Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Philosophy

Major Professor

John P. Anton

Co-Major Professor

Alexander Levine

Committee Member

Martin Schönfeld

Committee Member

Kwasi Wiredu

Keywords

Political, Social, Education, Conflict Resolution, Cooperation

Abstract

In investigating Dewey’s theory of the Great community, it is important to first examine closely Dewey’s theory of scientific inquiry and show how it evades the spectator theory of knowledge common to all modern epistemologies as closed systems. Dewey maintained that through controlled experimentalism we engage, and can solve, existential issues facing us for the purpose of expanding human freedom, promoting the democratic way of life and cultivating the institutions which foster these activities. The usage of inquiry to overcome problematic situations therefore stands as one of the first conditions needed to attain the great community.

Since Dewey did not view human beings as isolated and passive spectators he engaged in formulating what it means to become an individual with experimental habits. Dewey envisioned humans as organisms operating in a common cultural environment rather than private entities cut off from one another. We are communal by way of communication. The next condition required to bring about the great community is open communication.

Dewey held that human beings need to operate through the development of such habits that assist them in overcoming obstacles by means of an education that secures the process of cultural growth. This aspect of his theory became the backbone of Dewey’s conception of ethical value and his political theory. Members of the Great community must trust and freely associate to accomplish the social growth that Dewey advocates therefore free association is another condition for the achievability of the great community.

As I argue, for Dewey, any way of life which is oriented toward individual growth can be democratic. A democratic way of life is shown to be superior to any other currently pursued. Thus, any community which cultivates democratic practices throughout its culture can become a participant in the great community. By so doing it allows the individuals of that community to flourish as ethical and cognitive agents. Therefore democracy as a way of life requires that individuals participate within the cultivation of themselves and their community and this is the next condition for achieving the great community.

The final condition for achieving the great community is the full integration and usage of individual’s potentialities. If these six conditions are met, Dewey held the conditions would be ripe to bring about a great community. He never completed the social task of what the great community would be once attained, but this dissertation will gather together the materials he did provide on it and trace the steps that would be needed to achieve it.

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