Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Stephen turner

Co-Major Professor

Sherman dorn


Some have claimed that John Dewey was one of few thinkers that developed an

educational theory that is comparable to Plato.1 Dewey did something that William James

and Charles Sanders Peirce did not do; he applied Pragmatism and the Pragmatic method

to the study of education. The main tasks of this dissertation are as follows: (1) Argues

that habit is the most important and unifying element in John Dewey's philosophy of

education, (2) Critically investigates habit's fundamental role in his democratic project of

reconstructing culture toward establishing and sustaining the democratic way of life. In

addition to the latter points, this project shows how and why the critique of habits and

cultural values is central to Dewey's philosophy of education and reveals how important

the process of unlearning is to the continual development of human possibilities.

The latter tasks will be carried out by first reviewing the historical influences on

Dewey's thinking with regard to habit and surveying secondary literature that has dealt

with his position on habit. Second, the Deweyan conception of the nature of habit and the

formation of habit in immediate experience will be explored. Third, Dewey's educational

philosophy will be examined. Education, which Dewey asserts to be Democracy's

midwife, should produce growth that is characterized by perpetual reconstruction of

habits of thought and practical conduct. Fourth, in investigating habit, individuality, and community, a close reading of Dewey's position on habit highlights that the political

enterprise of education and the transactional process of learning are cultural projects that

demand ongoing re-evaluation and refinement community values. The conclusion will

argue how important the ongoing improvement of a cultural instrumentalism, through

schooling, is to sustaining a steady path of cultural self-correction. For Dewey, schooling,

in cultivating the requisite habits, serves the crucial social function of developing and

recasting new forms of the Democratic way of life toward creating a "Great Community."

Dewey had a persistent concern for the ethos of the Democratic way of life but

feared that the stultification of an individual's plasticity of habit will inevitably bring on

the "social arterial sclerosis" of the public. Like his pragmatism, experimentalism, and

instrumentalism, the Democratic way of life, for Dewey, is an attitude. This attitude, like

any attitude, is shaped and channeled by a force as powerful as gravity, habit.