Degree Granting Department
Curriculum and Instruction
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.
Scholar Commons Citation
Lamons, Brent, "Habit, Education, and the Democratic Way of Life: The Vital Role of Habit in John Dewey's Philosophy of Education" (2012). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.