generic rather than universal, some may argue that pragmatists should speak in terms of general ideals and generalization rather than universal ideals and universalization, especially in view of the perniciousness of past attempts at propagating universal ideals which were considered absolute and unquestionable. It may be argued that universalization involves top-down or at least one-direction imposition by advocates on others, usually ending in hegemony or imperialism, while generalization implies a consensus reached through equal participation of all



parties brought under it.8 On the other hand, many people share an intuition that a general ideal does not carry enough weight in moral matters, and only universal moral claims are strong enough. In his writings on logic, Dewey points out that general as a logical term is ambivalent (LW.12.352) and that “generalizations” are of two forms: generic and universal (L12.415). The difference between generic and universal forms is important in understanding the different roles of material/perceptual and procedural/ideational materials in inquiry. A generic generalization results when a specified conjunction of traits has been observed and confi rmed. Such propositions have existential logical import, but do not go beyond the descriptive. Moreover, they are circumstantial and therefore cannot be exhaustive. In contrast, universal propositions are “ideational or conceptual, consisting of interrelated meanings, which are non-existential in content in direct reference but which are applicable to existence through the operations they represent as possibilities” (LW.12.284). The relations formulated by universal propositions are “necessary” in that reasons are given for the conjunction of traits which in generic propositions are merely observed but not explained. Such relations also apply to unobserved as well as observed cases. According to Dewey, a statement such as “all Cretans are liars” can be either generic or universal. As a generic proposition, it means that hitherto observed Cretans have lied without exception and is consistent with the next (not yet observed) Cretan not being a liar. However, if the statement is a universal proposition, it means that “if X is a Cretan, then X is a liar.” As a universal proposition, it is inconsistent with any Cretan, observed or unobserved, not being a liar. Postulating such a necessary relation requires some answer to the question why Cretans are liars, which means that a universal proposition “is itself a member of a system of interrelated universal propositions” (LW.12.352). The contrast sketched above supports the intuition that a general ideal, in the sense of “generic,” does not carry the same weight as a universal ideal when it comes to making a moral claim. While Dewey himself never refers to democracy as a “universal ideal,” there is some ground for adopting that way of speaking in the current climate, when cultural relativism threatens to undermine the ideal as a human ideal.9 Dewey himself believes that “universalization means socialization, the extension of the area and range of those who share in a good” (MW.12.198). Dewey recognizes that “a Universal is ideal. It is such in the literal sense of being ideational. But it is also such in the sense of being normative or prescriptive” (LW.11.109). Dewey also argues for a “science of ethics” that control individualized ethical judgments



with “generic propositions, which state a connection of relevant conditions in universal (or objective) form; and that it is possible to direct inquiry so as to arrive at such universals” (MW.3.8).10 Dewey is quite aware of the dangers of the comparison with science and the attendant universalism, for a universal proposition “in a sense . . . states an unquestioned truth.” Yet for him, “the real question is not whether science aims at statements which take the form of universals, or formulae of connection of conditions, but how it comes to do so, and what it does with the universal statements after they have been secured” (MW.3.9). Universal propositions are instruments or methods of controlling individualized judgments. A science of ethics is empirical in developing its claims out of concrete experiences and experimental in testing and checking its ideals or universals by reference to their application in further concrete experience. We could address the worry about one-direction imposition, hegemony, and imperialism by drawing attention to Dewey’s repeated emphasis that universals are subject to revision. Universals are working hypotheses prescribing operations to be performed in the solution of problems and “hence are subject to modification through the consequences to which they give rise” (LW.11.111). Every culture realizes the moral ideal of democracy in its own particular way, with its own characteristic institutions, practices, and theories, but the moral ideal is universal in being a humanistic ideal that is valid for all human beings if it is valid for any. However, democracy as a universal ideal remains a hypothesis. It may be proved to be false in that in future experiments, democracy may turn out not to be “the very idea of community” that Dewey believes it to be. Short of being proved false, the ideal is also subject to revision based on the consequences of new experiments. Dewey’s conception of democracy as belief in human potentialities is not ethnocentric, because no a priori answer is fi xed for what those human potentialities are; instead the answer to that question is to be decided through inclusive experiments in all cultures, constituting a larger experiment of humanity, “of living together in ways in which the life of each of us is at once profitable in the deepest sense of the word, profitable to himself and helpful in the building up of the individuality of others” (LW.13.303). Dewey’s conception is not based on claims about unchanging universal human nature or telos on the basis of past currency, external divine or sagely authority, or metaphysical speculation. That path leads to ethnocentrism, since any such claims to fi x the content of human nature or telos are themselves cultural constructions. Dewey treats his own theory of human nature as a working hypothesis based on empirical observation and subject to further observation, test, and revision.



The ground of Dewey’s humanistic ideal is constantly being reconstructed, as the elements of human nature, human possibilities, and values have to be determined in ongoing experimental inquiry to guide action. If democracy must be realized in cultural terms, democratic culture is still something to achieve and to create. It is a culture that must be achieved on a worldwide scale if it is to be achieved at all, but not by coercion, economic domination of one country over others, or by hegemony of one culture over others. “The attempt to subordinate the lives of different peoples to the pattern of some one State is such a violation of established values as to create a solid block of resistance and antagonism” (LW.15.207). Only inclusive cooperative efforts that respect the existing or yet-to-exist diverse cultural communities could create a world culture of democracy in Deweyan terms. NOTES 1. Although hardly anyone today would deny democracy outright, I consider as its opponents those who pay lip service to democracy, whether liberal or communitarian, but studiously neglect or refuse to fi nd and implement the actual means for realizing democracy. 2. Pye was cited four times in a section of about seven pages, and the exposition bears a close resemblance to Pye’s works. 3. Dirlik does not deny the importance of culture and argues for the “radicalism of cultural activity” based on an alternative critical conception of culture in “Culturalism as Hegemonic Ideology and Liberating Practice” (Culturalism 394). 4. The relationship between Dewey’s philosophy and cultural anthropology is one of reciprocal influence. While Dewey fi nds the anthropological concept of culture conducive to its philosophical reconstruction, there is evidence that his philosophy of human nature and culture had influenced cultural anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict (LW.6.xvi). 5. Dewey had explained his concept of experience as “culture” (as well as “history” and “life” as early as 1922), see MW.13.351. 6. Humanism has many meanings, most of which Dewey criticizes. For Dewey, humanism means “an expansion, not a contraction, of human life, an expansion in which nature and the science of nature are made willing servants of the human good” (LW.5.266, Dewey’s italics). 7. Despite the fact that his view about the plasticity of human nature was an important influence in the thinking of anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict who affi rm that all cultures were equally valid patterns of living and there is no way to justify judging one to be better than another (MW.7.xxv; LW.15.xx). 8. I am indebted to Sun Youzhong for this insight.



9. The term universal ideal(s) appears only five times in Dewey’s Collected Works, and general ideal(s) only once. However, the terms relative ideal(s) or relativist ideal(s) do not appear at all in those works. It must be acknowledged that what it is to be human is contested among different cultures, but to simply treat it as relative, or to reject any use of universal, is to give up on the possibility of cross-cultural communication and cooperation on moral matters. 10. This early work does not make the clear distinction between the generic and the universal found in the later writings on logic, but the comparison with universal scientific laws indicates that Dewey is using universal in the strong sense that he later distinguished from the generic.

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Imposing Democracy

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Globalizing Democracy A Deweyan Critique of Bush’s Second-Term National Security Strategy


Today democracy is regarded as an ultimate good for all nations. At the same time, democracy is equated with the typical Western model of liberal democracy. Hence for the good of the world community, “democracy,” that is, the Western paradigm of governance, should be globalized, or imposed by force if necessary, on any “undemocratic” nation whose form of government differs from the existing Western model. From a Deweyan perspective, I would argue that democracy as a universal ideal of human civilization is not a closed, fi xed or uniform political system of any existing type applicable to all nations, but “a way of living,” the nature and implications of which are to be cooperatively constructed and constantly ameliorated by the peoples of all nations according to their particular conditions, needs and wishes as defi ned by their particular historical, economic, cultural and political contexts. Furthermore, democratic ends should be achieved through democratic means. In other words, globalizing democracy must go hand in hand with democratizing globalization, a process to which all nations can contribute and from which all nations can benefit. 53



One year after the September 11 event, U.S. President George W. Bush wrote in the “Introduction” to his first-term National Security Strategy, “[T] he United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world” (Introduction 2002).1 In March 2006, the White House released Bush’s second-term National Security Strategy, in which he proclaimed, “To protect our Nation and honor our values, the United States seeks to extend freedom across the globe by leading an international effort to end tyranny and to promote effective democracy” (Introduction 2006). The message on both occasions is the exactly the same: the United States is obliged to globalize democracy. What does democracy mean to the Bush administration? The 2006 National Security Strategy stipulates that effective democracies: 1. Honor and uphold basic human rights, including freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly, association, and press; 2. Are responsive to their citizens, submitting to the will of the people, especially when people vote to change their government; 3. Exercise effective sovereignty and maintain order within their own borders, protect independent and impartial systems of justice, punish crime, embrace the rule of law, and resist corruption; and 4. Limit the reach of government, protecting the institutions of civil society, including the family, religious communities, voluntary associations, private property, independent business, and a market economy. (Champion Aspirations).

How does the Bush administration plan to extend this democracy around the globe? Here are the measures: 1. Champion aspirations for human dignity; 2. Strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends; 3. Work with others to defuse regional confl icts; 4. Prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends with weapons of mass destruction (WMD); 5. Ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade; 6. Expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy;



7. Develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power; 8. Transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-fi rst century; and 9. Engage the opportunities and confront the challenges of globalization. (Overview)

This approximately 20,000-word declaration of American national security strategy can be ranked among the most circumspectly designed and most beautifully worded diplomatic documents in the world. As the White House puts it, “Our national security strategy is idealistic about goals, and realistic about means.” The purpose of this paper, however, is to demonstrate that, from a Deweyan perspective, such a strategy to globalize democracy may not be as “idealistic” and “realistic” as the Bush administration wishes it to be. I will first put the Bushean version of democracy in the global context to see whether it is really “nonnegotiable,” as the Bushean strategists put it. Then I will discuss to what extent the Bush administration is justified in exporting American democracy to every corner of the world. THE BUSHEAN DEMOCRACY

At the turn of the twentieth century, John Dewey witnessed the accelerated pace of the modern world becoming more and more closely connected. Well aware of the implications of the “expansive era” in which he lived, Dewey commented: Every expansive era in the history of mankind has coincided with the operation of factors which have tended to eliminate distance between peoples and classes previously hemmed off from one another. . . . Travels, economic and commercial tendencies, have at present gone far to break down external barriers; to bring peoples and classes into closer and more perceptible connection with one another. It remains for the most part to secure the intellectual and emotional significance of this physical annihilation of space. (MW.9.92)

The First World War brought in an opportunity for Dewey to reflect on “the intellectual and emotional significance of this physical annihilation of space” and to envision the possibility of reconstructing international relations in an ever-shrinking world according to his democratic principles. He enthusiastically endorsed the U.S. entry into the war, believing that the Wilson administration could ultimately turn the imperialist war of the Old World into a once-and-for-all effort to democratize the relations among the world’s nation states. To his great disappointment, the First World War ended in the traditional



infighting over the spoils of the war among the victorious imperialist states. This experience might have discouraged Dewey from philosophizing further about the possibility of introducing democracy into world governance or about how the American democratic experience could be applied to the global community. Dewey died in 1952 before the Cold War had fully unfolded; he never imagined a day when the United States would emerge as the only world superpower with the military capability strong enough to topple any foreign government and to “extend” its democracy worldwide. My question is: how would Dewey respond to the Bushean strategy of bringing democracy to “uncivilized” foreign lands? It would be reasonable to start with Dewey’s defi nition of experience. For Dewey as well as for other pragmatists, our transactions with the natural environment and with human society are necessarily individual, personal, and unique, which necessarily results in the qualitative uniqueness of our perceptions of the world. As Dewey writes, “[A] concrete and determinate experience, varying, when it varies, in specific real elements, and agreeing, when it agrees, in specific real elements, so that we have a contrast, not between a Reality, and various approximations to, or phenomenal representations of Reality, but between different reals of experience” (MW.3.158). Dewey’s radical empiricism leads to his conclusion that values, meanings, and truths are plural. No theory or doctrine is absolutely true, permanently valid, or universally applicable such that it can be exempted from further observation and modification. The process of knowing is open-ended; truths arise from practice, and they must be constantly tested to be discarded, fi xed, or improved in ever-new situations at different times and in different locations. It is in the same light that Santayana attacks the search for transcendent truth. He writes: No system would have ever been framed if people had been simply interested in knowing what is true, whatever it may be. What produces systems is the interest in maintaining against all comers that some favorite or inherited idea of ours is sufficient or right. A system may contain an account of many things which, in detail, are true enough; but as a system, covering infi nite possibilities that neither our experience nor our logic can prejudge, it must be a work of imagination and a piece of human soliloquy. It may be expressive of human experience, it may be poetical; but how should any one who really coveted truth suppose that it was true? (198–99)

Now the problem with George W. Bush is that he claims to have in possession the only right model of democracy that fits all nations. In his vocabulary,



democracy equals freedom—political freedom, economic freedom, and religious freedom—and the love for freedom is universal. As is written in the National Security Strategy, “We believe the desire for freedom lives in every human heart and the imperative of human dignity transcends all nations and cultures” (Champion Aspirations). What the Bushean strategists fail to see is that there are an enormous array of understandings even among Americans on the meaning of the concept of freedom or liberty. Put in the global contexts of various nations at different development stages and with different cultural traditions, such an abstract concept becomes even more controversial. For example, the American model of free, commercialized press, if transplanted on the soil of developing countries, would do more harm than good to the construction of democracy and overall social development in those countries. As is well known, the media in developing countries shoulder the onerous responsibility of helping the government propagate development agendas, interpret reform policies, maneuver national resources, educate the public about the rule of law, and even increase the literacy rate among the rural population. Commercializing the media would seriously weaken the government’s authority in maintaining the stable social environment necessary for implementing reform policies, a price no developing country could afford. Economic liberty is another case in point. Market economy has become a universal good today, but in formerly socialist countries questions about when, how, and to what extent governments should privatize their economies have become increasingly complicated; such questions are much more resistant to easy solutions than economists in full-fledged market economies tend to imagine. Privatizing former state-run enterprises is not only an economic issue but also a political and moral issue that has to do with social justice and social stability. Besides, in an age of economic globalization dominated by such leviathan transnational corporations as City Group, General Electric, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and IBM that could buy whole developing countries, “[g]lobal economics operate in an anarchic realm without significant regulation and without the humanizing civic institutions that within national societies rescue it from raw social Darwinism” (Barber). Simply copying the American model of economic democracy is likely to result in economic bankruptcy for those small developing countries. For democracy to survive and prosper in any country, it has to prove, above all, that it can effectively solve the problems troubling indigenous people and bring them what it promises—peace, liberty, prosperity, and happiness. Since different nations face different problems, democracy, which claims to be the best way to solve all kinds of problems, has to adapt to the specific conditions of



different nations, so that it can come up with localized forms of institutions and organizations that can most effectively address the local problems. Of course, democracy is more than an effective way of solving problems; it is also “a way of living”—a meaningful way of living. As such, it has to do with customs, morals, values, and aesthetics—with every dimension of what we call culture. In this sense, for democracy to survive and prosper in any country, it has to integrate with the indigenous culture and become a part of a people’s “habits of action.” As a result, like it or not, democracy is predetermined to be plural. This pluralist understanding of democracy is in complete agreement with Dewey’s historicist and culturalist view of democracy. As Larry A. Hickman rightly points out: Dewey’s novel view of ideas as tools had important consequences for Dewey’s vision of democratic life. It led him to conclude . . . that democracy cannot be exported. Economic and other conditions favorable to the growth of democracy can be fostered, but as a form of associated living democracy is always unique to its cultural context. Democracy is not a specific form or system of government, but a way of living. If it is to flourish, it must grow out of the concrete practices of boys and girls, men and women, as they go about their daily affairs. (103)

If diversity is the fundamental feature of human civilizations, it is also the fundamental feature of democracy. Western liberal democracy, with its focus on periodic, multi-party, competitive elections to representative institutions and the various citizen rights linked to those kinds of processes, is, as Jan Aart Scholte points out, “one particular cultural and historical model of democracy.” The problem with Bush and his strategists is that they equate American liberal democracy with democracy itself. This reductionist worldview would not only make the world homogeneous but also deprive democracy of its rich resources. I would agree with Jan Aart Scholte that “the shape of global democracy would need to be subject to far more intercultural negotiation and adjustment than it has been to date” (Soron). THE BUSHEAN STRATEGY OF GLOBALIZING DEMOCRACY

For Dewey, democracy means much more than consumer choice in the marketplace or a periodic vote in an election. He sets two basic criteria to test whether a specific form of life amounts to a real democracy. Dewey writes: The two points selected by which to measure the worth of a form of social life are the extent in which the interests of a group are shared by all its



members, and the fullness and freedom with which it interacts with other groups. An undesirable society, in other words, is one which internally and externally sets up barriers to free intercourse and communication of experience. (MW.9.105)

For Dewey, democracy within a nation-state is a national community founded on the basis of common interests and even “common faith.” Not only that, but individuals and different groups within this community are free to communicate with each other. Why is free communication so important? Dewey argues: A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. These more numerous and more varied points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness shuts out many interests. (MW.9.93)

In other words, free communication liberates the latent potential of all participating individuals through cooperative inquiry, mutually enriching each individual and collectively empowering the community. Meanwhile, this “associated living” is valuable in itself, for individuals enjoy a sense of sharing, of belonging and of self-fulfi llment. On the contrary, isolation or setting up barriers to free communication harms all parties involved in any form of social life. Dewey writes: The isolation and exclusiveness of a gang or clique brings its antisocial spirit into relief. But this same spirit is found wherever one group has interests “of its own” which shut it out from full interaction with other groups, so that its prevailing purpose is the protection of what it has got, instead of reorganization and progress through wider relationships. It marks nations in their isolation from one another; families which seclude their domestic concerns as if they had no connection with a larger life; schools when separated from the interest of home and community; the divisions of rich and poor; learned and unlearned. The essential point is that isolation makes for rigidity and formal institutionalizing of life, for static and selfi sh ideals within the group. That savage tribes regard aliens



and enemies as synonymous is not accidental. It springs from the fact that they have identified their experience with rigid adherence to their past customs. On such a basis it is wholly logical to fear intercourse with others, for such contact might dissolve custom. It would certainly occasion reconstruction. It is a commonplace that an alert and expanding mental life depends upon an enlarging range of contact with the physical environment. But the principle applies even more significantly to the field where we are apt to ignore it—the sphere of social contacts. (MW.9.92)

Without free communication, individuals or groups or whole nations are shut in their self-made dungeons of static ideals, selfish interests, worn-out customs, or self-destroying antagonism. It should be admitted that the United States has remained a dynamic and creative nation largely because it has been able to sustain a basically democratic political structure and a cultural milieu that is conducive, to a larger or lesser degree depending on circumstances, to free communication between individuals and groups. Then one cannot help wondering, as George Monbiot, author and columnist for the London Guardian did: “[I]f we think that democracy is the best way to run a nation-state, or the least worst way to run a nation-state, why should it not also be the best way to run the world?” (Monbiot). To our disappointment, President Bush is more interested in globalizing democracy than democratizing globalization. The “two pillars” he prescribes for the American national security strategy are: 1. “promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity—working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies;” 2. “confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies.”

For Bush, democracy is a fi nished product, and it is made in America, or at most in the Western advanced world. All the world needs to do about democracy is for America to “promote” or export this product. There is no need for Bush to ask world consumers whether they are interested in the product, whether the product can solve their problems, whether the product should be tailored in one way or another to better meet their specific needs, or whether local consumers should be invited to jointly process the product. Simply put, there is no need for free communication between America and the undemocratic nations of the globe. Why so? “We have a responsibility to promote human freedom,” Bush argues (The Way Ahead).



At the same time, Bush might have noticed the sharp contradiction between freedom—the fundamental principle of democracy—and his unilateral way of promoting democracy. He admits, for the only time throughout the long document of the National Security Strategy, that “freedom cannot be imposed; it must be chosen” (Introduction 2006). It is tremendously ironical that both Bush and his strategists cannot see any contradiction between the slogan of free choice and the use of the sticks-and-carrots strategy to “extend” democracy to foreign lands. Bush’s unilateralist strategy of globalizing democracy may ultimately harm the American interests that he claims to defend. From a Deweyan perspective, free communication between the United States and other nations will ultimately benefit both sides. As an advanced country, the United States may indeed have more experiences with democracy to share with the developing countries. Meanwhile it is possible for the United States to discover indigenous ways of thinking, living, and problem solving in the broad developing world that might enrich American democracy. Besides, treating other nations as equals and respecting their people and culture would help increase the “soft power” of the United States, which has been dramatically declining since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bush may have something to learn from Dewey’s experience with China. The early 1920s saw China in a chaotic state. With warlords fighting against each other, no central authority effecting any national governance, and her sovereignty being eroded by Japan and other imperialist powers, China was struggling to survive the disruption of her territory. But at the same time, democratic forces were also growing. Intellectually, the May Fourth Movement in 1919 had spread the idea of democracy to urban areas of the country. Politically, Sun Yat Sen, the democratic forerunner of Chinese revolution, was formally inaugurated in Guangdong in 1920 as president of all China, challenging the northern Peking government. Dewey witnessed and personally experienced the dramatic social, cultural, and political transformations taking place in China during these two tumultuous years. In an article published in the New Republic, Dewey made some very direct comments on the construction of democracy in a foreign context: The evils and troubles of China are real enough, and there is no blinking the fact that they are largely of her own making, due to corruption, inefficiency and absence of popular education. But no one who knows the common people doubts that they will win through if they are given time. And in the concrete this means that they be left politically alone to work out their own destiny. . . . But the hope of the world’s peace, as well as of China’s



freedom, lies in adhering to a policy of Hands Off. Give China a chance. Give her time. The danger lies in being in a hurry, in impatience, possibly in the desire of America to show that we are a power in international affairs and that we too have positive foreign policy. And a benevolent policy of supporting China from without, instead of promoting her aspirations from within, may in the end do China about as much harm as a policy conceived in malevolence. (MW.13.155)

More than anything else, Dewey counsels patience: China is used to taking time to deal with her problems; she can neither understand nor profit by impatient methods of the Western world which are profoundly alien to her genius. Moreover a civilization which is on a continental scale, which is so old that the rest of us are parvenus in comparison, which is thick and closely woven, cannot be hurried in its development without disaster. Transformation from within is its sole way out, and we can best help China by trying to see to it that she gets the time she needs in order to effect this transformation, whether or not we like the particular form it assumes at any particular time (MW.13.171).

Today, Dewey’s hands-off approach to the construction of democracy in developing countries might remain a wise policy for the Bush administration that wishes to “bring the hope of democracy” to the corners of the world. NOTES 1. Bush signed the “Introduction” to The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. So I attribute the “Introduction” to him. In most cases, I use “the Bushean administration” or “Bush and his strategists” when quoting from the document. I think Bush, who signed the anonymous governmental document, can be held responsible for the quotes.


Can Democratic Inquiry Be Exported? Dewey and the Globalization of Education


Globalization has become something of a buzzword in education. Mention it, and one is likely to fi nd oneself amongst scholars with much to say on the topic, little of it positive. Educators tend to take a traditional track when discussing globalization: that it is predominantly an economic affair, largely driven by multinational corporations, in collusion with various international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Less frequently is it considered a cultural affair, and when it is, the argument is often that Western nations attempt to thrust their culture onto developing ones.1 While there is probably truth in both of these characterizations of globalization, it is not the only truth, yet there doesn’t seem to be much of an impassioned defense of alternative readings of globalization. While there is doubtless much to condemn, the rhetoric is almost exclusively of fear and crisis rather than democracy and pluralism.2 One striking feature of much of the literature is the skepticism towards the notion that democracy can be transplanted. The idea of Western, democratic 63



nations exporting their democratic practices—or of developing nations importing them—strike most as foolhardy at best and draconian at worst. One fear is that the publics—the people who constitute the nation in question—will be forced to follow practices that they did not initiate The imposition of democratic practices would thus be authoritarian—a paradox to be sure. Beyond this, there are the large-scale and long-term changes in the larger culture that such a change would invite. Cultural beliefs, values, and practices would change without the consent of those who practice them. To be sure, most scholars who study globalization do not wish for nations to remain antidemocratic. What they do wish for is democracy to emerge from within. For a genuine democracy to occur, it must be home-grown. Few think that the importation of Western cultural and economic practices, to say nothing of Western consumerism and the exploitation of natural resources by Western industries, accomplishes this. The question I pose is this: given that globalization, as it has been understood by many educators, consists in an economic and, to a lesser extent, cultural imposition on much of the developing world, is there any way to foster truly democratic attitudes and practices? I answer that there is. I agree with them on this point: only from within can democracy take root. Who counts as the “within” is, unsurprisingly, hotly contested. Does this consist in a people? A nation? A culture? A set of linguistic practices? Onto what or whom, if anything or anyone, can we hook the idea of a democracy from within? Here I look at John Dewey’s model for the development of democracy within and how it may transpire if enacted. I do so fully cognizant of the caveat that no set of techniques, attitudes, tempers, or methods, however democratic, can be imposed upon a people. What Dewey provides, I argue, is rather a way to see how a public might establish itself democratically, and not a blueprint or recipe for its actual establishment. Beyond this, there are questions concerning Dewey’s democratic impulses that must be addressed. To wit; does Dewey actually foster the very democratic means and ends he purports to foster? Some critics have suggested otherwise, and before I launch into my argument as to how a Deweyan global democratic education might look, I address these questions fi rst. MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: CRITICISMS OF DEWEYAN GLOBAL DEMOCRATIZATION

There has long been criticism regarding Dewey’s understanding of democracy. Much of it has, until recently, dealt with Dewey in the American context.



Among the most vociferous critics is Clarence Karier, who takes Dewey to task for his seeming ethnocentrism, stereotyping, rampant neoliberal aspirations, and desire to Americanize immigrants such as the Polish. This latter concern forms the context for the following statement: The problem of the contradiction between public and private action; ethnic stereotyping; the condescending view toward the ignorant masses; the personal and class interest subsumed under “scientific study”; the determination of un-American activity; the meaning of democracy; the limits of ethnic diversity; the control and management of information; the use of the secrecy classification; the manipulation of people, institutions, and events on the grounds that the end justifies the means; the inability of “science” to provide an ethical basis of judgment; the consequences of denying all antecedent principles while relying on an efficiency criterion are all issues and problems which, in a variety of dimensions are reflected . . . in the larger context in which he [Dewey] justified the war and which he criticized the pacifi st (45).

Karier feels that the net effect of Dewey’s championing of the scientific method was to insist on the replacement of publics’ discourse with the conclusion of some chimerical community assent. “The notion of scientific method employed as a substitute for political confl ict implied the notion of the existence of a confl ict-free community, where all dissenters had come to accept the method of intelligence even before it could be effectively used to develop the community” (Karier and Hogan 262). Progressive schools, for Karier, were part of the scientific establishment, producing generations of children enamored with the rhetoric of scientific method, rational control, and the “expert society.” The net effect of this was to strip the communities of their cultures and traditions. Chet Bowers lays similar criticisms at Dewey’s doorstep: Culture was not one of Dewey’s strong suits. Although he used the word on occasion, it was never with the recognition that culture refers to all human activity—including the patterns encoded in the language processes that are largely part of the taken-for-granted aspects of daily experience. He was more at home with the words “society,” “social,” and “individual” . . . A partial explanation for Dewey’s lack of sensitivity to the cultural dimensions of experience, including ways of knowing, is that his three key generative metaphors for understanding human problem solving were derived from natural biology, the scientific method, and the democratic process . . . His concern with achieving a more socialist form of democracy, for instance, involved arguments about how the individual should be viewed;



but the arguments did not address the interconnections between ideology and cultural patterns of thought, or between his culture and the “scientific” method of intelligence he extolled. (Bowers 96)

The problem, beyond Dewey’s supposed weakness vis-à-vis culture is, as Bowers suggests in the above passage, Dewey’s rhetoric around science and the scientific method. Dewey’s method was monistic and unable to appreciate the rich textures and contexts of communities of others. Consequently, it appears as a one-size-fits-all solution to differences. “That different language communities organize and experience ’reality’ according to different root metaphors was not part of Dewey’s awareness; thus he could not see his own epistemological preferences in terms of its culturally specific nature. Being a ‘modern, progressive, intelligent’ thinker . . . meant adopting the method of intelligence . . .” (97). More forcefully, Bowers claims that, “Dewey would have viewed as backward and prescientific the cultural ways of knowing that are distinctly different from the Western anthropocentrism he unconsciously retained in the privileged status he gave the scientific method of problem solving” (97). These cultural ways of knowing are part of a large tradition of a peoples’ past. Bowers argues that since Dewey’s scientific method has little use for tradition, it would, if implemented, do away with this knowledge. The past, or what others term “tradition,” is an integral aspect of experience as Dewey understood it. But tradition was not viewed by Dewey as being a legitimate source of authority in guiding human practices and beliefs. Rather, its value is instrumental to the process of problem solving, and for the individual whose conceptual orientation is toward the future. It is to be judged when the consequences of the thought-action process can be sorted out before launching into a new problem-solving situation. Dewey’s understanding of tradition was framed by the restrictive view of knowledge that the scientific method demands (100). 3

Lest one think that Bowers and Karier’s rhetoric is unique to them, recent critiques of Dewey suggest many of the same points. Henry Edmonson III, for example, claims that For Dewey, however, there is no tension in civic education. Any notion of attachment to one’s country is forgotten in his zeal for social, if not political, change. The founders labored to lay a foundation for civic education that had as its goal the permanence of American structures and processes. Dewey, by contrast, wants schools to lead a revolt—not one aimed at realigning the citizens’ heart and mind with the accomplishments of 1776, but one aimed at a social and economic revolution that would undermine them. (70)



Edmonson, unlike Karier, crosses the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Dewey’s “anti-Americanism” is contrasted with his ostensibly favorable estimations of other nations. Dewey, for example, is said to have compared the United States unfavorably with the Soviet Union. . . . Dewey consistently displays a lack of appreciation for the institutional and procedural features of authentically democratic life. His thought and politics, moreover, are often influenced by his dissatisfaction with American political and economic culture. Except perhaps in its ideals, Dewey thought America a poor example for the other countries in which he showed political interest— for example, China, Turkey, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. He believed that American society had become outdated, since it was now driven not merely by “rugged individualism” or aggressive greed incited by opportunistic big business. In place of this system Dewey issues vague but insistent calls for better “communication” and “community.” In practice, these terms are code words for a pollyannish view of human nature and for a belief in the social superiority of the properly managed school to the family. (45)

Edmonson chastises Dewey for denigrating the United States in comparison to other nations.4 Thomas Popkewitz subtly casts aspersions on the uptake of Dewey’s educational theory by other nations. Some of his comments are cryptic: “Dewey, for example, functions in many contexts as a metonym for modern pedagogy, the New Education, and the cosmopolitan child and society” (10). Drawing on Foucauldian and other, similar analyses, Popkewitz indicts Dewey through inclusion with the forces of individuality. “The construction of human agency is inscribed in individuality. The idea of agency as an a priori historical actor is a radical shift in moving the locus of truth from a divine subject to the human creative subject. One’s good works are no longer to prepare for the afterlife but for the betterment of life on earth. Reason is the mechanism through which agency is effected!”(18) Popkewitz continues: Pragmatism was a device to intervene in childhood with the intent of ultimately influencing what society should be. Dewey spoke of that society through the norms and values of American cultural imaginaries of the citizen in a democracy. Action was a central concept for the planning of one’s life as a series, for example, of problem solving that ordered experience and designed the future. Agency was expressed in the idea of the child’s reflectivity and thought as intelligent action (19).

As Dewey has been taken up by other nationals, eager to implement what they see as good and right about Dewey’s pedagogy and talk of schools, they



take up a “salvation narrative,” one that “links the agentive individual to a particular grid of social, cultural, and political relations” (20). Pragmatism, this grid, is “a cultural thesis about a mode of life.” Pragmatism “formulates elite ideas of the Enlightenment into a project of social administration of everyday life . . . The school was to make the individual as a central actor of change and progress through providing the dispositions and style of living that enabled human agency” (20). Popkewitz solidifies his claims by suggesting that the uptake of Dewey’s pragmatism as science, as a cultural thesis, and as a mode of life transformed these cultures, and not for the best. Imaginaries of science of ordering daily life were a process to provide stability and consensus. Educational reformers across different geographical places . . . used nationalizing procedures associated with science to undermine social and educational traditions of schooling as well as in making the child whose dispositions to act embody the cultural norms and values of the “modern”—but with different salvation themes. (22)

Popkewitz attempts to cast just enough aspersions on Dewey to implicate him in this Enlightenment justification. It is at best guilt by association and at worst a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Popkewitz, nevertheless, joins a long line of Dewey’s critics who are suspicious of his “influence“—whether in America or abroad. He lays his cards on the table in this passage: The emptying of the past in the pragmatism of school reforms subdued history as no longer central to how one lives. But did it? The idea of tradition and its “elimination” is a creation of modernity. By identifying tradition with dogma and ignorance, Enlightenment thinkers sought to justify their absorption with the new. The faith in individual agency in the planning or actions toward the future outside of history’s time was both to subdue previous traditions seen as hindering progress and to install new traditions, as I argue later, that associated the moral order of prior rural communities in the conditions of urbanization. The emptying of history entailed the production of new moral values and images of the sublime. (22)

For all of these critics, Dewey’s democratic inquiry comes up short. Far from being helpful for those in non-American, non-Western cultures and contexts, it threatens to overcome these. Dewey’s scientific method has no truck with tradition or with the past; if implemented, presumably it would roll right over the cultural beliefs of others. Democratic inquiry hides its ethnocentrism under the cloak of the impartiality and neutrality of science, but with investigation it seems that this cloak can be withdrawn to reveal inquiry’s naked aspirations. If this is the case, as these critics intimate, Dewey’s



democratic inquiry is of little use in non-Western, non-American cultures and contexts, and indeed, might be positively harmful. It is doubtful, then, whether a Deweyan-inspired educational transformation, premised as it is on Deweyan democratic inquiry, is likely to fare any better. Is a Deweyan democratic education foreclosed by these arguments? DEWEY ON JAPAN AND CHINA

There are two ways to respond to these criticisms. One is to demonstrate that Dewey’s globalizing democratic inquiry did not, in fact, have the effect that the critics believe. This is largely borne out by recent work on the appropriation of Dewey by various nationals.5 Dewey visited many, many nations in his long and prosperous career, but he spent the most time in China, Japan, and Russia, as well as less time in Turkey and Mexico. Recent scholarship discusses the uptake of Dewey’s ideas in each of these countries and, especially relevant for this paper, his educational ideas. This scholarship demonstrates that, with the exception of Turkey, Dewey’s theories had little immediate impact beyond a select group of reformers and educators. The exception of Turkey is an interesting one: Mustapha Atatürk’s regime is the only one that consciously appropriates Dewey’s pedagogy for schools, but it does so in a radically different manner, to say the least, than what Dewey suggests education should look like in the United States.6 The second is to provide exegetical support for a counterclaim. I note and provide support for three themes in this exegesis. The fi rst is the necessity that those Eurasian nations engage in relations with the West in order to recognize that they were already undergoing economic, political, and cultural transformation as a result of these contacts. Dewey makes this claim abundantly clear in his writings on Japan. The second is that a genuine democratic movement can only come from within. This fact is particularly notable in Dewey’s writings on China. The third theme is that other nations participating in genuinely democratic transformations are responsible for having and following through open, honest policies. These three themes—that those who engage with the west will undergo transformation, for better or worse; that democratic change, if it is to be democratically realized, must come from within; and that open, honest, and forthright relations must be implemented, are complementary. I argue that they should be seen as mutually reinforcing. These counterclaims will take us only so far though, necessary as they are. I urge that the best way to think of what a Deweyan global, democratic inquiry would look like is to set his views in the rich context of his other views, specifically his views on



community and democracy on the one hand, and his views on education on the other. This will be my task in the fi nal section. Dewey spent February through late April 1919 in Japan at the behest of the Meiji Empire. The course of Japan at the time was hesitant: on the one hand, the Japanese wished to embrace the modern scientific and technological gains occurring in the West, and on the other, the Japanese Empire was suspicious of Western culture and ideology.7 There was a small coterie of admirers in Japan, but those who made use of Dewey in the Japanese curriculum did so by conflating him with German Idealism and working toward the unDeweyan aim of “preservation of a collective identity.” (Ohkura 292). Dewey was in fact greeted with ambivalence. Westbrook, for example, claims his visit was “dispiriting” (Westbrook 241). Dewey commented to American readers on the stranglehold that the Empire had on education, as well as on public life. He was not unhappy to leave Japan for China at the beginning of May. During Dewey’s stay in Japan and China he wrote for the magazines Dial and The New Republic. It will do to examine some of his statements and the contexts in which they are made to see how the question of democracy in these nations is broached and what senses of it Dewey uses in his analysis of them. In “Liberalism in Japan,” Dewey claims that Japan is trying to have it both ways: using both military force and western science and technology. Dewey doesn’t think the experiment will work. Japan is trying, under the leadership of its present rulers, an impossible experiment. It recognizes its dependence on the West for material, technical, and scientific methods so far as they concern these things. But it is trying at the same time to preserve intact its own peculiar moral and political heritage; it is claiming superiority in these respects to anything the West can give it . . . But no nation can enduringly live a double life; Japan shows everywhere the strain of this split in its life. Nor can the Japanese, even with all their power of resistance, indefi nitely shut out the entrance of genuinely Western ideas and aims. These have crept in and are expelling the traditional ideas in spite of the most incredibly reactionary system of primary education the world has ever known. (MW.11.160–161)

Nevertheless, Dewey is guardedly optimistic regarding Japan’s democratic future. He sees in the universities and intellectuals the spirit required to carry out the larger goal of democratic living. “Sometimes I think that the surest sign of the approach of democracy will be given when we read that a group of intellectuals have braved prison or death by setting forth to the public the truth about such matters” (MW.11.173). In the universities,



the liberalism is there, and it is coming to possess the present generation of university-taught men . . . It is impossible for Japan to engage in trade, to exchange commodities and technical science with all the world, to take a part in world politics, and still to remain isolated from the world situation and world currents . . . Every reaction from democracy all over the world will retard the movement in Japan. But unless the world overtly and on a large scale goes back on democracy, Japan will move steadily in that direction. And my own confidence in the resilience, adaptability, and practical intelligence of the Japanese people, as well as in a kind of social democracy which is embodied in the manners and customs of the people, makes me think the change will come without a bloody and catastrophic upheaval” (MW.11.173).

Dewey was, of course, wrong about the peaceful transition to a democratic ethos, but perhaps he was not wrong about Japan’s ultimate fate, not to say the strength of its people. Note what Dewey is claiming: it is not that Japan should embrace democracy, nor that Japan should take Western democratic methods into its fold, but rather that democracy will occur naturally as Japan engages with other nations. It is almost inevitable: if Japan wants to emulate Western scientific methods, it will come to embrace democratic methods of living. As Dewey says elsewhere, it is “the organization and resolute use of the greater forces of modern life: industry, commerce, fi nance, scientific inquiry and discussion and the actualities of human companionship” that will turn the democratic tide (MW.11.185). This is so because the “shrinkage of the world already effected as a physical fact by steam and electricity will henceforth be naturalized in the imagination. All of these things mean the discovery of the interdependence of all peoples, and the development of a more highly organized world, a world knit together by more conscious and substantial bonds” (MW.11.100). At least, this was Dewey’s hope. Dewey was not sanguine regarding Japan’s easing into democracy when he arrived in China. He noted that “Japan . . . has adopted western methods in science, industry, education and arms in order to turn them against the West and to preserve the culture and territory of the East, of Asia, intact” (MW.11.193), suggesting that the adoption of Western methods is, at least by itself, no panacea to formal politics. Dewey arrived in China in early May 1919. Coinciding with Dewey’s arrival was the May Fourth Movement, a coalition of students outraged that the Peking government was in collusion with the Japanese over the occupation of large portions of northern China. Unlike the Japanese ambivalence that greeted Dewey, the Chinese universities and academics were enthusiastic. Dewey was the fi rst Western



philosopher to visit and lecture in China, and he stayed for two and a half years. He gave more than 200 lectures on politics, sociology, education, and ethics. His lectures were published in runs of 10,000 copies and immediately sold out (Qi 257). Dewey thought it ironic that China’s aggressive policy with Japan would somehow quell student unrest. Indeed, the dialectic in play, and the opposition to such aggression actually reinforced intelligent reflection, leading to further dissent. As is always the case, official opposition stimulates the movement of ideas. The menace of autocracy from within and without gives edge and fi re to the hunger for new ideas. The eagerness grows for knowledge of the thought of liberal western countries in just the degree in which the powers near at hand in Tokyo and Peking seem to symbolize an intellectual creed which the world has outgrown. The more the so-called political revolution exhibits itself as a failure, the more active is the demand for an intellectual revolution which will make some future political revolution a reality” (MW.12.27).

The Young China movement is poised, Dewey thinks, for an intellectual revolution similar to the one that happened two centuries earlier in the West. “For Young China also passed through a state of optimism and belief in wholesale change; a subsequent state of disillusionment and pessimism; and, in a third stage, has now settled down to constructive efforts along the lines of education, industry, and social reorganization” (MW.12.49). This intellectual revolution partly “comes in consequence of the growth of science, industry and commerce, and of the new human relations and responsibilities they produce; that it springs from education, from the enlightenment of the people, and from special training in the knowledge and technical skill required in the administration of the modern state” (MW.12.49). Education’s role in this endeavor is enormous, but, Dewey says, it is not to be American: They [Young China] are profoundly resentful of all efforts which condescendingly hold up Western institutions, political, religious, educational, as models to be humbly accepted and submissively repeated. They are acutely aware that the spirit of imitation at the expense of initiative and independence of thought has been the chief cause of China’s retrogression, and they do not propose to shift the model; they intend to transform the spirit” (MW.13.230).

Clearly, Young China wanted education to be at the forefront of national transformation.



There is nothing which one hears so often from the lips of the representatives of Young China of today as that education is the sole means of reconstructing China . . . There is an enormous interest in making over the traditional family system, in overthrowing militarism, in extension of local self-government, but always the discussion comes back to education, to teachers and students, as the central agency in promoting other reforms (MW.13.230).

What they did not want was American-run and American-styled institutions propagating American ideology. Dewey saw real obstacles in the way of China’s emergence as a democracy. Some of these obstacles came from within. Dewey saw the dialectical play of Western and Chinese intellectual, political, and economic forces contributing to disruption as well as to reform. The notion that, by the mere introduction of western economy, China can be “saved,” while it retains the old morality, the old set of ideas, the old Confucianism—or what genuine Confucianism had been petrified into— and the old family system, is the most utopian of sentimental idealisms. Economic and fi nancial reform, unless it is accompanied by the growth of new ideals of culture, ethics and family life . . . will merely shift the sore spots. It will remedy some evils and create others. Taken by itself it is a valuable practical measure. But it is the height of absurdity to use it as a stick with which to beat the aspirations of men and women, old as well as young, for new beliefs, new ideas, new methods of thought, new social and natural science—in short, for a New and Young China (MW.13.103).

Here is Dewey the realist speaking. Upheaval will occur, and it will consign certain social practices to oblivion. The time for nostalgia, however, is over. In light of Western influence and the needs of the publics of China, Dewey claims that transformation of the family, for example, will occur. These institutions are undermined precisely because of “ . . . the modern methods born of the industrial revolution, which fatuous observers would introduce while they dream of leaving old institutions unchanged. The railway and the factory system are undermining the family system. They will continue to do so, even if every student take [sic] the vow of eternal silence” (MW.13.104). The transformation, as Dewey saw it, was inevitable. The forces of industry, commerce, education, and intelligence had been unleashed. The result was difficult to foresee, but what was not difficult to foresee was that change to China’s basic institutions was underway. “It is difficult to be patient with the notion that the industrial revolution can come in China without exercising farreaching political, moral, domestic, and intellectual changes as it has wrought in Europe. Europe had its eighteenth century of change, involving destruction,



even of good things, as well as introduction of new, good things” (MW.13.105). Dewey was unapologetic about this, for he believed that this would be best for the nation in the long run, and he did so because it would free the publics to develop a stronger sense of community. I will come back to these sentiments in the final section. Nevertheless, Dewey did not see deliberate foreign intervention in this inevitable transformation as a blessing. In fact, he sided with those in China who were suspicious of foreign intervention, while enthusiastic about the adoption of Western scientific methods, economics, and industry. What Dewey and, so he believed, Young China wanted was assistance, not intrusion. Young China wanted help, but only if asked for or offered. Dewey believes in neither an isolationist stance nor a laissez-faire approach to the Far East. Active and urgent intervention is required, but this intervention is to be premised on “a definite and open policy, openly arrived at by discussion at home and made known to all the world. Then we need to be prepared to back it up with action” (MW.11.198). Nor can America afford to be isolationist or undemocratic on its part. “The dilemma is that while our day of isolation is over, international affairs are still conducted upon a basis and by methods that were instituted before democracy was heard of as a political fact. Hence we engage in foreign policies only at the risk of harming even such imperfect internal democracy as we have already achieved” (MW.12.5). Yet we cannot allow this to avert us from partaking in international affairs, though we should tread cautiously: Diplomacy is still the home of the exclusiveness, the privacy, and the unchecked love of power and prestige, and one may say the stupidity, characteristic of every oligarchy. Democracy has not touched it. Beware of contamination through contact. That, I think, is the sound instinct, behind our aversion to foreign entanglement (MW.12.7).

Although Dewey is cautious regarding the changes that international affairs will have on America, he nevertheless believes that America should cooperate. One reason Dewey gives is that there is already a nascent democracy in China and that among those involved in this nascent democracy, the United States is looked upon as a “popular counterfoil to the bureaucratic and autocratic government of Japan” (MW.11.197). “Although this democracy is articulately held only by a comparative handful who have been educated, yet these few know and the dumb masses feel that it alone accords with the historic spirit of the Chinese race” (MW.11.197). Whether in fact this was the case or not, Dewey believed that these educated few had the moral weight of transforming China clearly behind them. The lesson for the United States is one of humility:



Our country will have a hard time living up to the role for which she has been cast. The difficulties are intellectual and moral as well as matters of practical judgment and tact in action. Have we the required fi bre and virility? Or shall we once more fall between a clever commercialism on the one hand and a futile phrase-making idealism on the other? Above all it demands stamina and endurance of intelligence to think out a consistent and workable plan and to adhere to it. (MW.11.197)

What of education? As Dewey believes that education should be an internal, national matter, he believes that the Chinese should have control over their educational systems. Likewise, if America offers something in the way of support for education, it should match Chinese needs and wants. “China does not need copies of American colleges, but it does still need colleges supported by foreign funds and in part manned by well trained foreigners who are capable of understanding Chinese needs, alert, agile, sympathetic in their efforts to meet them” (MW.13.232). What America can do is help by “ . . . freeing those men who are adapting their curriculum and methods to Chinese conditions against the petty opposition and nagging they now meet from reactionaries” (MW.13.231). Presumably, this is to be done through funding and networks of sympathetic and like-minded scholars. In summary, Dewey thought that China—meaning the Young China movement—should be fi rst and foremost responsible for the transformations underway in economic, political, intellectual, and moral spheres. This responsibility did not preclude transformation from happening; that was inevitable, given China’s adoption of Western scientific and technological methods. But it was China’s transformation to deal with, and not other nations’. In particular, the relationship of the United States to China should be one of guarded intervention, for the sake of the United States as well as for China. Help should be offered but only if it is well thought-out, planned, and in keeping with the needs and desires of the Chinese publics. Although Dewey may have been naïve about what those needs actually were, whether the Young China movement represented them accurately, and who their spokesman was, he was nevertheless insistent that those needs be addressed and placed at the forefront of American debate. CAN DEMOCRATIC INQUIRY BE EXPORTED?

This brings me to the question of whether democratic inquiry can be imported or exported. I think it is clear from the exposition above that Dewey believes that it cannot. Given the brute fact that transformation will occur in the



uptake of Western science, technology, and economics, the question remains of how the nation is to respond. Dewey’s hope is of course that nations do so democratically, that is, that they develop the liberal practices and procedures that are common to Western nations. But it is important to recognize that Dewey does not hope this because Western democratic practices are somehow glorified or privileged, or that the adoption of them guarantees democratic practice. Rather, he does so because he sees these practices as the only acceptable political manifestations of associated living. In this light, I will discuss Dewey’s notions of community and democracy in relation to the question of public support for national transformation. Dewey’s most famous, comprehensive, and clear defi nition of democracy comes in his classic text, Democracy and Education. I quote it here at length. A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. These more numerous and more varied points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness shuts out many interests. (MW.9.93)

Now it may seem that breaking down political barriers, including those of national boundaries, is precisely what Dewey is recommending in urging Japan and China to further develop their nascent democratic impulses. But this would be to miss the point of the passage, as well as to overlook what he says in many other passages and contexts. Speaking of a specifically democratic inquiry, an inquiry that would proceed on a democratic basis, Dewey says, We cannot set up, out of our heads, something we regard as an ideal society. We must base our conception upon societies which actually exist, in order to have any assurance that our ideal is a practicable one. But . . . the ideal cannot simply repeat the traits which are actually found. The problem is to extract the desirable traits of forms of community life which actually exist, and employ them to criticize undesirable features and suggest improvement (MW.9.88–9, italics mine).

It is no stretch of the imagination to conclude that colonizing a nation for access to its natural resources, including human capital, has the capacity



to diminish the very traits Dewey wishes we could extract and build upon. Settled ways of life and the meanings that they portend for the publics of a nation cannot simply be jettisoned; they may be transformed, but if they are, it is as a result of the extraction of the desirable traits of community life. Modes of associated living, to use Dewey’s terminology, develop through the transactions of individuals sharing experiences. And publics, as James Tiles suggests, are not coterminous with nation-states; they are rather collections of peoples in civil societies (Active Citizens 80). They exist in nation-states but are not isomorphic with them. Out of these experiences, desirable traits form and are extracted. Inquiry helps in the extraction and development of these traits. But inquiry cannot help the publics successfully develop these traits if it is co-opted by external forces or put to an end other than more and further democratic practices, particularly if inquiry is to be democratic, that is, to cultivate more and further “modes of associated living.” It seems to me that this rules out the possibility of democratic inquiry being both a tool of external forces and a tool for the development of modes of associated living. The only way these functions can be combined is if they are working toward the same goal, and that goal has to be the development of modes of associated living. This brings me to a further point. Formal education, or schooling, is the means through which the habits of democratic inquiry are developed. As such, schools have a special responsibility to encourage the modes of associated living that are most conducive to developing the sorts of traits that Dewey thinks important to this end. The schools cannot do this if they are helping students to develop either noninquiring practices—so-called traditional education comes to mind here—or steering inquiry down a course designed to favor the development of something other than modes of associated living. Put another way, schools cannot be complicit in fostering something other than modes of associated living if they are to champion and practice democratic inquiry. What would democratic inquiry in schools look like? I argue that it would appear much the same as it does in Dewey’s hopes for education in general. Students, together with their teachers, would actively search out new experiences and extract the highest traits from these; harness these traits in such a way that more and deeper traits can emerge in further experiences. This ordering and control of the traits of existence is fostered only in communities of peoples, as only in communities can problems be found, shared, and solved. Only communities using community-developed methods of inquiry can effect democratic changes. Dewey makes this clear, speaking of fascism and the Soviet in Freedom and Culture:



If there is one conclusion to which human experience unmistakably points it is that democratic ends demand democratic methods for their realization. Authoritarian methods now offer themselves to us in new guises. They come to us claiming to serve the ultimate ends of freedom and equity in a classless society. Or they recommend adoption of a totalitarian regime in order to fight totalitarianism. In whatever form they offer themselves, they owe their seductive power to their claims to serve ideal ends. Our first defense is to realize that democracy can be served only by the slow day by day adoption and contagious diffusion in every phase of our common life of methods that are identical with the ends to be reached and that recourse to monistic, wholesale, absolutist procedures is a betrayal of human freedom no matter in what guise it presents itself. (LW.13.187, italics mine)

What this demands above all is the voluntary and cooperative efforts of the publics. This cooperation cannot happen if extraneous policies and regulations are foisted on publics from without. Policies and regulations have to develop within and in response to the changing needs, desires, and wants of the publics. Anything beyond this occasions a confusion of means and ends. The publics then—and this includes social institutions such as education—are ultimately responsible for, and responsive to, the uptake of Western science, technology, and economics. Representatives of publics cannot bargain for policies in good faith unless they truly represent the publics. This is why Dewey looked past the Chinese administration to the wants and desires of the people, and past the Turkish empire to a competent civil service and the re-establishment of the middle classes and schools (LW.2.193). Only the publics can legitimately grant the imprimatur to such forces as these. There can therefore be no question of the legitimate uptake of Western scientific, technological, and economic practices occurring away from, or against, the publics on Dewey’s arguments. CONCLUSION

Those who wish to portray Dewey as suggesting that liberal, Western, economic, scientific, technological, and political methods and practices should be made available to other nations miss the point. It is not that Dewey wants to make these available: they are already available and are being taken up. The point, rather, is that how they are taken up is the fundamental question of associated living, of community life. A one-sided appropriation of Western methods and practices will certainly fail on this account. If the existing practices of nations and the publics therein are to be respected, and these practices



are for Dewey, the ones that lead to authentic traits of existence, then the taking-up of these Western methods and practices must be done in such a way that these traits are augmented or, at the very least, not diminished. The fostering of these traits of existence can only occur if the existing modes of associated living that are conducive to this fostering are maintained in enough of a manner that they encourage their broadening and deepening. Fracturing the publics by creating new barriers cannot end in the maintenance, broadening, or deepening of modes of associated living, and this denies the possibility of many peoples developing further and deeper traits of existence. Scientifi c, technological, economic, and educational practices must be blended in with the practices already extant in such communities for them to be democratically used, and they must somehow open up new modes of associated living to have their worth countenanced. Likewise, educational movements and practices themselves must share in the goal of increasing the traits of existence through helping to develop more and further modes of associated living. But the endin-view, to borrow a phrase of Dewey’s, is the fund of existential traits developed in a robust community life. These are the aims of a democratic inquiry and a democratic education, and they require that those taking up Western practices do so with respect to the existing modes of associated living of the publics therein, and vice versa. Democratic inquiry, far from being exportable or importable, is developed in and through the communities and publics that use it; it is developed for the purpose of developing further modes of associated living. For this to happen, democratic inquiry must belong to the communities and the publics in question. Only then can legitimate democracy, in the form of modes of associated living, occur. NOTES 1. This is changing. A recent collection of essays considers various ways in which Western and non-Western, local and global conceptions as well as practices can and already do judiciously inform and positively fertilize each other. At this juncture of history, these contributors argue, societies and peoples must articulate their selfidentity by looking critically at and beyond their respective cultural resources (see Botz-Bornstein and Hengelbrock). 2. A recent set of essays in Educational Theory bears this out. See, for example, Fazal Rizvi and Bob Lingard’s “Globalization and Education: Complexities and Contingencies;” Roger Dale’s “Globalization and Education: Demonstrating a ‘Common World Educational Culture’ or Locating a ‘Globally Structured Educational Agenda’;” and Paige Porter and Lesley Vidovich’s “Globalization and Higher Education Policy.”



All of these essays to some degree challenge the reigning functionalist interpretation of globalization in favor of a manifestly political interpretation in which science (and we could include technology) is harnessed to ideological interests. 3. This claim is similar to John Patrick Diggins’ claim regarding the lack of consideration of authority and tradition in Dewey’s views of history. 4. No doubt the paradox of these criticisms is apparent, with one criticizing Dewey for being too American and the other criticizing him as somehow not American enough. Dewey makes no such “pollyannish” statements in Freedom and Culture, and Soviet Russia is seen as totalitarian through and through, to Dewey’s chagrin. 5. In addition to the Popkewitz volume, Sor-hoon Tan has written, in Confucian Democracy: A Deweyan Reconstruction, on Dewey’s uptake in China with the intent of seeing what can be reconciled with respect to Dewey’s thought to produce a democratic Confucianism. James Tiles has an interesting and recent addition on Dewey to a collection of essays on Globalization and Citizenship (Active Citizens). 6. The Atatürk regime invited Dewey to examine Turkey’s social institutions with the intention of imposing his recommendations by fi at. On examining the schools, Dewey did indeed say they were”backwards,” and this did help provide the regime with the ammunition to enforce wholesale changes on the publics (Bilgi and Özsoy). Interestingly, many of the essays in the Popkewitz volume counter the suspicions of Popkewitz himself, as they read Dewey’s uptake in a straightforward manner, or else distinguish between Dewey and the uptake of his thought. 7. “ . . . these [pragmatist] scientific tools were employed primarily to reinforce the general values and universal rules that governed the population, rather than the varied individual solutions that Japanese followers of Dewey had intended. Thus, the concept of science in postwar Japan suggested only naturalistic procedures for teleological purposes with little consideration of the way in which it was applied. Postwar Japanese perceived the practice and process of individual learning separately” (Ohkura 282).


Jane Addams Pragmatist-Feminist Democracy in a Global Context


The feminist pragmatists of the last decade have pointed out the many ways that John Dewey’s philosophy is supportive of feminist philosophy. Charlene Haddock Seigfried (1996) and other feminists have also demonstrated that aspects of Dewey’s philosophy were often developed in joint endeavor with women in the Progressive Era. This is particularly true in Dewey’s relationship with Jane Addams and their joint thinking about democracy and education. Dewey’s philosophy of democracy becomes richer when we see how it developed in experience and observation with Addams and at Hull House. Examining Addams’s development of the concept of democracy provides a different context within which to think also about Deweyan democracy. For pragmatists, historical and cultural context is important; philosophies such as democracy are rooted in and grown out of experience. As Addams said, “the political code, as well as the moral law, has no meaning and becomes absolutely emptied of its contents if we take out of it all relation to the world and concrete cases” (Democracy or Militarism 1). As such, the particular concrete cases that constitute the democratic process create the resulting actual form of democracy. 81



Jane Addams, born in Illinois in 1860, was a contemporary of John Dewey, but she had a very different career path. As one of the fi rst generation of American women to receive a college education, she struggled with how to fi nd a useful career in a time when women did not usually enter public life. In 1899 she founded Hull House, a settlement house serving the desperately poor industrial immigrant populations of Chicago. Hull House was run by educated upper-class women and was intended to be an antidote to the sterility and uselessness of their lives while providing social services and support to the neighborhood. Addams is very clear about the reciprocal learning that would occur at Hull House assistance; it was a space where people from differing economic classes could learn from each other, hopefully alleviating some of their limitations through interaction with others. Addams was originally committed to the individualistic liberal democracy of her entrepreneurial father, but living at Hull House dramatically changed her concept of the democratic ideal. As she personally experienced the issues of her neighbors, she became involved in the labor movement and tried to change local government and improve local schools. She moved away from an individual-freedom model of democracy to embrace democracy as a social ethic that considers the good of all classes of society. After moving to Chicago in 1894, John Dewey became a trustee of Hull House and often visited there. He and Addams became close friends, and Dewey began to think and write about democracy and social issues as he became part of Hull House and other social movements in Chicago, where both he and Addams saw their ideas of democracy tested by experience. Pragmatist democracy, for both Addams and Dewey, was born out of the perplexities of modern industrial life, shaped through direct engagement with the problems of that life, and developed in dialogical and social practice. The pragmatist democracy of Addams and Dewey also developed in a time when American culture was moving from a national myth of individualism, symbolized by the American frontier, to an awareness of the necessity of cooperation and mutual interdependence, exemplified by living together in urban and industrial environments. It became common in the latter part of the nineteenth century to think of the entire society as an organism, as demonstrated in some American utopian experiments. In her earliest published essay, in 1892, Addams refers to the social world that we share together as a “social organism,” a living entity composed of individuals as the organic elements of a whole. This term referred to an understanding of living interrelationship in which we as humans are bound together, such that whatever affects one part affects the whole. Dewey also notes early in his career that humans “are not



isolated non-social atoms, but are (human) only when in intrinsic relations to (humans)” (EW.1.228–230). As women such as Addams began to enter public and intellectual life, they brought with them the experience of exclusion and therefore were more sensitized to the limits of individualistic liberalism. Dewey and Addams believed that democracy could provide an ethical solution to philosophic and social problems they faced in their times as “a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience” (MW.9.93). Both Dewey and Addams saw democracy as a continually evolving aspiration which must be recreated in every generation. As Addams said in 1909, democracy is a “mystical” ideal, “continually demanding new formulation” (The Spirit 146). She found eighteenth-century conceptions of liberty and democracy “inadequate” because these philosophies were not developed from experience and interaction (Newer Ideals 32). Dewey also acknowledges that any defi nition of democracy must be arbitrary and that democracy is an idea and an ideal, having never been perfected in actuality. As he says in The Public and Its Problems, “democracy in this sense (as an ideal) is not a fact and never will be” (LW.2.328). Recently much has been written about Dewey’s two-year stay in China in 1919–1921 and the mutual influences of pragmatism and Eastern thought. Addams traveled to Asia two years after Dewey returned. In 1923, Addams and her close companion Mary Rozet Smith left for Asia from Paris, stopping in India, the Philippine Islands, Japan, Korea, and China (Linn 356). We do not have a great deal of information on this trip, since Addams wrote very little about it and it generally receives scant attention from her biographers. This was a time when Addams was subjected to suspicion and ridicule in the United States and did not have a ready audience for her work. However, it appears that her work was well known throughout Asia, particularly in China and Japan. This may be attributed either to Dewey’s reputation in China or to the international acclaim her settlement house work had received. According to biographer Katherine Joslin, Addams stayed in Peking for a month and lectured at the “South Eastern University in Nanking, Kiangsu Province Educational Association in Shanghai, Nankai College, the Chihil Fishery School in Tientsin, the Provincial Agricultural College in Soochow and the Girls’ School in Kiangsu” (203). She also met with groups that included Westerners, such as the International Federation of Settlements and the Shanghai Women’s Club. True to her continuing interests in labor issues, she insisted on visiting a silk weaving factory, where she noted that children worked long hours, similar to the working conditions she saw in industrial immigrant areas of Chicago in the 1890s.



From China Addams went to Shimonoseki, Japan, where she gave a lecture on “Women and Peace” to “all the thousands who could get in to the largest public hall” (Linn 356). The following day she traveled to Tokyo for surgery which, according to her nephew, was for “old kidney trouble,” but, according to biographers Elstain and Joslin, she in fact had a mastectomy after a tumor was discovered when she was injured in a fall from a rickshaw in Peking. Addams may have had a significant impact in Asia, based on the fact that in 1928 she was asked to be president of the Pan-Pacific Women’s Association Conference in Honolulu, which grew out of earlier meetings of the Pan-Pacific Union. In her opening address, Addams is critical of mechanical methods of communication, which, she says, often cause a loss of cultural content, in that “every mechanization of life easily tends to belittle religion and philosophy” (Presidential Address 288). The face-to-face dialogue in a meeting of Pacific-area women, she said, “is in essence a protest against the mechanization of communication” (Presidential Address 289). While this understanding of the need for personal dialogue may reflect her experience of spending time talking with and participating in Asian cultures, her two speeches from this conference do not reflect any depth of understanding of Chinese or Japanese philosophy. DEMOCRACY DEVELOPED THROUGH DIVERSE EXPERIENTIAL AND DIALOGICAL METHODOLOGY

The process by which Addams developed her theory of democracy is an illustration of liberatory praxis, the coming together of action and reflection, continuously interrogating oneself and one’s social and political environment while also continuing to act. Although Addams read extensively in philosophy and political theory, she often found that when applied to actual practice, ideals needed to be modified. For a hands-on activist, she spent a lot of time in her room writing; as a philosopher, she devoted much of her time to community activism. She often would draft a paper, deliver it to an audience, test out the ideas in discussion or in activism and then go back to the writing process, doing this multiple times as she continued to think with others and to test out ideas.1 The sources for her musings were often rifts between what was commonly believed to be true and what she actually experienced. She called these rifts “perplexities,” and the stories told on both sides of the rifts provide a starting point to think about the issue. Addams was a powerful storyteller and



she used the stories of the people she knew to lead her readers into empathetic understanding. Even her most philosophical books contained stories that illustrated her reasoning, and most often these were stories of women’s lives. No one who reads Twenty Years at Hull House can forget the story of “Goosie,” who died when he was carried off the rooftop by the wind while his mother was hanging laundry, or the story of the single mother Addams encountered scrubbing the floor of an office building, completely wet from soapsuds mixed with breast milk because her work schedule made it impossible to breast-feed her infant (102–3). Addams’s pragmatist democratic vision acknowledged that society is always in a state of change, and true to her progressive ideals, she believed that change represented the possibility of positive growth. Conceiving of democracy as continually adapting to the needs and the vision of the current culture is consistent with a pragmatic understanding of freedom as the ground for individual and cultural growth.2 Democracy, as a reflective and changeable political system, reinforces Dewey’s understanding of experience as individual/social/political interaction, in that we are always affecting and being affected by the world that surrounds us. In a democracy, Dewey says, “every individual must be consulted . . . (so) that he himself becomes a part of the process of authority, of the process of social control” (LW.13.295). In this way, “the ballot box and the majority rule” become real symbols of how the political system adjusts to the individual, as the individual adjusts to the political world. The fi rst book that Addams published was her 1902 Democracy and Social Ethics. As the title of this book indicates, Addams believed that democracy needs to extend beyond a political system to form the ethical basis of all social interactions. As an ethical system, democracy represents an evolutionary movement beyond individual ethics or family-based ethics to a community ethic requiring us to consider the good of the whole. She didn’t think about this, in utilitarian terms, as the good of the many outweighing the good of the individual, but rather in democratic terms, as social systems and behaviors for the creation of communities that are integral to human flourishing. The fi rst step in developing a democratic social ethic is to develop empathy, which involves both understanding and imaginatively experiencing the lives of others. As Addams said in her Introduction, “(i)dentification with the common lot which is the essential idea of Democracy becomes the source and expression of social ethics” (Democracy and Social Ethics 8–9). Democratic social ethics were predicated on an assumption of equality and interaction between various classes and races, and they required the participation of



people with many different viewpoints. Addams said, “(d)iversified human experience is the foundation and guarantee of democracy” (Democracy and Social Ethics 6). Dewey echoes this need for identification and interaction with diverse others in his defi nition of fraternity, which he understands as “continuity, that is to say, association and interaction without limit.” This association and interaction should be happening in the common life of everyday people, as Dewey says, “democracy is concerned not with freaks or geniuses or heroes or divine leaders but with associated individuals in which each by intercourse with others somehow make the life of each more distinctive” (MW.11.53). Diversity creates the possibility of democratic growth, particularly when there is social confl ict resulting from changes in values. When the old life patterns no longer work, or when “old values are at hazard,” Addams points out, the diversity from the various immigrant groups moving to America could give hope for new discoveries and purposes. “At times like these when diversified groups fi nd all their old attitudes and assumptions transcended, they may receive together an impulsion toward new values. The foreign born through their very diversity have it in their power to unify American experience” (Widening the Circle 210). Addams points out the reciprocal nature of the creation of the “good” in society. All classes and all people must receive the good in a condition of equality, and perhaps more importantly all classes and all people must contribute to the creation of the social good before it can be labeled as good. She writes, “We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by one person or one class; but we have not yet learned to add the statement that unless all men and classes contribute to that good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having” (Democracy and Social Ethics 97). This sense of social goods not being valuable unless all contribute to them has direct relevance to democracy. Democracy cannot be done to people; they must actively create the process in order for it to be “worth having.” For Addams this always meant working with rather than for people. This understanding of democracy fl ies in the face of current American projects of “bringing” democracy to other nations in the world. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Chicago provided many perplexities resulting from the effects of laissez-faire industrial capitalism, as Addams’s neighbors struggled daily with the inequities of factory life. Democracy and Social Ethics addressed the need for a new ethical system in industry, claiming that the top-down hierarchies of traditional capitalism need rethinking in a social democracy. The “democratic ideal,” Addams said, encourages workers



“to demand representation in the administration of industry.” She saw the labor problem as “in reality a clash between individual or aristocratic management, and corporate or democratic management” (A New Conscience 64). Addams believed the ideal of democracy, brought to the workplace, required that the workers should have a voice regarding the conditions of their industrial jobs. Although at times Addams deplored the violence associated with strikes, she was a supporter of unions, which she saw as an expression of associated democratic cooperation between the workers. The democratic vision shared by Dewey and Addams required a particular approach to education. Addams believed that the democratic process of change, like the process of education, is slow and deliberate. She said, “the processes of social amelioration are of necessity the results of gradual change” and the change occurs both through the “steady efforts to accumulate facts” and through listening to many diverse ideas and opinions (Second Twenty Years 407). Educational preparation for democracy engages learners in critical and creative thinking, understanding and yet questioning one’s own historical and cultural context, and developing empathetic understanding of others. This steady and gradual change describes a community-based learning process, requiring factual knowledge but also dialogue, listening, and questioning. Addams would have been critical of current educational trends toward technological education, away from the humanities and arts that she found so transformative. As Martha Nussbaum recently said, the technological trend in education leads toward “(n)ations of technically trained people who do not know how to criticize authority, useful profit-makers with obtuse imaginations” (Political Soul-Making 311). Like Addams, Nussbaum claims that such an education puts the survival of democracy at risk. Deliberative democracy relies on rational and critical education as a starting place for dialogue. As an example, Catherine Audard, relying on Hannah Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann in Jerusalem, argues in “Socratic Citizenship: The Limits of Deliberative Democracy” that deliberative democracy depends on deep intellectual understanding and critical thinking (89–97). I doubt that Addams would disagree, but she would argue, like Nussbaum, that deliberative democracy also depends as much on empathic understanding developed from shared direct experience as it does on intellectual understanding of literature and the arts. The necessity of empathic imagination, including the ability to relate to and include the voices of many others through their stories, is a particular contribution that feminists have made to the contemporary discussion of education for a democracy, and it is a quality that cannot be easily tested by standardized testing tools.




Given Addams’s and Dewey’s lifelong commitment to marginalized people and their activism for better working conditions and better standards of life, it is perhaps unnecessary to hold either of them up to a postcolonial feminist critique. However, since the concept of democracy is one that is hotly contested, and since Dewey and Addams both had an enormous impact on how the United States thinks about itself as a democracy, it is fair to bring Addams’s pragmatist feminist democracy into a dialogue with postcolonial critique. Postcolonial feminists criticize how democracy is intertwined with 1) capitalist values which results in 2) using people as means of production toward profit, 3) its connection to patriarchal militarism, and 4) the ways the idea of democracy is used to perpetuate Western hegemonies. For the purposes of this chapter, I will use Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s analysis in Feminism Without Borders to compare some of her basic ideas with Addams’s work. Mohanty’s postcolonial feminism focuses a materialist analysis on a critique of capitalist values, which she says are “seriously incompatible with feminist visions of social and economic justice” (8). Her critique is primarily concerned with the effects of global capitalism. She maintains that “the interests of contemporary transnational capital and the strategies employed enable it to draw upon indigenous social hierarchies and to construct and maintain ideologies of masculinity/femininity, technological superiority, appropriate development, skilled/unskilled labor, and so on” (167). Addams also critiqued capitalism, and like Mohanty, often used women’s work and women’s lives to illustrate her point. Her 1894 analysis of the Pullman Railway strike revealed that the owner of the Pullman factories had been paternalistic, creating what he considered the perfect town for his workers, without any input from the workers themselves. She compared Pullman’s indignation over the workers’ lack of gratitude with the paternalism and indignation of King Lear. Addams supported labor unions, which created local and national resistance to the degradation of workers in the capitalist system. Questions have been raised about whether she worked to accommodate immigrant populations to the system rather than working to change the system. During the first two decades in the Hull House neighborhood, she became increasingly critical of the inequalities of capitalism. In 1912 she commented that “the great principle of liberty has been translated . . . into the unlovely doctrine of commercial capitalism,” reflecting her gradual shift to a more socialist position as a result of participating in and supporting the struggles of the labor movement (A New Conscience 93).



Mohanty uses the term Two-Thirds World, rather than the conventional and demeaning phrase Third World, to talk about those populations that are the victims of global capitalism, acknowledging in this terminology that every country contains “two-thirds” populations. And as she points out, “It is especially on the bodies and lives of women and girls from the Third World/South—the Two-Thirds World—that global capitalism writes its script and it’s by paying attention to and theorizing the experiences of these communities of women and girls that we demystify capitalism as a system . . .” (235). The industrial immigrant populations in Chicago in the late nineteenth century, with their sweatshop labor, could certainly be classified as Two-Thirds World populations, utilized only as a means of production. And then, as now, the women and girls suffered disproportionately. As did no other writer of her era, Addams’s work highlights the stories of women and girls affected by industrialist capitalism, and it is with these stories that she advocates for change in nearly every area of work and domestic life. Writing about prostitution in Chicago, she echoes Mohanty: “when the solidarity of human interest is actually realized, it will become unthinkable that one class of human beings should be sacrificed to the supposed needs of another . . .” (A New Conscience 98). The changes advocated by Addams and Mohanty differ, however. Addams advocated representation, women’s voting rights, safe and clean communities, and valuing women’s traditional work as part of community life. She wanted to bring democracy to the workplace as a social ethic, while Mohanty wants activism to focus on pushing against capitalist globalization. Militarism has become such a part of our social fabric in the United States that we can barely remember a time when peace activists were not only agitating against war but also against cultural militarism. Mohanty also points to the links between militarism and masculine values (229), something that Addams and the women peace workers were very aware of. Well before the era of World War I, when there had been relative peace for some time, Addams continued to work to root out competitive and militaristic practices in everyday life. For Addams, as for Dewey, process and method mattered as much as the end results. She was concerned that competitive practices would result in antagonistic, militaristic, hierarchical, and nondemocratic social and political policies. In international politics, Addams was opposed as well to both colonialism and imperialism. She was a member of the Central AntiImperialist League of Chicago, which published one of her early essays on peace, “Democracy or Militarism” (1899). In that essay she critiqued U.S. imperialism and the fact that some Americans desired colonies; she argued instead for a global view of interdependent humanity. She quoted from an 1898 American



Federation of Labor statement, “with the success of imperialism the decadence of our republic will have already set in.” She critiqued the racist and hegemonic American attitudes toward Asia, noting that as a young country Americans were eager to claim their equality with England and European countries, to call out as it were, “I am as good as you are”, but as late as 1901 still could not bring themselves to look across the Pacific and say “You are as good as we are” (“One Menace to the Century’s Progress” 10). The postcolonial critique of democracy as a Westernizing force, as a practice that is imposed on other cultures, does not pertain, I believe, to the democracy that Addams advocated. When she said that “the cure for democracy is more Democracy” (Democracy and Social Ethics 9), she was not talking about a particular form of government, but rather in the settlement house spirit, she was advocating for creating space to allow people and societies to create their own best practices in a condition that allows for continual adaptability (9). In terms of a postcolonial feminist critique, Addams rarely questioned her own privilege as a person of a particular economic and racial class and did not fully understand or critique Western hegemony. In Twenty Years at Hull House, she gives several examples of being uncomfortable with the wealth that she had, which may have resulted from others’ suffering, but she takes no action in that regard that any social justice advocate now would fi nd adequate—or that she in later life would fi nd adequate. Even though Dewey and Addams were formative thinkers who influenced our understanding of the far-reaching implications of democracy, the United States has strayed far from their commitments. Instead of their views, the current understanding of democracy has been shaped much more by the competitive nature of capitalism, the belligerent and forceful use of military power, and the dogmatic stances of world leaders. Addams’s discourse was rarely competitive. Rather than pointing to the flaws in others’ arguments, she more often exhibits an empathetic discourse that, in trying to understand, changes others through the sharing of stories. Her sense of what democracy should be has not yet been put into practice in any national arena. NOTES 1. A good bibliography of Addams’s works shows the multiple drafts, as pieces of previous writings show up transformed in later works. For a good example, see John C. Farrell’s Beloved Lady: A History of Addams’ Ideas on Reform and Peace. 2. For a fuller discussion of Dewey’s freedom as growth, see Sor-hoon Tan’s Confucian Democracy.


War Without Belief On Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America


The concern that animates this chapter might be described, adapting Dewey’s title, as the global public and its problems. My question, now and for some time, has been: what are we to make of Dewey’s heroic attempt to extend the concept of the public into society at the new industrial scale at a moment when, thanks to so-called globalization, the scale at which the concept of the public is required to function has expanded still more dramatically, obliging us to speak and listen transnationally? In order to reflect on this question, I will focus on Louis Menand’s prize-winning, best-selling history of pragmatism, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, for Menand’s account of pragmatism, I will propose, has at its center the strangely topical issue of American military intervention. Thinking about Dewey and his legacy in the summer of 2006 while watching television news of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, supported by the United States, as well as the increasingly bloody and chaotic consequences of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, accompanied by background threats that the 91



United States might bomb or invade Iran, it has been difficult for me not to think back to the notorious disagreement between Dewey and Randolph Bourne over America’s entry into World War I. Like many others, I have always thought that Bourne and Jane Addams were right about the war, that is, right to resist U.S. entry, and that Dewey was wrong to support it. But how much should these personal positions matter to us now? Should we allow ourselves to draw conclusions about Dewey’s ideas, and about pragmatism in general, based on that episode? According to Richard Rorty, an author’s personal politics ought to be irrelevant to one’s evaluation of his or her ideas. Literary criticism, the discipline I belong to, mainly agrees with Rorty on this; if it didn’t we might well be out of business. Yet Menand, who is also a literary critic, gives a great deal of importance to the person behind the ideas. Indeed, one might say that this is how he makes the pragmatists into a narrative: by supplying a personal dimension, integrating the ideas into the lives of those who had them. My premise here will be that what it means to tell a story about pragmatism, what it means to present pragmatism in the form of a story as opposed to presenting it in some other, non-narrative form, is not an incidental or unimportant theme, whether in the context of pragmatism or in the context of the U.S. entry into wars. On the fi rst page of Rorty’s book Achieving Our Country (1998), in a chapter called “American National Pride: Whitman and Dewey,” Rorty says that those who want the United States to improve must “remind their country of what it can take pride in as well as what it should be ashamed of. They must tell inspiring stories about episodes and figures in the nation’s past—episodes and figures to which the country should remain true” (3–4). This is the project on which Menand had already been engaged for some time. Three years later, when The Metaphysical Club appeared, it told a story—the word appears in the subtitle—that is also in a complicated sense a patriotic story, a story in which patriotism is initially questioned but in which the pragmatism that questions it comes itself to represent what is most inspiring in the American past. As in Rorty’s own book, pragmatism becomes one of the few uncontroversial things that Americans are entitled to feel legitimate pride about. The theme of national pride cannot be irrelevant to questions of pragmatism’s relation to entering into war, whether then or now. But what precisely is that relation? I will come back at the end to the hint of possible contradiction between the telling of inspiring stories about the past and pragmatism’s selfdefi ning concern with action in the present. The fact that Menand’s book is a story and not a work of philosophy is also consistent with its pragmatist subject-matter. Rorty has famously



suggested, for example in his Amnesty Lecture on human rights, that storytelling is what philosophers ought properly to be doing, and to declare that they are doing (On Human Rights). This is not just because people enjoy stories more than they enjoy philosophy and will thus listen more attentively. It’s also because storytelling is more honest than philosophy: it doesn’t pretend to be universal truth. Therefore in this sense too, one might say that Menand is acting out or embodying Rorty’s view of pragmatism. Yet as I said in the critique of Rorty on human rights that I published in my book Feeling Global, it all depends on what stories you tell. Pulling rank as a literary critic, which is to say as a sort of disciplinary authority on stories, I felt then, as I feel now, that philosophers are mistaken if they think stories don’t make claims of their own that, precisely because they go down easily and don’t seem to demand as much assent, are in some ways more influential. Thus stories can be even more dangerous than philosophical universals. One has to pay attention. What I especially want to pay attention to is the view of pragmatism that is embodied in Menand’s story—a view of pragmatism that turns on war and the decision to go to war. The Metaphysical Club opens with an argument about the U.S. entry into the Civil War. The illustration facing the title page is a drawing by William James of his brother Wilky, who is seen in bed in 1863 recovering from his war wounds. The fi rst part of the book is devoted to the military service of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in the Civil War. Holmes is the most creative of the narrative choices, since by comparison with Menand’s three other main characters—James, Peirce, and Dewey—he is by far the least closely associated with pragmatism. Yet he is the one who in a sense gets to tell us what pragmatism really is, namely: an attitude toward going to war. The fi rst sentence of the fi rst chapter reads as follows: “Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an officer in the Union Army” (3). As Menand tells the story, Holmes became an officer because the antislavery movement in the North generated support for the otherwise unpopular cause of the Civil War. In retrospect, this is presented as a terrible mistake. Menand writes: “He had gone off to fight because of his moral beliefs, which he did with singular fervor. The war did more than make him lose those beliefs. It made him lose his belief in beliefs” (4). Versions of this slogan are repeated again and again: “The lesson Holmes took from the war can be put in a sentence. It is that certitude leads to violence” (61). In the book’s Epilogue, Menand underlines his moral once more: “Pragmatism was designed to make it harder for people to be driven to violence by their beliefs” (440).1



This seems absolutely unambiguous, but the story that begins with Oliver Wendell Holmes ends with John Dewey, who dominates the book’s fi nal section. If one were to judge by these two main characters, one dominating the beginning and the other the end, it might seem that the story begins with why it was wrong for the North to enter the Civil War and ends with why the United States was right to enter World War I.2 How the story could end with this pro-war position after pragmatism had been defi ned as resistance to being “driven to violence by [one’s] beliefs” is a bit of a conundrum. Menand makes no direct reference to this conundrum. He does note the apparent structural contradiction within his view of pragmatism between these two positions on military intervention, one anti and one pro. Perhaps such notation does not fall within the responsibilities of the storyteller. Menand does not seem at all enthusiastic about Dewey’s position in 1917. His treatment of the falling-out between Dewey and Bourne over America’s entry into World War I does not take Dewey’s side. He does not prettify Dewey’s support for the Wilson administration’s position, and once that support had been challenged by Bourne, he is quite forthright about Dewey’s active and somewhat unprincipled efforts to stop Bourne from getting published. Menand suggests that both of these gestures were unrepresentative of Dewey. “His momentary advocacy of violent means during the First World War is a peculiar episode in his career” (406), Menand writes. He uses the word peculiar about Dewey’s unforgiving reaction to Bourne as well. Yet he also stops short of saying—perhaps stopping short is another of the prerogatives of telling a story rather than entering into the contest of ideas more directly—that in 1917, when a choice had to be made about staying out of the war or not, Bourne rather than Dewey was the true pragmatist. Consequently one can’t see whether the book is true to the “certitude leads to violence” version of pragmatism. You can detect one impulse toward narrative resolution of this seeming contradiction when, late in the book, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., comes back many years later. Now a Justice of the Supreme Court, he is asked, in Abrams v. United States, to decide on convictions, under the 1918 Espionage and Sedition Act, of Eugene V. Debs and other antiwar figures who had been found guilty of encouraging people to resist conscription into the army. Debs had been sentenced to ten years in prison. The war was already over, but Holmes affi rmed the convictions and had Debs sent back to prison (424). Menand suggests that his judgment is entirely coherent with Holmes’s pragmatism: his removal from the law of any transcendent appeal or sanction that would interfere with the way things are already working, his insistence that “what the law ought to be is what it pretty much already is” (344). .



In the case of Debs, Holmes said, it did not matter if the suggestion that the war was wrong was just an incidental remark in a plea for socialism. If “the opposition was so expressed that its natural and intended effect would be to obstruct recruiting,” he argued, or “if, in all the circumstances, that would be its probable effect,” then “ it would not be protected by reason of its being part of a general program and expression of a general and conscientious belief ” (424).

The lesson about belief that Holmes learned in the Civil War, which seemed to be a lesson about the horror of war, thus becomes a way of justifying society’s decision both to make war and to defend itself against any voices that would try to stop it from making war. Menand does not make this point. He does not say that the situation of the conscript whose right not to die Debs seems to be defending closely parallels the hypothetical situation that Holmes himself would have faced had he come to his loss of belief in belief before rather than after his military service in the Civil War. Menand does not take Holmes’s side, but he ends this paragraph in a deftly characteristic way. When Debs went back to prison after Holmes’s judgment to serve out the rest of his sentence, Menand writes that “he brought with him his most prized possession: the candlestick holder John Brown had used at Harpers Ferry” (424). Menand has made much of the violence of John Brown’s attack on slavery; the caption under Brown’s portrait, which faces the book’s fi rst chapter, reminds us that in 1856 Brown abducted five proslavery settlers “and split their skulls open with cutlasses.” The violence of those words marks a line that by his own violence Brown appears to have stepped over. Thus, when Debs is revealed as an admirer of Brown, the violence suddenly seems to be on the side of the antiwar protester, not on the side of the government that is prosecuting him and that has been involved in the deaths of millions. This tiny touch gives the aesthetic impression that after all Holmes was consistent—consistently antiviolence—even though Menand cannot actually say he was consistent. It’s a beautiful narrative twist. Yet the moral we are forced to draw from what Menand has presented as the essence of pragmatism is a somewhat frightening one. It suggests at the very least that the loss of belief in belief after all offers very little protection against going to war.3 The reference in the Holmes/Debs sequence to the abolitionist John Brown also suggests another, more central area in which Menand is using the resources of narrative to resolve, or to escape having to resolve, the contradictions in his vision of pragmatism and war. I am referring to the area of race. When Holmes comes back from the Civil War having lost his belief in belief, since beliefs lead to wars, the hidden content of the word belief is “slavery.”



Having made antislavery the key to the war, Menand is suggesting but not quite saying, and not even allowing Holmes to say, that the cause of putting an end to slavery was not worth it. Perhaps this statement cannot be made explicitly, as an arguable ethical and political position. It seems almost unthinkable. Yet the point can be suggested and protected at the level of story. The closest Menand comes to an open acknowledgment of what his story is doing is when he suggests that the price of reform in the United States between 1898 and 1917, that is, the period of pragmatism, was the “removal of the issue of race from the table” (374). Were it not for this sentence, one might almost say that this removal of race from the table is something his own story acts out. Having used the situation of slaves in the South to explain the beliefs that led to the war, Menand neglects to ask what would seem to be the obvious question about the war’s consequences: whether the fate of blacks in the United States would have been better or worse had there been no emancipation. He refuses to go back to the former slaves after the war in order to see from their point of view whether the war was indeed worth fighting. In the model town meeting staged by this text, their voices need not be heard. Perhaps this is simply good storytelling. Menand respects the centrality of the character he has chosen; he never steps outside the story of Holmes and Holmes’s ideas to seek verification of whether by some independent criterion the cause was worth fighting for. Pragmatism, like a certain version of storytelling, says, of course, that there is no outside. Menand, or his version of pragmatism, tells us: Don’t think about the slaves; you don’t have to think about them, you just have to listen to the story that I’m telling you, for a story is responsible only to itself. It has no foundation in historical fact, and its only verification comes from its effects. The effect of persuading people to wear their beliefs lightly and ironically, or to suspend their belief in beliefs, might collapse if it turned out that African Americans did indeed feel themselves much better off as a result of emancipation. Other than simply forgetting about the consequences of the war for African Americans, the only case Menand can make is that they were not, in fact, better off as a result of emancipation. This seems an unlikely argument, and it is only mentioned once, and very obliquely, apropos of the same James brother mentioned above who, now recovered from his wounds, visits Florida and sees “that the emancipation for which he had fought had only brought a new kind of misery to black people in the South” (146). There is, of course, a kind of truth here, but if followed up, this truth would undermine a good deal of the relatively proud, relatively patriotic story Menand has to tell. It would offer support for just that deep pessimism about the prospects for social



justice in America that Rorty castigates in what he calls the academic Left. As a storyteller, Menand prefers to forget it. It is tempting to think that the forgetting that is essential to good storytelling—cutting out what doesn’t directly concern your chosen characters—fits only too well the forgetting of primal violence and structural inequality—forgetting what is most primal and most structural about violence and inequality, and therefore least open to immediate improvement—that Rorty and Menand alike present as essential to pragmatism. Clearly what makes The Metaphysical Club so wonderfully good as a story is the astonishing if evasive consistency between its narrative form and its philosophical content. Yet to say this is something of an injustice both to Menand and to the story. On some level, the book seems to recognize that, having begun with slavery, it has an obligation to bring back the subject of race—not just an ethical obligation but a formal obligation, to itself as story. This recognition takes the form of the appearance, toward the end of the book, of two African American intellectuals who were both students of William James: Alain Locke and W.E.B. DuBois (377). Dewey’s case for entering World War I, like Woodrow Wilson’s, emphasized the self-determination of peoples. The cultural pluralism that was so distinctive of the United States, Dewey argued, should become a tenet of our foreign policy and should be exported around the world. As James Livingston puts it, “The promise of American life could not be realized, then, except as an international or transnational proposition.” Dewey believed this in part because the United States was itself home to many peoples and cultures; it was international or cosmopolitan by definition, by internal composition, and therefore had a vested interest in “promoting the efficacy of human intercourse irrespective of class, racial, geographical and national limits” (MW.8.204). He wanted, therefore, to “make the accident of our internal composition into an idea, an idea upon which we may conduct our foreign as well as our domestic policy” (MW.8.203). Along with the Jewish Horace Kallen and the Judeophile Randolph Bourne, the champions of this cultural pluralism whom Menand discusses are Locke and Du Bois. In discussing them, Menand tries to solve pragmatism’s Civil War problem, or its race problem, which is also its World War I problem. Pragmatism opens the door to the pride of African Americans in their distinct cultural and ethnic identity, that is, to “difference” as a virtue (392). In effect, this is a kind of peaceful emancipation, Menand suggests, that pragmatism has offered African Americans. Yet Menand hints at this response to the Civil War problem without acknowledging that it could not have been articulated for most African Americans unless and until slavery had been abolished, a result



of a war that, according to the same pragmatism, should not have been fought. Moreover, at the end of the book Menand obliquely repeats the case against fighting it, using as spokesman the central African American figure himself. Alain Locke argues in favor of the necessity of assimilation. As Menand summarizes, “it is a mistake to cling to ethnic identity” even though it is “also a mistake to abandon it. The trick is to use it to overcome it” (398). For Locke racial pride is a virtue only because it speeds up assimilation, thereby pragmatically “coping” with the conditions of national life as set by the majority. If race seemed to represent a necessary belief in belief, here Menand brings forward his most fully developed African American character in order to say, in effect, that racial identity must be worn lightly, just as any other belief should be worn lightly. One should not, after all, believe in race. Menand seems to be suggesting, then, that Holmes was right both about the Civil War, which should not have been fought, and about World War I, against which there was no legal appeal. It’s the context that decides, and coping with the context, however bad that context may be, is the responsibility of the individual: the conscript coping with being sent to the battlefield to die (the context of war) or an African American coping with assimilation to the identity of the majority (the context of domestic racism). As important as race is in itself, it is also a figure for the larger question of whether the belief in belief should or should not be abandoned. In the same passage where he concedes the Progressive Era’s need to take race off the table, Menand also admits the following: “Pragmatism explains everything about ideas except why a person would be willing to die for one” (375). Race provides one answer to the question of why, for some people under some circumstances, ideas might seem worth dying for, and why some wars might therefore seem worth fighting. This is not an answer that Menand is ready to give. But as I’ve suggested, he is ready, at some risk of inconsistency, to admit that the loss of belief in belief can lead to a pro-war position. If the subcommunity of race is not a foundation, then the larger community around it is. The community that is larger than belief serves as the foundation for all, whatever their beliefs or their lack of beliefs. Dewey backed America’s entry into the First World War, without a belief in belief, on arguably pragmatic grounds, and even Holmes is presented as backing violence without certitude. If there is nothing beyond belief, so to speak, then losing your belief in beliefs doesn’t really matter very much. Belonging to the community ensures that you will go to war whether you believe in it or not. This is of course how certain of pragmatism’s early critics could see war as, perversely, the very essence of pragmatism, the inevitable result of



its worship of worldly success, which is to say worldly force. So Bertrand Russell writes in 1909 that “ironclads and Maxim guns must be the ultimate arbiters of metaphysical truth” (374). Neither worldliness nor secularism will save us. Today, the fact that we Americans have a born-again President, supported by a strong fundamentalist constituency, should certainly lead us to set a high value on secularism, as Rorty was doing long before Bush the Younger was elected. It gives us reason to remember, as written last year in The Nation, that the Founding Fathers spent less time invoking Jesus Christ than Bush does. In the larger view, Bush’s penchant for military adventures does not require the Christian messianism that currently supports it. Bush could very easily have lost the 2000 presidential election; some would say he did. It is possible that under a different president, we could be doing something not very different from what we are doing in Iraq. The longterm logic of such a patriotic engagement in the Muslim world, as Walter Benn Michaels correctly points out, was provided by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations, and it is nothing if not a pragmatic, relativist, and “postmodern” logic (Michaels 41ff ). No one’s beliefs are right or wrong, Huntington insists; our civilization is no better than the Muslim civilization. But there is a clash out there, and when the fighting starts, even if you’re the one who started it, realism dictates that you fi ght for your own side. That’s where the power of community pushes even those without beliefs. Community is the foundation beneath belief. Menand’s book, which was written before the attacks of September 11, 2001, has an obvious and acute value as an anticipatory critique of the Bush administration’s case for war based on God-given certitude. Of course, this line of thinking does not discourage the West’s tendency to flatter itself on its liberal irony, to believe itself civilizationally superior because it wears its own beliefs lightly while the rest of the world continues to take its beliefs with dangerous seriousness,4 but I’m trying to make a more important point. The suspension of belief in belief offers a great deal less protection against going to war than its fi rst pages suggest. According to Alan Ryan, World War I was “a test case designed by fate to place [Dewey’s] instrumentalism in the worst possible light” (157). Is the case of war an unfair test? Is pragmatism a doctrine intended only for peacetime, as Randolph Bourne (338) said ? War is at the limit of a philosophy that believes confidently in adaptation and problem solving. Indeed, as Menand tells the story, it was Dewey’s belief in problem solving that pushed his dispute with Bourne over the edge. It is worth saying in Menand’s favor that, in his narrative, the Dewey-Bourne exchange ends with Dewey’s failing to understand



why Bourne would not have liked the book he’s reviewed, a book by F. M. Alexander, a theorist of bodily posture. Alexander argued that our posture is a matter of will power, that is, open to self-control and literally a matter of (self-) construction. As Menand pointedly notes, such an argument would not be welcome to someone who, like Bourne, was “severely disabled” (401) as a result of a forceps delivery that mauled his face, along with a later case of tuberculosis of the spine. However, Menand does not make the further connection between Dewey’s failure to see this and their different positions on U.S. entry into World War I. For Bourne, pragmatism “has no place for the inexorable” (342), and war, like his disability, is an example of the inexorable. War carries human beings beyond what is open to their control, beyond the limits of self-improvement. “Willing war,” Bourne wrote, “means willing all the evils that are organically bound up in it.” Like his posture, war marks a zone of organic inevitability. Bourne’s analogy for progressive intellectuals who thought they could control the war by joining it was and is memorable: a child on the back of a mad elephant.5 Menand remarks that after World War I Dewey became a pacifi st, but he stops short of suggesting that pacifi sm is the truth of pragmatism. (This is just as well, in my opinion.) Menand might have told the story differently, as Ross Posnock does, for example, when he writes, “After 1917 Dewey modifi ed his brand of pragmatism in a Bournian direction” (286).6 Here I return to the issue I mentioned at the outset: the tension between pragmatism’s concern for present action and the telling of inspiring stories about the past. In order to be inspiring and in order to be a sort of foundation, the actions of inspiring characters in the past, in this case Dewey himself, cannot display all the adaptability that Dewey and Rorty value so highly in the present. The past is, in a positive or inspiring sense, set in stone and inexorable. It seems worth speculating that perhaps it is precisely the pastness of Holmes’s military experience that serves Menand’s purposes. Consider pastness as an undisclosed ingredient of Holmes’s refusal of belief in belief. Is Menand’s story about pragmatism perhaps less a banal appropriation of Holmes’s bravery in action than an appropriation of his having fought, of military violence in the past that is inexorable in the specifi c sense that it is no longer accessible to the decision that fighting is not worthwhile, safely on the other side of any hypothetically transgressive or illegal resolution to defy the will of the majority and not fight at all? This speculation would help to explain Rorty’s turn to the humanities and to literary criticism in particular, which specializes in a pastness that is by defi nition inaccessible to truly pragmatic instrumentalism.7 One way to put



this would be to say that this story of ideas in America has chosen story over ideas and that Menand’s is really a story of the irrelevance of ideas in America. Ideas of right and wrong, for example, are only intermittently decisive here. Oliver Wendell Holmes was always eager to remind the world of his military service. He never said that the Civil War should not have been fought, that it was a “bad idea.” His story, as Menand tells it, suggests that the highest heroism is precisely to fi ght for a cause in which you do not believe. For it is only when you don’t believe, when ideas do not matter, that it becomes absolutely clear that what you are really fighting for is not an idea at all, but rather solidarity with your community, solidarity as such, completely divorced from objectivity and without the foundational support of any idea that would be held to transcend the community. This is what Menand quietly fi nds embodied in Holmes’s doomed friend and fellow Union officer Henry Livermore Abbott, a nonbeliever in the war who nevertheless fights bravely and is killed. Abbott represents pragmatism in the guise of courage not only without belief, but courage in the past tense, courage protected from interference from any ideas that might discourage its heroic sacrifice. One can even speculate, going back to the relation of pragmatism to war, that far from being antiwar, pragmatism’s loss of belief in belief leads to a sort of hunger for war. What more convincing demonstration can there possibly be that nonbelief can be consistent with the will of the majority and with commitment unto death to the violence that the majority wills? When Menand writes in the Epilogue that “Pragmatism was designed to make it harder for people to be driven to violence by their beliefs” (440), we must perhaps conclude that he is speaking with almost legal scrupulousness. That is, he is not saying that pragmatism makes it harder for people to be driven to violence or war but very precisely that pragmatism makes it harder for people to be driven to violence or war by their beliefs. The possibility of being driven to violence or war despite their beliefs or despite their nonbelief, of being driven to violence merely by the will of the majority or by the quiet but awesome power of belonging to a community, is not a part of this explicit moral. But it is very much a part of the extraordinary story that, perhaps against his will, Menand actually tells. The public sphere is a form of conversation or storytelling in which, as Dewey wanted, the input from all speakers would matter. It is this model that allows Rorty to make Dewey the key figure representing a redeemable America, the America he is thinking of when he talks about taking America “back from the Pentagon and the corporations” (Republic and Empire).8 The public is also the ideal away from which Rorty sees the academic Left



falling. When he tells, before the fact, the sequel to Menand’s story about pragmatism, the center in his story is the academy’s self-isolation from the American mainstream. Academics isolate themselves by overstressing, like Randolph Bourne, the inexorable and the irreparable. The academic Left, Rorty says, “thinks that the system, and not just the laws, must be changed. Reformism is not good enough. Because the very vocabulary of liberal politics is infected with dubious presuppositions which need to be exposed, the fi rst task of the Left must be, just as Confucius said, the rectification of names. The concern to do what the Sixties called ‘naming the system’ takes precedence over reforming the laws” (Achieving 78). This is close to the story that Casey Blake tells in his book Beloved Community. The Left may be right about America, as Blake agrees that Bourne was right about World War I. But being right while the majority is wrong brings with it the temptation of losing one’s proper social role: “The war had driven Bourne to despair about the immediate possibilities for public action, but this approach seemed to close off forever the role of civic conscience that he had outlined” in his critique of the war (168). Here Bourne becomes the ancestor of Rorty’s academic Left, withdrawn into self-righteousness, no longer willing to bet on hope for America, and no longer willing to tell stories encouraging national pride in order to encourage national improvement. “In Bourne’s case, the choice of the prophetic vocation came at the expense of his faith in the public realm” (Blake 170).9 I have admitted in public that there is some truth in this story, that my fellow members of the academic Left are often overinvested in a self-congratulatory vision that gives them all the credit for the genuine progressiveness that they self-protectively refuse to see outside themselves in American society. Yet there is at least one thing to say here in favor of the academic Left, and in this context I think it is crucial. The academic Left has characteristically tried to make itself part of a larger public and tried to speak as if it were accountable to a public beyond any particular nation. I have written this chapter as someone who wants my country to stop making wars, not because I am always and everywhere against war as such but because, with very few exceptions, almost all the wars waged by the United States have been moral disasters. The moral force of what I’ve argued today is the following: that democracy at the level of the nation is not enough to stop wars. The only sort of democracy that would have a chance of stopping war is a truly global democracy. That means a democracy in which the decision-making process is not restricted to any given polity, for example, the group of citizens; it means democracy in which, as Dewey said, everyone who is affected by given decisions will have a voice in



making those decisions. That may seem utopian, but it is a logical extension of Dewey’s project that circumstances have rendered necessary, and to which we must therefore learn to adapt. NOTES 1. The last paragraph of the fi rst part of the book describes a scene in which Holmes, near the end of his life, tries to read a poem about the Civil War and breaks down in tears. The tears, Menand comments, are not for the war but for what the war destroyed, the fact that all the learning and brilliance of the pre-war world were “powerless to prevent” (69) the war. 2. James Livingston writes: “the field of American action had broadened to the world, whether Americans understood that or not. In 1916, Dewey noted: ‘Facts have changed. In actuality we are part of the same world as that in which Europe exists and into which Asia is coming. Industry and commerce have interwoven our destinies. To maintain our older state of mind is to cultivate a dangerous illusion.’ The promise of American life could not be realized, then, except as an international or trans-national proposition. Dewey believed this in part because the U.S. was itself home to many peoples and cultures: it was international or cosmopolitan by defi nition, by internal composition, and therefore had a vested interest in ‘promoting the efficacy of human intercourse irrespective of class, racial, geographical and national limits.’ He wanted, therefore, to ‘make the accident of our internal composition into an idea, an idea upon which we may conduct our foreign as well as our domestic policy.’” 3. It is also worth noting that although Menand describes in detail Debs’ role in the Pullman Strike of 1894, a strike that Dewey observed very closely, and although this is how Dewey came to call himself a socialist in Menand’s account, that account does not pause, when it gets to the neighborhood of World War I, to observe that Dewey had in fact voted for Debs in 1912, a fact that might have made Dewey’s sudden support for U.S. entry into the war more like a submissive bowing to the pressure of the surrounding community. 4. When Menand claims, in the fi nal pages, that pragmatism is now coming back because of the end of the Cold War, one wishes he had been more prophetic, that we were not now involved in what so many commentators have described as a new Cold War, the self-proclaimed “war on terror” that perpetuates the sensibility of the Cold War by substituting a new version of the supposed communist menace. One wishes it had not become necessary, amidst all this zealotry and polarity, to renew the question of realism, with its acceptance both of national interest and of the limits of national interest, as an important ally of the internationalist Left. 5. Bourne: “The realist thinks he can at least control events by linking himself to the forces that are moving. Perhaps he can. But if it is a question of controlling war, it is difficult to see how the child on the back of a mad elephant is to be any



more effective in stopping the beast than is the child who tries to stop him from the ground” (316). 6. Ross Posnock, in The Trial of Curiosity, appreciates Bourne’s term the inexorable as well as irony; you can, Posnock suggests, have both, and perhaps they imply each other. 7. John Kerry’s failure to make his combat service into a decisive political asset in the 2004 presidential election, coupled with the Bush campaign’s success in preventing Bush’s questionable record, or lack of one, tell against him, suggests that the American public may be more pragmatic in this temporal sense than Rorty thinks, that is, less eager to identify with their country’s past, either in the mode of pride or in the mode of shame, and more concerned with the here and now. It is possible that it comes naturally in America to forget about, say, the heritage of slavery, as Menand allows his story to do. 8. Whitman has also figured significantly in the larger conversation provoked by Rorty’s “Unpatriotic Academy” op-ed in the New York Times, a conversation setting Rorty and patriotism against Martha Nussbaum and cosmopolitanism, although it is worth noting that Nussbaum’s Whitman chapter in Upheavals of Thought is almost entirely celebratory. Nussbaum is not horrified by the prospect of the bard of democracy horrifying foreign despots (Upheavals of Thought 645). 9. For Casey Blake, Bourne explains Dewey’s acquiescence in the war in terms of Dewey’s attachment to reason and deafness to the aesthetic.


De-centering Dewey

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Dewey’s Difficult Recovery, Analytic Philosophy’s Attempted Turn


A few philosophers, prominent ones raised up in the analytic tradition, have come to the end of their tether and turned to John Dewey for inspiration. They have asked how to renew philosophy—its intellectual energy, specifi cally its sense of social, political, and cultural significance. I want to see if I can say something about how and why this turn has been difficult. It may be helpful if I disclose my own attitude, as follows: I understand and share the impulses behind the turn. I am an analytically trained philosopher, but I am not so excited about analytic philosophy. The role of omniopinionated, cross-disciplinary flâneur looks like fun. When I read someone laying into Richard Rorty about “liberal ironism”—he gets that a lot—I can’t help think, “there but for the grace of academic fame go I.” But I am just not sure how well it has worked out for those involved. I will be discussing the cases of Rorty and Hilary Putnam. RORTY: PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT PLATO

Let me get into it with a “gotcha.” We all know that, since Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Rorty has been undertaking to bury philosophy. What Rorty wants is either some new, successor discipline or activity—something more 107



poetic and narrative and literary—or, if we must continue to call it that, then it is “Philosophy Without Plato.” A passage from Consequences of Pragmatism: Pragmatists think that the history of attempts to isolate the True or the Good, or to defi ne the word “true” or “good,” supports their suspicion that there is no interesting work to be done in this area. It might, of course, have turned out otherwise. People have, oddly enough, found something interesting to say about the essence of Force and the defi nition of “number.” They might have found something interesting to say about the essence of Truth. But in fact they haven’t. The history of attempts to do so, and of criticisms of such attempts, is roughly coextensive with the history of that literary genre we call “philosophy”, a genre founded by Plato. So pragmatists see the Platonic tradition as having outlived its usefulness. (xiv)

Now from John Dewey, “From Absolutism to Experimentalism”: I still should believe that there is greater richness and greater variety of insight in Hegel than in any other single systematic philosopher—though when I say this I exclude Plato, who still provides my favorite philosophic reading. For I am unable to fi nd in him that all-comprehensive and overriding system that later interpretation has, as it seems to me, conferred on him as a dubious boon. The ancient skeptics overworked another aspect of Plato’s thought when they treated him as their spiritual father, but they were nearer the truth, I think, than those who force him into the frame of a rigidly systematized doctrine. Although I have not the aversion to system as such that it is sometimes attributed to me, I am dubious of my own ability to reach inclusive systematic unity, and in consequence, perhaps, of that fact also dubious about my contemporaries. Nothing could be more helpful to present philosophizing than a “Back to Plato” movement. (LW.5.154–5)

The liberal irony is plain: the Philosopher King is dead, long live the Philosopher King! (Plato is crafty to keep rigging that—and after all these years.) This “gotcha!” is a bit of a cheap catch. First, I am no Dewey scholar, so I have strictly no business playing any sort of Deweyer-than-thou games (as I realize have been played before, see for example, Saatkamp). Second, we all know we’re footnotes to Plato. The contradiction in this case is at least partly an illusion, because Rorty is dispraising one aspect of the Platonic inheritance, and Dewey is praising a different aspect. Furthermore, these distinctions are easy to make explicit. They practically parse themselves. Plato, you might say, can be either a solid or a liquid. The solid is, maybe, Plato himself. The liquid may be Socrates himself. At any rate, the solid is doctrine and dogma, the liquid is method and, maybe, a judicious touch of madness.




Dewey makes it explicit. His “back to Plato movement,” if it happens, will really have to move. It must be a turn, back to the dramatic, restless, cooperatively inquiring Plato of the Dialogues, trying one mode of attack after another to see what it might yield; back to the Plato whose highest fl ight of metaphysics always terminated with a social and practical turn, and not to the artificial Plato constructed by unimaginative commentators who treat him as the original university professor. (LW.5.155)

Likewise, Rorty makes clear at many points that he thinks a desire for dialogue amounts to turning against Plato. Here he is, agreeing with Harold Bloom: “Literature, Bloom says, adheres to Protagoras’ motto ’Two logoi opposing one another,’ and this is as inevitably polytheist and agonistic as Plato’s invention, philosophy is inevitably monistic and convergent. Movements are suited to onto-theological Platonists, campaigns to many-minded men of letters.” (Rorty Achieving 118)

In short: Platonic conclusions bad, Platonic method good. Doctrine bad, dialogue good. So there is no absurdity in Rorty throwing Plato overboard to make room for Dewey, only to have Dewey haul Plato back in the boat, presumably backhanding Rorty out in the process. Yet there is something to my “gotcha,” even allowing for all this. As Adorno writes: “an aspect under which it might well be fruitful to treat the history of modern philosophy is how it managed to cope with the antagonism of statics and dynamics in its systems” (27). In the present case, it goes like so. If you turn up the heat on Plato too quickly, you might pass straight from solid to gas without benefit of intermediate liquid stage, and this passage, however sublime, would not be satisfactory. Instead of post-philosophy, or philosophy without Plato, we end up suspended in a cloud of “philosophy or not philosophy, with or without Plato,” which is merely undistinguished. We may pat ourselves on the back for how we slipped the surly bonds of systematicity, but honestly, that wasn’t hard. Who’s a systematist these days? We analytics aren’t Hegelians, we’re piecemeal puzzlers. We have slipped the benefits of method as well. Not method in some absolute Cartesian sense, which we would be glad to lose; method in the humble, experimental sense that Dewey means to praise, by entitling his piece “From Absolutism to Experimentalism.” If we no longer have even an experimental method, we have gone From Absolutism to . . . Whatever.



What does this metaphor of sublimation really come to—this threat that pragmatism passes straight from Platonic solid to gas, without benefit of liquid, experimental method? Roughly the concern is that another way to put the dichotomy between Platonic method and doctrine—method good, doctrine bad—is in terms of Platonic means and ends. If you will the Platonic means—dialogue and the occasional metaphysical take-off and landing, all with an eye for politics—where is the sense in deploring the Platonic end? It’s easy to distinguish means and ends analytically, so it’s easy to praise one and denounce the other normatively. But it’s hard to have one without the other pragmatically. I’m going to come down hard on this point in the conclusion. For now, leading into the next section, let me point out one of the main reasons why it may be felt—by those who like Rorty and Dewey—that there must be some way round this criticism. The feeling has to do with the fact that, at the personal level, this sort of sublimation can feel, well, sublime. It is natural for Dewey to pass, as he does, from solid praise of Plato to rather airy reflections on his own, rather fluid intellectual character. He says he envies those who can write their intellectual biography in a unified pattern, woven out of a few distinctly discernible strands of interest and influences. By contrast, I seem to be unstable, chameleon-like, yielding one after another to diverse and even incompatible influences; struggling to assimilate something from each and yet striving to carry it forward in a way that is logically consistent with what has been learned from its predecessors. (LW.5.155)

I think most of us recognize here an appealing intellectual virtue ethic. It’s good to be such a fluid character. Ergo, we don’t really envy those who can write intellectual biographies in too unified a fashion. That would be boring. Dewey admits it: “I cannot say with candor that I envy completely, or envy beyond a certain point, those to whom I have referred.” Still, he has to try to be like them. The paradox is a nice one, the more so for being pragmatic rather than strictly logical. Dewey could not be the admirable character he is without having striven to emulate those others, whom he does not, honestly, feel he would want to be like. Still, you can hardly set out, intentionally, to contradict yourself and admit incompatible influences. If you took the straight path and just pried your mind that wide open, your brain would fall out. There is a type of good consequence that curdles if you try to achieve it. Healthy, Socratic open-mindedness is a by-product of having tried and honorably failed to close your mind Platonically. But this peculiar species of success—failing better, the Platonic way—leaves it unclear what un-Platonic



methods pragmatism can advertise as its distinctive “experimentalism.” The situation suggests a tactical twist on Aesop’s fable of the fox and the sour grapes. Throw in a Platonic hedgehog for good measure, and you’ve got a cast of characters. His name is Hilary Putnam. Then, in the conclusion, we’ll reconsider foxy Richard Rorty. PUTNAM: ETHICS WITHOUT ONTOLOGY

On February 27, 2005, the New York Times took a swipe in passing at “Hilary Putnam, the philosophy professor who was handing out Progressive Labor pamphlets 35 years ago and seems not to have changed his mind on any issue since.” On March 6, a correction was issued. The article had “misstated the politics of Hilary Putnam . . . Professor Putnam abandoned his support of the Progressive Labor Party in 1972; he does not still support it.” The Gray Lady got off lightly, retracting as little as that. From The Philosophical Lexicon: hilary, n. (from hilary term) A very brief but significant period in the intellectual career of a distinguished philosopher. “Oh, that’s what I thought three or four hilaries ago.”

Reading on in the Lexicon: putname, n. A presumed expert authorized by a society to name a natural kind and determine its members. (Dennett Lexicon)

Hilary Putnam’s latest book, Ethics Without Ontology, collects two sets of lectures and is by my count two hilaries past crediting any practice so outlandish as putnaming. On the other hand, change has been a constant of his career. Putnam’s allergy to consistency over time is a condition he bears with good grace, largely because everyone can see how hard he has been trying to be consistent. It has made him broad-minded, able to see the appeal of a variety of perspectives, from the positivism that characterized his philosophic youth through the realism that made his name—putname—through to his rejection of that realism; down to the pragmatist position he espouses today. At the end of the fi rst lecture Putnam quotes Dewey: The aim of philosophy in general, and ethics in particular, should not be infallibility (or a set of eternal theoretical truths). . . . If we can improve the way we deal with specific evils, with the hunger and violence and inequality that mar our world, we need not be disappointed if we cannot distill out from our dealings a textbook of universal truths that will infallibly guide all future generations. (31–32)



On the other hand, The Philosopher’s Lexicon defi nes deweyite as “full of vague and impractical but well-intentioned ideas.” We must consider. The two lecture series were originally entitled “Ethics Without Ontology” and “Enlightenment and Pragmatism”. The second set provides a twolecture historical frame. Historically, there have been three enlightenments, Putnam maintains, including one that hasn’t quite happened—the Deweyan enlightenment. The fi rst was Plato’s, conjoining the aspiration of justice with the aspiration of critical thinking; the second is the capitalized Enlightenment, the eighteenth-century movement on behalf of social contracts, natural rights, and science. What these two enlightenments share is an impulse to “reflective transcendence,” a standing back from conventional opinion, authority, or perceived revelation and simply asking “Why?” But what these two enlightenments allegedly lack is pragmatic humility. What Putnam wants, you might say, is transcendence, but not the sort that aspires to fit the universe to a T; rather, the sort that keeps our shoes from pinching to pick a more Deweyan metaphor of fittingness. Pragmatism is portrayed as the fi ne line that threads the needle between various forms of skepticism about enlightenment. In the second lecture, the skeptical side, which is to be argued down, is represented by various contemporary movements and figures. Putnam objects to forms of “postmodernism” and makes some friendly noises about Habermas. He distinguishes his brand of pragmatism from Rorty’s, which he sees as too relativistic. Let’s shift to consider Putnam’s fi rst lecture set, which tries to bring out what is distinctive about his position in a more positive manner. Were it not so staunchly anti-Platonic, the fi rst lecture set would be positively Platonic: it treats philosophy of mathematics and logic as providing a precise template for problems in philosophical ethics, as though Plato’s Meno were written only yesterday: I see the attempt to provide an Ontological explanation of the objectivity of mathematics as, in effect, an attempt to provide reasons which are not part of mathematics for the truth of mathematic statements and the attempt to provide an Ontological explanation of the objectivity of ethics as a similar attempt to provide reasons which are not part of ethics for the truth of ethical statements; and I see both attempts as deeply misguided. (Putnam 3)

The answer, then, is to stand Plato precisely on his head. Like Wittgenstein and like Rorty, Putnam strenuously denies the possibility of metaphysical explanations. Putnam targets in particular Quine’s famous 1948 paper, “On What There Is,” concerning which he asks a pointed question: “If, then,



Ontology . . . has been a failure, ‘How come,’ the reader may wonder, ’it is precisely in analytic philosophy—a kind of philosophy that for many years, was hostile to the very word “ontology”—that Ontology flourishes?’ “ (78) Putnam’s answer is that Quine’s paper made ontology respectable by arguing simply that if you assert “there are numbers,” you are committed to their existence—to numbers numbering among those things that are. It is unsatisfactory to wave this commitment aside as “just a manner of speaking” unless a replacement idiom can be procured: translate number-talk into set-talk, say. But sets, although they afford austerities, are still abstract objects, so one must accept the existence of abstracta. You have failed to exorcise at least one ghost—Plato’s ghost. What Putnam is saying, then, is not just that Quine made ontology respectable, but that he made Platonism—belief in abstract objects—respectable to empiricists, for example, the young Hilary Putnam. When Putnam implies that Ontology is a god that failed, he makes it clear that god-that-failed comes in at least three flavors: inflationary, reductionist, and eliminationist. Inflationists say, “You must talk about x,” so x’s exist; deflationists say, “x talk can be exchanged for y talk,” so x’s are really just y’s; eliminationists say, “You can cut the x talk,” so x’s don’t exist. The game is the same in all three cases, and it is Quine’s allegedly. Putnam’s argument is against the game. The flaw in the Quinean argument allegedly is that there is no unitary sense of exist. Simplifying drastically, reductionism and eliminationism are frustrated by the motley of our language-games. We talk math and science, tables and chairs, the fact that coffee tastes good and Kant is often hard to understand. You cannot translate “often Kant is hard to understand” into the language of fundamental physics, not because the entities it appears to name are suspect but because you can’t translate anything into the language of fundamental physics. Pure reductions are as rare as hen’s teeth. In practice, the only thing you can talk about in the language of fundamental physics is fundamental physics. The options are, then, excessive elimination, implausibly denying that ”sometimes Kant is hard to understand” is true, because it cannot be translated, or inflationism. The problem with inflation is not so much motley as optionality. Putnam ponders outlandish entifications, such as the sum of my nose and the Eiffel tower. Are such things real or a sort of ingenious fiction? Putnam says the question is “silly.” It is “literally a matter of convention whether we decide to say they exist” (Ethics 43). But this is not to say truth is just a matter of convention. It is to say that different conventions are incompatible. A convention is understood as a solution to a sort of coordination



problem. We should think of the optional decision to adopt the language of mereology as analogous to the optional decision to make everyone drive on the right side of the road. This point about conventions is crucial and, although I have just presented it briefly, highly technical. But let me raise an objection. If we agree that there is no unitary sense of exist, then why can’t the book’s title, “ethics without ontology,” be faulted on similar grounds, namely, that there is no unitary sense of ontology. The idleness of pounding our Platonic table on behalf of the existence of ethical facts will be matched by the idleness of banging our pragmatic table on behalf of the nonexistence of, say, an ontology of ethics corresponding to our statements about ethics. J. L. Austin once remarked that it is “a piece of standard English” to say that a statement “corresponds to the facts.” If the correspondence theory of truth comes to technical grief, the phrase will go on being standard English. Ontology gets out less in nonphilosophical talk, but Putnam himself may provide a down-to-earth example. He notes that in Shawnee [the language], “I have an extra toe on my foot” and “I pull the branch aside” are parallel constructions, just a few morphemes apart: “I-fork-tree-on-toes (have)” and “I fork-tree by-hand-cause.” So Shawnee has “an ‘ontology’ of patterns that (normal) English lacks” (Ethics 49–50). Putnam is arguing against Donald Davidson, who maintains that the translatability of any Shawnee sentence into English proves that there is no “incommensurability of conceptual schemes.” Putnam’s point is that the mere fact that two practical organizations—languages are practical organizations—can handle the same unit of work, that is, solve the same coordination problem, does not mean their ways of doing the work are compatible. Put it that way and the point is obvious. Suppose two human organizations, very differently organized, are handling the same unit of work overall. No one would assume that you could just smoothly and directly transfer a member of one organization into the other organization just because they do the same work overall. If you transfer a vice-president into an organization that lacks vice-presidents, for example, there is going to be a pragmatic problem. If you want to explain this using the word ontology, fi ne. If you study this sort of thing, you might call yourself an organizational ontologist. Rather a fancy title, but there is obviously nothing inherently metaphysical (let alone onto-theological) about studying this sort of thing Suppose I decide to speak, likewise, of “patterns of ethical ontology” in cases where one moral scheme generates parallels but another does not. It’s easy to fi nd examples: you talk about duty, I talk about rights, she talks about virtue. Putnam would say that, of course, this is fi ne so long as you don’t get



carried away by metaphysical fantasies. But if the title of his book could be Ethics with or without ontology, the question arises how much positive philosophy is on offer. How distinctive is this place in which Putnam wants us to end up that it should merit the rather impressive title “third enlightenment”? Pretty clearly it is going to depend on your having something interesting to say about ethics, but before we get to that, let me summarize what I just said. Putnam basically thinks that what we may as well call “Platonism”—by which we indicate a large but indefi nite cluster of realist and foundationalist metaphysical and epistemological doctrines—is refuted by what he calls “conceptual pluralism.” Basically, it’s the Shawnee thing, which is like what Foucault says in The Order of Things: the Borges thing. The Chinese encyclopedia entry subdividing animals as: “(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f ) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, ( j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fi ne camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like fl ies.” Foucault writes: In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that. But what is impossible to think, and what kind of impossibility are we faced with here? Each of these strange categories can be assigned a precise meaning and a demonstrable content. (xv)

Now I want to make a point about contemporary academic culture. I honestly can’t say what it was like when Foucault wrote, but today such gestures of wonderment would be disingenuous. It is assumed that such monsters are possible, yes, and still stranger typological teratologies. Invocations of the power and possibility of conceptual relativism or pluralism no longer seem in the least epistemologically monstrous. It is the strong default assumption that something of the sort has decisively broken the water-pitcher of Platonism, foundationalism, essentialism. If you want to shock someone, tell them that there is only one correct way to classify animals. Putting it another way, in every department of the humanities except philosophy, Platonism is pretty much not just wrong but a joke. Not taken seriously. It is a thing with which to scapegoat an opponent polemically. No one could believe in putnaming natural kinds! That’s too outlandish. Well, Putnam did, once upon a time, and now, in effect, it is the position of Hilary Putnam that overcoming ontology—overcoming the Platonic likes of Quine—has to be a lot more technically involved than that rather breezy fi rst page of Foucault suggests.



For technical reasons—and largely unbeknownst to Foucault—Foucault turns out to be more or less right, not about everything but about the possibility of conceptual pluralism. A great deal of incidental, interdisciplinary comedy results from the fact that philosophers take Plato seriously; no one else does. I tend to be laughing with the philosophers on this one. (Blame my upbringing, if you must.) At the same time, it isn’t clear that the last laugh isn’t on Putnam—perhaps on me, too. On the one hand, he is showing us how he plays traditional analytic philosophy’s game against it. On the other hand, Putnam himself has lost faith in this game as an instrument for achieving insight into ethics, and he hasn’t really found a new game. Wittgenstein once compared his style of philosophy to signs in wartime train stations: “‘Is your journey really necessary?’ As though anyone would really turn around and go home, having gotten that far” (62). Putnam is standing in the station, seeing the sign, and answering, “actually no.” But he still keeps getting on the Quine train. What about Dewey. Isn’t that a new game? Putnam fi nds Dewey’s fluid temperament congenial, and he affi rms such notions as “science without scientism” and the ideal of “deliberative democracy.” He highlights Dewey’s dislike of the term reason and his preference for speaking of “the application of intelligence to problems.” Putnam sees this as “symptomatic” of a deep criticism of traditional philosophy, which he seconds. Yet one gets little sense for specific tools, methods, or results that have survived the demolition of “traditional philosophy” to become the hallmarks of pragmatism’s intelligence as philosophy. In a section entitled “how I understand ethics” Putnam gestures, with brisk approval or disapproval, to a range of figures and positions, thereby locating himself, but not providing enough substance to start a terribly interesting discussion. For example, in a section devoted to the “practical problems” he follows Dewey in emphasizing, he knocks Nietzsche, then generalizes: Historically, I think that the “macho” ethics, the ethics of “courage and manly prowess” that I described earlier, was only superceded when large numbers of people began to see that someone who refused to play that game was not necessarily a “wimp.” It was the great moral exemplars of the world—the Buddha, Moses, Confucius, Jesus, Socrates and many others— who demonstrated in life that there could be glory—glory, and yes, dignity—in siding with the victims of plunder and conquest (26).

Putnam should take more care not to walk right into Nietzsche’s hook: if it is indeed for glory in life, then the beautiful old boxing match of Will to Power has not been superceded, merely twisted to “wimpish” tactical advantage. In



Putnam’s defense, he is hurrying, as I am, but he is hurrying to get to Quine. Why? I think: out of habit. He’s good at talking about Quine and not so good at talking about Nietzsche. When he tries to branch out into edifying discussion of Nietzsche, it just devolves into rather glib glosses on “wimps” and “macho-types.” Or else it turns into a kind of middle-elevation leftprogressive punditry, which is fi ne in its way. There is nothing clearly wrong with it, but I’m not sure I would glorify it as a “third enlightenment.” CONCLUSION: ACHIEVING OUR CULTURE?

Let’s turn back to Rorty, who I think generally does a better job when it comes to being “edifying” about the likes of Nietzsche. But it still isn’t good enough, maybe. Let me remind you where I left off. I quoted Rorty against Plato, for Dewey. Then I quoted Dewey in favor of Plato, thereby making it seem that Rorty is stuck with Plato whether he likes it or not. Then I tried to sketch the degree to which this is a real problem. I suggested that Rorty wants something—he has a kind of ideal. But perhaps he has not mapped out a pragmatic path by which such desired consequences are attainable. The great pragmatists—James and Dewey—are occasionally praised for their criticisms of Platonism, such as Dewey on traditional conceptions of education, James on metaphysical pseudo-problems, but their anti-Platonism is thought by analytic philosophers to have been insufficiently rigorous and by nonanalytic philosophers to have been insufficiently radical (Rorty Consequences xvii). Rorty pegs Putnam here. Putnam has found himself residual employment tidying unrigorous Deweyan anti-Platonism, giving good reasons for what the pragmatist believes on instinct. Not a terrible fate as far as lives of the mind go, but not one that opens up wide vistas of enlightenment. Perhaps Rorty is trying to talk around another problem that hits closer to home: pragmatist anti-Platonism may not be sufficiently anti-Platonic. At least, it may not be a distinctive enough position to allow them to exert distinguishing force against the competition. To fill these thoughts out, one last passage from Consequences of Pragmatism: On my view, James and Dewey were not only waiting at the end of the dialectical road which analytic philosophy travelled, but are waiting at the end of the road which, for example, Foucault and Deleuze are currently travelling. I think that analytic philosophy culminates in Quine, the later Wittgenstein, Sellars, and Davidson—which is to say that it transcends and cancels itself. (xviii)



What Putnam’s case illustrates, I think, is that analytic philosophy canceling itself—even granting that it does—is not clearly sufficient to impart any distinctive, pragmatic impetus. Also, regarding Foucault and Deleuze: what grounds for belief in eventual convergence do we really have? There looks to be a real divide between, say, liberals and antiliberals—real controversy, with a lower-case c, not illusory, capital C Controversy, nothing that will go away if only we banish Platonism. Rorty, it seems to me, really has rather little to say about how controversy is to be resolved, or even addressed, or even conceptualized. He expresses hopes that everyone will eventually come round to his way of liberal thinking. Hope is his privilege, but hope is not an argument. It is all well and good for Rorty to say that we are now in the story-telling business, or are conducting practical experiments. (No arguments, please: we’re post-Heideggerian, polypragmatic, ironist liberal Wittgensteinian Davidsonians.) But hope is not a story or an experiment either, near as I can figure. Let me point to a few passages that illustrate the problem. There is an odd yet highly characteristic, Rortyan rhetorical tic I think we will all recognize who have read a bit of Rorty. It is the moment when things happily do not occur to people, and the mystery is why this should be such an appealing nonevent. Here is a passage in which “think locally” has been taken so much to heart that all our narratives have grown small, to the point where even the thought of bigger things no longer fits inside, apparently: Such narratives of overlapping campaigns and careers would contain no hint that a career could be judged by its success in aligning itself with the movement of history [with categories like Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism, Late Capitalism.] Both political and cultural history would be seen as a tissue of chance, mischances, and lost chances—a tissue from which, occasionally and briefly, beauty fl ashes forth, but to which sublimity is entirely irrelevant. It would not occur to somebody brought up on this kind of narrative to ask whether Joyce, or Proust, Schönberg, Bartók, Picasso, and Matisse signified one of the major turnings in the cultural history of the West, or to ask whether that turning was perhaps not better signified by Rilke, Valéry, Strauss, Eliot, Klimt, and Heidegger. It would never occur to such a person to ask whether Dissent was central or marginal to the cultural or political life of its day. She would ask only whether Dissent did some good, whether it contributed to the success of some of the campaigns in which it took part. (Achieving 123–4)

You could make this out to be downright sinister. You might compare it to a Platonic daydream of an ideal polis in which certain questions, that is, those



that irritate the King, never so much as cross the minds of the docile inhabitants. I don’t think Rorty is sinister. What leads him into sounding that way, however little it accords with his tolerant temperament, is a certain anthropological artificiality fallen into for quite different reasons. Is it remotely plausible that a highly cultured human being—of the sort who is going to be talking about all these products of the minds of other highly cultured human beings—is not going to be at least aware of the questions Rorty thinks it unwise to ask? If you have read Heidegger, Rilke, Eliot, Proust and Joyce while apprehending the music and paintings of those others, you have heard of things called The Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism. Such a person may agree or disagree with Rorty about the utility of employing these grand categories, but it is hardly to be hoped it will not so much as occur to them they might apply. Is it really to be hoped that someday a substantial portion of the human race will be so much more Rortyan than Rorty himself? How does Rorty fall into this odd way of talking? He does so, it seems to me because he wants a kind of community, but he doesn’t know how to ask for it. He doesn’t want anything “monistic and convergent”—that would be too Platonic. Yet he does want convergence in the sense of community, as he makes clear in this passage from Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity: The idea that liberal societies are bound together by philosophical beliefs seems to me ludicrous. What binds societies together are common vocabularies and common hopes. The vocabularies are, typically, parasitic on the hopes—in the sense that the principal function of the vocabularies is to tell stories about future outcomes which compensate for present sacrifices. (86)

This strikes me as an implausibly narrow view of the principal function of vocabularies, if indeed they have one as opposed to several. This implausibility is perhaps what drives Rorty to say some even more implausible things: “I cannot imagine a culture which socialized its youth in such a way as to make them continually dubious about their own process of socialization. Irony seems inherently a private matter” (Contingency 87). Has he never sat on his couch with the kids, watching The Simpsons on TV, watching the Simpsons and their kids on their couch, watching the Simpsons watch TV? (Zengotita 36). For present purposes, a more pertinent problem is the following. Common vocabularies are not, I think, the sorts of things one can work to achieve; not directly, if we are talking about organic vocabularies as opposed to technical formalisms. Common vocabularies are possible effects of common work



towards other things. They are things that may, in retrospect, have happened. Therefore, they are perhaps inappropriate goals for pragmatists to advocate. Yet most of the things Rorty wants—vocabularies, cultures, communities, and countries—fall into this category: happy things that may, at some point, have been achieved. The theme of this volume is “democracy as culture.” The oddity of Rorty’s rhetoric—his characteristic tone of “anticipatory retrospective,” as we might call it—may be a function of the peculiarly receding quality of objects of desire that cannot be methodically pursued. The grammar of a Rortyan sermon of hope tends to involve a conflation, as it were, of the grammatical possibility of the future perfect and the cultural possibility of a perfect future.1 Not “convert!” But “imagine you will have been converted!” (A sort of parody Leninism: “What is to have been done”.) Not “here is a reason not to think in these terms,” but “imagine a community to whose members these terms will not have occurred.” It might be objected that Rorty is aiming for conversion, and conversion experiences are seldom exercises in sober reason giving. But the situation is a bit worse than that. Rorty’s reformist reach exceeds his justificatory good conscience. He really thinks he’s right, but doesn’t think he can give his opponents rational grounds that they are compelled to accept. In a sense he doesn’t even regard himself as justified in seeking to convert. The one point he’s got is that, if the sort of change he wants comes, it will come as a sort of ‘conversion’ to a new way of thinking (cultural shift, call it what you will). This is true, but—again—not exactly a reason to convert. But what else can he say? Rorty ends up more or less boxed into a narrow hortatory row: not so much preaching to the unconverted as preaching the meta-possibility of conversion to the unconverted. On the other hand, at least he is not the only one playing at this game. Rorty’s friendly overtures to the French have never been terribly well received. They fi nd he is a bit of that smelly old thing: a liberal. But what Rorty saw in them is not hard to see. In “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” Jean-Francois Lyotard writes: “The artist and the writer, then, are working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done” (81). But what then: we have a duty to be artist-geniuses? That doesn’t sound very pragmatic. The one thing that takes the wind out of my sails, advancing this criticism, is the likelihood that Rorty feels he has already taken it on board, for better or worse. In “Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism,” he quotes from a century-old work by one René Berthelot: “pragmatism reveals itself to be romantic utilitarianism: that is its most obviously original feature and also its most private vice and its hidden weakness” (Dickstein



21). I am not sure Rorty would even disagree, except that, unlike Berthelot, he is a pragmatist. A fi nal note about this fi nal point. At the outset I hinted that we have here a variation on a sour grapes problem. Indeed, I had in mind a passage from Jon Elster’s book of that title. In a section entitled “The Obsessional Search For Meaning,” he writes of what he calls the “moral fallacy of by-products—a misplaced or self-defeating form of instrumental rationality.” It is the fallacy of striving, seeking and searching for the things that recede before the hand that reaches out for them. In many cases it takes the form of trying to get something for nothing, to acquire a character or become a “personality” otherwise than by the “ruthless devotion to a task”. In other cases it is accompanied by self-indulgence, when one is led to tolerate errors or imperfections in one’s work because one knows that they sometimes prove useful or fertile. In particular, many will have come across the brand of scientist who excuses the one-sidedness of his work by the need for fertile disagreement in science.2 (107–8)

Elster goes on to note that this tendency may go together with a desire to equate private virtues with public ones. These “by-products” are linked “to what befalls us by virtue of what we are, as opposed to what we can achieve by effort or striving” (108). Is it obvious what application I mean to make of this? Think of Dewey, not trying to be a chameleon, yet managing it all the same. What he is striving for, pragmatically, must necessarily be different. Perhaps you can only get to be like Dewey by trying to be like Plato and failing.3 NOTES 1. This “future perfect” variant on my characterization of “anticipatory retrospective” was suggested by Ben Wolfson. 2. Kieran Healy drew my attention to this passage. 3. This point that pragmatism may be pragmatically self-defeating is not—I think—just a repetition of the familiar, Habermasian charge that various antifoundationalist and relativist positions are cryptonormatively self-defeating, but the points are related.

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Descartes, Dewey, and Democracy


As its alliterative title indicates, this chapter is aimed at effecting a comparison between John Dewey and René Descartes on the issue of democracy. Perhaps the initial response to such a project would be to question whether there could be any point to attempting such a comparison. Surely, it might be claimed, any attempt to draw a comparison between Descartes and Dewey on such an issue can only result in an emphasis on the two as polar opposites. On the one hand, we have Descartes, whose solitary meditator of the Meditations has led to his view being characterized as that of the “lonely ego crying in the wilderness” (Wilkes 120). On the other hand, we have Dewey, whose very emphasis on the importance of communication and interchange with other persons in the “Great Community” would likely suggest that there is absolutely no point of contact between him and Descartes. An attempt at comparison between the two would be a lost cause. I hope to show, on the contrary, that making such a comparison can in fact be both fruitful and illuminating. Here it may be noted that while Descartes is usually remembered for the solitary meditator who embarks on an individual quest for lasting knowledge in the Meditations, he is also acknowledged as crucially paving the way towards the kinds of democratic ideals that we aspire to today (Taylor). His recognition of the individual as possessing autonomy, and as possessing dignity in virtue of that autonomy, forms the 123



basis of the view that every human being, regardless of class, race, and creed, is worthy of respect. That Descartes contributed to the development of our notions of democracy suggests that it might be fruitful to look at his views in relation to those of Dewey, a figure whose views on the nature of democracy are quite often seen as the centerpiece of his thought. Of course, that comparison must be carried out cautiously, in view of the many underlying differences between Descartes and Dewey. Nevertheless, I hope to show that such a comparison will reveal a surprising number of similarities in their views on community and the democratic way of living. Establishing these similarities will make a useful point in relation to the themes of this volume. Deweyan democracy is seen as intimately related to, and indeed an outgrowth of, Dewey’s larger antimetaphysical and pragmatic position. Interestingly, however, Descartes arrives at a very similar position on community and democratic forms of living on the basis of a metaphysical position that is well known to be vastly different from Dewey’s. The current volume is concerned at least partially with whether Deweyan democracy can be effectively adopted across different cultures, each with its own significant set of metaphysical beliefs. That Descartes and Dewey can be shown to converge on the issues of community and democratic forms of living while espousing opposing stances in metaphysics would hold out the promise that Deweyan democracy can indeed be adapted to, and accommodated within, the various metaphysical commitments that may form the framework of these cultures. I begin this chapter with an account of some of the key features of Deweyan democracy and show briefly how they arise from his antimetaphysical pragmatism. I then proceed to examine Descartes’ metaphysics and how it gives rise to his ethics. In doing so, I highlight various key features of Descartes’ ethical position and show that they would bring him very close to embracing Dewey’s views on a democratic community. DEWEY’S DEMOCRACY

What a democracy is and which precise elements constitute it, of course, are highly contested issues. However, we generally think of a democracy as a form of government or political structure, one of whose key features is that consent is “freely given [by] the governed to abide by the laws and policies of those agencies whose activities control the life of a community” (Postman 6). Dewey’s conception of democracy embraces much more than forms of government or political structures:



Democracy is much broader than a special political form, a method of conducting government . . . The key note of democracy as a way of life may be expressed . . . as the necessity for the participation of every mature human in the formation of the values that regulate the living of men together: which is necessary from the standpoint of both the general social welfare and the full development of human beings as individuals. (LW.11.217–8)

Democracy is for Dewey a way of life; indeed, it is the “truly human way of living” (LW.11.218). As such, democracy encompasses “all modes of human association, the family, the school, industry, religion” (LW.2.325). What then does democracy in this broad sense involve? The key underpinning of Deweyan democracy is the presence of a community. Indeed “the clear consciousness of a communal life, in all its implications,” writes Dewey, “constitutes the idea of democracy” (LW.2.328). In a democracy, the individual exists in a “free and enriching union” with others in the community. In characterizing what such a free and enriching union consists in, Dewey considers the case of a band of robbers. The robber in a band expresses his powers and potentialities in a way “consonant with belonging to that group” and may be “directed by the interest common to its members” (LW.2.328). However, he is not involved in a democratic form of living; his involvement in this group must involve the repression of some of his other potentialities, which could only be realized through membership with other groups. He is unable to interact flexibly with other groups, which results in his being unable to develop his various potentialities to their fullest. In contrast, a democracy is a setting in which the individual can partake in membership of, and move freely among, any variety of groups, including political groupings, families, scientific and artistic associations. This freedom to shift in his associations, this “free give-and take,” allows his full development as an individual. It will also contribute to the overall growth and wellbeing of the community. Dewey emphasizes that a democratic form of living is one in which there are no artificial barriers between individuals or groups and in which there is freedom of inquiry and a full and free exchange of information and ideas. Under such conditions, the community will flourish, grow and develop in new directions. Dewey thus makes clear that a democracy is much more than democratic government involving universal suffrage and freely elected representatives. Indeed, he thinks that the democratic form of government is to be seen as a means by which we can facilitate democratic communal living (Westbrook 303). It is not a “fi nal end and value” (LW.11.218). Dewey does not rule out



that, as the community flourishes and develops, it is possible that it could adopt some other form of government. In contrast, say, to the Marxist or the Hegelian version, Dewey’s version of democracy does not offer any account of the end-state that the body politic or community will tend towards, or what condition it ought to tend towards (303). No prediction or prescription is offered concerning the precise goals and directions the community as a whole should take. What Dewey offers is rather an account of the ideal process or procedure by which a democratic community achieves development. To understand the process, it would be helpful to look at Dewey’s account of the psychology of the human individual fi rst. In Human Nature and Conduct (MW14), Dewey maintains that the behavior of the individual is actuated by three factors: impulse, habit, and intelligence. Dewey thinks it is habit that is primary in the actuation of human conduct. From the time of our birth, we develop certain habits and customs both as a result of interacting with our environment and from our association with other individuals who have already formed habits of their own. Such habits and customs may develop a certain rigidity and inflexibility over time. Impulses, or natural drives, are then the “pivots” that lead us to alter our habits or give them new direction. However, such attempts to alter old habits may be unhappy, since they may be characterized by “uneasiness, discontent and blind antagonistic struggles” (MW.14.91). Dewey then suggests that we may effect a “constructive synthesis” of habit and impulse through the application of the third component—intelligence—and it is this component that will merit a closer examination in our discussion (MW.14.91). The application of intelligence is that which enables us to make reasonable choices and decisions when faced with the collision of habit and impulse. But what precisely counts as a reasonable choice? Dewey makes the following contrast between reasonable and unreasonable choices. Unreasonable choices may come, for instance, when we consider one element involved in a transaction to the exclusion of all others: “The object thought of may simply stimulate some impulse to a pitch of intensity where it is temporarily irresistible . . . It allows no room for alternatives . . . Then choice is arbitrary, unreasonable” (MW.14.134–5). In contrast to this, “The object thought of may be one which stimulates by unifying, harmonizing different, competing tendencies. It may release an activity in which all are fulfi lled, not indeed in their original form, but . . . in a way that modifies the original direction of each by reducing it to a component along with others in an action of transformed quality” (MW.14.135). When this is achieved, the choice is a



reasonable one. Reasonableness consists in making a choice from a process of intelligent deliberation: Nothing is more extraordinary than the delicacy, promptness and ingenuity with which deliberation is capable of making eliminations and recombinations in projecting the course of a possible activity. To every shade of imagined circumstance there is a vibrating response; and to every complex situation a sensitiveness as to its integrity, a feeling of whether it does justice to all facts, or overrides some to the advantage of others. (MW.14.135)

For Dewey, then, intelligence is that which enables us to sensitively consider all the available facts and do justice to them, and hence to make a choice that harmonizes all the competing tendencies that result from the collision between habit and impulse. Intelligent deliberation is key to effectively handling the modifications of old, settled habits and to charting the new directions in our lives. The notion of intelligence is important to our understanding of how a democratic society functions. The Deweyan democratic community is one that “aims to institutionalize intelligence in matters of conduct” (Scheffler 242). Indeed, deliberative procedures in the community are arguably those of the deliberative individual writ large. Such a community is not only one that is free of artificial barriers and allows the free flow and exchange of ideas, it is also one in which the conduct of communal matters is reasonable, that is, it is sensitive to the complexities of the situation, respects all the facts, and so on. Indeed, such conduct is to be modeled on the methods of science, in which the “ideas underlying [the community’s] common activities [should be treated] as hypotheses—open to the test of experience, criticizable [sic] by all whom such activities affect, and revisable by procedures enlisting their common consent” (242). The essence of Dewey’s democracy is that there are no specific communal directions or policies that must be followed or prescribed; nothing is cast in stone, and everything is open to the test of experience. These views are usually seen as an outgrowth of Dewey’s pragmatist stance and his views on the intimate relationship between knowledge and active experience. For Dewey, doing and acting are essential for knowing. For instance, he maintains that scientific knowledge cannot be obtained except by actively intervening in one’s environment through experimental set-ups and the use of scientific instruments such as the microscope, spectrometer, and so on. Dewey holds that such knowledge must be concerned with the objects that are directly engaged with and apprehended. His pragmatism is thus generally



held to lead to an antimetaphysical stance. He claims dismissively of those who would engage in metaphysics that they transmute the imaginative perception of the stably good object into a defi nition and description of true reality in contrast with lower and specious existence [which is precarious and incomplete]. Thus they remove from actual existence the very traits which generate philosophical reflection . . . In briefest formula, “reality” becomes what we wish existence to be after we have analyzed its defects and decided upon what would remove them . . . (LW.1.52)

For Dewey, knowledge is concerned only with “existence,” or that which is directly at hand and acted upon, not with some wider reality underlying or behind what is directly at hand. What we know of “existence” comes about through an ongoing interactive process with the environment and is therefore never fi nal; hypotheses are constantly put to the test of our actively intervening experience and are continually revisable in the light of further outcomes. These views play a crucial role in shaping Dewey’s account of democracy. As just mentioned, Dewey’s account of democratic procedures is shaped by his view of knowledge, and in particular of scientific knowledge. Thus, for Dewey, democracy must, like science, involve an ongoing, active and interactive process, and it is never fi nal in its structures and claims. It must involve active doings, not just speculative thought, and communal views must always be revisable in the light of further doings and their consequences. Given that Dewey’s antimetaphysical stance forms the basis for his claims about democracy, it is rather surprising that his views on the democratic community have much in common with Descartes’ views. After all, Descartes’ best-known work is arguably his Meditations, which deals unabashedly with metaphysical issues. I shall now examine Descartes’ ethical views and show that they both derive from his metaphysics and resemble Dewey’s views on the democratic community. DEWEY AND DESCARTES ON COMMUNITY AND THE INDIVIDUAL’S “SENSE OF THE WHOLE”

As mentioned, Descartes is probably best-known for his Meditations, a work in which ethical issues and the wider community of persons play a negligible, if not wholly nonexistent, role. Descartes did have views about ethics, and in recent years there been a resurgence of scholarly interest in this aspect of his thought (see, for example, Morgan, Cottingham, Marshall, Williston, and



Gombay). In the preface to the French edition of the Principles of Philosophy, Descartes likens the whole of knowledge to a tree: its roots are metaphysics, its trunk is physics, and its branches include all other forms of knowledge, including “morals,” that is, ethical knowledge on how one should live (CSM 1:186 [AT 9B:14]).1 Descartes thus makes clear that ethics should be founded on metaphysics. Commentators have often maintained that Descartes’ ethics have their basis in one particular aspect of his metaphysics, viz., his embrace of the dualism of mind and matter (see Cottingham and Taylor). This dualism is thought to have led Descartes to see the person qua thinker as “utterly separated” and “alienated” from the material world, leading to an ethic that is wholly egoistic: Descartes is seen to enjoin the thinker to use the material world as an instrument to further her own health and well-being, to make herself “master and possessor” of nature. If this reading is wholly accurate, then Descartes’ ethics are unlikely to come close to anything approximating Deweyan democracy. The above representation of Descartes’ ethics may, as I have argued elsewhere, be somewhat misleading.2 In the Fourth Meditation, Descartes clearly intimates that the thinker should be seen as part of a wider universal order created by God. For example, he writes, “Whenever we are inquiring whether the works of God are perfect, we ought to look at the whole universe, not just at one created thing [i.e., the meditator] on its own. For what would perhaps rightly appear very imperfect if it existed on its own is quite perfect when its function as a part of the universe is considered” (CSM 2:39 [AT 7:55–6]). Descartes also emphasizes in his correspondence the need to recognize that we are part of a universal order (e.g., CSM 3:266–7 [AT 4:293–5]; CSM 3: 309–10 [AT 4:609–10], and CSM 3:321–2 [AT 5:53–7]). There is thus a second aspect to Descartes’ metaphysics, wherein he recognizes the individual to be part of a larger universal order created by God. This aspect of his metaphysics also plays a significant role in shaping his ethics. That this is so is made clear in his letter to Elizabeth of Bohemia in September 1645. Descartes outlines there four important truths, which he deems “most useful” to the ability to “judge well.” Here is his account of the fourth important truth: After acknowledging the goodness of God, the immortality of our souls and the immensity of the universe, there is yet another truth that is, in my opinion, most useful to know. That is, that though each of us is a person distinct from others, whose interests are accordingly in some way different from those of the rest of the world, we ought still to think that none of us could subsist alone and that each one of us is really one of the many parts of



the universe, and more particularly a part of the earth, the state, the society and the family to which we belong by our domicile, our oath of allegiance and our birth. And the interests of the whole, of which each of us is a part, must always be preferred to those of our own particular person (CSM 3:266 [AT 4:293] ).

Contrary to the standard portrayals of the Cartesian ethical agent as an egoistic individual bent on pursuing self-regarding goals, Descartes here maintains that we “ought still to think that none of us could subsist alone,” and that we should recognize that each one of us is a part of a series of (God-instituted) larger wholes—state, society, and family. One can suggest that we have here a rough analogue of the Deweyan recognition that we are born into some sort of community—indeed, of various kinds of community—and that we are crucially part of and dependent upon that community or larger whole. There is thus, in Descartes, a recognition of the individual as part of, and dependent upon, the larger community, a recognition that Dewey of course shares. But such a similarity is shared by many other philosophers besides Dewey and Descartes, and thus not too significant in itself. What is considerably more significant, as I shall now argue, is that there is a consonance in their accounts of how the individual’s consciousness of her place in the larger whole affects her doings and her associations with others. Descartes, as just mentioned, clearly sees these various larger wholes of family and community as part of the universal order established by God. Dewey, in contrast, is known to be critical of various religions. Nevertheless, Dewey accepts that religion can bring us to “a sense of the whole” that enables us to fi nd dignity and meaning in our doings: “Within the fl ickering inconsequential acts of separate selves dwells a sense of the whole which claims and dignifies [these acts]. In its presence we put off mortality and live in the universal (MW.14.227). Significantly, he then continues: “The life of the community in which we live and have our being is the fit symbol of this relationship [between self and universe]. The acts in which we express our perception of the ties which bind us to others are its only rites and ceremonies” (MW.13.227). Dewey maintains that the life of the community is the “fit symbol” of the relationship that the religious person sees between herself and the whole. For Dewey, the whole, by which he means everything that is, was, and will be, is infi nite and cannot be grasped. But he sees that there is an analogue between how the religious person sees her doings in relation to the whole, which for her is divinely created, and how the communally placed person sees her doings in relation to the community. In both cases, consciousness of ourselves



and our doings in relation to the larger entity invests these selves and their activities with dignity and meaning. Now consider this passage from Descartes: “When we love God and through him unite ourselves willingly to [that is, love] all things he has created, then the more great, noble and perfect we reckon them, the more highly we esteem ourselves as being parts of a perfect whole” (CSM 3: 322 [AT 5:56]). Surely the sentiment Descartes expresses here is very much akin to the “consciousness of the whole” that Dewey thinks is to be found in the religious person. For Descartes, the person who loves God fi nds herself uniting herself in love to his entire creation, and dwelling in her sense of the nobility and greatness of this whole, she fi nds esteem and regard for herself as part of this creation. In her, to quote Dewey, there “dwells a sense of the whole which claims and dignifies” her being and, surely, her actions and doings. For Descartes, the consciousness of the wider whole and one’s place and doings in it is not limited to one’s relation with the divinely created universe. It permeates the individual’s understanding of her place and her doings within the smaller whole of the community: When a person risks death because he believes it to be his duty, or when he suffers some other evil to bring good to others, then he acts in virtue of the consideration that he owes more to the community of which he is a part than to himself as an individual . . . Once someone knows and loves God as he should, he has a natural impulse to think this way . . . (CSM 3:267 [AT 294])

The person who “knows and loves God” thus has a “natural impulse” to see herself as part of the community—as of the larger order of the universe—and to think that she owes more to the community than herself. In short, we fi nd in Dewey and Descartes some correspondence as to how the individual should see herself and her doings in relation to the wider community. With or without religious underpinnings, both agree that it is the consciousness of being part of the communal whole that invests one’s doings and associations therein with dignity. A POSSIBLE OBJECTION TO THIS READING

One objection to the reading above that might be raised is that this similarity masks deeper and more crucial differences between Dewey and Descartes. Recall that Dewey holds that it is the “clear consciousness of a communal life, in all its implications, that constitutes the idea of democracy” (emphasis mine). Dewey himself notes that there is an analogue in the “sense of the whole” that



both the religious person and the person in a Deweyan community share. I have just argued that this analogy also obtains between the Cartesian religious person and the Deweyan person in their respective communities. I now set aside the analogy as it is thought to obtain generally between the religious person and the Deweyan individual on her community and focus specifically on the analogue between Descartes’ and Dewey’s views in this respect. And here it may be contended that there are disanalogies beyond the absence or presence of religion between the two. For Dewey, the notion of communal life carries with it the crucial implication that such communal life must be such as to allow the person to maximize her various potentialities to the fullest. It is not obvious that the notion of communal life for Descartes carries within it the same implications. As we have seen, Descartes tells Elizabeth, in the letter of September 1645, that “the interests of the whole, of which each of us is a part, must always be preferred to those of our own particular person.” Again, the Cartesian person who loves God has a natural impulse to think that she owes more to the community than to herself, and so she may risk death or suffer evil to bring good to others. Indeed Descartes goes so far as to claim that someone “who considers himself part of the community” would “even be willing to lose his soul to save others.” The association that a Deweyan person has within her community might then be thought to be significantly different from that which a Cartesian person has within her community. The former exists in a “free and enriching union” with others in her community, while the latter looks to be a dutiful drudge who always puts the interests of the community above her own and is always in pursuit of goods for others than herself. Descartes’ rather extravagant claims as to how the Cartesian person should relate to her community, however, should be tempered by what he says elsewhere. As I have mentioned, the common portrayal of the Cartesian ethical agent is of a person who is individualistic and concerned with her own survival and well-being. Such a portrait could not have been plucked from thin air and must have some basis in Cartesian texts. It is indeed the case that Descartes offers, in works such as the Passions of the Soul and the Discourse on Method, some of the things that the individual can take towards her own survival and well-being. There is clearly a concern in Descartes’ writings with how the individual is to achieve her own goods. The question here is: how are we to reconcile the confl icting pictures found in Descartes of the ethical agent as utterly individualistic and as wholly selfless? To begin with, although Descartes does hold that the person should be willing to risk death or lose her soul for the sake of the community, it does not



follow that she should always do so or that there is no room for the pursuit of her own good. What one must determine instead is the procedure by which one decides when to pursue one’s own good and when to pursue others’ goods. When does the pursuit of one trump the pursuit of the other? At fi rst sight, what Descartes has to say on this kind of question does not seem very helpful. In the passage where Descartes tells Elizabeth that the interests of the various wholes “must be preferred to those of our own,” he qualifies this by saying that this is to be done “with measure, of course, and discretion” (CSM 3:266 [AT 4:293]). When Elizabeth subsequently asks him how far she should go in her devotion to the community, he writes back that “it is not a matter on which it is necessary to be very precise” and that she should do enough to satisfy her conscience (CSM 3:273 [AT 4:316]). At fi rst sight, such answers do not seem helpful. However, they are in line with the main claims of Cartesian ethics. In his Discourse on Method, Descartes outlines a provisional morality that he will adopt while he continues his studies of metaphysics and physics. Descartes never in his lifetime published a work containing his fi nal account of morality. However, in a later letter to Elizabeth in August 1645, he cites three conditions for leading a life of contentment and fulfi llment, the fi rst two of which are of interest here. The fi rst condition, Descartes writes, is “that [the agent] should always try to employ his mind as well as he can to discover what he should or should not do in all the circumstances of life” (CSM 3:257 [AT 4:265]). The second condition is that the agent “should have a fi rm and constant resolution to carry out whatever reason recommends” (CSM 3:257 [AT 4:265]). Descartes writes that “virtue consists precisely in sticking to this resolution” (CSM 3:258 [AT 4:265]). For Descartes, virtue is the “supreme good” to be realized when we fi rmly and resolutely carry out what reason recommends to us in the various situations in which we find ourselves. We can bring this set of conditions to bear on our conundrum regarding the procedure by which the Cartesian agent is to decide whether to pursue her own goods or others’. For Descartes, this is evidently a matter of rational casuistry: one is to employ one’s mind as well as one can to evaluate the relevant circumstances and determine what should be done, and then one must be resolute in doing it. There is indeed no set of rules or procedures to be followed. We have to attend carefully to the various circumstances in our lives and then determine the best way to act. The way the Cartesian agent relates to her community is, arguably, not significantly different from the way the Deweyan agent relates to her community.



The Deweyan agent exists in a “free and enriching union” that maximizes her various potentials as an individual, but the fully developed Deweyan individual must surely be a person who does not just aim at achieving selfish or self-regarding goods. She would also be one who must have some care for others and some communal concerns. After all, she is to exist in a free and enriching union with others and to form associations in the context of family, school, industry, and so on. Indeed, as we have seen, Dewey thinks that the acts by which the individual “expresses her perception of the ties that bind” are equivalent to those rites and ceremonies by which one expresses one’s consciousness that one is part of the whole. Ties to others in the community—ties of love, friendship, and loyalty— are to Dewey a crucial part of the individual who exists in a healthy relation to her community, and these ties are expressed through “rites” embodying commitment, care and concern. Compare the Deweyan individual with the Cartesian agent. As I have argued, such an agent is not just a selfless drudge but has room to pursue her own goods, including those pertaining to her own survival and well-being. Living and judging well involves being able to balance the needs of her community and herself. The Cartesian individual is also not devoid of ties such as love and friendship. In the Passions of the Soul, Descartes movingly describes love as a passion in which we unite ourselves willingly with the loved object to form a whole. He goes on to explore the appropriate kinds of love that one might have towards different kinds of objects. Of friendship, which he sees as a form of love, Descartes writes movingly that it is not perfect “unless each is ready to say in favor of the other: ‘It is I who did the deed, I am here, turn your swords against me’” (CSM 3:311 [AT 4:612]). Once again, the Cartesian agent is one who forms ties of love and friendship and expresses them through her actions. There is thus a significant convergence between Descartes and Dewey on how the individual is to relate to her community. For both Descartes and Dewey, the individual in a right relation to her community will have a consciousness of the whole that invests actions with dignity and meaning. While this consciousness in Descartes’ case is infused with religious overtones and a metaphysical commitment to the divine, both would accept that such a consciousness can only come about if there is a sense of union and connection with the community and with members of the community. At the same time, however, the individual can only perceive that his actions are dignified by the whole if he has ownership of them, if his acts are the outcome of his own decision to so express his union with and membership of the larger whole. Someone who mindlessly and unquestioningly follows fi xed customs



and practices would not, I think, fi nd dignity and communion in her actions. This last point brings us to another crucial convergence between Dewey and Descartes, which I shall explore in the next section. DEWEY AND DESCARTES ON PRACTICAL DELIBERATION

Recall Scheffler’s claim that Dewey’s democratic society is one which “aims to institute intelligence in matters of conduct.” For Dewey, customs and habits may become stultifying over time. Our natural impulses and drives then emerge and collide with such habits and customs. These confl icts are then best resolved through deliberation that involves the application of intelligence. Thus Dewey accepts that we can achieve independence from slavish custom and chart new directions through the use of intelligence. As I shall now argue, the Deweyan application of intelligence is analogous to the Cartesian use of reason in practical deliberation, and both provide the agent with a route to independence of thought and deed. Admittedly, a certain amount of baggage is attached to both the Deweyan notion of intelligence and the Cartesian notion of reason, which would prevent a completely isomorphic mapping of the one onto the other. Dewey clearly rejects many traditional accounts of reason and its role in the acquisition of knowledge, including Descartes’. His account of intelligence is situated within certain views of how the individual develops through interaction with her environment and how the intertwining forces of habit, impulse, and intelligence operate in shaping her actions. In contrast, Cartesian reason may seem in many respects the antithesis to Deweyan intelligence. Unlike Dewey, who claims that “all deliberation [using intelligence] is a search for a way to act, not for a fi nal terminus” (MW.14.134), Descartes thinks that reason can be used to achieve knowledge that is a fi nal terminus in itself and can do so independently of the senses or any interaction by the thinker with her environment. In the Meditations, he uses reason precisely to achieve such an end. Here again, it might seem there is no meeting point between the two. We need to make a distinction, however, between Cartesian reason as it is used to establish metaphysical truths, and the same reason as it is used in practical reasoning. In the former case, Descartes emphasizes the need to draw away from the senses and to concentrate on the use of reason to arrive at clear and distinct perceptions, which will form the foundation for knowledge that is “stable and likely to last” (CSM 2:12 [AT 7:17]). In practical life, however, Descartes conceives of the role of reason quite differently. While Descartes’ Meditations establish the duality of mind and matter, he also makes clear by



the end of that work that the human being is a substantial union of mind and body (CSM 3:206 [AT 3:493]; CSM 3:209 [AT 3:508]). He later tells Elizabeth that “it is the ordinary course of life and conversation, and abstention from meditation . . . that teaches us how to conceive [this] union of the soul and body” (CSM 3:227 [AT 3:692]). In her ordinary life and her doings, the human being, qua substantial union of mind and body, operates as a “unified” individual in whom body and mind are melded seamlessly in acting and responding to her environment. A constant theme in Descartes’ various works is that this individual is faced with a need to survive and navigate her way in the wider world. In such a context, she may need to make important decisions on how she should act, and it is here that Cartesian ethics recommends the use of reason in all circumstances in life. In practical life, however, unlike metaphysical enquiries, reason does not operate alone. The Cartesian person is possessed of sensory perception, imagination, and passions, all of which Descartes holds to be endowed by God on the human being to aid her in her quest to survive and live well (e.g., CSM 2:56–7 [AT 7:82–3]; CSM 1:349 [AT 11:372]). Reason must then operate in conjunction with all of these faculties in deciding the best thing to do in practical life. Reason here may be the fi nal determinant, but it is not the sole determinant of what course of action is to be taken. Its role is to assess possible courses of action based on sensory input, passional considerations, and other factors. It is important to note that Descartes accepts that we can revise our judgments, as far as practical matters are concerned, and change our course of action in the light of newly garnered experience. One key feature of Deweyan democracy, of course, is that all suggestions and ideas are open to testing, therefore policies and courses of action must be revisable in the light of further data. It might be thought that the philosopher who held that clear and distinct perceptions form the fi nal bedrock of all a stable and lasting system of knowledge might hold that our properly considered judgments are fi nal and not open to revision. Yet we need to distinguish between Descartes’ positions on metaphysical matters and on practical matters. He did think that a metaphysics based on clear and distinct perception is fi nal and not subject to further revision. However, he accepts that in practical life we have often to act without delay, and thus have to do what seems best to reason at that time. Descartes accepts that what reason recommends may not actually be the best course of action; rather, it is what seems to be the best, given the constraints within which we deliberate. He is quite clear that what we decide may turn out to be the wrong thing to do. In such cases, Descartes thinks we should



not regret what we did, provided we had done our best in deliberating, but it is plausible that he would accept, upon fi nding out that we were wrong, that we learn from our mistakes and take them into account in later rational deliberations. Our actions are thus subject to the test of experience, and our future courses of action are revisable in the light of that experience. The Cartesian agent, in practical matters at least, employs a similar modus operandi to that which Dewey would recommend in a democracy. Descartes does not rule out that we can make a considered appeal to the views of others when deliberating. He writes, “Provided we take care to seek the advice of the most able people, instead of allowing ourselves to be guided blindly by example, and we use all our mental powers to discover how we ought to proceed, then however, things may turn out, our consciences will be at peace . . .” (CSM 3:259 [AT 4:272], emphasis mine). That he is willing to seek the advice of others in practical decision making indicates that there is room, in the course of Cartesian deliberation, for some sort of communication and exchange, two features that Dewey sees as essential to democratic living. Admittedly, the sort of communication and exchange that Descartes had in mind is not quite Dewey’s “social inquiry.” The Cartesian injunction to “seek the advice of the most able people” is some distance away from social inquiry as characterized by Dewey.3 Still, Descartes’ evident recognition here that others may contribute to one’s rational deliberation may arguably be claimed to bring him closer to the Deweyan endeavor in spirit, though not in form, than has often been thought. In sum, the role of Cartesian reason in deliberations on practical life is not so different from the role played by Deweyan intelligence in the same deliberations. Reason, like intelligence, is there to do justice to all facts, to be sensitive to the complexities of actual situations, and to fi nd balanced solutions to problems. Insofar as the Cartesian agent uses her reason to determine how she should live and what she should do, she can achieve independence from communal habits and norms and thus not be habituated to following them blindly. Like the Deweyan agent, she is open to revising her judgments about what she should do and about the directions in which her community should go. Given what I have said thus far, there would appear to be significant resources within the Cartesian scheme of things for achieving the Deweyan democratic community. An ideal community of agents, each of whom employs Cartesian reason in practical deliberations, would be well-placed to institutionalize an analogue of Deweyan intelligence in communal matters. Despite the vast gulf in many aspects of Descartes’ and Dewey’s thought, the processes they advocate, by which one lives one’s life and conducts oneself



towards others, are reasonably analogous. It is plausible, therefore, that the democratic form of living could be lived in approximate form by the Cartesian agent. CONCLUSION

Descartes and Dewey have similar views of how the individual should relate to, and interact with, her community. Interestingly, they arrive at these views on the basis of vastly different positions with regard to metaphysics and religion. Dewey’s pragmatism is usually represented as resolutely avoiding metaphysical commitments, and he is critical of various religions. Descartes, on the other hand, accepts a metaphysics in which the human individual, qua substantial union of mind and body, is part of a wider God-created whole. That they are able to converge in their views of the individual in relation to her community holds out the promise that cultures that might embrace their own distinct sets of metaphysical beliefs may also be able to adapt to, and adopt, the Deweyan democratic way of living. In particular, it is worth noting that a number of influential East Asian philosophical systems, such as Taoism and some versions of Confucianism, are predicated on the assumption of a harmonious universal order. If Descartes’ universal order can support a Deweyan democratic form of living, then there is some hope that societies whose views are imbued with influences from these philosophical systems may perhaps similarly be able to support Deweyan democracy. NOTES 1. Citations of Descartes’ works are from Oeuvres de Descartes, 11 volumes (1983), (hereafter cited as AT) and The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vols. I, II, and III (1985, 1984, and 1991), (hereafter cited as CSM). 2. “Self, Other and Community”; Material Falsity esp. Chapter 5, 140–50; see also Frierson. 3. I thank Sor-hoon Tan for this point.


Nonduality and Aesthetic Experience Dewey’s Theory and Johnson’s Practice


John Dewey’s Art as Experience directs readers to a redemptive vision of interconnectedness that he presents as central to aesthetic experience, but the “ethereal” quality will also turn out to be central to Dewey’s vision of democracy as a way of life: “In the title of this chapter I took the liberty of borrowing from Keats the word ‘etherial’ to designate the meanings and values that many philosophers and some critics suppose are inaccessible to sense, because of their spiritual, eternal and universal characters—thus exemplifying the common dualism of nature and spirit” (LW.10.38). Dewey warns against “the common dualism” of nature and spirit, and his Keats quotation is an attempt to recuperate terms such as ethereal so that they are not split apart from the gross realities of life and made into something “eternal” or “universal.” This essay will look at Dewey alongside Richard Rorty, the Zen teacher Lin-chi, and the American novelist and short-story writer Charles Johnson to show how an antidualist approach can invigorate ideas and shake up categories in ways that make form/content, mind/body, and nature/spirit dualisms seem untenable.1 From a Deweyan perspective, such “ethereal things” have a necessary relationship to the most mundane elements of life, and we misconstrue ideals—artistic or political—if we attempt to sever “nature” from “spirit.” 139



One of Rorty’s greatest achievements has been to sensitize us to the importance of vocabularies, and the use of words such as spirit, spiritual, religious, and so forth will make more sense if we conceive of them as words within larger systems of words. Whereas Rorty draws specifically on the prophetic tones of the Judeo-Christian Bible, Dewey’s emphasis on nondualistic continuity and what he terms “consummatory experience” has strong affi nities with Buddhist thought, even though Dewey scorns “Nirvana”—arguably the absolute center of Buddhism’s vocabulary—when he mentions it in Art as Experience. Bringing together certain Pragmatist ideas and certain Buddhist ideas allows for mutual clarifications. A reflection on two of Johnson’s short stories—“China” and “Ale¯ thia”—will help us see connections between pragmatist aesthetics, the Buddhist critique of body-mind dualism, and the democratic implications of the ultimately unnamable continuity that art allows us more skillfully to approach.2 This chapter proceeds from the idea that we shortchange ourselves when we think of democracy only as a system of governmental procedures without considering the continuity between such procedures and apparently nonpolitical cultural processes. The democratic conversation, as we shall see, involves much more than wonkish discussions of policy; forms of government cannot ultimately be separated from culture as a whole, which involve artistic, religious, and other values.3 In chapter 12, Roger T. Ames argues that the Deweyan “‘idea’ of democracy . . . is fundamentally a moral, aesthetic, and religious aspiration.” Ames’s scare quotes around the word idea are a warning against dualistic divisions between ideas and embodied practices when attempting to understand democracy in a Deweyan way. As Ames argues, Dewey calls into question the “idea” of democracy, and in this chapter I wish to show how Dewey calls into question the “idea” of aesthetic experience. This parallel between aesthetic and democratic experience suggests that the notion of “democracy as culture” is reversible: we can also think of “culture as democracy.” Art as Experience frames our understanding of the fi ne arts—which Dewey defi nes in relation to the sacred center of “consummatory experience” rather than in great works of art that accrue high value and are enshrined in museums—in ways that lead directly toward a culture with democratic effects, if by democracy we mean what Dewey meant. He defi ned it as a mode of “associated living” that breaks down social barriers to secure “a liberation of powers.”4 Moving between culturally heterogeneous texts, this essay takes up the notion that democracy involves an element that can be called “religious aspiration.” To think that anything like a theological spirit-matter dualism



inflects the political, religious, or artistic aspects of Dewey’s thought is to miss the point entirely: the “live creature” that recurs in Dewey’s work is always an embodied life, and the model of the live creature bespeaks the embodiment of democratic ideals in human communities. To illustrate the timeliness of Dewey’s attempts to relate aesthetics to politics and religion, it will be helpful to compare Dewey’s approach with that of Richard Rorty. Achieving Our Country is not an attempt to articulate a fully fledged aesthetic system, as is Art as Experience, and so it is a bit unfair to set up a comparison between these two texts as if they were written with the same purposes in mind, but I begin with Rorty because he attempts to recover the religious component of democracy in ways that allow me to foreground some important features of Dewey’s experiential ecology of art, politics, and religion.


In Achieving Our Country, his call for an intellectual reformation among the American “Cultural Left,” Rorty quotes an essay by Dorothy Allison to testify to literature’s inspirational power. Allison’s “Believing in Literature” identifies literature with an inner resource, an imaginary place where we are always alone with our own mortality, where we must simply have something greater than ourselves to hold onto—God or history or politics or literature or a belief in the healing power of love, or righteous anger. Sometimes I think they are all the same. A reason to believe, a way to take the world by the throat and insist that there is more to this life than we have ever imagined. (132)

We cannot stop reading at the phrase “always alone,” and we should note that Allison refuses to fi x the meaning of this heightened literary experience in any exact manner. She does not ascribe its power specifically to the effects of “God or history or politics,” or “the healing power of love,” or even “righteous anger”; each of these effects of reading are, in one sense or another, extensions beyond the individual self. In a thoroughly conscious and secular way, literary beauty changes our lives by persuading us to have the feeling of solidarity with others despite the fact that we are “always alone” in the place where we come to experience that feeling. Rorty’s quotation of Allison, then, can be seen as an affi rmation of the “soft power” of literature: it persuades us to have more or less empathy with others. Rorty begins his call for an American cultural Left that responsibly develops national pride by shaming the novelists Thomas Pynchon, Norman



Mailer, and Leslie Marmon Silko, cherry-picking among all the novelists he might have discussed. If attacks on writers like Pynchon and Mailer represent Rorty’s dystopian mode of literary criticism, his praise of other writers reaches toward a utopian world in which romantic literary thinking has a more robust existence than it has now or has ever had. Achieving Our Country foregrounds the artifacts of the human imagination that improve our ability to share pleasure in qualities such as irony and solidarity, and such works make democratic faith seem reasonable and so are a stay against cynicism. Writers can help us “achieve our country” (in James Baldwin’s phrase) through the creation of “images” that link us together. Writers themselves are “images” for Rorty. Names such as Whitman and Dewey have totemic power because they are associated with sets of stories that are inspirational, that take us to those imaginary places described by Allison. Whether or not one believes that Rorty “gets Dewey right,” a book such as Achieving Our Country is an effort to elevate Dewey and Whitman at the cost of Heidegger and Foucault (6ff vs. 11ff ).5 Rorty is telling one kind of story against another kind of story, and in dividing good and bad stories in a way that is meant to organize readers and rhetorically shift them toward the “good” stories, Rorty fashions a literary, political, and philosophical jeremiad. His discourse is utterly secular in terms of the beliefs and worldviews that it presents in an attractive manner, and yet this discourse is somewhat prophetic in tone. This tone rhetorically succeeds when it affi rms the role of literature (meaning imagination) in promoting self-fashioning as a virtue, but wrapping social virtues in religious garb, even if it is just a rhetorical device, will cause some readers to pause.6 Rorty’s leftist readers defi ne themselves to a large degree—in a Bloomian process of agonistic self-making—in contradistinction to the neoconservative Religious Right, which has shamelessly used religious rhetoric to cudgel critics and thus to delimit dissent. Moralistic word-webs weave together lawlessness, reckless spending, Godlessness, and disloyalty. Liberalism, homosexual Hollywood, and weakness in response to terrorism are all birds of a feather. Rorty wants to help the American Left get out of its rhetorical sand trap, and it seems that he is experimenting, to this end, with recapturing rhetorical energies that have been captured by the Right. Patriotism, piety, and confidence are among the rhetorical goods he has attempted to recapture. “American National Pride: Whitman and Dewey,” the third essay in Dewey’s triptych, is shot through with religious sentiment, which may seem ironic to readers accustomed to Rorty’s antipathy to religion (see Boffetti). This religious sentiment is used to imply that all good people are on the same side of the so-called argument, as if it were an



“If you’re not with us, you’re against us” situation. Quoting William James on how “democracy is a kind of religion,” Rorty links contemporary Heideggerians and Henry Adams; both are “decadent and cowardly” (9). “The spirit of detached spectatorship” may already have entered the “soul” of a student (11). Rorty’s prose does not indicate that he believes the student’s eternal soul is in danger, and so Rorty is not authorizing himself to act against the student’s conscious wishes for the sake of the student’s ultimate good, which is the logic authorizing the most hubristic assertions of religious fundamentalism. But he piggy-backs on the religious rhetoric of ultimate concerns to indicate what he believes is a very important concern. Religious language, as it appears in Achieving Our Country, is a way to indicate a higher estimation of something and yet offers no ultimate truth. The author’s “polytheism” notwithstanding, Rorty’s way of using religious tropes owes a lot to the monotheistic from which he borrows (See Rorty’s “Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism”). Rorty emphasizes the entanglement of literature, religion, and politics when he says “the United States are themselves the greatest poem” (29), but the mode of his expression—as if he were afraid of losing himself in the wash of an oceanic enthusiasm—brings to mind the speaker’s creative singularity rather than a community-supporting image. While Rorty and Dewey both praise individual Romantic artists, Rorty focuses on individual leadership and achievement, whereas Dewey focuses on transpersonal aesthetic effects. Storytelling is one way to garner resources: “Nations rely on artists and intellectuals to create images of, and to tell stories about, the national past. Competition for political leadership is in part a competition between differing stories about a nation’s selfidentity, and between differing symbols of its greatness” (4). Rorty presents literature as a power to defend embattled selves, both at the individual and at the state levels, whereas, I shall argue in section three, Dewey’s “consummatory experience,” like the Buddhist experience of nonduality, is a release from self hood. In contrast to the agonistic rhetoric of self hood, Dewey’s approach is one in which the “live creature” undergoes disruption, adaptation, and then growth, but this growth is not expressed as a zero-sum competition with others. Rather, the dualistic separations of self/other, body/mind, and so forth are obstacles to the enlargement of the self. To show how this works, I will discuss a few stories by the fiction writer Charles Johnson and will limit my discussion to images of the body/mind dualism. The problem of a dualistic conception between body and mind is central both to Dewey’s Art as Experience and to Johnson’s writings, and this particular dualism has analogues,



both in the work of Dewey and Johnson, in the dualistic separation of the individual and society. MIND WITH BODY, PRAGMATISM WITH BUDDHISM, DEWEY WITH JOHNSON

In Art as Experience Dewey challenges reified, dualistic entities such as “art” or “mind” by insisting on the continuity between art and experience, body and mind, and even knowledge and intuition. In returning attention to the obscured term within such a dubious duality (the body rather than the mind, for example), Dewey redirects us from superficial ways of thinking about bodies, works of art, and so forth. Such phenomena exist within a web of mutuality, and we flatten our understanding of the phenomena when our terminology tricks us into understanding matters apart from experience: When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement. A primary task is thus imposed upon one who undertakes to write upon the philosophy of the fi ne arts. This task is to restore continuity between the refi ned and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience (LW.10.9).

Dewey insists that we must talk about art as part of life rather than as a soul that has transcended this fallen realm and has made it to the heavenly “separate realm” of the museum or, might add, the literary “canon.” Dewey does not deny that some art is of higher quality than other art, but he does believe that we attempt to purify art of its embodiment. Great works of literature, conceptions of democracy, Wordsworthian “spots of time,” or other kinds of peak experience—if we chop these parts out from the web of mutuality that gives them existence, we reduce the vitality we had sought. The body-mind problem is central in Johnson’s writings, and he fi nds ways to call attention to the unattractive consequences of cleaving body from mind. Much of Charles Johnson’s work grows from a problem I call “the embarrassment of the body,” and the problem is this: most value systems teach us to think less of the body than the mind, but we can only do this, unless we are ghosts, from the body. The body always overhears the things the mind



says about it. Dewey describes the demotion of the body in relation to the mind as follows: We use the senses to arouse passion but not to fulfi ll the interest of insight, not because the interest is not potentially present in the exercise of sense but because we yield to conditions of living that force sense to remain an excitation on the surface. Prestige goes to those who use their minds without participation of the body and who act vicariously through control of the bodies and the labor of others (LW.10.27).

One embarrassment of the body arises from passion itself: the erotic potential of art risks being recognized as pornography (soft- or hard-core) and must rescue itself from this categorization by accumulating considerable prestige as a work of art. We might ask, “Why spend any time considering aesthetics? Either the work of art is enjoyable or it isn’t.” I recently taught Lolita, and you cannot teach such a book without discussing aesthetics. Perhaps one defends the pleasures of the text against charges of scurrilousness, as Nabokov does in his afterward. Or one can talk about how Humbert Humbert intentionally smudges the line between aesthetic enthusiasm and perversion. Aesthetics, we quickly begin to see, is the legal code regulating pleasure. The desirous body keeps showing up, and we can therefore choose either ascetic denial, the anarchic hedonism of getting away with whatever we can, or a pragmatically negotiated cultural formation we can call aesthetics—or, if we are not in a classroom, “having taste.” Another embarrassment of the body is that bodily association marks us as “lower-class” in several ways. Physical labor is less prestigious than anything we can do at a keyboard not because one activity is embodied and the other disembodied, but rather because one activity is classified as “mental” and the other as “physical.” Dewey writes, “Life is compartmentalized and the institutionalized compartments are classified as high and as low; their values as profane and spiritual, as material and ideal” (LW.10.26). Johnson’s individual stories bring us, again and again, to meditate on the embodied nature of thought and perception, but the pairings of stories with martial arts and philosophy as subject matters draws attention to the socially significant compartmentalization Dewey mentions. To put a story about Descartes alongside a story about a strip-mall martial arts dojo is to present the reader with a chiaroscuro not of light and dark but of high and low prestige. Either story by itself is quite clear, and there need be no worry that readers cannot understand either story by itself, but little or no attention has been given to the way in which the stories within the volumes have, as it were, social relationships with



one another. We will get more out of these stories if we are attentive to the aesthetic democracy that informs them. To explore the continuity between what Dewey calls “experience” as opposed to “an experience,” we should begin with the conventional way of approaching this difference: typically, a person delineating an aesthetic experience will note the difference between what we might call the “aesthetic” and the “banal.” Johnson does not challenge the idea that we can separate the beautiful and the banal, but this distinction is not the point Dewey was making.7 Johnson wants to liberate philosophy from the ivory tower, to avoid the stultifying implications of an unnecessary mind/body dualism, and in part this mission requires the rescue of the body within frameworks such as philosophy and art, which have for various reasons repressed embodiment in order to elevate the transcendent. The physical, practical, necessary body should not drop out, and when thinkers neglect their bodies in Johnson’s stories, bad consequences follow. As Richard Shusterman puts it, the “rift between the practical and the aesthetic is not a necessary evil but a historic catastrophe” (22). In Johnson’s fiction, martial arts are often a pathway towards “philosophy as a way of life.” In “China,” Johnson’s most highly regarded martial arts story, an aging black postal worker whose life is on autopilot is inspired to join a martial arts training club one day when he watches a kung fu movie. At this point he begins to remake himself. A black man who is belatedly experiencing his midlife crisis goes to a martial arts school and, to use a Deweyan word, reconstructs himself; this largely physical alteration is, it can be shown, a highly philosophical act. His decision to treat his own life as a work of art in a process of aesthetic revision resonates with Rorty’s descriptions of the best way in which we can spend our time, but we also notice that Dewey and Shusterman’s insistence upon the continuities of culture are also treated with something like reverence in this story. Rudolph is not a college professor or a philosopher or an artist. He is a postal worker whose body is starting to fall apart, and his inspiration is not anything that exemplifies the “museum conception of art.” Bruce Lee was no one’s idea of a great actor, and Kung Fu Magazine is not known for the stylistic élan of its articles. In “China” aesthetic experience is not something that belongs to the wealthy; rather, it is that which leads to more vitality. It is shaped by peak experiences that Dewey calls “consummatory.” In Johnson’s story the consummatory moment occurs when Rudolph performs a physical movement that no one thought possible and which his wife observed. His relationship with his own body, with his wife, and with a community of men around him shifts dramatically, and the



consummatory moment only clarifies the web of experiences in a dramatic, retrospective manner. Bodies are embarrassing. If you are non-Asian and you talk about the inspirational value of an Asian athlete such as Bruce Lee, you could be called an orientalist. If you discuss a black man who attempts to reconstruct himself, perhaps you will be accused of focusing on the way American culture pressures us toward self-commodification. Critic Bill Brown, in his essay “Global Bodies/Postnationalities: Charles Johnson’s Consumer Culture,” attacks Johnson’s presentation of this theme for uncritically celebrating the American self-development marketplace, for the implicit claim that American culture is really world culture, and for presenting female characters merely as foils to prop up masculine identity (see my “Invisible Threads”), a charge that critics will revisit after Middle Passage. According to Brown, Woman serves as the immobile index by which to gauge the transformative achievements not just of modernity but also of postmodernity. Despite its emancipatory possibilities, de-Americanization seems to reinscribe some all-too-familiar aspects of its inverse, to destabilize the field of culture while reasserting asymmetries of gender (29).

In response to wife Evelyn’s complaints about the oddity of joining a “kwoon” and developing himself in strange ways, Johnson’s character Rudolph claims, “I only want to be what I can be” (24). Evelyn finds this unacceptable—as does Brown, linking Rudolph’s desire to “the U. S. Army’s famous slogan of the early 1980s—‘Be All You Can Be’—a slogan meant to recode the post-Vietnam military as the site of postpatriotic self-realization” (24). Extremes meet: a cultural conservative (such as the fictional Evelyn) and the culturally radical critic both fault Rudolph Johnson for failing to accept middle-aged decline.8 If Johnson’s martial arts stories come up from the body to restore continuity, Johnson’s philosophical stories, meaning stories about philosophers, often satirize the ways in which Mind snubs body and attempts to deny connections to the old neighborhood. A black academic has his head spun around in “Ale¯thia” by a sexually manipulative student who is, if we expand the concept, the better philosopher. Her web of ideas and practices overwhelms his web of ideas and practices. This story is narrated by a highly intellectual philosophy professor who is no match for his femme fatale, an Equal Opportunity Student: “Wendy was nobody’s fool—she used Niggerese playfully, like a toy, to bait, to draw me out. She was a witch, yes” (Sorcerer’s Apprentice 106). 9 This story especially dramatizes the dilemma of the black middle class, for Wendy powerfully exploits the professor’s fear that his own intellectualizations and idealism are



inherently unreal, at least in relation to her streetwise banter. After announcing that she requires a good grade to stay in school, she lets the professor know that she will say they slept together if he does not play along with her “‘A’ for a lay” scheme. Johnson’s presentations of stereotypical situations almost always depend on some sort of reversal, and in this case the typical power relations between teacher and student are clearly reversed: “She was armed with endless tricks and strategies, this black girl” (106). There are two central ambivalences in this story, one of which has to do with the eponymous character and the other having to do with the conclusion of the story. The character, as a lower-class, fast-talking hustler, is at once a predatory person who undermines the possibility of African American idealism. The professor’s own idealistic lectures are ridiculed by this character— but Johnson also relishes the utterly iconoclastic wit of such characters: “Yeah, I know you, Professor. We’re really ‘gods fallen into ruin,’ right? Didn’t you read that when you were a lonely, fat little boy? And you wasted all those years, learned twelve foreign languages, two of them dead ones, you dimwit, wanting Great Sacrifices and trials of faith, believing you could contribute to uplifting the Race—what else would a fat boy dream of?— only to learn, too late, that nobody wants your goddamn sacrifices. For all the degrees and books, you’re still a dork.” (108)

Wendy is utterly unintimidated by the Professor, who shrinks into a Prufrockian pair of ragged claws in the current of her critique. Her attack belittles him but also satirizes the academy in general: Waving her cigarette, she talked on like this, as if I had been perfectly blind my whole life. “Civil rights is high comedy. The old values are dead. Our money is plastic. Our art is murder. Our philosophy is a cackle, obscene and touching, from the tower. The universe explodes silently nowhere, and you’re disturbed, you old fossil, by decadent, erotic dreams, lonely, hollowed out, nothing left now but the Book—that boring ream of windy bullshit—you can’t fi nish.” (108)

At the conclusion of the story, after an evening of drugs and drinking, he wakes up in bed beside her. But as there is a doubleness to Johnson’s portrayal of the femme fatale, as if to say any idealism requires epistemological humility before the sharp-witted demands of this world, there are also two distinct but opposite ways of regarding the conclusion of this story. On the one hand, the weak Professor has succumbed, but it is also true that his confrontation with the world of samsaric desire is also an epiphanic opening into nirvana, for in the cosmology of Mahayana Buddhism in which Johnson often operates, the



distinction between the experience of heaven and the experience of hell is really a secondary delusion founded on the primary delusion that a permanent, unchanging self exists. Johnson presents the Professor’s fall as simultaneous to his witnessing a shining, interdependent wholeness to a world that had appeared fragmentary: . . . and suddenly I saw Wendy—not as the girl who shotgunned me with blackmail back at Padelford Hall, who made me jump like a trained seal; who stood outside me as another subject in a contest of wills—but, yes, as pure light, brilliance, fluid like the music, blending in a perfectly balanced world with players Muslims petty thieves black Jews lumpenproles Daleymachine politicians West Indian loungers Africans the drug peddlers who, when it came to the crunch, were, it was plain, pure light, too, the Whole in drag, and in that evanescent, drugged instant, I did indeed desperately love her. (111)10

This story concludes with the professor’s consummatory experience, although we do not know what happens in his life after his devastating awareness. Presumably, he has ruined his career, but there is also a suggestion that he has experienced a mysterious growth that has freed him from a number of delusions about himself. The phrase “the Whole in drag” is worth the price of the ticket and captures perfectly what I mean by “the embarrassment of the body.” We have to keep in mind both Johnson’s representation of a visionary moment and his ambiguous phrasing, for the phrase “the Whole in drag,” in giving us a glimpse of the strangeness and rarity of such a vision, also points up the ways in which it is antithetical to conventional American professional life. Johnson’s phrase points us directly toward the Whole, the totality, the enlightened perception of life, but the transcendent notion changes clothes faster than superman in a phone booth and comes out campy. A man in drag may fool one at first glance, but the Adam’s apple will poke through, perhaps shockingly. For the Whole, or Being, to be caught in drag suggests that any such vision is bound to be illusory, at least from the point of view of embodied existence. Does this phrasing suggest that the philosopher of “Ale¯thia” is deluded, or is the phrase Johnson’s wittiest expression of another idea altogether, the idea that enlightenment is always an illusion, but that perhaps it is a useful illusion—a regulative ideal rather than the permanent cessation of anxiety? On the one hand, it is possible to say that Johnson’s story of a staid professor’s inadvertent glimpse of the wholeness of life is a cure for the delusion that mind and spirit are distinct substances. Parallel to the delusion of a mind/ body split, the professor also suffers from other socially dualistic beliefs—about



professional as opposed to non-professional people, about blacks and whites, about upper-class and lower-class blacks in America—that have brought him to a state of despair about his own work. Possibly, the young woman is a Shiva-like goddess of destruction who prepares the way for a necessary renewal. She is not a model for cultural renewal, and she is a reminder that education, in the Deweyan sense, involves necessary disturbance. This disturbance, however, is not a Pavlovian gimmick to stimulate further mental activity; it is an indication that the live creature and the world have moved out of phase with one another. In way that could be styled as either Buddhist—of the sort to be described below—or Christian—in a humanistic, “fortunate fall” manner—this constant source of variation is the guarantee of a lifetime of potential growth. Certain strands of Buddhism speak of the “nonduality of samsara and nirvana,” indicating, confusingly, an equation between heaven and hell. If we understand impermanence as the root of suffering, then an altered relation to this impermanence might include a willingness to learn and grow from every disturbance, and the universe in its samsaric entirety has been transformed into one’s classroom. Such an understanding requires that one agree with Dewey’s disparagement of a kind of Nirvana that indicates a permanent psychological equilibrium without any possibility of mental stress. ZEN AND THE ART OF CONSUMMATION

This state of being that Dewey calls “inner harmony” is anything but permanent, and Dewey is in line with those Buddhist teachers who warn that clinging to the idea of enlightenment is a source of suffering rather than salvation: “The time of consummation is . . . one of beginning anew. Any attempt to perpetuate beyond its term the enjoyment attending the time of fulfi llment and harmony constitutes withdrawal from the world. Hence it marks the lowering and loss of vitality” (LW.10.23). The live creature, then, should not attempt to escape pain completely but should, rather, come to an improved relation to pain and impermanence that allows for the vicissitudes of life and a creative equilibrium in which, “through the phases of perturbation and confl ict, there abides the deep-seated memory of an underlying harmony, the sense which haunts life like the sense of being founded on a rock” (LW.10.23). The problem with discussing nonduality as it appears in many Asian philosophical discourses is that the notion of the ineffability of Totality, as opposed to our conceptual framing of it, is itself ineffable. The aphorism



“The fi nger pointing to the moon is not the moon” means that our words to describe the world are not the world. Put in a Derridean way, our attempts to speak about the world, rather than a portion of the world, are always already in question. The American Zen teacher and psychotherapist Wu Kwang (Richard Shrobe) echoes his teacher Seung Sahn when he entitles his book of essays, Open Mouth Already a Mistake. It is important to realize, however, that Wu Kwang’s title means that we must proceed through our mistakes and our partial knowledge. Many Zen discourses proceed with an aggressive flourish through an obstacle that is even defi ned as impossible or impassible, which may be why many martial artists have been drawn to this discourse. We must have a defi nition of some sort for nonduality, and philosophy David Loy provides an answer based on a sound strategy. Since we run into trouble when we attempt to fi x the fi nger/moon relationship, what we can do is compare the various fi ngers pointing to the moon and triangulate among the results as well as we can. In Loy’s approach, Zen, Taoist, and Vedantic discourses about Totality are compared. He does not promise us the moon, but neither does he try to give us the fi nger. His defi nition of nonduality, in brief, is nondifference between subject and object. A mind which attempts to understand the world as if mind were not part of the world, and as if the world “out there” were not part of mind, will always miss the mark. Nonduality occurs when the experience of a self-world separation drops out, although we can say this is a necessary rather than a sufficient condition, otherwise alcohol could substitute for meditation.11 The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that all of life is dukkha, meaning it is inherently unsatisfactory. The second truth is that craving is the source of suffering. The third truth is that the cessation of suffering can be achieved through the vanquishing of desire, and the fourth truth is that a set of eight particular practiced values are necessary to the vanquishing of desire. It would seem that Dewey and the Buddhists part ways at the third truth, as Dewey has rejected Nirvana as an illusory stasis, but this divorce of Buddhism and pragmatism is only necessary if we understand the Four Noble Truths sequentially rather than as a set of existential truths and embodied practices. That is to say, we do not graduate, because we practice so hard, from a state in which pain exists (First Noble Truth) to one in which pain does not exist (Third Noble Truth). Rather, the transformation is one in which the attempt to preserve a mental construct called “self ” is understood as inherently unstable, so one may leave suffering behind but not pain. Brief example: if you fall down and your knee hits the stairs, but you then repeat that pain through mental renditions of the fall, or if you refuse to let



go of the hurt, perhaps by engaging in a complicated lawsuit, then that extra pain, caused by your own craving, is called “suffering.” In an essay on Buddhism and engagement with the problems of the world, the novelist Johnson writes, “For me, it is axiomatic that while pain is inevitable in life, suffering is produced by the mind” (On Dharma 42). The Buddhist metanarrative, in which Prince Siddhartha Gautama had a happy protected life, became aware of suffering, began a spiritual quest, erred on the side of asceticism before discovering the way, attained complete enlightenment, and taught for forty-five years, asserts the possibility of the cessation of suffering (Third Noble Truth) through discipline (the Eightfold Path as asserted in the Fourth Noble Truth). If we can accept the pain/suffering distinction, and many Buddhists would not, then we can see how pain—and thus the human body—is an essential part of the Buddhist path towards nondual awareness. Pain is actually an important part of Zen pedagogy, as we fi nd in the teachings of Lin-chi, especially in the following passage from The Zen Teachings of Lin-chi (trans. Watson):12 The Master asked a monk, “Where did you come from?” The monk gave a shout. The Master bowed slightly and motioned for him to sit down. The monk was about to say something, whereupon the Master struck him a blow.

And then— The Master saw a monk coming and held his fly whisk straight up. The monk made a low bow, whereupon the Master struck him a blow. The Master saw another monk coming and again held his fly whisk straight up. The monk paid no attention, whereupon the Master struck him a blow as well. (Lin-chi 84)

In the fi rst monk’s shout there was a coming-together of body and mind, but then he attempted to speak, and it was the teacher’s duty to remind him that he “comes from” his body, not a set of speakable concepts. D. T. Suzuki discusses one of the most famous Zen koans in his Introduction to Zen Buddhism in ways that make but also miss the point I am making. When someone asked the teacher Dozan (usually transliterated “Tozan”) what Buddha (or Buddha-nature, or enlightenment) was, Dozan answered, “Three pounds of flax.” (Dozan was measuring out flax at the time.) According to Suzuki,



there are philosophers who . . . try to see something of pantheism . . . [in answers of this sort]. For instance, when the master says, “Three pounds of flax”, or “A dirt-scraper,” by this is apparently meant, they would insist, to convey the pantheistic idea. That is to say that those Zen masters consider the Buddha to be manifesting himself in everything: in the flax, in the piece of wood, in the running stream, in the towering mountains, or in works of art. Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen, seems to indicate something of the spirit of pantheism, but nothing is in fact farther from Zen than this representation. The masters from the beginning have foreseen this dangerous tendency, and that is why they make those apparently incoherent statements. (78)

So far so good: Suzuki highlights the way in which Zen teachers have defended nonduality from our attempts to fi x it conceptually, but then he is betrayed by the linguistic habits that reinscribe the mind-body duality. Suzuki writes: Their inclination is to set the minds of their disciples or of scholars free from being oppressed by any fi xed opinion or prejudices or so-called logical interpretations. When Dozan (Tung-shan, a disciple of Ummon) answered, “Three pounds of flax,” to the question, “What is the Buddha?”—which, in the way, is the same thing as asking, “What is God?”—he did not mean that the flax he might have been handling at the time was a visible manifestation of Buddha, that Buddha when seen with an eye of intelligence could be met within every object. His answer simply was, “Three pounds of flax.” He did not imply anything metaphysical in this plain matter-of-fact utterance. These words came out of his inmost consciousness as the water flows out of the spring, or as the bud bursts forth in the sun. There was no premeditation or philosophy on his part. Therefore, if we want to grasp the meaning of “Three pounds of flax,” we fi rst have to penetrate into the inmost recess of Dozan’s consciousness and not to try to follow up his mouth. (78–79, my emphasis)

One could say, without privileging consciousness over world in the way that Suzuki does, that Dozan not only says but also performs nonduality: he is measuring out flax at the moment, so nonduality, or the nondifference of subject and object, must include “three pounds of flax.” This is also, I would suppose, the suggestion/performance of Ummon’s assertion, in answer to the same question, that Buddha is “a dried shit-stick.” The iconoclastic image is the verbal equivalent of the punch in the ribs Lin-chi received from his teacher Ta-yu that clarified his approach (Lin-chi 104–6). At other moments in this text, Lin-chi is explicit about his pedagogy. He is most concerned about a conceptualization that removes nondual experience from bodily reality: “The way I see it, we should cut off the heads of the Bliss-body and Transformationbody buddhas” (26). Lin-chi has no time for the fetishization of concepts or



the creation of a Buddhist metaphysics. Instead, he counsels students to learn by doing: “If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sit, sit. But never for a moment set your mind on seeking Buddhahood” (26). In part, Lin-chi is warning the student to be mindful of continuity, as one makes a grave error if one sets the “mind on seeking Buddhahood” in a way that separates such an improved mode of experience from the world we actually inhabit. When we know ourselves to be in the presence of something larger than what we can know, then we are in the presence of a mystery, and Johnson’s favorite phrase “epistemological humility” is only one possible response to mystery. The interesting thing about Johnson’s phrase is that he believes that epistemological humility is a state we should try to cultivate all the time, which suggests that we are always in the presence of mystery. Here the flavor begins to change from the Anglo-Western to the Far Eastern philosophical traditions, and many Western intellectuals feel contempt for the airy-fairy mystical aspects of the language that has transmitted such philosophical thoughts. At one point in Art as Experience, for example, Dewey derides Nirvana. If the vocabularies for discussing such terms then were as flexible in Dewey’s day as they are now, Dewey might not have sneered. Though he would always reject the uselessness to the problems of human life of an ideal state with no emotional flux—something many Buddhists in the world continue to believe in—he would not have sneered at Totality as an unknowably complex field of events and causation characterized by an impermanence that will always disrupt human discipline. This is what is meant, I believe, when another Far Eastern philosophical text, the Tao Te Ching, begins by telling readers that The Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name. (McDonald; see “Laozi”)

This is only the fi rst verse of the discourse and not an insistence on paralytic silence, but clearly it is a warning that we cannot hope to capture it exactly in human words.13 To put the matter in Rortyan terms, Lao Tzu begins his famous discourse by throwing out the mirror of nature. However, throwing out the idea that the world can be mirrored in language does not mean that nature itself can be tossed aside. The lines assert that “The Tao” and “The name that can be spoken” both exist but that we should be humble about our ability to link them up. Whether or not we can control our experience of the world by controlling language, Dewey’s position in Art as Experience is that the gap between



self and world may be narrowed in a moment of communion. The aesthetic experience, when it culminates in what Dewey calls the consummatory experience, is essentially mystical, though we miss this because we understand Dewey as anything but a mystical writer. Furthermore, Dewey writes about our embodied response to nature, and since many readers will think of mysticism and naturalism as opposites, the nonduality of these possible experiences may go completely unnoticed. Here is how Dewey discusses the writer W. H. Hudson’s mystical response to nature: “The mystic aspect of acute esthetic surrender, that renders it so akin as an experience to what religionists term ecstatic communion, is recalled by Hudson from his boyhood life” (LW.10.35). Dewey explicitly argues that the sensuous element in art allows for connection to mystery: There is no limit to the capacity of immediate sensuous experience to absorb into itself meanings and values that in and of themselves—that is in the abstract—would be designated as “ideal” and “spiritual.” The animistic strain of religious experience, embodied in Hudson’s memory of his childhood days, is an instance on one level of experience. And the poetical, in whatever medium, is always a close kin of the animistic (LW.10.36).

Most importantly, Dewey denies that divinity and the magical powers that may be accessed through such “primitive” rites are dualistically distinct from the aesthetic pleasures we would infer from such sensuous accoutrements. Dewey writes that incense, stained glass, and bells “accompany the approach to what is regarded as divine,” and he asserts that “Only those so far removed from the earlier experience as to miss their sense” will conclude that such magicgenerating ritual is dualistically distinct from aesthetic pleasures such as we may experience before a painting or within the covers of a book (LW.10.36). Dewey borrows the word “ethereal” from Keats and underscores his intention in drawing on the particular passage in question. He wishes to make explicitly clear that aesthetic experience will not conform to our dualistic categories. Dewey is worth quoting at length in this regard: In the title of this chapter I took the liberty of borrowing from Keats the word ‘ethereal’ to designate the meanings and values that many philosophers and some critics suppose are inaccessible to sense, because of their spiritual, eternal and universal characters—thus exemplifying the common dualism of nature and spirit. Let me re-quote his words. The artist may look ‘upon the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Earth and its contents as materials to form greater things, that is ethereal things—greater things than the Creator himself made.’ (LW.10.38)



This “dualism of nature and spirit,” or, at other times, of mind and body, are language habits that get in the way of clear perception. It is an error to suppose dualistically that “ethereal” things are inaccessible to sense, and in this case the mind/body duality is especially apt. Notice how Dewey describes the heightened state of flow that occurs between the live creatures he describes and the inanimate environments they inhabit, and notice also that art is not dualistically constrained to expensive museums while popular pleasurable activities and objects are found to be subartistic: The sources of art in human experience will be learned by him who sees how the tense grace of the ball-player infects the onlooking crowd; who notes the delight of the housewife in tending her plants, and the intent interest of her Goodman in tending the patch of green in front of the house; the zest of the spectator in poking the wood burning on the hearth and in watching the darting fl ames and crumbling coals. These people, if questioned as to the reason for their actions, would doubtless return reasonable answers. . . . What Coleridge said of the reader of poetry is true in its way of all who are happily absorbed in their activities of mind and body: “The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, not by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution, but by the pleasurable activity of the journey itself ” (LW.10.11).

This scene resonates nicely with Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow,” in which one reaches an optimized state through the selection of appropriate challenges.14 It is a sign of flow the sense of time and self as even slightly burdensome have dropped out, leaving more room to focus on the problem at hand. In a number of respects, the consummatory experience Dewey describes as the heart of art resembles the Zen attitude and state of mind promoted by writers such as D.T. Suzuki. Dewey does not seem in any respect to be a participant in the orientalist cultural moment in which a writer adopts interests in Asian philosophy or religion in order to present himself as more worldly than others and perhaps even as one who has learned new mental powers through the practice of meditation. One reason to connect pragmatism and Buddhism is that the aims of the two systems of thought may be much closer than they at fi rst appear, and the writer who I have been discussing, Charles Johnson, is a practicing Buddhist who teaches martial arts classes from his home in Seattle, Washington. We may be able to locate the mysticism missing from Rorty’s account and supplement Dewey’s aesthetic recommendations in subsequent paragraphs. Dewey discusses nonduality in “The Live Creature,” his fi rst chapter of Art as Experience, and intriguingly distinguishes it from Nirvana. Dewey



distinguishes his notion of harmony from Nirvana as a rigid, fundamentalist ideal, and his framing of the discussion shares qualities with a Buddhist point of view. He begins be establishing what Buddhist commentators would call the Middle Way: There are two sorts of possible worlds in which esthetic experience would not occur. In a world of mere flux, change would not be cumulative; it would not move toward a close. Stability and rest would have no being. Equally is it true, however, that a world that is fi nished, ended, would have no traits of suspense and crisis, and would offer no opportunity for resolution. Where everything is already complete, there is no fulfi llment. We envisage with pleasure Nirvana and a uniform heavenly bliss only because they are projected upon the background of our present world of stress and confl ict (LW.10.22).

Nirvana, insofar as it is conceived to be a regulative ideal rather than a static, fi nal state, gives us pleasure and perhaps an Archimedean mental standpoint within our actual world of flux and impermanence. While many Buddhists in practice hold to the reality of such archetypes, many contemporary teachers, following the Zen tradition at its most iconoclastic, are given to shredding such reifications. The American Buddhist teacher Robert Aitken explicitly refers to the ideal of “interbeing,” Thich Nhat Hahn’s ideal formulation in which self and other experience codependent relationality as a “luminous archetype.”15 Whether it is called “Nirvana” or “interbeing,” this ideal image is not a recommendation that one cease and desist from the work of everyday life. The problem of stasis that Dewey writes about is one that Buddhist teachers and practitioners recognize. Johnson writes, “as every practitioner knows, hankering for the experience of nirvana—enlightenment and liberation—is a major impediment on the path, an obstacle to addressing the real, quotidian demands of the here, the now” (47). In a Deweyan reconstruction of Nirvana, an inner harmony “is attained only when . . . terms are made with the environment” (LW.10.23). It becomes the basis of the “consummation” that distinguishes an experience from experience generally. For Dewey, one kind of pleasure can momentarily distract one from pain, whereas another sort of pleasure can alter our relationship to the world: “happiness and delight are a different sort of thing” from pleasure in that they “come to be through a fulfi llment that reaches to the depths of our being—one that is an adjustment of our whole being with the conditions of existence” (LW.10.23). Spiritual experience, like aesthetic consummatory experience, should be measured not just in terms of the depth of feeling achieved but rather in terms of duration of the experience’s effects. Writing



about Vedanta, Christopher Isherwood suggests that “A true spiritual experience, even one of lesser intensity, must at least slightly affect the experiencer for the rest of his life” (13).16 IN THE MOUNTAINS

Isherwood’s notion of the spiritual experience is fully compatible with Dewey’s notion of the consummatory experience on two counts. First, it is an experience that is important not just for the way it impresses a person in the moment but much more for the way in which it reshapes the life as a whole. Secondly, Isherwood and Dewey agree that such experiences are not departures from the reality usually disparaged as “quotidian.” Dewey writes, “For many persons an aura of mingled awe and unreality encompasses the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘ideal’ while ‘matter’ has become by contrast a term of depreciation, something to be explained away or apologized for” (LW.10.12). This division of mind from matter has had a number of unfortunate consequences, and the one Dewey points to directly in this connection is the disenchantment of everyday life: “The forces at work are those that have removed religion as well as fi ne art from the scope of the common or community life” (LW.10.12). The fi ne arts, when segregated to the upper-class world by the “museum conception of art,” become the mark of social division rather than one of social interdependence and communication. The appreciation of art and the appreciation of democratic experience are fully interchangeable here, and appreciation requires a middle way between appreciating the especially valuable elements—throwing away the rest—and denying that there are any especially valuable elements to be appreciated. Dewey links the consummatory element of aesthetic experience to the quotidian element in such a way as to argue that the most searching and influential moments of art—those parts that can properly be compared to mystical experience in their concrete effects on individual lives—do not transcend but rather depend on quotidian experience: When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement. A primary task is thus imposed upon one who undertakes to write upon the philosophy of the fine arts. This task is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the



everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience. Mountain peaks do not float unsupported (LW.10.9).

To democratize art along Deweyan lines would not, however, mean that all experience is the same or that all art is equally significant. While Dewey argues against the “museum conception of art” and other elitist notions that reserve supposedly superior cultural products for the enjoyment of the wealthiest members of society, Dewey in no way suggests that all aesthetic experience is consummatory. The mountains are not separate from the earth, but mountain peaks do exist. The assertion of continuities and relational interdependence does not indicate that everything is a bland average. Dewey used the figure of mountain peaks to link peak aesthetic experiences to experience more generally, writing that “Mountain peaks do not float unsupported; they do not even just rest upon the earth. They are the earth in one of its manifest operations” (LW.10.9). Dewey does not deny that mountain peaks (or consummatory aesthetic experiences) exist, but he does deny vehemently that they exist independently of the innumerable factors of existence that condition them, such as mountain peaks, works of art, aesthetic responses to works of art, political ideals, human selves. His thinking parallels that of Do¯gen Eihei, the Japanese monk who transmitted Lin-chi’s lineage to Japan in the thirteenth century. Do¯gen wrote, “All mountains walk with their toes on all waters and splash there” (101). We fail to understand any part of existence when we slice it off and deny, for the sake of analytic rigor, the ecological interconnections between the phenomenon and the world it inhabits. To understand a mountain, or Enlightenment, or consummatory experience, or democratic ideals, we must understand that peak experience as a part of an embodied ecology. Such things are not ethereal spirits that are precious because they have escaped the evils of embodiment. NOTES 1. Steve Odin has connected Pragmatism and Buddhist nondualism in The Social Self in Zen and American Buddhism and Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West. In the latter, Odin discusses Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values to critique some of Dewey’s hostile statements about disinterestedness. Drawing on Pirsig’s connections between aesthetic experience and the cultivation of disinterestedness in Zen meditation, Odin finds that “Pirsig’s novel presents an East-West model of artistic detachment wherein awareness of pervasive quality by an aesthetic attitude combining distance with involvement culminates in a reconstruction of experience through the imaginative transformation of life into art” (Artistic Detachment 88). Odin’s



review of Dewey’s hostility to theories of detachment provides an impressive contexualization of Dewey’s use of the word nirvana, as I will discuss it in this essay. 2. Two articles were published after this chapter had taken shape which connect Charles Johnson with the larger American pragmatist tradition. Though they do not discuss Johnson in relation to Dewey or pragmatist aesthetics, they contain valuable information about ethical dimensions of pragmatism that have been especially appealing to Johnson as an African-American novelist, and they are also insightful about Johnson’s resistance to certain aspects of this tradition. In “‘Go there’: The Critical Pragmatism of Charles Johnson,” William Gleason characterizes as “pragmatist” Johnson’s “interest in the enabling and inherently integrative processes of democracy, processes that for Johnson are best understood and accessed through acts of reading, thinking, and critical interpretation” (99–100). Gary Storhoff connects Johnson with the Pragmatism of Cornel West especially but also with Buddhism in “Pragmatic Ethics in Charles Johnson’s Fiction,” focusing on “virtue ethics” in relation to Johnson’s work. 3. A conversation has no particular end in mind at the beginning and differs in this way from a legal deposition, a sales pitch, a political speech, or a religious invocation. We are as concerned about the process as we are about concrete results when we have a conversation, but to regard democracy as something analogous to conversation does not mean that we are leaving behind material, moral, or political concerns. For connections between William James, Richard Rorty, and the proto-Pragmatist Ralph Waldo Emerson, see my “Conversation Among Pragmatist Philosophers.” 4. In Democracy and Education Dewey argues that democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. These more numerous and more varied points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness shuts out many interests. (MW.9.93) 5. Pragmatists often discuss whether or not Rorty gets Dewey right, but Rorty provocatively dismisses the idea of getting something right as a useless remnant of foundationalist thinking: “I think there is no point in asking whether Lincoln or Whitman or Dewey got America right. Stories about what a nation has been and should try to be are not attempts at accurate representation, but rather attempts to forge a moral identity” (Achieving Our Country 13). However, Rorty approves when “Andrew Delbanco gets Dewey exactly right” for saying, in Emerson’s words, that



“the only sin is limitation” (33, 34). For another critique of Rorty’s uses of recent American political fiction, see Rampton’s “Perplexed Artistry.” 6. While Rorty has emphatically defended the line between secular and religious space in response to claims that religious morality has a role to play in public deliberations, he brings religious enthusiasm and language into his text on almost every page. Achieving Our Country is a kind of sermon in praise of democratic civic religion. Throughout the fi rst of the three addresses, Rorty praises civil religion (38) and even follows Whitman to declare the Declaration of Independence to be a kind of “Easter dawn” (22). 7. Johnson, of all writers, is not saying that everything in the world is equally beautiful. He despises, in particular, the ways in which African American hip hop performers are hailed by consumers as crude and lewd performers, for this predisposition to see African American performers as sexy and earthy ultimately reaffi rms racist social relations by associating black America with what Johnson has called “prison culture.” Johnson is anything but a postmodern relativist. His “democratic aesthetic” has to do with challenging prejudices about high and low art and about the compartmentalization of philosophy. 8. The charge that Johnson is uncritical of the colonial presumptions of American national identity necessarily ignores Johnson’s radical critique of all “identities” as such. 9. Narrator Matthew Bishop will use “Niggerese” again in Dreamer to describe the language of Martin Luther King’s streetwise alter-ego, Chaym Smith. 10. This stream-of-consciousness passage, which connects to Ralph Ellison and through Ellison to James Joyce, could be criticized for presenting the wish for enlightenment as the thing itself, but this is the perennial problem of a nondualistic aesthetic: insofar as the reader notices its effects, the work of art maintains (rather than dissolves) a subject/object duality. “Ale¯thia,” like many of the stories in Sorcerer’s Apprentice, clarifies the more ambitious strategies of Johnson’s work. 11. Ineffability is a notoriously hard subject to discuss, but efforts have been made. In Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy, David Loy discusses three Asian philosophical systems that presuppose a nondual metaphysics (Buddhism, Taoism, and Vedanta), but he must begin by acknowledging the astounding diffi culties of this endeavor: In all the Asian systems that incorporate this claim, the nondual nature of reality is indubitably revealed only in what they term enlightenment or liberation (nirvana, moksa, satori, etc.), which is the experience of nonduality. That experience is the hinge upon which each metaphysic turns, despite the fact that such enlightenment has different names in the various systems and is often described in very different ways. Unlike Western philosophy, which prefers to reflect on the dualistic experience accessible to all, these systems make far-reaching epistemological and ontological claims on the



basis of counterintuitive experience accessible to very few—if we accept their accounts, only to those who are willing to follow the necessarily rigorous path, who are very few. It is not that these claims are not empirical, but if they are true, they are grounded on evidence not readily available. This is the source of the difficulty in evaluating them. (4) Nonduality, simply put, is the “nondifference of subject and object” (25), which is to say that it is an experience of a self that has shifted dramatically beyond our skinbound sense of self. Loy quotes the following sentence from Do¯gen: “I came to realize clearly that mind is not other than mountains, rivers, and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars” (25). 12. Gary Snyder, Burton Watson, and others worked on this text and developed a manuscript for translation while Snyder studied in a Zen monastery in Japan. Watson later returned to the text and made use of the committee versions when producing his own translation. 13. Naming the unnamable is only one part of the problem of discussing Totality; the second problem is in translating someone else’s non-naming of the unnamable. 14. Dewey describes the process through which a divided experience of past, present, and future gives way to a unified experience of time: “Even when not overanxious, we do not enjoy the present because we subordinate it to that which is absent. Because of the frequency of this abandonment of the present to the past and future, the happy periods of an experience that is now complete because it absorbs into itself memories of the past and anticipations of the future, come to constitute an esthetic ideal” (LW.10.24). Dewey goes further, arguing that life is incomplete without experiences of the sort described: “Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive” (LW.10.24). See, for a phenomenological account for the relationship between such states of “flow” and the sources of human happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. 15. In a letter to the author (28 January 1988), Aitken describes the essence of right speech: “The practice is to speak inclusively. This is very difficult. I once heard Thich Nhat Hanh say, with reference to a particularly troublesome adversary, ‘I can’t deal with that person.’ So the very inventor of the term ‘interbeing’ fails his own luminous archetype. We can only do our best.” 16. “A spiritual experience can only be properly judged by its intensity; the intensity, that is, of its after-effect on the experiencer. It is no use trying to decide whether or not a certain experience was spiritual by analysing its circumstances; these may have been produced by some quite external cause, such as sickness or the use of certain drugs. One should not ask oneself ‘was my experience an hallucination or not?’ but rather ‘what has my experience left with me, now that it is over?’ A true spiritual experience, even one of lesser intensity, must at least slightly affect the experiencer for the rest of his life” (Isherwood 13).


When Dewey’s Confucian Admirer Meets His Liberal Critic Liang Shuming and Eamonn Callan on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education


As the fi rst foreign scholar to be invited to lecture in China, John Dewey was a well-known figure in the Chinese intellectual circles during the 1920s and 1930s. His two-year visit (1919–1921) left a lasting impression on those who were receptive to his teachings on education, science, and democracy. The renowned neo-Confucian philosopher, rural educator, and social reformer Liang Shuming 梁漱溟 (1893–1988) was a case in point.1 Liang was deeply impressed by Dewey’s seminal work, Democracy and Education (MW.9), in which Dewey had presented a more profound and comprehensive conception of education than anything he had encountered before. Liang reviewed Dewey’s book in a lecture given at Shandong Rural Reconstruction Research Institute, an institution he founded to help develop a modern, and yet Confucian, culture in China.2 Compared with the other essays on Dewey written by his Chinese disciples such as Hu Shih and Jiang Menglin to promote his thought in China, Liang’s review (Fundamental Ideas) has been largely neglected. Nonetheless, Liang’s essay on Dewey merits scholarly 163



attention because it is a penetrating analysis of Dewey’s ideas from Confucian perspectives. I fi rst introduce Liang’s unique interpretations of Dewey to the Englishreading public, hoping to shed a new light on the commonalities between Dewey and Confucius. To elaborate on the theme, I contrast Liang’s Confucian analysis of Dewey with a liberal critique of Dewey by a contemporary philosopher of education, Eamonn Callan. In “Education for Democracy: Dewey’s Illiberal Philosophy of Education,” Callan argues that Dewey places the value of fraternal solidarity above that of human individuality, thus sacrificing the democratic ideal of human freedom. By juxtaposing these two contrasting views of Dewey—Liang’s affi rmation of Dewey’s insights into human sociality and Callan’s denunciation of Dewey’s intolerance of human individuality—I intend to highlight the problem of reading Dewey’s philosophy in light of the notion of the autonomous, discrete individual underlying liberal democracy. In conclusion, I address Liang’s critique of Dewey. LIANG SHUMING’S REVIEW OF DEMOCRACY AND EDUCATION: A CONFUCIAN PERSPECTIVE

Liang Shuming acclaims Dewey’s conception of education for encompassing life itself. Liang argues that life is the central concept in Dewey and that his understanding of education derives from his view of life. Since Dewey understands human life to be ineluctably social, he sees education to be possible and necessary only where individual life intersects with social life. As Liang comments, “where there are no people, there is no education; and where there is only one person, there is no education” (Fundamental Ideas 120). Liang suggests that, in reading Democracy and Education, one should start with chapter four, “Education as Growth,” which explores the meaning of life from an individual perspective, and then continue with chapters three, two, one, and fi nally chapter seven, “The Democratic Conception in Education,” which address the educative nature and function of social life. Liang believes that in so reading, one can better comprehend the meaning of individual life in the larger context of social life and thus better grasp Dewey’s central contention that democracy is education and education is democracy. Even though I do not disagree with Liang’s suggestion for the order of reading, I think that Dewey has his own purpose by starting the book the way he did. The opening chapter, “Education as a Necessity of Life,” actually points to the central concept of Dewey’s philosophy as Liang interprets it, namely, life. It is therefore paramount to begin with a fundamental inquiry


into life itself. To explore the nature of life, one needs to compare it with nonlife. This is the reason Dewey begins his treatise on education by talking about a stone: “A stone when struck resists. If its resistance is greater than the force of the blow struck, it remains outwardly unchanged. Otherwise, it is shattered into smaller pieces. Never does the stone attempt to react in such a way as to render the blow a contributing factor to its own continued action.” A living thing, on the other hand, “tries to turn the energies which act upon it into means of its own further existence.” Having pointed out the difference between living and inanimate things, Dewey thus defi nes life as “a selfrenewing process through action upon the environment” (MW.9.4). Dewey’s defi nition of life reveals his profound insight that life is constantly active and invariably interactive. The stone, for example, is not active; its relationship with the environment is one-sided. There is little interaction between the stone and its environment, save when it is struck by some force. Even in this case, the interaction is mechanistic and passive, for it merely reacts. The living thing is different. It not only reacts but also acts. As Dewey says, the plant actively uses light, air, water, and soil as means for its own conservation. Consequently, the plant does not remain just the way it is; it grows. All forms of life are interactive with their surrounding environments. The higher the forms of life, the more active they are, and the more complex, dynamic, and vital are their interactions and relationships with the environment. The idea implied in Dewey’s defi nition of life is that only by continuously renewing itself does life become truly vital, as opposed to being merely routine, passive, mechanical, and ultimately deadening. In many passages, Dewey emphasizes the importance of action and interaction in defi ning and fulfi lling the potentialities of life. Liang remarks that, like Confucius, Dewey has penetrated deeply into the vital and dynamic nature of living creatures and has developed his philosophy to reflect this fundamental truth. In Liang’s words, Dewey’s philosophy and Confucianism share the same theoretical point of departure, that is, “Life is naturally so (such as naturally active and interactive), and all we have to do is to keep it so” (Fundamental Ideas 133). Having distinguished nonlife from life and lower forms of life from higher ones, Dewey proceeds to discuss human life as a special form of life that most fully expresses these active and interactive characteristics. Dewey starts with the beginning of human life. Liang comments that Dewey’s philosophy is deep and thorough because he always tries to trace the origin of things, to “start from the very beginning,” as Liang puts it (Fundamental Ideas 124). By comparing human infants with the young of lower animals, Dewey shows that humans are uniquely active due to their plasticity and



their ability to develop and grow. Their initially weak and ignorant status is not to be seen as a disadvantage; instead, it prepares them for the development of higher intelligences. Even though human lives depend on the acquisition of habits, as other animals do, they are not entirely conditioned and controlled by their habits. Humans acquire a habit of learning; they learn to learn. Therefore, their lives are not limited to a few possibilities but are open to immense opportunities for growth. According to Liang, Dewey rightly understands that the most active part of human life—and the universe at large—is renxin 人心, the human heartand-mind (Fundamental Ideas 120). In fact, what Dewey often says about “conscious life” and “reflective thinking” are variations of the same emphasis on the activeness of life. For Dewey, humans are vitally active and alive when they display personal initiative, demonstrate intellectual curiosity, and engage in reflective inquiry. A conscious and reflective person is one who clearly perceives the connection between every act of trying and undergoing, between every activity and its consequences. The opposite of clarity in consciousness are blindness, capriciousness and rigidity. In fact, Dewey’s five-stage theory of reflective thinking demonstrates the workings of a vital heart-and-mind, which are the outcomes of education broadly understood as learning from life itself. As Dewey emphasizes, “The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the fi nest product of schooling” (MW.9.56). In addition to being the most active form of life, human life is also the most interactive and interdependent with the surrounding environment. The fact that human infants are dependent upon the extensive care of others implies an essentially social environment for human development and growth. As Dewey notes, the defi ning environment of a fish is water, whereas the defi ning environment of humans is society (MW.9.15.). However, Dewey does not take society to mean society at large, or an abstract antithesis of the individual, but individuals in relation to each other (Tan 65). Indeed, as Liang observes, Dewey’s writings are fi lled with profound insights into the nature of human sociality. For example, Dewey observes that unlike lower animals that possess “physical gifts,” human infants are endowed with “social gifts” right from the beginning of their lives: “The relative ability of the young of brute animals to adapt themselves fairly well to physical conditions from an early period suggests the fact that their life is not intimately bound up with the life of those about them . . . Human infants, on the other hand, can get along with physical incapacity just because of their social capacity.” Dewey adds that “children are gifted with an equipment of the fi rst order for social


intercourse.” As he explains, “Few grown-up persons retain all of the flexible and sensitive ability of children to vibrate sympathetically with the attitudes and doings of those about them. Inattention to physical things (going with incapacity to control them) is accompanied by a corresponding intensification of interest and attention as to the doings of people.” In this respect, Dewey believes that even though children are often thought to be egocentric, there is no contradiction in holding that “the native mechanism of the child and his impulses all tend to facile social responsiveness” (MW.9.48). As Liang observes, Dewey and Confucius share the same conception of social individuals, for they both understand that humans are inevitably bound together by their very nature. Since human life is naturally social, education, to be worthy of the name, must be essentially social and moral. Liang claims that by education Dewey means educating the human-heart-and-mind for a social life. He notes that Dewey ends his book by reminding readers what it means to be moral: “All education which develops power to share effectively in social life is moral” and particularly that “interest in learning from all the contacts of life is the essential moral interest” (MW.9.370). Liang laments the fact that most people fail to understand Dewey’s view of morality because they have a narrow and rigid conception of morality as following rules or obeying duty. Any form of education that is vitally social must result from communication—communication of habits of doing, thinking, and feeling—for the purpose of forming a genuine democratic community based on a common understanding of interests and aims and a common appreciation for these interests and aims. As Liang interprets Dewey, this is a “communication of the heart-and-mind,” characterized by “understanding and willing,” which is seriously lacking in modern society (Fundamental Ideas 132, 130). The advancement of modern science and technology has contributed to great changes in associations and contacts among people. However, most of these contacts remain mechanical, routine, and alienating because the human heart-and-mind is not well educated enough to learn from social life itself. The purpose of democracy as a way of life, or a way to learn from social life, is to break down all kinds of artificial barriers that mark one person or group as superior and another as inferior and to acknowledge the fact that we are all superior and inferior in one way or another and that we all need to learn from one another. One of Confucius’ sayings, in fact, perfectly illustrates Dewey’s democratic conviction: “In strolling in the company of two other persons, I am bound to fi nd a teacher. Identifying their strengths, I follow them, and



identifying their weaknesses, I reform myself accordingly” (Analects 7.22). Democracy aims to ensure that all social contacts and communications are inherently genuine, intellectually stimulating, emotionally satisfying, and morally rewarding for all participants—that is, educative. The more interactive and communicative a given mode of social life is, the more democratic it is. The more democratic means the more educative. The more educative means the more fully human and alive. For Dewey as well as for Confucius, social life provides the essential nutrition for one’s moral and intellectual growth. Social life refers to the communicative processes of living and working with others. Dewey says, “Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience.” To prove his point, Dewey suggests, “Try the experience of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will fi nd your own attitude toward your experience changing.” He explains, “The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated. To formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another would see it, considering what points of contact it has with the life of another so that it may be got into such form that he can appreciate its meaning” (MW.9.8). This is why Dewey contends that “All communication is like art” and that “any social arrangement that remains vitally social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate in it.” Dewey concludes that “The very process of living together educates. It enlarges and enlightens experience; it stimulates and enriches imagination; it creates responsibility for accuracy and vividness of statement and thought” (MW.9.9). Liang is right on target when he insists that one will not understand the true meaning of education merely from an individual’s viewpoint (Fundamental Ideas 125). Dewey’s greatest insight lies in the way he conceives of education as connecting individual life with social life—and ultimately to a flourishing human life itself. The interplay between individual life and social life makes the human form of life the most active, interactive, and educative. Liang is also insightful when he comments that broadly speaking, experience, education, and democracy all mean the same thing to Dewey. As Dewey writes later in life, “faith in democracy is all one with faith in experience and education” (LW.14.229). Dewey has always made it very clear that education is not identical with schooling, for schooling only encompasses a small segment of life—and a rather artificial one. Education has a much broader meaning; it is an essential


fabric of life itself. It is not too much to say that education, broadly understood as learning from life itself, is the vocation of humanity. For Dewey, democracy as a way of life is the best means to realize that human vocation. Dewey admits that the necessity of teaching and learning for human life may sound like a truism, but the emphasis helps draw our attention from an unduly scholastic, formal, and superficial notion of education as schooling (MW.9.7). Dewey wants to ground his philosophy of education fi rmly in the larger context of social life itself. Any interpretation that fails to take this into account often leads to grave misunderstandings. Those who insist on human autonomy overlook the fact that human actions are mutually responsive and influential in a positive way. Dewey’s insights into the connection between human individuality and sociality often do not fi nd receptive ears in the predominately individualistic culture of his native land, where the question of becoming one’s own person is often regarded as more important than the question of becoming fully human. I will discuss Eamonn Callan’s essay to illustrate this point. Despite the fact that Callan’s essay was written two decades ago and that Callan might have reconsidered his views in light of scholarship on Dewey since then, I believe that a discussion of this early essay is useful, for it highlights the problem of reading Dewey from the perspective of rights-based liberalism. EAMONN CALLAN’S CRITIQUE OF DEWEY: A LIBERAL PERSPECTIVE

In his essay “Education for Democracy: Dewey’s Illiberal Philosophy of Education,” Callan argues that Dewey’s theory of democracy accords fundamental importance to “fraternal solidarity” at the expense of human freedom and individuality. Particularly, Callan takes issue with the criteria of democracy Dewey proposed in chapter seven of Democracy and Education. To measure the worth of a given mode of social life, Dewey suggests that we consider these two questions: “How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of association?” (MW.9.89) Callan infers from this that “The more numerous and varied the consciously shared interests, and the more full and free the interaction with other social groups, the better and more democratic the society.” Therefore, Callan concludes, “To approximate Dewey’s ideal democracy, members of a particular society must not only cultivate shared interests and engage in extensive interaction with other groups. It is also necessary that these interests are shared by all the society’s members, or at least by as many as possible, and are



not merely unique to some small group” (168). Callan contends that Dewey’s defi nition of democracy “entails that idiosyncratic or minority interests are socially undesirable. They do not enhance the worth of the society since they are not widely shared” (170). Callan further objects that “even when an interest in the art of the past or in astronomy, say, makes me rather antisocial it would surely be wrong to conclude that my interest is undesirable” (174). In his conclusion, Callan claims that “Dewey’s theory of democracy is drastically at variance with the democratic ideal of human freedom because it carries with it . . . a grossly restricted view of what counts as socially desirable personal development; and for that reason his educational philosophy is essentially illiberal” (175). Let us analyze Callan’s assumptions. Suppose that a given mode of social life includes individual members, A1, A2, A3, A4 . . . and A n+1. A1 has an interest in X1. For X1 to be socially desirable, X1 has to be shared by A2, A3, A4 . . . and so forth. The worth of X1 is determined by the number of people having the same interest, X1. If A1 is the only person having X1, A1 should give up X1 and pursue some other interests that a greater number of people share. The obvious implication of Callan’s inference is that the number of people sharing an interest, say X1, should be numerous, but the number of interests being shared may and perhaps should be limited. This inference, though seemingly sound, is a grossly restricted view of what Dewey means by sharing an interest. There are many ways to interpret the meaning of interest and of “sharing an interest.” Callan takes interest to mean a thing one enjoys doing, like a hobby, and “to share an interest” means to like the same things. Even though this does not entirely contradict what Dewey intends to say, it nonetheless represents a very narrow conception of Dewey’s meanings. Interests can be shared and communicated in many different ways. In a broad sense, interest denotes an intellectual and emotional inclination, as represented by the phrase, “to be interested in.” Therefore, to share an interest does not merely mean to have or to pursue the same interest. It means to participate in, to enjoy, or to experience jointly with another. It can also mean to care about and to be concerned with the same things. In this respect, I can be interested in hearing about and thus sharing Callan’s discoveries about astronomy without actually undertaking the same activity he does. Likewise, we may say that it is in my interest to hear Callan talk about astronomy because I am interested in becoming his friend. After conversing with Callan, I may develop a new fondness for astronomy, which may still not compel me to study astronomy but will have, at least, altered my


conception of astronomy and could perhaps pave the way for future explorations or experimentation. Indeed, fraternal solidarity will not be achieved by everyone having a single uniform interest, unless this is vaguely construed as an interest in the common good. Instead, fraternal solidarity will be achieved by people continuously expanding their zone of interest to include as many interests of others as possible. Solidarity can be achieved when people care about each other and appreciate each other’s interests. In his criticisms of Dewey, Callan simply focuses on the quantitative aspect of Dewey’s criterion but completely ignores the qualitative dimension. When Dewey asks us to examine whether our interests are widely shared and communicated, he is concerned about the quality of social interaction and communication. A Deweyan democracy as a way of life requires that people freely and frequently exchange thoughts and feelings with one another through the reciprocal give and take of human relationships. Through this web of human relationships, the interests consciously shared and communicated between people will interpenetrate and continuously expand as a result of various social contacts. In “Creative Democracy—The Task before Us” (LW.14.224–30), Dewey clearly states that “the heart and fi nal guarantee of democracy is in free gatherings of neighbors on the street” and “of friends in the living rooms of houses and apartments to converse freely with one another.” Yet he cautions, “Merely legal guarantees of the civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail if in daily life freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred” (LW.14.227). Rather than leading to a life of deadening uniformity, a widening sphere of social contacts denotes a greater diversity of stimuli for intellectual and moral growth. On the other hand, isolation will gradually lead to a rigid and routine way of life, however free and autonomous. Moreover, Callan confuses the private with the antisocial. When Callan was studying astronomy alone at his desk, he was actually sharing this interest with a great number of astronomers or astronomy lovers, living or dead. Therefore, it is quite problematic to claim that, judged by Dewey’s criteria, an interest in astronomy is a minority interest and thus socially undesirable. In fact, in The Public and Its Problems (LW.2.235–372), Dewey notes that there is “no necessary connection between the private character of an act and its non-social or anti-social character.” Private acts can be social, if “their consequences contribute to the welfare of the community or affect its status and prospects.” However, “the welfare of the community” is not to be understood



in quantitative terms. Dewey emphasizes that “any transaction deliberately carried on between two or more persons is social in quality.” As he further says, “Communities have been supplied with works of art, with scientific discoveries, because of the personal delight found by private persons in engaging these activities” (LW.2.244). In addition, Dewey cautions that “the public is not to be identified with the socially useful,” because the public can be engaged in waging war, which is socially destructive. The social worth of an activity is determined by how it contributes to the diversity and enrichment of life, namely, to human flourishing. Dewey says, “Only intellectual laziness leads us to conclude that since the form of thought and decision is individual, their content, their subject-matter, is also something purely personal” (LW.2.249). As he further notes, “While singular beings in their singularity think, want and decide, what they think and strive for, the content of their beliefs and intentions is a subject matter provided by association. Man is not merely de facto associated, but he becomes a social animal in the make-up of his ideas, sentiments and deliberate behavior” (LW.2.251). Let me give a concrete example to explain how human individuality is essentially grounded in human sociality.3 I once had the special opportunity to visit a local museum in a small Midwestern town. On my visit, there was a special exhibition of the private collections of school boys and girls from the neighborhood. In each display window, there was a personal letter written by the collectors to explain how they started the collection. Most of them wrote that their interests—whether in collecting travel souvenirs, farm equipment, or even the caps of milk containers—came from the influence of family members, who either started the collection or encouraged them to do so and helped them along the way. A ten-year-old boy wrote, I got interested in farm equipment from my dad. Most of my brother Ethan’s and my toy equipment came from our grandparents and Uncle Brad. I like to play with farm toys because I like to pretend that I am on a real farm. In summer I like to go to my grandparents’ dairy farm and help them with farming. My favorite job is feeding the heifers.

This example serves to illustrate the inevitable social origins of our personal interests, habits, and values that fundamentally make up who we are, even though we are ultimately individual and unique human beings. As Dewey puts it succinctly, “for beings who observe and think, and whose ideas are absorbed by impulses and become sentiments and interests, ‘we’ is inevitable as ‘I’” (LW.2.330). Indeed, the more conscious we are of


our interconnectedness, and the more sensitive we are to the social and moral underpinnings of our thoughts and actions, the more we are able to live a flourishing life. Unlike many liberal thinkers who perceive human sociality to be an unfortunate obstacle to freedom and autonomy, Dewey affi rms and embraces human sociality because it makes each of us more fully human and, in the end, more distinctively unique. Such personal uniqueness will grow out of the context of social interaction and communication. Dewey is not opposed to human individuality, but he simply understands the origin of individuality as “arising qualitatively out of ordinary human experience,” as Roger Ames contends. “‘Individuality’ like ‘character’ is an accomplishment. It emerges relationally out of associated living” (Ames 406). Dewey does not think that individuality can be achieved by being left alone. Even though we occasionally all need a Walden Pond, a tranquil place to reflect upon who we are or what we should do with our lives, we ultimately have to come back to social life—to mingle with the crowd, if you will. In Dewey’s view, to achieve our individuality requires that we utilize our social experiences to create personal uniqueness. In other words, individuality is achieved by transforming our experiences with others into something meaningful to our own lives. The more active, reflective, and creative we are, the more we are able to make our social experiences reflect who we are. In “The Need for a Philosophy of Education” (LW.9.194–204), Dewey writes, It is true that the aim of education is development of individuals to the utmost of their potentialities. But this statement in isolation leaves unanswered the question as to what is the measure of that development. A society of free individuals in which all, through their own work, contribute to the liberation and enrichment of the lives of others, is the only environment in which any individual can really grow normally to his full stature. (LW.9.202)

Therefore, we may say that the aim of education is “to learn to be human”— meaning to “develop through the give-and-take of communication an effective sense of being an individually distinctive member of a community; one who understands and appreciates its beliefs, desires, and methods, and who contributes to a further conversion of organic powers into human resources and values” (LW.2.332). In the Western liberal tradition, to be your own person is often thought of as the most important aim of education. However, one cannot become one’s own person without learning to become human. In fact, one of the most important questions we should ask in life is not “How can I make myself



distinct from others?” but “How can I make my life worth living?” Perhaps we may realize that the need to feel distinct from others is not so important. The ultimate achievement of individuality is not the result of comparing ourselves with others or of insisting on our distinctness from others but a natural result of one’s living one’s life to the fullest. When Socrates urges us to know ourselves, he is not asking us to focus on the first question, but the second question, which is more fundamental—and more difficult. In one sense, it is not at all difficult to be different from others. One can be different by wearing a unique dress, by driving the world’s most expensive car, or by creating a Guinness world record by never cutting one’s hair. I am not saying that we should not be concerned about our individuality. I am saying, however, that we should not be concerned with the question at a level that merely touches upon the external and the superficial. As Dewey acknowledges in Individualism, Old and New (LW.5.41–123), “each of us needs to cultivate his own garden. But there is no fence about this garden: it is no sharply marked-off closure. Our garden is the world, in the angle at which it touches our manner of being” (LW.5.122, emphasis added ). However, few people envision their garden to be the world. Robert Frost’s well-known poem “Mending Wall” vividly captures the idea that many people believe “good fences make good neighbors” without considering what they are “walling in or walling out.” Frost balances the isolationist neighbor against the speaker of the poem, who questions the necessity of walls: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That wants it down.” Indeed, we need not fence ourselves off from others in order to become who we are. To find out who we are as distinct from others is important, but it can often lead us astray from a more fundamental and crucial question, namely, how we can make our lives worth living. For Socrates, one should examine one’s life to make it worth living. For Henry Thoreau, it is by living two years in the woods “to front only the essential facts of life.” For Dewey, the answer is to lead a democratic way of life so that we can grow to our fullest potential. That is his way of “sucking out all the marrow of life,” not by walking into the woods but by going into the crowd. To lead a democratic way of life is an art for Dewey, an art of day-to-day living. In Art as Experience (LW.10), Dewey assures that each one of us can transform our ordinary experiences into consummatory aesthetic experiences by living a democratic way of life. The democratic life Dewey envisages requires the courage not to avoid interpersonal problems or social disputes but to accept them as the natural rhythms of life and to resolve them to the best of our abilities. As Dewey says, “we envisage with pleasure Nirvana and a uniform heavenly bliss only because they are projected upon


the background of our present world of stress and confl ict.” He warns furthermore, “Where everything is already complete, there is no fulfi llment.” Since the actual world in which we live is “a combination of movement and culmination, of breaks and re-unions, the experience of a living creature is capable of esthetic quality” (LW.10.22). In the process of losing and re-establishing harmony with our surroundings, Dewey says, we are living the most intense and worthwhile life. The art of democratic living lies in joint undertaking to transform disorderly experiences into harmonious ones that allow every participant the opportunity to grow. The kind of creative intelligence and aesthetic sensibility required to turn narrowness into openness, shallowness into depth, and conflict into harmony, has to be developed by all through the process of living a conscious, mindful life. Consummatory aesthetic experiences are conducive to personal happiness and social well-being, and they are attainable at all levels of human interaction throughout all stages of life, so long as one’s heart-and-mind is open to learning. In a nutshell, Dewey’s views of democracy as culture and as an art of life remain valid and pertinent in today’s age of globalization, for we are still faced with the problem Dewey pointed out in the 1930s—that “much of the intimate social connection is lost in the impersonality of a world market” (LW.10.15). Even though new information technologies have created new modes of association and communication, it has become easy to avoid contact with real people, to shy away from interpersonal problems, to create an illusory safe haven in the world of the Internet. One can lead a life utterly alienated from others. Even when people do associate, there is not much sincere talk, genuine discussion, or meaningful exchange of ideas and feelings. Families scatter and decline; communities dissolve. Economic prosperity and political stability have allowed many of us to become our own persons and to lead our own lives free from political oppression or religious prosecution. Yet what kind of persons we become and what kind of lives we choose to lead depend largely on the culture in which we live. The question is whether our culture is conducive or inimical to democracy and to our learning to become more fully human?4 CONCLUSION: LIANG SHUMING’S CRITIQUE OF DEWEY

In concluding, I would like to return to Liang Shuming, focusing particularly on his critique of Dewey. Even though he praises Dewey and sees many commonalities between Dewey and Confucius, Liang nonetheless points out what he thinks is lacking in Dewey’s philosophy. Although Dewey has a penetrating understanding of the endlessly changing, lively, and dynamic



aspects of life, he fails to see another side, that is, the unchanging and the absolute. According to Liang, Dewey makes circular arguments, such as, the end of education is more education, because “he has not discovered morality, even though everything he said is quite moral” (Fundamental Ideas 134). Liang thinks that Dewey has taught people only how to apply intelligence in dealing with the practicalities of life, but not in reflecting inwardly upon the value of life. Liang’s comment seems to reflect a prevailing criticism of Dewey in China during the 1920s and 30s—that he often fails to note the tranquil, spiritual, and aesthetic dimensions of human life.5 We are left with the question of why Dewey is often criticized for not talking enough about the moral and the good, when everything he says is actually pointing to a good and moral life. Democracy is clearly an ultimate value for Dewey, but is the democratic ideal morally sufficient? Does morality require some metaphysical foundation? Or have most people simply failed to understand Dewey, mistaking his approach for one espousing utilitarianism and scientism? If Liang had read Dewey’s Art as Experience, would he still think that Dewey “has not discovered morality”? Liang himself claims in his own essay that “morality is the harmony of life,” and “the harmony of my life with that of others” (Morality 259). This is exactly what Dewey conveys in the passage from Art as Experience quoted above—even though this message is not so explicitly expressed in Democracy and Education. Perhaps the only way out of this intellectual conundrum is to say that Dewey has learned to probe more deeply and inwardly into the meaning of life as he approaches the last stage of his life. NOTES 1. The author of Eastern and Western Cultures and Their Philosophies (1921), Liang was known as a major representative of twentieth-century neo-Confucianism and was deemed the “Last Confucian” by his intellectual biographer, Guy S. Allito. When interviewed by Allito in his old age, Liang remembered Dewey as deep, thoughtful, and flexible. 2. Liang delivered the lecture in Shandong in 1934. 3. I mentioned this example in my book, John Dewey in China: To Teach and To Learn (110). 4. I made similar arguments about the art of democratic living and the problems of alienation and social disintegration in John Dewey in China (113–15). 5. For a more detailed discussion of the criticism, see John Dewey in China (56).


Tang Junyi and the Very “Idea” of Confucian Democracy


In our present historical moment, the until-recently “cocooned” continent named China continues to democratize at a startling pace. Indeed, we might well wonder what kind of butterfly will emerge when this metamorphosis runs its course. In recent years, there has been much talk about a “Confucian democracy” (for example, Hall and Ames; Tan; Grange), and many signifi cant publications have come out on both sides of this much contested expression. On one extreme, suspicious intellectual historians and political scientists dismiss this characterization as not only anachronistic but indeed oxymoronic. Hierarchical, patriarchal Confucianism, they would insist, is the antithesis of modern democratic sensibilities—a virtual “contradiction in terms” (see Huntington).1 For them, democracy in China, if and when it comes to pass, will be a decidedly post-Confucian transformation.2 At the other end of the spectrum are the occasionally evangelical, sometimes uncritical, and usually romantic advocates of Confucianism. These special pleaders either reject the assumption that liberal autonomy is a necessary condition for democracy or they fi nd clear grounds for the egalitarianism that is supposedly essential to liberal democracy4 in their essentialized interpretation of the Mencian notion of human nature and the familiar mantra that “everyone can become a Yao or Shun-like sage.”3 177



In short, our best interpreters of modern China are giving us confl icting messages. Confucianism cannot be anathema to democracy and, at the same time, be the fertile ground out of which the incipient Confucian democracy will grow. In the fi nal analysis, the question we are left with is: how can the resolutely hierarchical Confucian tradition, which construes all relations as familial—a decidedly nonegalitarian model of order—and takes familial deference (xiao 孝) as the ultimate source of human morality, be reconciled with the liberty, equality, and autonomy that we usually associate with democracy as a contemporary political ideal? 5 New Asia College’s Tang Junyi 唐君毅 (1909–1978) was one of China’s great contemporary philosophers and still, decades after his death, has something compelling to say to the question of the very possibility of a Confucian democracy. To my mind, Tang’s foremost contribution to world philosophy is his synoptic philosophy of culture: to discern and articulate, with truly penetrating acuity, as clear a contrast as can be established between the presuppositions grounding the metaphysical thinking that has had such prominent play in the Western philosophical narrative, and those persistent cosmological assumptions that continue to shape an always changing Chinese worldview. He is able to argue effectively for a range of uncommon assumptions that, giving the lie to the homogenization of Enlightenment universalism, must be taken into account if we are to allow the Chinese cultural narrative its uniqueness. Indeed it is only in acknowledging such cultural differences that we can assess China’s response to contemporary issues, including this seemingly ineluctable progress toward democratization. In his own time, the American philosopher John Dewey invoked a cosmological understanding of the “idea” of democracy to use as a touchstone in resisting what he perceived to be an unfortunate tendency in the evolution of the American liberal democracy to drift away from the secure moorings of its defi ning premises. In addressing the question “What would the hallmarks of a Confucian democracy be for Tang Junyi?” we can turn for analogy to Dewey, who looked for democracy’s substance in the informal, the concrete, and the everyday lives and relationships of particular people in their own particular communities. Dewey fi nds and makes much of what he takes to be a real tension between the cosmological “idea” of democracy, and democracy as a political form. In The Public and Its Problems, Dewey defi nes “the democratic idea in its generic social sense” in the following terms: From the standpoint of the individual, it consists in having a responsible share according to capacity in forming and directing the activities of the



groups to which one belongs and in participating according to need in the values which the groups sustain. From the standpoint of the groups, it demands liberation of the potentialities of members of a group in harmony with the interests and goods which are common. (LW2.327–8)

We must be careful here because, if misunderstood—and it frequently has been—Dewey’s language can betray his deeper meaning. For Dewey, the “individual” and the “group” are neither separate nor separable entities. On the contrary, given Dewey’s commitment to the wholeness of experience as the starting point of all reflection, a concrete situation has priority over the abstraction of agency, and relationality has priority over the abstraction of individuation. His insight is simple: we do not come into relationships but begin from being radically embedded in and constituted by them. For Dewey, democracy is the cosmological answer to the question: how do we grow these initially inchoate, constitutive relations of persons-in-community to make them optimally productive? Dewey’s idea of democracy is not one possible option for associated living that exists among other alternatives but is rather the never-to-be-realized, completed, and perfected ideal of consummate relatedness. As Dewey insists, the idea of democracy “is the idea of community life itself ” (LW2.328). It is the “doings and undergoings” of each and every person in this “Great Community” that for Dewey is the source and substance of real democracy—the optimal and virtuosic relationality of focal, holographic “individuals” as each of them uniquely and cooperatively shapes and is shaped by the emerging community to which they belong. There is for Dewey a simple logic here. Since we are constituted by our relations, it follows that if our neighbors do better, we do better. The idea of democracy then is fundamentally a moral, aesthetic, and religious aspiration. Positively stated, it is a strategy for getting the most out of the relations that constitute a community, and negatively stated, it is a recognition that any coercion in these relationships is a diminution in the creative possibilities of the community. On Dewey’s understanding, the familiar institutionalized forms of democracy—a constitution, the office of president, the polling station, the ballot box, and so on—far from being a guarantee of political order, can indeed become a source of just such coercion. The idea of democracy begins from an acknowledgement of the uniqueness of each person and each situation, and it requires accordingly that any political form be open to the requisite reformulation and adjustment that would accommodate the continuing emergence of personal difference. It acknowledges an Apollonian



and Dionysian tension between the form and the fluidity of life itself. Formal institutions, while certainly necessary, are often an historical carryover from dynastic forms of government endorsed by their traditions that not only fail to embody the idea of democracy, but in their inertia can over time retard, if not threaten, the fluid idea of democracy itself. A constitution in a revolutionary America several hundred years ago, for example, might quite reasonably guarantee the right of individuals to bear arms. But this anachronistic right might be a source of coercion in our very different contemporary setting. By perpetuating an ostensibly personal freedom without taking into account changing circumstances, such a right might only serve to empower shameless individuals to dramatically compromise the flourishing community that Dewey takes as a necessary condition for democracy. Political form is by its very nature conservative, and its reform must often wait upon the living, fluid, and liberating idea of democracy that is antagonistic to all entrenched formal structures as it circulates through the thriving community. The cure for the ills of democracy, Dewey would claim, is to challenge recalcitrant political forms by constantly returning to the idea of democracy as it is expressed in the lives of particular persons in particular communities. In this chapter I will argue that Tang Junyi provides us with a cosmological understanding of the idea of Confucianism that, in a way parallel to Dewey’s idea of democracy, can enable us, as China continues to grope its way forward, to anticipate the core values if not the specific contours of a Confucian democracy. It will be this cosmological idea of Confucianism rather than any superficial egalitarian claims, I would suggest, that Tang would deem immediately relevant to the path that democracy will follow in its evolving Chinese iteration if it is to be true to its Confucian premises. There is a subtext here. I want to argue that democracy is not a done deal, like some patented modern Western product, that can be shrink-wrapped and exported to alternative cultural sites. I want to strongly suggest that, consistent with both Tang’s processual view of Chinese natural cosmology, captured in the proposition “the ceaselessness of procreativity (生生不已觀),” and with a Deweyan Darwinism that guarantees the survival of the most adaptable, living Confucianism as the cultural aspirations of a given population should be construed as having a determinative role in shaping this ongoing process of democratization. Defining Confucian democracy is not simply a matter of searching Confucianism for sensibilities that are consistent with prior historical construals of democracy and then tailoring the Confucian scholar’s robe (changpao 長袍) into a double-breasted pinstripe. It further requires that we



use imagination to envision how the existing but always malleable model of democracy itself will be reconfigured—for better and for worse—as it becomes something distinctively Chinese. A second subtext is that a more complete understanding of Dewey’s cosmological idea of democracy has enabled us to more fully appreciate the profundity of Dewey’s radical disjunction within the Western philosophical narrative. Perhaps a better understanding of Tang Junyi’s cosmological assumptions will similarly provide a touchstone for reading and appreciating in a more coherent way the broad corpus of his collected works. To the extent that Tang would assert that these presuppositions are defi ning of the Confucian worldview of which he himself is a participant, they provide a set of boundary criteria on how we are to interpret his own contribution to this tradition. Tang’s political philosophy, like Dewey’s, must be squared with the cosmological assumptions he ascribes to traditional Chinese culture. Tang repeatedly insists that any connection that Confucianism might have with the political forms of feudalism, monarchism, and patriarchism with which it has been historically associated are accidental and transient. Tang takes a holographic, interdependent, and productive relationship between part and whole—a conception of organismic relationality that resonates immediately with Dewey’s assumptions about the grounding premises of real democracy—as the distinguishing feature and most crucial contribution of Chinese culture broadly. As the underlying spirit of Chinese culture Tang Junyi endorses: 中國文化之根本精神即 [將部分與全體交融互攝] 之精神;自認識上言之,即不自 全體中劃出部分之精神 (此自中國人之宇宙觀中最可見之);自情意上言之,即努 力以部分實現全體之精神 (此自中國人之人生態度中可見之)。

the spirit of symbiosis and mutuality of particular and totality. From the perspective of understanding this means an unwillingness to isolate the particular from the totality (this is most evident in the cosmology of the Chinese people), and from the perspective of ties of feeling and affection, it means the commitment of the particular to do its best to realize the totality (this is most evident in the attitude of the Chinese people toward daily life). (11:8) 6

When this mutuality and interdependence of particulars and totality—better, foci and fields, or ecologically situated events and their environments—that grounds Chinese cosmology is translated into the more concrete social and political arena of the human community, it becomes the value of inclusive,



consensual, and optimally productive cooperation that Dewey has identified as the idea of democracy. The radicalness of Dewey’s redefi nition of democracy is revealed in his most unfamiliar use of familiar terms: experience, individuality, habits, liberty, equality, and democracy itself, to list but a few. Indeed, this discrepancy between his philosophical vocabulary and ordinary language usage has been a significant obstacle in reading and understanding Dewey that has postponed the influence of his ideas for almost a century. What I want to do in what follows is clarify some of the basic vocabulary Dewey invents to articulate his insights into the cosmological nature of democracy, and then play back and forth between this Deweyan vocabulary and the propositions that Tang Junyi invokes as a characterization of Chinese natural cosmology. After all, it is these persisting themes in Chinese cosmology that serve as the basis for the more concrete Confucian political sensibilities. What we will discover in this comparison is that Dewey’s communitarian democracy, like Tang Junyi’s Confucianism, is resolutely hierarchical, historicist, particularist, and emergent, yet at the same time it is arguably more democratic than the procedural liberal democracy that in our recent American narrative has overwhelmed its earlier, small-r republican form.7 Both Dewey and Tang have a vision of democracy that abjures an equality that is based upon a strict quantitative identity and the uncritical assumption that hierarchy is necessarily anathema to democracy. “Experience” is for Dewey the basic cosmological idea that grounds his social and political vocabulary. As Dewey chooses to use the term, experience will not be resolved with any fi nality into familiar dualistic categories such as “subjective” and “objective,” or “fact” and “value.” Indeed, the inseparability of subject and object is a function of what Dewey understands to be the intrinsic and constitutive nature of personal relations, and the inseparability of fact and value arises from an appreciation of affectivity—of feeling—as the real ground of personal relations. Situated experience for Dewey is prior to any abstracted notion of agency. Experience, like life and history and culture, is both the process and the product of the interaction—“the doings and undergoings”—of the human organism within its social, natural, and cultural environments. In Dewey’s words, “’Experience’ . . . includes what men do and suffer, what they strive for, love, believe and endure, and also how men act and are acted upon, the ways in which they do and suffer, desire and enjoy, see, believe, imagine—in short, processes of experiencing” (LW.1.18). This wholeness and processual nature of the human experience is also captured in several of Tang



Junyi’s characterizations of Chinese natural cosmology. He begins by affi rming the reality and sufficiency of empirical experience without seeking to go beyond it. In his proposition “the notion that there is no fi xed substance 無 定體觀,” he rejects outright the relevance of any notion of substratum, and in so doing acknowledges the fluidity of vital energy qi 氣 in its ceaseless flux and flow (11:9–11). The absence of any essentializing substratum—“whatit-means-to-be-this-kind of a thing”—means that experience is constituted by resolutely unique perturbations of qi (wanwu 萬物 or wanyou 萬有 ) rather than by “things” that can be parsed as indivisibles into a taxonomy of natural kinds. Given the intrinsic nature of relatedness, putative “things” are in fact a stream of unique, mutually conditioning events, and the web of always shifting relationships that constitutes each “event” is itself a novel and unique construal of the totality—this focus of this field of experience. Using a more traditional Chinese vocabulary, we might say that the manifold or totality of these events is dao 道 and the unique events themselves are insistently particular foci or de 德 that are constitutive of dao and that construe the totality from their own perspective. Entailed by the uniqueness of all particulars is the absence of any notion of strict identity—no two things are the same. Thus all relations among things must by their nature be hierarchical. In any and all relationships, in respect of any specific talent or capacity, Jack is always going to be yin 陰 or yang 陽 in his relation with Jill. The processual flow of experience without initial beginning or end is what Tang Junyi describes as “the notion of ceaseless procreation 生生不已觀” (11:20–22). Experience is persistent, historicist, and naturalistic in the sense of having no appeal to any metaphysical or supernatural source. The contemporary philosopher, Pang Pu, in explaining “procreating sheng 生” makes an illuminating distinction between procreating as paisheng 派生 in the sense of one thing giving birth to an independent existent, like a hen producing an egg or an oak tree producing an acorn, and procreating as huasheng 化生 in which one thing transforms into something else, like summer becoming autumn and autumn becoming winter. In the paisheng “derivation” sensibility, the egg goes on to become another hen and the acorn to become another oak tree, whereas in the huasheng “transmutation” sensibility, most eggs become omelets and most acorns, squirrels. Both of these senses of procreating are relevant to Chinese cosmology. Importantly, the discreteness and independence entailed by paisheng is qualified by the processual and contextual assumptions of huasheng, and the processual continuity of huasheng is punctuated as unique events by the consummatory



nature of paisheng. Neither uniqueness nor continuity will yield to the other. The notion of intrinsic relationality that allows for the uniqueness and distinctiveness of particular things, on the one hand, and for the continuity that obtains among them, on the other, disqualifies part-whole analysis and requires instead a gestalt shift to focus-field thinking in which “part” and “totality” are two nonanalytic foregrounding and backgrounding perspectives on the same phenomenon. In pursuing this distinction between derivation and transformation, Pang Pu is alerting us to a further refi nement in our understanding of the relationship between what comes before and what follows in the ongoing cosmological process. Taking the human experience specifically, while we might be inclined to understand the progenitor/progeny genealogy as a series in which there is an independence of the latter from the former, early Chinese cosmology on reflection is clearly a combination of both paisheng and huasheng, taking the progenitor as giving way to this unique progeny but at the same time as proliferating and living on within the same progeny. The child is certainly independent of the parent, and yet the parent lives on in the child and in the child’s children too. In Confucianism, there seems to be a dominant sense of the genealogical continuity where the progeny is to be understood as the foregrounding of this particular person in a continuing stream of procreation. One’s family surname (xing 姓) is the fi rst and continuing source of identity, while one’s given name (ming 名) proliferates with assumed style names (zi 字 ), sobriquets (hao 號 ), and a web of specific family designations such as “uncle number two” (ershu 二叔) and “auntie number three (sanshen 三嬸 ),” and with professional titles such as “teacher (laoshi 老師)” and “director (zhuren 主任)” within the course of one’s lifetime, and then posthumous titles (shi 謚)—all of these different names being a reflection of the unique contribution that one has endeavored to make to one’s family and community. Tang Junyi’s corollary to this notion of ceaseless procreation is the irrelevance of any kind of fatalism to Confucian cosmology—what he terms 非定 命觀 (11:17–19). Experience is the bottomless unfolding of an emergent, contingent world according to the rhythm of its own internal creative processes without any fi xed pattern or guiding hand. Importantly, in this transformative process, time is inseparable from the emerging world of unique “things.” Tang Junyi recognizes that there can be no time in a predetermined universe. Indeed, genuine change, that is, the spontaneous emergence of novelty in the unique relations that are constitutive of things, is just another way of saying genuine time.



Dewey too recognizes the dependence of the notion of time upon this unique individuality and the creativity that attends it: “Genuine time, if it exists . . . is all one with the existence of individuals as individuals, with the creative, with the occurrence of unpredictable novelties” (LW14.112). Stated the other way round, Dewey, like Tang, takes temporal seriality as the meaning of individuality. He says, “Individuality is the uniqueness of the history of the career, not something given once and for all at the beginning which then proceeds to unroll as a ball of yarn may be unwound” (LW.14.103). Indeed, time is the very propensity of the world of unique particulars (de 德) to transform and renew themselves within their ecologies. Dao 道, far from being understood as some ultimate, determinate One, is, by virtue of the uniqueness and indeterminacy of the manifold of things that constitute it, the total system as it emerges from the transactions of its many tributaries. The self-transformation of this world as a creative advance is made possible by the ceaseless unfolding of unique “things” in their always novel relations with one another—the co-creative process of “transforming with things 物化.” Time is simply the capacity of these many things to change and to be changed in their associations. In this cosmology, neither time nor the productivity of relationality will be denied. The penumbra of indeterminacy that honeycombs an always provisional cosmic order means that erstwhile forms and functions entail each other in their continuous process of forming and functioning, where all form is constantly undergoing adjustment to maintain functional equilibrium, and is ultimately vulnerable to and outrun by the process itself. There is nothing that does not give way to trans-form-ation. This feature of Chinese cosmology is described by Tang Junyi with two propositions: “the notion that nothing advances but to return 無往不復觀,” and “the notion that there is a continuity that obtains between determinacy and indeterminacy, motion and equilibrium 合有無動靜觀” (11:11–16). As we can see from this set of propositions, Tang’s characterization of the cosmology that grounds the idea of Confucianism, like Dewey’s notion of experience that forms the basis of the idea of democracy, is resolutely hierarchical, historicist, particularist, and emergent. With these rather abstract cosmological assumptions in hand, we can now turn to the more concrete political terms of art that Dewey invokes to bring clarity to what he calls real democracy. Like Dewey’s unconventional understanding of experience, another example of his extraordinary use of ordinary language is individuality. For Dewey, individuality is not only importantly different from our usual understanding of individual and individualism but is in many ways antithetical to it. Individuality is fi rstly not quantitative: it is neither a presocial essence or potential,



nor is it a kind of isolating discreteness. Far from being a ready-made given, individuality is a social product—the fruit of effective associated living—that arises qualitatively out of ordinary human experience. One’s individuality is formed through distinctive, aggregating service to one’s community, and only subsequent to this service does it become quantitative as persons ascend through patterns of deference to become distinguished and hence distinguishable members within their communities. Individuality is in Dewey’s words “the realization of what we specifically are as distinct from others,” (EW.3.304) a “becoming distinguished” that can only take place within the context of a flourishing communal life. Individuality, like character, is an accomplishment, and since it emerges relationally out of associated living, far from being discrete, it has implicated within it a “field of selves.” “Individuality cannot be opposed to association,” says Dewey. Indeed, “it is through association that man has acquired his individuality, and it is through association that he exercises it” (38). Individuals so construed are not “things” but “patterned events,” describable certainly in the stable language of uniqueness and qualitative achievement but also more dynamically in terms of virtuosic relationality and the expanding patterns of deference such virtuosity elicits from their neighbors. How extreme is Dewey in this social construction of the person? As we have seen, he certainly rejects the idea that human beings are in any way complete outside of the associations they have with other people. But does Dewey go too far in the other direction when he claims that for the human being, “apart from the ties which bind him to others, he is nothing”? (LW.7.323) As James Campbell observes, this passage is easily and often misunderstood as a negation of the individual (53–33). As we have seen with Dewey’s notion of emergent individuality, however, to say that persons are irreducibly social is not to deny the integrity, uniqueness, and diversity of human beings; on the contrary, it is precisely to affirm and endorse these conditions as the achievements that determine them as individuals. They are not autonomous and discrete individuals, but they are unique persons constituted by their own inimitable field of relations: someone’s spouse and someone else’s friend, someone’s teacher and someone else’s colleague. In commenting on Dewey and the social processes out of which persons are created, Campbell avers the familiar Aristotelian vocabulary of “potential” and “actualization:” Dewey’s point is not just that what was potential becomes actual when provided with the proper conditions, as, for example, the growth of a seed into a plant is sometimes understood (Cf. LW 9:195–96). His point is rather that



persons are incomplete without a social component and develop into what they are—individual members of groups, socially grounded selves—in the ongoing process of living in a social environment. (40)

What anyone is to become is invariably determined by one’s contingent and ongoing transactions with one’s specific environments. Another way of expressing this Deweyan creatio in situ reading of emergent individuality is to appeal to what Tang Junyi takes as a generic feature of the Chinese processual cosmology: “the inseparability of the one and the many, of uniqueness and multivalence, of continuity and multiplicity, of integrity and integration 一多不分觀” (11:16–17).8 Importantly, this notion of intrinsic relationality is an aspect of Chinese natural cosmology that is organically related to the other propositions described above. In procreativity, such a characterization is only another way of affi rming the inseparability of paisheng and huasheng—of the derivation of the unique particular and of its transformation into something else in an ongoing process. Cosmologically, this proposition asserts that any phenomenon in our field of experience can be focused in many different ways. On the one hand, it is a unique and persistent particular, and on the other, it has the entire cosmos and all that is happening implicated within its own intensive and extensive patterns of relationships. Persons begin their careers as inchoately one and many. That is, persons at their inception as human beings have little to distinguish themselves, and in most matters passively defer to the care of a small circle of intimates. Over time, they have the opportunity to become increasingly distinctive as personalities and to develop a widening and deepening field of constitutive relations. They are one, both in their unique, emerging individuality and in the unbroken continuity they have with their environing others, and yet at the same time they are a divided and sometimes confl icted multiplicity in the field of selves through which their many personae are manifested: someone’s parent and someone else’s child, someone’s colleague and someone’s else’s adversary, someone’s teacher and someone else’s lover, someone’s benefactor and someone else’s judge. Using a Confucian vocabulary, we might describe the emergence of a distinguished member of the community from being a mere person 人 to becoming a person of real distinction 大人 through relational virtuosity 仁. Tang Junyi invokes yet another feature of Chinese cosmology that underscores the vectoral yet contingent nature of the human experience. For Tang, like Darwin and Dewey, “human nature” is a function of the ongoing propensity of circumstances—a provisional disposition that is both persistent and always under revision in its interactions with other things. In Tang’s own words,



Chinese cosmology entails the notion that “human nature is nothing but the natural processes themselves 性即天道觀.” He clarifies this dynamic process: Within Chinese natural cosmology what is held in general is not some fi rst principle. The root pattern or coherence 根本之理 of anything is its “life force 生理,” and this life force is its “natural tendencies 性.” Anything’s natural tendencies are expressed in the quality of its interactions with other things. Natural tendencies 性 and life force 生理 then being principles of freedom and transformation have nothing to do with necessity . . . What is held in general is the product of experience . . . The emergence of any particular phenomenon is a function of the interaction between its prior conditions and other things, . . . and is not determined by the thing itself . . . Thus the basic “nature” of anything includes this transformability and malleability. (4:98–100)

To illustrate this notion of contingent emergence, Tang Junyi provides a gloss on the familiar Zhongyong passage, “what tian (conventionally translated ‘Heaven’) commands is called natural tendencies 天命之謂性.” He cites the Zuozhuan: “People being born within the context of the world is what is meant by the propensity of circumstances 民受天地之中以生乃所謂命也.” Tang states explicitly: What is meant by this claim is not that tian according to a certain fi xed fate determines the conduct and progress of human beings. Indeed it endows human beings with a natural disposition that, being more or less free of the mechanical control of one’s previous habits and of external intervening forces, within its context undergoes a creative advance that is expressive of this freedom. (4:100)

It is in this sense that the Book of Rituals can claim that “human beings are the heart-and-mind of the world 人者天地之心也” (4:22).9 All teleological and genetic assumptions have to be qualified by the spontaneous emergence of novelty within any specific context and by a creative advance in the situation’s continuing present. Human nature, for Tang then, is the aggregating yet open-ended disposition of human beings over time and an expression of the ongoing attainment of relational virtuosity 仁 within our inherited cultural legacy 天道. In Tang Junyi’s extensive work on “human nature (renxing 人性),” he demonstrates a great sensitivity to the existential coloring of the classical Confucian conception of the human being. For Tang, “in speaking of a thing’s xing, what is important is not in saying what the xing of this entity is, but in saying what the direction of its existence is. It is only in that it has growth that



it has xing” (13:28). Among things, the human being is a special case. The xing of human beings cannot be approached in the same way as the xing of other phenomena, because humans have an internal perspective on their own constitution that is not available to them in the investigation of other things. In reflecting on the relationships between experience and conceptualization, Tang asserts that: Coming to know the human possibility is not like seeking to know the possibilities of other things that can, on the basis of inference and hypothesis, be known objectively. Rather it comes from the way in which persons realize their internal aspirations and how they come to know them. Once we have an understanding of this human xing, we will of our own accord surely have the linguistic concepts through which to express it. Such linguistic conceptualization follows upon what is known of it, and is formed continuously as the opportunity presents itself. It is not the case that we first have conceptualizations to which we then add conjectures, anticipations, or presumptions. (13:22)

Tang Junyi thus emphasizes the primacy of the realization of human aspirations over the conceptualization and articulation of them, giving full notice to the personal locus of that realization. He disassociates the conversation among classical Chinese philosophers over the meaning of xing from the contemporary science of psychology by asserting that in the latter case, there is a desire to treat the human being as an objective phenomenon. For Tang, it is the existential project that is the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of the classical Confucian conception of xing. In fact, it is precisely the indeterminate possibility for creative change that Tang identifies as the most salient feature of the human xing. He says that where xing in reference to something might refer to fi xed characteristics, properties, propensities, or essences, from the perspective of the embodied idea that we have of human beings in relationship to their world, there is a real question as to whether or not human beings have a fi xed nature. This is because the world and the idea that human beings face both entail limitless change . . . The discussion of the human xing in Chinese thought has had as its one common feature the reference to this locus for boundless change in which it locates the special xing of the human being. This then is the human’s spiritual xing 靈性 that differs from the fi xity and lack of spirituality in the xing of other things. (13:24)

What is innate in the xing of persons is most importantly the propensity for growth, cultivation, and refi nement. Xing, then, denotes the human capacity for radical changeability that is qualitatively productive.



In Tang Junyi’s general discussion of xing, he notices that xing often has two referents: it refers to the continuing existence of a particular thing itself, and it also refers to that which in a thing continues the life of other things (13:28–29). He cites an example from the Zuozhuan in which the xing of the soil lies not only in its own conditions but also in its propensity to grow things conducive to human life (13:29).10 It is thus throughout Tang’s analysis, especially in reference to the human being, that he underscores the fundamental relationality of xing: It is my opinion that in looking at the beginnings of a theory of xing in China’s early philosophers, the basic point was not to take the human being or its xing as some objective thing that can be looked at and discussed in terms of its universal nature or its special nature or its possibilities. As humans perceived the myriad things and heaven and earth, and as they perceived their inner thoughts about the human being that they embodied, what was important for them was to reflect on what the xing of this human being is, and what the xing of heaven and earth and the myriad things is. The way the human being was perceived within the mainstream of Chinese thought was as a kind of thing amidst and among the myriad things, and not just as one kind of the myriad things. (11:3)

Tang’s defi nition of the xing of human beings in terms of their ongoing relations with their several environments exemplifies his proposition that “one and many are inseparable” and at the same time challenges the common interpretation of xing as a given essence or telos, that is, some innate endowment present in us from birth or some ideal to be realized. Dewey offers a similar processual understanding of human nature, using John Stuart Mill’s individualism as his foil and citing Mill at length. Mill claims that “all phenomena of society are phenomena of human nature;” that is, “human beings in society have no properties but those which are derived from and may be resolved into the laws of the nature of individual man.” Dewey wants to challenge Mill’s assumptions about the relationship between the person and the society with his transactional model. For Dewey, discussion of the fi xed structure of human nature independent of particular social conditions is a nonstarter because it “does not explain in the least the differences that mark off one tribe, family, people, from another—which is to say that in and of itself it explains no state of society whatever” (LW.13.142). For Dewey, then, the alleged unchangeableness of human nature cannot be admitted. For while certain needs in human nature are constant, the consequences they produce (because of the existing state of culture—of science, morals, religion,



art, industry, legal rules) react back into the original components of human nature to shape them into new forms. The total pattern is thereby modified. The futility of exclusive appeal to psychological factors both to explain what takes place and to form policies as to what should take place, would be evident to everybody—had it not proved to be a convenient device for “rationalizing” policies that are urged on other grounds by some group or faction. (LW.13.142)

For Dewey, the human being is a social achievement, an adaptive success made possible through the applications of social intelligence. Given the reality of change, this success is always provisional, leaving us as incomplete creatures with the always new challenge of contingent circumstances. And yet this success is progressive and programmatic. “We use our past experiences to construct new and better ones in the future” (MW.12.134). It is in this sense that liberty, far from being the autonomy and independence of the individual from constraining social relations, “is that secure release and fulfi llment of personal potentialities which take place only in rich and manifold association with others: the power to be an individualized self making a distinctive contribution and enjoying in its own way the fruits of association” (LW.2.329). Again Dewey offers a novel alternative to those classical forms of teleology that by defi nition entail a means/end driven dialectic. In place of some predetermined and preassigned design, Dewey’s notion of ideals entails aspirational ideas projected as meliorative goals for social action that “take shape and gain content as they operate in remaking conditions” (LW.5.122). As James Campbell observes: For Dewey, ideals like justice or beauty or equality have all the power in human life that the proponents of ‘abstract,’ ‘fi xed,’ or ‘remote’ senses of such ideals claim for them. The problem that he sees is with their interpretation, one that presents ideals as some sort of fi nished and unchanging Existents placed in a realm other than the natural world of hunger and death, secure from the problems and confusions of day-to-day existence . . . Our ideals are connected to the ongoing processes of living: they are rooted in particular difficulties and draw upon presumptive solutions. (152–3)

Without fi xed ideals, how does an existing disposition lead to concrete action within a Deweyan world? For Dewey, it is not ideals that guide conduct as ends in themselves. Rather the direction for action comes from the interface between a particular problem and its resolution, where the sometimes consummatory experiences that emerge in the process of problem solving are the context in which such ideals are revealed. Such consummatory experiences— the attainment of our “ends-in-view”—when they do occur, are a shared



expression of social intelligence dealing with unique situations as they may arise within the communicating community. How does the community grow its persons? Dewey and Confucianism broadly both invest enormously in the centrality of language and other modes of communicative discourse—including signs, symbols, gestures, and social institutions—what in Confucianism is called “ritual propriety 禮.” As Dewey states, “Through speech a person dramatically identifies himself with potential acts and deeds; he plays many roles, not in successive stages of life but in a contemporaneously enacted drama. Thus mind emerges” (LW.1.135). For Dewey, mind is “an added property assumed by a feeling creature, when it reaches that organized interaction with other living creatures which is language, communication” (LW.1.198). For Dewey, then, heart-and-mind is created in the process of realizing a world. In reflecting on Dewey’s emergent mind, Robert Westbrook observes that “it is not because they had minds that some creatures had language, but because they had language that they had minds” (Westbrook 336). Heartand-mind, like the world, is becoming rather than being, and the question is how productive and enjoyable we are able to make this creative process. The way in which heart-and-mind and the world are changed is not simply in terms of human attitude but in real growth and productivity and in the efficiency and pleasure that attends this process. The alternative—for a community to fail to communicate effectively—is for the community to wither, leaving it vulnerable to the mindless violence and heartless atrocities of creatures that have failed to become human. Interestingly, Dewey’s notion of mind combines both cognition and affect, reminiscent of the Confucian “heart-and-mind (xin 心).” The parallel with Tang Junyi’s Confucianism is immediate. The initial, defining conditions of the human heart-and-mind—“consummatoriness, appropriateness, ritual propriety, and wisdom 仁義禮知”—are a summary of those inchoate relations that, when cultivated assiduously, come to constitute the habits and character of the consummate person-in-community. Tang’s processual understanding of human nature takes seriously both components of this character xing 性, “heart-mind (xin 心)” and “growth (sheng 生).” “Human nature 性” as an achievement is “the birth, growth, and life 生” of the personal and communal “heart-and-mind 心.” In this Confucian tradition, we might say that becoming human is made explicit when xin 心 is taken as the initial conditions, or what we are conventionally inclined to consider inherent nature, and xing 性 is construed as the achieved result of effective social living, or what we would generally consider second nature.11 The important point here is that



Confucianism would place an emphasis upon second nature as the primary locus of culture and the resource for the enculturation of succeeding generations. When we ask the question, which comes fi rst, parent or child, teacher or student, the answer must be that as correlatives these dyads are isomorphic, emerging simultaneously as the context for each other. So too with fi rst and second nature. We can see how Dewey’s idea of democracy and what we have called Tang Junyi’s idea of Confucianism, grounded in comparable cosmological assumptions about person, relational efficacy, and the world, seek to promote similar conditions in the continuing process of democratization. How then do their respective ideas differ? Paying appropriate attention to context, as they would both insist we do, we would have to allow that Dewey’s idea of democracy, as a political expression of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,”12 is the more radical challenge to the cultural, moral, and religious values of the narrative in which it is located. Dewey is culturally disjunctive—in fact, a flat-out revolutionary—and it has taken the professional discipline of philosophy a full century to begin to take his full measure. Tang Junyi’s idea of Confucianism, on the other hand, in its constant appeal to family as the best model for achieving an optimal communal harmony, affi rms rather than challenges his own Confucian tradition. While he does not advocate any real disjunction with traditional values, and thus cannot claim the radical cachet that Dewey can, Tang might, on comparison, still be providing the more profound and promising insight into how to achieve the optimally democratic community. At the very least, he is rehabilitating a resource for social and political order that has been lost on both Dewey’s precursors and on Dewey himself. For Tang Junyi, as we have seen, what we are calling the idea of Confucianism is not rooted in some exclusionary idealism or privileged revelation. Instead, this idea appeals to an inclusive particularism available to everyone that is expressed rather simply in the Analects passage: “Studying what is near at hand, I aspire to what is most lofty 下 學而上達” (Analects 14.25).13 Given the relational focus-field nature of persons, this is a formula for everyonein-community aspiring to become their best thoughts. Just as Dewey’s idea of democracy is his vision of the flourishing communal life made possible by the contributions of the uniquely distinguished persons that constitute it, Tang’s Confucianism is also a pragmatic naturalism directed at achieving the highest integrated cultural, moral, and spiritual growth for the individualin-community. In his understanding of communal harmony as “starting here and going there,” the Confucian sages are no more than ordinary persons



who, through their commitment and assiduous discipline in their relations, learn to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways. This is what Tang in fact understands as the import of the familiar Confucian claim, cited above, that “everyone can become a sage.” This Confucian claim that “everyone can become a sage” is usually read essentialistically as an assertion that the sage is some universally given potential in human nature that if actualized provides a person with those extraordinary talents through which to affect the world in some incomparable way. We have seen that Tang Junyi’s processual understanding of human nature precludes this possibility. Indeed, for him this same claim that “everyone can become a sage” is an assertion that the spontaneous emergence of real significance in the ordinary business of the day is itself the meaning and content of sagely virtuosity. Those ordinary persons who in their own lives achieve real significance are sages, and all of us have the opportunity to live such significant lives. So far, Dewey and Tang Junyi would not disagree. But there is an important twist. In the Confucian case specifically, optimal relationality is expressed in the notion of “observing ritualized roles and relationships 禮” that has its origins specifically in “family deference 孝.”14 Tang describes the function of 禮 in the following terms: When the “Ritualizing Experience 禮運” chapter discusses the ideal of the era of Great Harmony 大同 , what is intended is simply everyone should get what they deserve. . . . Persons in the process of realizing this purpose must participate fully in their symbiotic ritualized roles and relations before each person can get what they should out of these relationships. (15:99)

Tang Junyi is here rehearsing a proposal from the Analects in which this mediation through ritualized roles and relations is taken as a necessary condition for achieving appropriate and productive communal harmony: Achieving harmony (he 和) is the most valuable function of observing ritual propriety (li 禮). In the ways of the Former Kings, this achievement of harmony through observing propriety made them elegant, and was a guiding standard in all things large and small. But when things are not going well, to realize harmony just for its own sake without regulating the situation through observing propriety will not work. (Analects 1.12.)

After all, Confucian harmony is more than indiscriminately enforcing social order. The ultimate goal is to produce the self-regulating community in which everyone has a sense of shame and takes responsibility for everyone else: “Lead the people with excellence (de 德 ) and promote social order



through the observance of ritual propriety (li 禮) and they will develop a sense of shame, and moreover, will order themselves” (Analects 2.3). On the informal and uniquely personal side, full participation in a ritually constituted community requires the personalization and reauthorization of prevailing customs, institutions, and values. What makes ritual profoundly different from law or rule is this process of making the tradition one’s own. The Latin proprius, or “making something one’s own,” as in appropriate or property, gives us a series of cognate expressions that are useful in translating key Confucian philosophical terms to capture this sense of participation and personalization: yi 義 is not “righteousness” as compliance with some external divine directive, but rather is “appropriateness” as “a sense of what is fitting” for me in this particular communal context. Zheng 正 is not “rectification” or “correct conduct”—again, an appeal to some external standard—but “proper conduct” as determined by person within a context. Zheng 政 is not simply “government” but “governing properly,” and li (“ritual propriety”) is not just “what is ritually appropriate,” but “personally doing what is ritually appropriate.” A careful reading of the classical Confucian literature uncovers a way of life that is carefully choreographed down to appropriate facial expressions and physical gestures, a world in which a life is a performance requiring enormous attention to detail. Importantly, this li-constituted performance begins from the insight that personal refi nement is only possible through the discipline provided by formalized roles and behaviors. Form without creative personalization is coercive and dehumanizing law; creative personal expression without form is randomness at best, and license at worst. It is only with the appropriate combination of form and functional personalization that family and community can be self-regulating and refi ned. One profound difference that Tang Junyi makes much of between the Western and Chinese philosophical narratives is how Chinese culture is grounded in the everyday lives of the people and the natural deference that pervades family living (4:219–302). For Tang , the meaning and value of family relations is not simply the primary ground of social order; it has cosmological and religious implications as well. Family bonds properly observed are the point of departure for understanding that each of us has moral responsibility for an expanding web of relations that reach far beyond our own localized selves (4:210–15). The family is the center of cosmic order, and as we see in the Great Learning, all order ripples out in concentric circles from and returns to nourish this primary source. In the Zhongyong (20) we are told explicitly that family feeling is the source of the civility fostered by our ritualized roles and institutions:



Consummate conduct 仁 means conducting oneself like a human being 人, wherein devotion to one’s kin is most important. Appropriateness 義 means doing what is fitting 宜, wherein esteeming those of superior character is most important.15 The degree of devotion due different kin and the degree of esteem accorded those who are different in character is what gives rise to the observance of ritual propriety 禮. (Ames and Hall)

By contrast, family as an institution has not been a significant inspiration for order within the broad sweep of Western philosophy and culture. We are indeed hard pressed to fi nd any family-centered philosophical notion that is comparable to and has had the vital importance that familial deference 孝 has for Confucian philosophy. If we rehearse the contributions of our principal philosophers, few indeed invoke family as a productive model for organizing the human experience. Plato’s rejection of the family in the Republic and Aristotle’s denigration of the household (oikos) as a source of privation are fairly representative. Although Dewey would allow that democracy “accords with the historic spirit of the Chinese race” (MW.11.197), true to the mainstream of his own tradition, Dewey thinks China has to get past the traditional family system as a precondition for democratization (MW.13.230, 103). Perhaps this disinterest in the always-partial relations that emerge from family feeling is due to the centrality of impartiality as a necessary condition for ethical conduct that is so pervasive among those philosophers who would look to moral reasoning as the ultimate source of moral order. Such disinterest in family as a measure of order in our narrative contrasts starkly with the Confucian worldview in which family is the governing metaphor, and in which in fact all relationships are familial. The signature of Confucianism is that human morality is an expression of immediate family feeling—what Tang Junyi calls the natural life-force 生理. At the very beginning of the Analects we read: It is a rare thing for someone who has a sense of fi lial and fraternal deference 孝弟 to have a taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority to be keen on initiating rebellion. Exemplary persons concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way will grow therefrom. As for fi lial and fraternal deference, it is, I suspect, the root of consummate conduct 仁.

The importance of family is sedimented into the modern Chinese language. In English we might say “everybody (or everyone), please stand up,” using the body and its discreteness (one) as an indices for person, thereby indicating our assumption that the indivisible individual is the lowest unit in social



organization. In Chinese, however, we would say 大家請站起來—literally “big family, please stand up,” suggesting that family relations are constitutive of our persons and that indeed it is our specific family rather than any single individual that is the lowest social unit. In the Chinese case, one might reason that I am certainly incarnate and live my life as an embodied individual, but at the same time I am Bonnie’s husband, and Austin’s father, and Sor-hoon’s professor, and Gail’s next-door neighbor, and that these roles and relationships as I have grown them over a lifetime are arguably more real and enduring than my sometimes tenuous and increasingly disappointing body. In fact, for the distinguished person, roles and relations persist long after the inevitable demise of their physicality. Growth for Confucianism takes place not primarily in our physical persons, but in the opportunity for enchanted living that our roles and relationships provide each one of us. The underlying wisdom in this Confucian tradition is that family is the single human institution to which persons are most likely to give themselves utterly and without remainder. To transform the world into a family, according to the Confucian sensibility, is to promote the model that will best accomplish the goal of getting the most out of your constitutive relations by applying the logic that when your neighbor does better, you do better. Beginning with the distinction between appropriateness (yi 義) and personal advantage (li 利) that we fi nd as early as the Analects and the Mencius, the Confucian tradition too struggles with the seemingly necessary relationship between ethical conduct and impartiality. Rather than invoking some transcendental moral standard or the functioning of impersonal reason as a strategy for claiming such impartiality—a strategy that is hobbled by the contingencies of circumstances—the Confucian tradition remains true to the family metaphor. Impartiality is served practically by extending one’s range of concern from “the master’s-eye view (zhuguan 主觀)” that is self-serving personal advantage (li 利) to “the guest’s-eye view (keguan 客觀)” that seeks what is most appropriate for all concerned (yi 義). The Confucian formula of “putting oneself in the other’s place (shu 恕)” and then “doing one’s best (zhong 忠)” is another variation on this attempt to broaden one’s range of concern in determining what is moral. Of course the Confucian appeal to family as the organizing metaphor for the human experience is not altogether benign. Despite being the most profound insight of this Chinese tradition in rethinking the ground of real democracy, it is also its primary obstacle on the road to democratization. We have seen that the primary problem that Dewey addresses in invoking the idea of democracy is to overcome the aggregating inertia of form that stifles



the life of real democratic community. The problem that the idea of Confucianism faces, if it is to be realized as a Confucian democracy, is precisely the opposite. With so much investment in intimate and informal familial relationships, the Confucian tradition has been slow to produce the formal, more objective institutions that are necessary to sustain a Confucian version of democracy, and when it has produced them, these same institutions are often compromised and ultimately eroded by the excessive intervention of personal relationships. While the familiar appeal to universals might suffer from the ambiguity of practical applications, the Confucian attempt to extend consideration to all involved is handicapped by the need for more abstract regulative ideals, such as fairness and justice, that provide direction for what is a legitimate claim for consideration and inclusion. Indeed, as democracy emerges in China, the cure for the ills of Confucian democracy will be an appeal to the rule of law and the formal institutions of democracy to contain the excesses of family feeling. NOTES 1. Arif Dirlik is also a fair representative of this group, arguing that the “intellectual efforts to salvage Confucianism by connecting it to modern values of EuroAmerican origin seemed to serve only to further undermine it by compromising its integrity as a coherent philosophical system” (Confucius in the Borderlands). 2. For Lucien W. Pye, Confucianism with no concept of the autonomy of the individual is directly responsible for a tradition of authoritarianism (Asian Power; State and Individual). 3. Mencius 3A1 孟子道性善 and Mencius 6B2 人皆可以為堯舜. 4. Sor-hoon Tan rehearses this contemporary debate (102). Irene Bloom sees in Mencius concerns “related to our own: his sense of common humanity, his discovery of a moral potential common to all human beings . . .” (94). Wing-tsit Chan is even more specific: “In saying that one is of the same kind as the sage, Mencius was pronouncing two principles of utmost significance. One is that every person can be perfect, and the other is that all people are basically equal” (56). 5. This is precisely the question that Chan Sin Yee raises in her critique of Tang Junyi’s claim that Chinese culture contains the seed of democracy: Although Confucianism believes in moral equality among people, this moral equality is distinct from political equality, and it is political equality that is relevant to democracy. Indeed, Confucianism has often been criticized for sanctioning hierarchical and authoritarian rule that is the antithesis of democracy. . . . To justify the view that Chinese culture



contains the seeds of democracy, Tang would have to explain why political hierarchy or even hierarchy in general is not essential to Confucianism or explain how hierarchy is compatible with democracy. (322–323). 6. This proposition is an expression of the yinyang 陰陽 correlativity ubiquitous in Chinese cosmology that, in one of its most abstract iterations, entails the “continuity between reforming and functioning (tiyong heyi” 體用合一 ).” This inseparability of reforming and functioning has, of course, immediate application to the appropriate relationship between life and political reform. 7. See Michael Sandel’s communitarian critique of our present-day democracy in Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy. Sandel responds to the argument that life is becoming increasingly complex by explicitly advocating a return to the local: “The politics of neighborhood matters more, not less. People will not pledge allegiance to vast and distant entities, whatever their importance, unless those institutions are somehow connected to political arrangements that reflect the identity of the participants” (343). His prescription for America recalls Dewey’s insistence that democracy is expressed more in attitudes than institutions, and that democratic institutions are both gradually formed by and reinforced through education. Sandel advocates the promotion of personal identities that are educated locally. These identities can be secured in a noncoercive and self-governing community and then extended into more complex areas of life. 8. I am grateful to David McCraw, who has pointed out a passage in Huayanjing 34 that corroborates Tang Junyi’s insight: 一多相依,互為本末: “there is an interdependence between the one and many that makes them root and branch to each other.” The commentary on this passage states: 非一非異,不即不離 : “Neither the same nor different, not here nor there.” 9. For a translation of the Book of Rituals, see James Legge, The Texts of Confucianism, Part III. The Li Chi. 2 volumes (1926).

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Works Cited

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List of Contributors

ROGER T. AMES is Professor of Philosophy at University of Hawai`i at Manoa. He is editor of Philosophy East and West, the SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture, the SUNY series in Asian Studies Development, and volumes on Asian and comparative philosophy, such as Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought; Emotions in Asian Thought, Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice, Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice, and Self as Person in Asian Theory and Practice. He is the author of numerous articles and monographs including Thinking through Confucius and Democracy of the Dead: Dewey, Confucius and Hope for Democracy in China. LARRY A. HICKMAN is director of the Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology (1990), Philosophical Tools for Technological Culture (2001), and Pragmatism as Post-Postmodernism (2007). He is also the editor of Technology as a Human Affair (1990), Reading Dewey (1998), The Essential Dewey (with Thomas Alexander, 1998), and The Correspondence of John Dewey, 1871–1952 (1999, 2001, 2005). JOHN HOLBO is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at National University of Singapore. His works have appeared in American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Literature, and his blog The Valve. JAMES SCOTT JOHNSTON is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Education at Queens University, Ontario. He has written Inquiry and Education, and he has published articles in Educational Studies, Educational Theory, Educational Philosophy and Theory, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, and the Journal of Aesthetic Education. He is a senior editor for the journal Educational Research and Reviews. BRUCE ROBBINS is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has also taught at the universities of Geneva and 209



Lausanne and at Rutgers University and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell, and NYU. He has written Upward Mobility and the Common Good (2007), Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (1999), The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below (1986), and Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (1993). He has edited Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics (1990) and The Phantom Public Sphere (1993), and he co-edited Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (1998), and the Longman Anthology of World Literature (2003). SUN YOUZHONG is Professor and the Dean of the School of English and International Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. He has written four books (in Chinese)—John Dewey’s Social Thought, Modern American Popular Culture, Approaching America, and American Cultural Industry. He co-translated Individualism Old and New: Selected Works of John Dewey. He has published essays and reviews in Chinese and international journals, including Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society. SOR-HOON TAN is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. She is author of Confucian Democracy: A Deweyan Reconstruction. She has also edited Challenging Citizenship: Group Membership and Cultural Identity in a Global Age, and she co-edited The Moral Circle and the Self and Filial Piety in Chinese Thought and History. She has published book chapters on comparative philosophy, pragmatism, and Confucianism, and her essays have appeared in Philosophy East and West, International Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, and Asian Philosophy. JESSICA CHING-SZE WANG is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Education at National Chiayi University, Taiwan. She has written Dewey in China: to Teach and to Learn (2007). CECILIA WEE is Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore, she has published articles in Philosophical Inquiry, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, as well as book chapters on Aristotle, Descartes, and Environmental Philosophy. She is the author of Material Falsity and Error in Descartes’ Meditations (2006). JOHN WHALEN-BRIDGE is Associate Professor of English at the National University of Singapore and served as the fi rst convenor for the Religious



Studies Minor Program. He has written Political Fiction and the American Self and is currently co-editing a series of books for SUNY on Buddhism and American Culture, including volumes on literature, fi lm, and social issues. In his copious spare time, he is writing Dharma Bums Progress: Buddhism, Orientalism, and Engaged Aesthetics in the Writings of Gary Snyder, Charles Johnson, and Maxine Hong Kingston. JUDY D. WHIPPS is Chair of Liberal Studies and Associate Professor Philosophy at Grand Valley State University. She offers classes on feminism and pragmatism as well as philosophy of education. Her recent publications include Jane Addams’s Writings on Peace, a four-volume collection of Addams’s writings on peace (2003). She has also written “Jane Addams’s Social Thought as a Model for a Pragmatist-Feminist Communitarianism” (Hypatia, 2004), “Pragmatist Feminism” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), “The Feminist Pacifism of Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate” (NWSA Journal, 2006) and essays on Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Jessie Taft, and Emily Greene Balch in American Women Philosophers.

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Blake, Casey, 108; “Beloved Community”, 102 Bloom, Harold, 109, 142 Bloom, Irene, 198 body: as a unit of democracy, 196–97; mind/body dualism, 136, 138–39, 143–49, 152–53, 156; martial arts, 13, 145–47, 151, 156 Boisvert, Raymond, 17 Bourne, Randolph, 92, 94, 99–104 Bowers, Chet, 65–66 Brown, Bill, 147 Brown, John, 95 Buddhism, 13, 116, 139–40, 143–62; and the Four Noble Truths 151–52; Mahayana 148; Johnson’s discussion, 152; Dewey’s concept of Nirvana, 13, 140, 148, 150–51, 156–57, 160–61, 174; Zen, 13, 151–162 Burke, Tom, 17 Bush, George. W., xi, 7, 8, 10, 53–62, 99, 104

Abbott, Henry Livermore, 101 Achieving Our Country (Rorty), xiii, 27, 92, 141–43, 160–61 Adams, Henry, 143 Addams, Jane, 4, 8, 81–90, 92; Democracy and Social Ethics, 85–86 Adorno, Theodor, 109 Aitken, Robert, 157, 162 Al thia ( Johnson), 140, 147, 149, 161 Alexander, F. M., 100 Alexander, Thomas, 17 Alitto, Guy, 14; “The Last Confucian”, 14 Allison, Dorothy, 141; “Believing in Literature” (essay), 141 American Federation of Labor, 90 Ames, Roger T., 140, 173, 177 anti-Americanism, xiii, 67 anti-dualist, Deweyan, 6. See also dualism; nonduality Arendt, Hannah, 87 Aristotle, 25, 196 Arnold, Matthew, 38–40 Art as Experience (Dewey), 140, 154–56, 174–76 asian values, 32–33 Ataturk, Mustapha, 69, Regime, 80 Audard, Catherine, 87 Austin, J. L., 114 authority: paternalistic, 36; authoritarian politics, 32–33, authoritarian methods, 78

Callan, Eamonn, 14, 163–64, 169–71 Campbell, James, 17, 186 capitalism, 86–89, 118; market economy, 57; global, 9, 88–89 Central Anti-Imperialist League of Chicago, 89 Chan Sin Yee, 198 Chan Wing-tsit, 198 China: Johnson’s writing on, 140, 146; Dewey’s visit to, 8, 70–76, 80, 83–84, 163; Dewey’s writing on, 8, 69 democracy in, 15, 177–180, 196, 198; in 1920s, 61–62; democraticization, 15;

Baldwin, James, 142 Believing in Literature (essay) (Allison), 141 Beloved Community (Blake), 102 Bérubé, Michael, xiii 213



Chinese culture, 181, 195, 198; Chinese cosmology, 180–88; Young China movement, 72–75 Civil War, 10, 93–98, 101–103 Cold War, 2, 56, 103 community, 5, 24–25, 27–28, 34–47, 119, 123, 158, 167, 171, 173, 179–80, 192, 199; and American individualism, 82; as a basis of ethics, 85; as foundation of belief, 98–103; Chinese view of, 181, 184, 187, 193–95, 198; democracy as, 59–60, 76–79; Descartes’ view of, 124, 130–34, 137–38; Dewey’s views of, 124–28, 186; imagined, 120; social construction of, 186, Confucianism, xiv, 14–15, 32–33, 73, 80, 90, 112, 116, 138, 163–76, 177–99; democracy, 33, 80, 90, 177–80, 198; familial deference, 178, 194, 196; family system, 196; ritual propriety, 192–196 Consequences of Pragmatism (Rorty), 108, 117 Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Rorty), 119 Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, 156, 162; flow concept, 162; Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, 162 cultural identity, 31, 34, 44–45 culture, 31–42, 47–48, 58, 64–73, 82; academic, 115–16; and soft power, 61–64; Asian (see democracy) in relation to, 83–84; anesthetic, 141–44; cultural Left, (see Achieving Our Country); Dewey’s defi nition of; individualism, ethnocentrism, 65–67; cultural diversity, 31, 44–45; cultural identity, 31, 44–45; cultural relativism, 44–46; democratic, 38–40, 140, 175; multiculturalism, 33 dao, 183–85; Daoism, 138, 161; Lao Tzu, 154; Daoist, 151; Tao Te Ching, 154 Debs, Eugene V., 94–95, 103 Delbanco, Andrew, 161 Democracy and Education (Dewey), 13–14, 76, 160, 163–176

Democracy and Social Ethics (Addams), 85–86, 90 democracy, as social ethics, 82; Confucian, 33, 80, 177–80, 90, 198; in China, 177; aesthetics, 146, 161 ; American, 55, 61; democratic culture, 38–40; Dewey’s defi nition of, 15, 76; Deweyan, 1, 124–25, 129; education of, 69, 79, 87; pragmatist, 82, 88, process of, 193; social, 86 Derrida, Jacques, xii Descartes, Rene, 12–13, 123–138 Discourse on Methods, 132–33; Passions of the Soul, 132 Diggins, John Patrick, 80 Dirlik, Arif, 33, 48, 198 Discourse on Method (Descartes), 132–33 Dogen Eihei, 159 Dozan, 152–153 dualism, 6, 12, 13, 14, 35, 38–39, 45, 129, 139–40, 143–44, 146, 149, 155–56, 159, 161, 169, 182; mind/body d.and Descartes, 129, 156; of nature and spirit, 139, 155–56, 159; Buddhist critique of mind/body, 140; Dewey’s thought, 140–43; political, 38. See also nonduality Dworkin, Ronald, 5, 21 Edmondson, Henry T., 66–67 education, 9, 13–14, 37–43,176; creative destruction, 150; Dewey’s conception of, 163–69; philosophy of, 173; public, 29; globalization of, 63–80; in China, 83; social change, 87; women, 82; egalitarianism, 177 Elizabeth of Bohemia, 129, 132–33 Ellison, Ralph, 161 Elster, Jon, 121 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 160–61; Enlightenment, the, 112, 115; 23, 27, 68, 119, 149–50, 159–61; European, 117, 119, 161, 178. See also Buddhism equality, in relation to democratic social ethics, 85–86 Espionage and Sedition Act, 94 Ethics without Ontology (Putnam), 11, 111–15


ethics, Descartes, 12, 128–29, 133, 136; science of, 46–47; social, 85, 89 ethnocentrism, 31, 33, 44–45, 47, 65–67 experience, aesthetics, 140; spiritual, 157–58 Feeling Global (Robbins), 93 Ferry Harpers, 95 Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (Csikszentmihalyi), 162 First World War, 9–10, 44, 89–103 Fish, Stanley, xii Foucault, Michel, 67, 115–118, 142 Freedom and Culture (Dewey), 77, 80 freedom, 40, 61; religious, 54, 57; economic, 57; political, 36, 57 From Absolutism to Experimentalism (Dewey), 108–9 Frost, Robert, 174 Fundamental Ideas (Dewey), Liang’s discussion of, 163–67 Gavin, William, 17 Geertz, Clifford, xii Gleason, William, 160 globalization, and First World hegemony, 64, 79–80, 89; democracy as defi ning aspect, 1, 2, 4, 50, 53, 55, 60, 63, 64, 90; economic, 57; education, 63–80; functionalist interpretation, 80 Haack, Susan, 17 Habermas, Jurgen, 5, 21, 27, 112, 121 Healy, Kieran, 121 hegemony, 2, 30, 33–34, 39, 45, 47–48, 90; Western, 34 Hickman, Larry A., 5, 6, 17, 58 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr., 10, 93–96, 98, 100–01, 103 Hu Shih, 163 Hudson, W. H. 155 Hull House, 8, 9, 81–82, 85, 88, 90 Human Nature and Conduct (Dewey), 126 human nature, Dewey’s interpretation of, 35, 38–40, 44, 47–48, 67, 126, 190–91; Mencian notion of, 177; Rousseau’s claim, 39, Tang’s interpretation, 187–88, 192–94


human rights, 32, 54, 93 Huntington, Samuel, 2, 33, 99, 177; The Clash of Civilizations, 99 idealism, German, 70 identity, 34. See also cultural identity imperialism, 32, 34, 45, 47, 55–56, 61, 89–90 individual, 5, 34, 32, 34, 4041, 43, 61, 89, 90; and Confucianism 193, 196–98; and Dao 185; and Descartes 12, 123, 125–36, 138; and Mill 190; and society 2, 6, 12, 14, 35, 39–41, 43, 59–60, 68, 76–77, 85–86, 125, 160, 164–69, 172–76, 177–80, 182, 185–87 industrial revolution, the, 73 inquiry, 6, 8, 25–26, 29–30, 33, 37, 39–48, 59, 63, 68–71, 75–77, 79, 125, 137, 159, 166 insecurity, intellectual and moral, 42 intelligence, 37; cooperative 37; Deweyan notions of, 41–42, 66, 71, 126–27, 136, 135 International Federation of Settlements, 83 International Monetary Fund, 63 Introduction to Zen Buddhism (Suzuki), 152 Iraq, U.S. invasion of, 61, 91 Isherwood, Christopher, 23, 158, 162 James, Wilky, 93, 96 James, William, 24, 93, 117, 143, 160 Japan, Addams’s work in, 83–84, Dewey and, 3, 8, 61, 69–76; Japanese followers of Dewey, 80; philosophical detachment, 159–162; Johnson, Charles, 13, 139, 143–49, 156, 157, 160–61; Alethia, 140, 147, 149, 161 Joslin, Katherine, 83–84 Joyce, James, 118, 161 Kallen, Horace, 97 Kant, Immanuel, 27, 113 Karier, Clarence, 65 King Lear, 88 King, Martin Luther, 161 Lao Tzu, 154. See also Taosim Latour Bruno, 2



Lebanon, Israeli invasion of, 91 Lee, Bruce, 146–47 Legge, James, 199 Liang, Shuming, 13–14, 163–69, 175–76 Liberalism and Social Action (Dewey), 23, 29 Liberalism in Japan (Dewey), 70 liberalism, xiii, 2, 7, 14–15, 23, 29, 32, 45, 48, 53, 58, 65, 76, 82, 83, 142, 163- 176; in Japan, 70–71; in China, 72, 102, 177–78, 182; individual, 83; reconstruction of, 23, 29; rights-based, 169; Rorty, 107–08, 118, 119, 120 liberty, 28, 88, 182; economic, 57 Lin-Chi, 13, 139, 152–54, 159 Lingard, Bok, 79 Livingston, James, 97, 103 Locke, Alain, 97–98 Loy, David, 151, 161 Lyotard, Jean-Francois, 120 Mailer, Norman, 141 Margolis, Joseph, 17 martial arts,13, 145–47, 151, 156. See also body Marxism, 37–39 May Fourth Movement, 61, 71 McCraw, David, 199 Menand, Louis, 9–10, 91–104; The Metaphysical Club, 91–93, 97 Mencius, 177, 197, 198 metaphysics, 138; Buddhist, 154; Cartesian, 129 method, democratic 39, 89, 125, 127; experimental 11, 28–29, 37, 73; Platonic 108–11. See also scientific method Michaels, Walter Benn, 99 militarism, 9, 56, 70, 73, 81, 88–95, 99–101, 147 Mill, John Stuart, 190 Minority, 30, 34, 38, 170–71 modernism, 66, 68, 118–120; and Asia, 82; and anti-modernism, 3; and women, 147; philosophical, 42, 55 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, 9, 88–89 monarchism, 181 Monbiot, George, 60 Mouffe, Chantal, 5, 21–28 multiculturalism, 33

nation-state, 59, 77 naturalism, 155, 193 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 116–17 Nirvana, 13, 140, 148, 150–157, 160–61, 174 nonduality, 6, 12, 14, 35, 38–39, 45, 129, 139–40, 143–44, 146, 149, 155–56, 159, 161, 169, 182. See also individual and society; dualism Nussbaum, Martha, 87 Odin, Steve, 159 ontology, 113–14; organizational, 114 Open Mouth Already a Mistake (Shrobe), 151 Pacific Century, 10, 17 pacifi sm, relation to pragmatism, 100 Padelford Hall, 149 patriotism, 92, 142 Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Rorty), 107 Pirsig, Robert, 159 Pitkin, Hanna, 5, 22 Plato, 108–9, 113–118, 121, 196 pluralism, 58, 63, 115; agonistic, 22–23 politics as a necessary component of culture, 36 Popkewitz, Thomas, 67–68, 80 Porter, Paige, 79 positivism, 35, 111 postmodernism, xii-xiii, 50, 99, 112, 120, 147, 161 pragmatism, xii, 2–4, 9–14, 21, 26, 83, 91–104, 108, 110–12, 116–17, 120–21, 124, 127, 138, 143, 144, 151, 156, 159–60, Bourne’s take on, 99–100, classical, 21; in relation to Buddhism, 151, 156, 159; Holme’s view of, 994; Menand’s account of, 91, 96–102; Rorty’s view, 92, 93 propaganda, 41 psychoanalysis, 5, 24 public, concept of, 5, 10, 23–25, 29, 37, 65, 77–80, 83–84, 91, 101, 171–72, 178, 199; opinion, 51 Pullman Railway Strike, 88, 103 Putnam, Hilary, 4, 10, 12, 17, 107, 111–13; Ethics without Ontology, 11, 111–12, 115


Pye, Lucian W., 32–33, 48, 198 Pynchon, Thomas, 141–42 race, 34, 59, 74, 76, 85, 95–98, 146–49, 196 Rawls, John, 5, 21 realism, 5, 103, 111 reason, notion of, 135–137 relativism, 115; cultural, 34 religion, xiv, 5, 12–13, 23, 29, 54, 57, 72, 84, 130–32, 134, 138, 140–162, 179, 193, 195 Rizvi, Fazal, 79 Robbins, Bruce, 9; Feeling Global, 93 Romanticism, 118–20, 142–43 Rorty, Richard; 92, 107–11, 117–21, 141, 143, 160; Achieving Our Country, xiii, 92, 141–43, 161; Consequences of Pragmatism, 108, 117; Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, 119; Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 107 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 39 Russell, Bertrand, 99 Ryan, Alan, 99 Sandel, Michael, 199 Schmitt, Carl, 22, 26 Scholte, Jan Aart, 7 science of ethics, 46–47 scientific method, as essential to democracy, 37, 41, 65–68, 70, 71–78, 80, 127 scientism, 30, 37, 39, 41–42, 44, 116, 176 Second World War, 42 secularism, xiv, 23, 99, 142, 161 Seigfried, Charlene Haddock, 17 self-determination, 97 September 11, 2001, xiv, 54, 99 Shrobe, Richard (Wu Kwang), 189; Open Mouth Already a Mistake, 151 Shusterman, Richard, 17, 146 Siddhartha Gautama, 152. See also Buddhism Silko, Leslie Marmon, 142 slavery, 95–97 Smith, Mary Rozet, 83 Snyder, Gary, 162 social: amelioration, 87; contacts 60, 168; control, 85; Darwinism, 57; ethics, 85,


89; inquiry, 37, 137; justice, 57, 96; life, 58, 164, 168 socialism, 57, 65, 88, 95, 103 Socrates, 108, 116, 174 solidarity, 5, 10, 27, 28, 29, 89, 101, 119, 141–42, 164, 169, 171 spectatorship, detached, 1432 Storhoff, Gary, 160 Stuhr, John, 17 Sun Yat Sen, 61 Sun Youzhong, 7 Suzuki, D. T., 152–53, 156; Introduction to Zen Buddhism, 152 Tang Junyi, 14, 177–99 Taoism. See dao terrorism, 142 The Clash of Civilizations (Huntington), 99 The Last Confucian (Alitto), 14 The Metaphysical Club (Menard), 91–93, 97 The Public and its Problems (Dewey), 10, 23, 83, 178 Thich Nhat Hahn, 157, 162 Thoreau, Henry, 174 Tiles, James, 17, 77 totalitarianism, 78 totality, 149–54, 162, 184 truth, 6, 12, 21, 25–27, 37, 39, 47, 56, 63, 67, 93, 99–100, 108, 111, 112, 114, 129, 135, 143 truth, absolute, 37; essence of, 108; metaphysical, 135 tyranny, 41, 54, 60 United States, 23, 54, 60–1, 67–75, 83, 88–97 United States, 44, 67, 69, 83; Addams’s discussion, 88–90; in war, 10, 91–102; Judeo-Christian, 23; National Security Strategy, 51–57, 60–61; promotion of democracy, 9, 54; relations with China, 75; war on terror, 103; weapons of mass destruction, 54 universal suffrage, 125 universal suffrage, 125 universalism, 6, 22–24, 27, 45, 47; universalization, 2, 4, 6, 7, 16, 25–27, 45–46



values, democratic, 9, 44. See also asian values Vidovich, Lesley, 79 Vietnam War, xiii, 147 virtuosity, 187–88 Wallerstein, Immanuel, xiv Walzer Michael, 21 Wang, Jessica, 13 war. See Civil War; Cold War; First World War; Second World War Watson, Burton, 162 West, Cornel, xii, 160

West, the, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 31; deuniversalized approach to, 32–34, 45, 53, 58, 60, 62–64, 68–71, 73–79, 88, 90, 99, 118, 154, 159; Western philosophy, 177–81, 195–96 Westbrook, Robert, 70, 125, 192 Wilson, Woodrow, 9, 55, 94 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 5, 21–22, 116 Wolfson, Ben, 121 Wu Kwang, (Richard Shrobe), 189; Open Mouth Already a Mistake, 151 Zen, 139, 149–59, 161–62