Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy 2019005349, 9781138479906, 9781351064460

This book proposes a pragmatist methodological framework for generating practically relevant political philosophy. It dr

304 82 1MB

English Pages [294] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
List of Abbreviated Citations
List of Figure
1 The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy
2 In Pursuit of Relevance: Dewey’s Pragmatist Rejection of the Quest for Certainty
3 Dewey’s Experimentalist Conception of the Role of Philosophy
4 Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal
5 Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal
6 Dewey’s Democratic Ideal: Democracy as a Way of Life
7 Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy
8 Deweyan Democracy, Robert Talisse, and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism
9 The Question of Method: Deweyan Experimentalism in Political Philosophy
10 Experimentalism as a Method for 21st-Century Political Philosophy: Democratic Innovation, Participatory Budgeting, and Civic Studies
Recommend Papers

Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy
 2019005349, 9781138479906, 9781351064460

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy

This inspiring work combines informed and insightful exposition of Dewey’s philosophy with clear and compelling arguments about how to practice philosophy in ways relevant to concrete social and political problems. The scholarship is impressive, the attention to differing views responsible, and the writing style engaging. This is a valuable book for both students and scholars. —Martin Coleman, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, USA This book proposes a pragmatist methodological framework for generating practically relevant political philosophy. It draws on John Dewey’s social and political philosophy to develop an ‘experimentalist’ method, thus charting a middle course between idealism and realism in political philosophy. Deweyan experimentalism promises to balance civic deliberation, empirical facts, and moral considerations by reconstructing Dewey’s pragmatist conceptions of ‘philosophy’ and ‘democracy’ from the perspective of social action. While some authors have taken the steps to articulate Dewey’s experimentalism, they have focused on institutional rather than methodological implications. This book is original in the ways in which it situates the role of ideas in political practice and contemporary political problems. Additionally, it underlines the similarities between today and the historical context in which Dewey wrote, connects Dewey’s social and political philosophy to Greek and Roman mythology, and concludes with a timely case study in which the author’s methodological insights are applied. The result is a book that offers a focused reconstruction of Dewey’s work and shows its relevance for engaging with contemporary issues in political philosophy and political theory. Joshua Forstenzer is a Faculty Fellow in the Social Sciences and the Co-Director of the Centre for Engaged Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, UK. Prior to that, he was the Vice Chancellor’s Fellow for the Public Benefit of Higher Education, also at the University of Sheffield, and a Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, USA. His work has been published in The Political Quarterly, The Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, and The Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sheffield.

Routledge Studies in American Philosophy Edited by Willem deVries University of New Hampshire, USA Henry Jackman York University, Canada

Pierce’s Speculative Grammar Logic as Semiotics Francesco Bellucci Pragmatism, Pluralism, and the Nature of Philosophy Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Pragmatism and the European Traditions Encounters with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology Before the Great Divide Edited by Maria Baghramian and Sarin Marchetti Community and Loyalty in American Philosophy Royce, Sellars, and Rorty Steven A. Miller Sellars and the History of Modern Philosophy Edited by Luca Corti and Antonio M. Nunziante The Ethics of Wilfrid Sellars Jeremy Randel Koons Wilfrid Sellars and Buddhist Philosophy Freedom from Foundations Edited by Jay L. Garfield The Network Self Relation, Process, and Personal Identity Kathleen Wallace Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy Joshua Forstenzer For more information about this series, please visit: Routledge-Studies-in-American-Philosophy/book-series/RSAP

Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy

Joshua Forstenzer

First published 2019 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Taylor & Francis The right of Joshua Forstenzer to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Forstenzer, Joshua, author. Title: Deweyan experimentalism and the problem of method in political philosophy / Joshua Forstenzer. Description: 1 [edition]. | New York : Taylor & Francis, 2019. | Series: Routledge studies in American philosophy ; 19 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019005349 | ISBN 9781138479906 (hardback) Subjects: LCSH: Dewey, John, 1859–1952. | Political science— Philosophy. | Political science—Research—Methodology. Classification: LCC B945.D44 F67 2019 | DDC 320.092—dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 978-1-138-47990-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-06446-0 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC

To Andrea

Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (1611) It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. —Theodore Roosevelt, ‘Citizenship in a Republic’ (1910) L’avenir ne se prévoit pas; il se prépare. —Maurice Blondel, L’Action (1893)


Acknowledgements List of Abbreviated Citations List of Figure Introduction PART I

1 The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy PART II

ix xiii xiv 1 5

7 37

2 In Pursuit of Relevance: Dewey’s Pragmatist Rejection of the Quest for Certainty


3 Dewey’s Experimentalist Conception of the Role of Philosophy


4 Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal




5 Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


6 Dewey’s Democratic Ideal: Democracy as a Way of Life


7 Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy


8 Deweyan Democracy, Robert Talisse, and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism






9 The Question of Method: Deweyan Experimentalism in Political Philosophy


10 Experimentalism as a Method for 21st-Century Political Philosophy: Democratic Innovation, Participatory Budgeting, and Civic Studies


Bibliography Index

253 272


This book is the product of over a decade of engagement in sustained philosophical reflection and varying degrees of involvement in civic life. As a result, the people who have contributed directly or indirectly in shaping this project and helping me bring it to full completion are too numerous to mention here. However, I will endeavour to do justice to those who stand out most clearly in my mind. Let me begin by thanking Robert Stern for his gracious and unflagging intellectual, academic, and personal support throughout the life cycle of this project. As a doctoral supervisor, Bob’s patience, intellectual rigour, willingness to adapt to my needs, and his faith in me were essential ingredients in shaping the ideas found within this book. Anyone who knows Bob knows how stunningly perceptive he is. This book has thus benefitted from his invaluable insights and his hawk-like attention to detail at all stages. Most kindly, Bob read the full manuscript before final submission, providing excellent editorial guidance to the very end. Without his dedicated care and critique, this book would be much the worse for it. For that, and much more, I am profoundly indebted to Bob. I would also like to thank Christopher Hookway for first introducing me to John Dewey’s philosophy, and then for encouraging me to develop my own related ideas. Throughout my doctoral studies, Chris was a meticulous, involved, and supportive guide, often contributing crucial insights and criticisms that have enabled the ideas in this book to gain in depth immeasurably. More generally, in my broader intellectual journey, Chris has admirably served for many years as guardian and interpreter of the tradition of pragmatism with endless wisdom, infectious passion, and delight. Moreover, Matthew Festenstein and Christopher Bennett have provided helpful commentary, important clarifications, and useful suggestions as doctoral examiners. They both have my sincere gratitude. An extra layer of thanks is owed to Chris, who took the time to read the full manuscript and provide important commentary right before completion. Special thanks to Andrew Vincent for engaging with me so very thoughtfully over the years, and to Cornel West for the inspiring conversations

x Acknowledgements in Cambridge. I would also like to thank Peter Levine for our rich exchanges, for introducing me to many aspects of the more empirical literature covered in the final chapter of the book, for providing excellent career advice, and for kindly reading a completed version of the manuscript while providing invaluable final comments. I would also like to extend special thanks to Robert Talisse for generously giving of his time, first in Reykjavik and then in Sheffield (twice), to discuss our disagreements (and our agreements) over many hours of rich, fun, and challenging conversation. More generally, I want to thank my teachers throughout the years, my students, and many members of the University of Sheffield’s wider intellectual community (extended over time and space) for contributing to this book by reading, critiquing, or simply discussing relevant ideas with me at one point or another in the writing process. Special thanks are owed to Katharine Dommett, Mara-Daria Cojocaru, Angela Hobbes, Jules Holroyd, Jennifer Saul, Yonatan Shemmer, Casey Strine, Luca Barlassina, Cathy Legg, Peter Jones, Ahmad Fattah, Holly Lawford-Smith, Megan Kime, Clara Sandelind, Graeme Forbes, Heather Arnold, David Ekstrand, Jan Kandiyali, Paul Giladi, Daniel Herbert, Paniel Osberto Reyes Cárdenas, Jonathan Lorillard, Tom O’Shea, Jon Scarlett, Julien Murzi, Aaron Bogart, Sam Waters, Natasha McKeever, Angela Bird, Marcia Vera Espinoza, Murad Abouammoh, Jessica Begon, David Moon,  Katie Harrington, Matthew Flinders, Laurence Smith, Armin Khameh, Carl Fox, Joseph Kissolo-Sonko, Joe Morrison, Charlotte Aldwerick, Christina Thuring, Sagar Deva, Leon Derczynski, Janosch Prinz, Will Hornett, Jenn Chubb, Matt Sleat, Peter Verovšek, Maria Kasmirli, and Keith Frankish. I am also grateful to thinkers from further afield who kindly shared their thoughts with me, commented on drafts privately, or responded to presentations that I gave at conferences or seminars which, in some way or another, have fed into this book. In particular, I am thankful to Muriel Rouyer, Karol Soltan, Jonathan Garlick, Vachararutai Boontinand, Archon Fung, Clarissa Ryle-Hayward, Marshall Ganz, Ian James Kidd, Thamy Pogrebinschi, Jonathan Collins, Adam Smith, John Schwarz, Elizabeth Krontiris, Maricel Lonati, Megan Boyle, Kevin Dye, Rebecca Michelson, Shawn Lavoie, Markus Holdo, Alice Xu, María Marta Maroto, Kevin Ferreira, Charles Petersen, Heather Battaly, Richard Bernstein, Brendan Hogan, David Hildebrand, Fabian Freyenhagen, Vincent Descombes, Steve De Wizje, Lorna Finlayson, Maureen White, Sean Young, Jerry Gaus, David Miller, Leif Wenar, Sean Gray, and Carrie Roush for their insights and conversations. Many thanks also to Willem Devries, Andrew Weckenmann, Alexandra Simmons, and to three diligent, thoughtful, and engaging anonymous referees for all their help and good advice in making this project a reality.



Deweyan Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy draws partially on previously published works. I would thus like to thank the following for permission to use relevant material: •

Indiana University Press and editor Cornelis de Waal to reprint passages of the following article: ‘Deweyan Democracy, Robert Talisse, and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism: a Rawlsian Response’, Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Volume 53, Issue 4 (Fall 2017), pp. 553–578. Verlag Karl Alber Freiburg and editors to reprint passages of the following article: ‘Reconsidering Dewey’s Democratic Socialism in the Age of Populism’, Yearbook Practical Philosophy in a Global Perspective: Exploring Pragmatist Options, Michael Reder, Dominik Finkelde, Alexander Filipović, Johannes Wallacher (eds.), Verlag Karl Alber: München, pp. 50–73. The Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies and editor Vachararutai Boontinand to reprint passages of the following article: ‘A Democratic Ideal for Troubled Times: John Dewey, Civic Action, and Peaceful Conflict Resolution’, Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp. 1–34. Taylor & Francis and editors to reprint passages of the following chapter: ‘Education, Active Citizenship and Applied Social Intelligence: Some Democratic Tools to Meet the Threat of Climate Change’, Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, Pernille Almlund, Per Homann Jesperesen, and Søren Riis (eds.), Farnham: Ashgate (2012), pp. 177–191.

Moreover, I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding my doctoral studies, as well as the University of Sheffield and the city of Sheffield for giving me many of the opportunities that have come to inform much of my thinking on the nature of politics. From this more practical perspective, I would like to thank Joe Oliver, Rachel Colley, Kevin Kennedy Ryan, Jessie Ryan-Smith, Julie Peach, Janet Horwell, Dom Trendall, Peggy Lim, Hassun El Zafer, Minesh Parekh, Christy McMorrow, Ana Popa, Ana Mullaney, Anna Berestova, Tony Payne, Tony Ryan, Mike Braddick, Mark Willoughby, Drew Daggens, Ed Marsh, Usman Ali, Paul Blomfield, Tom Hunt, Madeleine Moon, and David Blunkett for teaching me so much. More personally, I am grateful to Alexis Artaud de La Ferrière, AbdiAziz Suleiman, Abdul Rahman Jama, Paul Moore-Bridger, Benedict Arscott, Neil Mackenzie, Steve Hubbard, and Chris Steadman-South for imagining together how we could be of service to others and for pushing my thinking ever more fully towards the complexities of addressing real human suffering. A most special thanks is owed to Keith Burnett, Ruth

xii Acknowledgements Arnold, Dawn Stewart, and Rachel Frith for their companionship, care, and advice throughout the years. I would also like to thank my mother, Jeanne; my father, Tom; my stepfather, Philippe; my sisters, Nicole, Lisa, and Maud; my brothers, Harold, Samuel, and Jorge; as well as my grandmother, Phyllis, and grandfather, Bernard, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins for conversing with me and supporting me throughout the years. I am also deeply grateful to my niece, Clara, and my nephew, Victor, for reminding me every day that we have a responsibility to the future. Many thanks also go to my second family, Yiayia Agatha, Callie, and Christina. I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to my friends, Mehdi Dumondel, Jenny LauroMariani, Naïm Zriouel, Yvan Lechien, Yacine Chibane-Devereux, Jana Brown, Dhalma Suarez, Willy Hiret, Nathan Mackay, Ghassan Haddad, Javier Arturo Sánchez, Robert Bennett, and Niloufar Lohrasebi for sharing their worlds with me, challenging me, inspiring me, stretching my mind and imagination, and encouraging me to think and act ever more meaningfully. Special thanks to Krysia Ochyra for all that she has taught and continues to teach me. Finally, I would like to thank my beloved, Andrea Eleonora Antoniou. There is so much I could thank her for, but I will limit myself to thanking her for loving me, supporting me, and for always helping me find the light—even in the darkest hours.

Abbreviated Citations

Major Works by Dewey EW:

John Dewey: The Early Works, 1882–1898, in The Collected Works of John Dewey: The Early Works, The Middle Works, The Later Works. 5 volumes, edited by JoAnn Boydston. Carbondale (Illinois): Southern Illinois University Press. 1969–1990. MW: John Dewey: The Middle Works, 1899–1924, in The Collected Works of John Dewey: The Early Works, The Middle Works, The Later Works. 15 volumes, edited by JoAnn Boydston. Carbondale (Illinois): Southern Illinois University Press. 1969–1990. LW: John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925–1953, in The Collected Works of John Dewey: The Early Works, The Middle Works, The Later Works. 17 volumes, edited by JoAnn Boydston. Carbondale (Illinois): Southern Illinois University Press. 1969–1990.

Major Works by Rawls TJ: PL: CP:

A Theory of Justice, revised edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press. 1993. Collected Papers, edited by S. Freeman, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. 1999.


6.1 The Raft of the Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse), Théodore Géricault, oil on canvas, 1818–1819, 491 cm × 716 cm (193.3 in. × 282.3 in.), photo © Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Angèle Dequier 148


Our leverage on the future is high, just now. [. . .] We seem, these days, much more willing to recognize the perils before us than we were even a decade ago. The newly recognized dangers threaten all of us equally. No one can say how it will turn out down here. (Carl Sagan 1997: 172, 174–175)

Humanity faces an unprecedented political challenge: the task of steering itself towards a sustainable future amidst global systemic uncertainty. A crucial part of this challenge involves developing a vision of change, of an achievable good society: a vision of the harbour we are aiming for as we sail through these troubled waters. Political philosophers of old are often thought to have generated such visions.1 Yet, the works of more recent political philosophers seem to have lost this visionary character. The standard explanation for this change holds that this is because, over the last four decades, many political philosophers—most obviously, in the English-speaking world—have become less willing to articulate visions that clearly relate to political practice, preferring instead to focus on what John Rawls calls ‘ideal theory’. As a result, their work has become predominantly interested with the clarification of moral intuitions applied to the political structure of society. However, more recently still, several political philosophers have come to express profound dissatisfaction with the Rawlsian notion of ideal theory. This has generated a methodological debate opposing ‘ideal’ theorists to ‘realist’ political philosophers. This book emerges from within this debate. In Part I, I argue that the realist critique is correct: the Rawlsian model of doing political philosophy fails to relevantly inform political practice. The shortcomings that lead to this inability are varied: namely, prioritising the pre-democratic conclusions of philosophers over the political autonomy of democratic citizenries; ignoring real political problems as experienced by actual citizens; relying on ‘idealisation’ (that is, making false assumptions); lacking a theory of transition (that is, a theory of how we might go about seeking to implement the recommendations set



out in the theory in a nonideal world); failing to seriously consider a diversity of moral considerations in political deliberations; ignoring the fact that trade-offs loom large in political deliberations; and, ignoring the role played by power in political action. I contend that any alternative method of doing political philosophy will have to overcome these shortcomings, while still holding on to the more Rawlsian notion that political philosophy must retain the capacity to effectively challenge injustice. In other words, I interpret the debate between ideal theorists and realists as a debate about the methodological balance we ought to strike between actual democratic deliberations, empirical facts, and abstract moral considerations. I contend that this balance must ultimately satisfy the demands of real politics (conceived in the widest possible sense) and must therefore be careful to embed itself within social and political contexts where real political actors might eventually be able to take appropriate action, while aiming for the highest possible moral standard (Chapter 1). On the basis of this, I go on to contend that a promising methodological outlook is to be found in John Dewey’s experimentalism. My chief claim is that Dewey’s experimentalism offers an appealing self-conception for political philosophers to experiment with. To support this claim, I articulate Dewey’s experimentalism with reference to his conceptions of philosophy and of democracy, since these respectively offer the conceptions of the role of the philosopher and of political deliberation, which, together, express a distinctive method of doing political philosophy. In Part II, I thus offer a critical presentation of Dewey’s philosophic ideal, articulating his rejection of the quest for certainty (Chapter 2), before arguing that it is best understood as the fulfilment of a social role analogous to that of a competent chairperson in a committee meeting rather than that of the wise purveyor of truths unknown to others (Chapter 3). Moreover, I consider some obvious objections to this philosophic ideal and reject them in turn (Chapter 4). Ultimately though, I conclude that properly grasping Dewey’s philosophic ideal requires envisioning it within the wider context of his democratic ideal. In Part III, I begin by drawing a historical parallel between Dewey’s times and ours (Chapter 5). Then I offer a critical interpretation of this democratic ideal, arguing that it is, at its core, a general ideal of interpersonal relationship founded upon terms enabling the free use of collective intelligence in response to communal problems (Chapter 6). After considering and rejecting some traditional objections to Dewey’s democratic ideal (Chapter 7), I consider Robert Talisse’s more recent claim that Deweyan democracy cannot accommodate the fact of reasonable pluralism (Chapter 8). I respond to Talisse, first, by following Shane Ralston in objecting to the way in which Talisse filters Dewey through a Berlinian and a Rawlsian lens, and then, by showing that, even within the Rawlsian framework, Deweyan democracy is not reasonably rejectable because Dewey’s conception of the good (‘growth’) is best understood as a sustained effort to engage in intelligent problem solving.



In Part IV, I articulate a broader methodological ideal for political philosophy and subject it to the test of overcoming the shortcomings previously identified with the Rawlsian approach. I therefore articulate an experimentalist method of doing political philosophy that embraces the need to start from problems as they are experienced, the need to generate hypothetical solutions to such problems, and the need to test such solutions out—first in deliberation and then in action. Finally, I consider the potential objection that we ought to reject this Deweyan view because Dewey’s own political philosophy failed to be practical enough, and I respond to this objection that Dewey’s prolific engagement with matters of public interest was ultimately rooted in his philosophic and democratic ideals (Chapter 9). I thus conclude that this Deweyan experimentalist method overcomes the failures of Rawlsian ideal theory and strikes an appropriate balance between the need to challenge injustice and yet embed the insights of political philosophy within particular political and social contexts, thus rendering them potentially relevant to practice. In the last instance, however, I recognise that this Deweyan methodology demands to be tested out in practice by contemporary political philosophers in order to judge whether or not it truly enables political philosophy to effectively contribute to the domain of actual political deliberation. To provide prima facie reasons for thinking that it can do so, I show how scholarship on participatory democracy and, more specifically, participatory budgeting underscore the feasibility of linking abstract reflection with empirical study and actual democratic deliberation. Finally, I introduce the growing field of civic studies as an existing methodological exemplar which shares much with Deweyan experimentalism and draws together scholarly discussions of facts, values, and strategies for the sake of enhancing civic agency (Chapter 10).

Note 1. When writing of ‘political philosophy’ and ‘political philosophers’ throughout this book, I include political theory and political theorists under these respective categories.

Part I


The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy

The uncomfortable reality is that we find ourselves faced with the imminent end of the era of cheap oil, the prospect of steadily rising commodity prices, the degradation of air, water and soil, conflicts over land use, resource use, water use, forestry and fishing rights, and the momentous challenge of stabilizing the global climate. And we face these tasks with an economy that is fundamentally broken, in desperate need of renewal. (Tim Jackson 2011: 15)

1.1. Coming Back from the Brink: Limitation, Crisis, and Climate Change We find ourselves on the brink of a deep civilisational hole. The problems we confront are many, varied, and highly complex. However, most intelligent commentators and researchers agree that one problem looms larger than all the others, namely, anthropogenic climate change. The economist Tim Jackson puts it thus: “Though it came late to the party, the climate may just turn out to be the mother of all limits” (2011: 13). Another economist, Cameron Hepburn, adds: “If you wanted to design a pill that would put an end to the human race it would produce many of the effects of climate change” (as cited in Almlund, Homann Jespersen & Riis 2012: 4–5). And indeed there is cause for concern. As of writing, the rapid deterioration of the environment on which we depend for our survival remains for the most part unimpeded. After over two decades of international deliberation, the only binding agreement world leaders were able to negotiate is unlikely to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) sufficiently as to avoid serious climate deregulation. Despite the great fanfare that accompanied the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement in which 196 countries committed “[h]olding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels” (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2015: Article 2), it provides little guarantee that these outcomes will be met, since it allows signatory states to set their own carbon


Part I

reduction targets and does not create any enforcement mechanism to punish states that fail to meet their commitments. Worse still, as a recent expert assessment points out, “significant climate impacts are already occurring [. . .] and additional magnitudes of warming will only increase the risk of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” (SED 2015: 15). We must thus heed the warnings of climate scientists who continue to proffer increasingly pessimistic predictions about the likely effects of a warmed globe (Homer-Dixon 2007; Jackson 2011: 11–13; Adger et al. 2014). Out of a number of actual and foreseeable consequences, the following stand out as particularly worrying: chronic droughts, multiplication of violent storms and hurricanes, unpredictable floods, large forest fires, rapid reduction in biodiversity, and rising sea levels (IPCC 2007a, 2013). The net effect of such developments on human life is difficult to appraise with much precision but they are largely thought to include the following: mass migrations, drastic reduction in access to clean drinking water, potentially permanent global food shortages, loss of and damage to vital infrastructure (such as hospitals, schools, roads, means of communication, etc.), widespread scarcity of basic medicines, and the multiplication of epidemics (Bates et al. 2008: 33–76; Brown 2008: 1–129; IPCC 2007b, 2012; Haider 2012; Ionesco, Mokhnacheva & Gemenne 2016). The principal institutional consequence of such developments is expected to be major political destabilisation (Barnett & Adger 2007; Brown 2009). In particular, it is thought that brewing international tensions would likely transform into large-scale military conflicts (HomerDixon 1999; Stern 2007: 56–91). According to Lester R. Brown, the most dangerous political effect of climate change is the likely proliferation of failed states (2008: 14). Under the mounting pressure caused by hikes in food and energy prices, many of the less stable national governments of the world are likely to “lose control of part or all of their territory [. . . and thus fail to] ensure the personal security of their people.” Moreover, the effects of a failed state are usually also felt beyond its borders. According to Brown (2008: 14–15, 2011: 88–93), the risk of armed conflict (most likely in the form of civil war) spreading to adjacent countries, along with the likely displacement of population and the threat of uncontrolled epidemics, are likely to cause serious political destabilisation across any region harbouring but a single failed state. Not only that, but in such an uncertain environment, the multiplication of large-scale conflicts across the globe is made all the more likely by: (i) the limited desire of any country to shelter endangered foreign citizens (already today, immigration policies and camps of displaced populations are sources of serious political tension, and we can only expect the political fallout to increase in magnitude as the size of displaced populations increases); and (ii) the desire to control strategically important scarce resources—such as, clean water, food, and energy—which would likely drive nations to preemptively assault competitors or directly take control of foreign assets.

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


Thus, the political cost of climate change is likely to be the proliferation of violent conflict. Such a realisation can only heighten the sense of urgency bestowed upon global citizens by the knowledge that unabated global GHG emissions continue to push our environment ever faster toward several tipping points, after which serious climatic changes of the sort just discussed are predicted to be all but inevitable. Most experts agree: meaningful action is desperately needed. And yet, “evidence gathered by the IPCC suggests that humanity may already be in ‘over-shoot’” (Jackson & Webster 2016: 10–11). We thus risk failing to stop the first climatic dominoes from falling—so much so that a broadening of the discussion to address problems related to climate change has occurred, as it now openly includes the use of potentially hazardous geoengineering strategies designed to slow or, more likely, mitigate the effects of the warming of the globe (Cicerone 2006; Crutzen 2006; Boucher, Gruber & Blackstock 2011; IPCC 2017). Another approach under consideration—beyond international cooperation and geoengineering—is the route of cultural and political reform within the nation state. Starting from the observation that existing political institutions and cultural norms are no longer ‘fit for purpose’, some have come to envision the path to civilisational renewal as requiring significant cultural and political transformation.1 Jackson, for one, argues that cultural transformation and institutional change are necessary conditions to solving our wider problems (Jackson 2011: 143–156). This cultural transformation, at its heart, requires that our habitual modes of thinking and acting reflect the necessity to confront limits. It thus requires that we learn to habitually and meaningfully adapt to changing circumstances. Appropriate institutions will be capable of reflecting this new way of thinking. In other words, according to Jackson, the capacity to adapt in the face of challenge is the capacity we most need to foster, cherish, and protect, and institutions must be put to the service of the generation and the preservation of this way of dealing with our problems (2011: 148–156). This demands that we change not just how we produce what we buy and sell but also how we envision and value every aspect of our collective lives. It also demands that we rethink our collective goals, laws, and incentive structures that bind and guide human behaviour. Ultimately, this is the task of facing up to limitation. It is a problem that confronts not just how we do things but also how we see and, therefore, think about our activities and the values that guide our lives. Effectively facing limitation requires that we adapt our methods of inquiry such as to reflect the necessity of acknowledging and confronting limitation when seeking to resolve human problems. That is why Jackson (2011: 188, 203) claims that even though [w]e can’t change ecological limits [. . .] we can and do create and recreate the social world. Its norms are our norms. Its visions are our


Part I visions. Its structures and institutions are shaped by those norms and visions. This is where transformation is needed [. . .] our only real choice is to work for change. To transform the structures and institutions that shape the social world. To articulate a more credible vision for a lasting prosperity.

The task at hand therefore calls upon all domains of thought to participate in reshaping aspects of our cultural life. Though some may doubt that the discipline of philosophy has anything unique to contribute, I believe it is also called upon to participate in the task of cultural renewal. After all, an important aspect of the history of philosophy is the relationship between culture and philosophy. Indeed, if culture is understood as “sedimented meanings and practices, which a group of people take for granted and thus have stopped questioning” (Almlund, Homann Jespersen & Riis 2012: 6), then one may be tempted to think that its relationship with philosophy has often been fraught with tension and conflict. In fact, when students of philosophy are first introduced to the discipline, they are customarily told that Socrates spent his days wandering the agora, in the 5th century BC, questioning Athenians about their conduct and beliefs, challenging the dogmas and cultural norms of his time, calling into question faith in the established ways of thinking and acting. Famously, this attempt to reform Athenian culture cost Socrates his life (Plato 1993: 29–68). According to Plato, this method of challenging established ways of thinking and living was more than the product of eccentricity; it was the rigorous scrutiny of ideas, beliefs, and habits—in a word, of culture. Plato believed that this scrutiny is an important way to overcome the ignorance imposed by the rule of mere opinion and prejudice, which all too often slows progress in human civilisation. Instead, on the Platonic view, philosophy was thought to offer a more secure kind of knowledge, rooted in conscious reasoning, as opposed to unconscious disposition, that could help bring rational control to the task of living a good life. Philosophy thus offered critical appraisal of culture and emitted recommendations to improve it (see Kraut 2009). In this sense, philosophy was in the business of clarifying norms and articulating social visions. This relationship between philosophy and culture is most obvious in the long tradition of political philosophy, where many philosophers have expounded their diverse visions of the good society. Over the last half-century, however, this relationship has often narrowed down to political philosophers seeking to clarify what they take to be widespread moral intuitions.

1.2. Contemporary Political Philosophy A new politics of the common good isn’t only about finding more scrupulous politicians. It also requires a more demanding idea of what it means

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


to be a citizen, and it requires a more robust public discourse—one that engages more directly with moral and even spiritual questions. (Michael Sandel 2009: Lecture 1)

So far I have suggested that there was once a time when it was common for political philosophers to take up the dual challenge set out by Sandel. As an academic discipline that particularly prides itself on its capacity to develop ideals and to judiciously weigh a wide variety of considerations against one another, political philosophy has often served as the fulcrum between abstract thought and political and social practice. However, over the last half-century, academic economists have often replaced philosophers in the role of liaison officers between abstract thought, government policy, and public opinion. During that time, most political philosophers showed themselves either uninterested or incapable of taking decisive steps to reclaim this lost role. In fact, many philosophers were sceptical of the notion that they should endeavour to inform or participate in real decision-making processes. Despite notable exceptions in the fields of applied ethics (such as, for example, Singer 1986, 1993), critical theory (see Fraser & Honneth 2003), and the capabilities approach (Nussbaum 1993; more generally, Nussbaum & Sen 1993; Sen 1999; Wolff & de-Shalit 2007),2 a majority of English-speaking political philosophers preferred to limit their discussions to the justification of rather abstract conclusions based on uncontroversial intuitions rather than offering practical recommendations. This has led Alan Ryan to claim that “political philosophy has [. . .] become a matter of professors writing for professors” (1995: 23). More recently, however, the situation seems to have begun to change. Now that we hear our political, intellectual, and even artistic leaders calling for a new self-conception, a new philosophy centred on the rich and complex relationships we entertain with each other and with the environment, it would appear that they might be calling on philosophers to join in the task of confronting our present bundle of problems. This would seem to be true, since Jonathan Wolff (2009) claimed, not so long ago, that there is an unusual opportunity at the present time, at least in some countries, for a broad range of academics to make an impact on public policy. Although it has long been commonplace for academic economists to be consulted by government, an increasing political interest in social justice means that governments are also turning to political philosophers and theorists. However many academics in this area work at such a level of abstraction that their theories have no clear application to policy. For example, Rawls’ theory is intended to apply to the ‘basic structure’ of society, but this gives little guidance to those who have to make particular decisions concerning distribution of scarce resources.


Part I

Wolff stands as an exemplar of a political philosopher who is willing to make his work accessible to ordinary citizens and relevant to public deliberation. What remains unclear, however, is whether many other political philosophers are prepared to adapt their work in a similar fashion in the hope of influencing political practice. If one were only moderately acquainted with the discipline of philosophy, one might be tempted to think that philosophers would be keen to heed this call to arms. After decades of standing in the shadow of our all too reductivistic cousin, the economist, the broader wisdom of philosophers is now openly called upon to contribute, however humbly, in the task of collective problem solving. But, in order to play our part, we philosophers must take the uncomfortable journey from the clean world of abstract considerations to the messy world of practical recommendations. For, as Thomas More reminds us in Book I of Utopia, there is no room for merely speculative philosophy in the administration of public affairs (2008: 36).3 More’s fictional alter ego goes on to claim that in order to participate in real politics, philosophers must learn to offer “another philosophy that is more pliable, that knows its proper scene, [and] accommodates itself to it” (2008: 36–37). Although in his context More was advising that philosophers should become accustomed to the ways of the royal court, in present conditions we can take such advice to point towards the need for philosophers to be involved in the construction of theories and proposals suited to inform and possibly convince citizens and decision-makers in modern democracies. Yet, to this day, most English-speaking political philosophers are reticent to take this uncomfortable journey. In this refusal to confront facts and limitations, most political philosophers present themselves as intellectual heirs to the long-standing philosophical (and religious) tradition according to which non-moral considerations should be staunchly separated from moral considerations. Thus, in a similar fashion to More’s fictional counterpart, Raphael, most contemporary political philosophers are unwilling to transform their theories in such a way as to be able to participate in deliberations about practical problems—deliberations which may actually lead to practical improvement—for fear of denigrating or denaturing their abstract moral ideals by subjecting them to the demands of particular situations. According to Avner de-Shalit (2009), the contemporary version of this celebration of abstract purity in our subdiscipline was initially caused by and has further resulted in a lack of cooperation between the disciplines of political philosophy and empirical political science. Post–Second World War political scientists declared the death of political philosophy, dismissing it as unscientific and antiquated, while political philosophers objected to the claims made by political scientist to mere instrumentality and pure objectivity (see, for example, Easton 1951, 1953; Laslett 1956; and for a more general overview, see Vincent, 2004: 51–65). Still, by the end of the 20th century, in a seeming attempt to appear more ‘scientific’,

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


political philosophers had developed an array of analytical tools designed to yield greater clarity of meaning, and willingly “subjected their research to the demands of neutrality and objectivity” (de-Shalit 2009: 4). However, in limiting themselves to the use of such means and to the pursuit of such ends, it would seem that political philosophers have only obtained a higher degree of clarity at the expense of the intellectual flexibility necessary to make sense of our inevitably messy political reality. This, de-Shalit argues—and I wholeheartedly agree—is methodologically problematic because it makes for political philosophy that cannot helpfully engage with public discourse, and politically alarming because it perpetuates the “distorted notion that politics could have triumphed in its fight against evil very easily if only people were less corrupt” (2009: 7). Allow me to explain what I think these claims amount to. First, the methodological worry consists in pointing out the obvious fact that political philosophers cannot hope to meaningfully inform political deliberation without engaging with the questions that are actually raised in public forums. Political scientists can begin to inform philosophers about such questions, but in order to positively engage with social problems, philosophers must also learn to engage with a wider range of social sciences in order to obtain a deeper sense of the domain of political practice. Minimally, this requires learning to make sense of and responding to the constraints flowing from natural facts (such as, for example, available resources, human psychology, and the scarcity of time), political institutions, social arrangements, and historical contexts. Second, it is politically problematic for political philosophers to systematically misrepresent the sphere of politics—even if they admit to be doing so—because it propagates the false impression that properly morally informed politics is “not about how collectively to face disharmonies and tensions” (de-Shalit 2009: 6–7). In a democracy, politics at its best is about seeking more harmonious solutions to conflicting moral and political problems rather than less harmonious ones. Failing to acknowledge that this is the basic mode of functioning of democratic politics, by suggesting that harmony should be the norm, misleads citizens (since absolute harmony is not likely to be an attainable goal within liberal democracy) and contributes to the already widespread feeling of confusion and disappointment many people experience when they see that democratic processes tend to yield rather imperfect results. Meaningfully engaging with democratic politics requires recognising the enduring existence of conflict and the necessity to work towards more harmonious decisions in the face of conflict, rather than wishing conflict away from political life as well as the resulting painstaking efforts at coming together to generate more—though never fully—harmonious ways of living. Thus, Stephen Elkin (2006: 256) writes: Rawls [. . .] invites us to conceive of political and social institutions as either embodiments of moral-political ideals or simply as the


Part I means to achieve them. We would do better, however, to focus on the fact that the political institutions of any good regime must somehow enable people with conflicting interests and political views to live together in productive ways and to avoid the evil of civil disorder.

Now, to claim as I have that what political philosophers say about politics is important implies that political philosophers are in a position of intellectual leadership within a democratic citizenry. I believe that they are. As citizens who teach and research upon the matter of politics and political ideas, they stand before their students and the general public as informed and potentially enlightened members of the political community. No matter how often political philosophers decry being seen as such, I believe that the titles they carry and the teachings they deliver confer upon them a greater intellectual responsibility in relation to public discourse than most other citizens. To be clear, this is not to say that they are more responsible qua citizens simpliciter (indeed, I do not think that they have any greater responsibility to vote, to campaign, or to run for office than any other citizen), but they do have a greater responsibility in being intellectually helpful, honest, and transparent when expressing themselves about how their domain of expertise might enlighten political discussion, because they are in a better position than most to inform the wider citizenry about important intellectual dimensions of political problems. Of course, certain flanks in the subdiscipline of political philosophy have long been alive with the desire to perform this social task. Most recently, however, a shift across the subdiscipline has occurred, resulting in a general critique of the prevalent methodological assumptions embraced by most English-speaking political philosophers over the last four decades. Thus, Marc Stears notes that “after decades of taking the purposes and the methods of the subdiscipline almost for granted [. . .] political theorists have been engaged in increasingly bitter disagreements” (2005: 325–326). The charge levelled at mainstream political philosophy consists in pointing out that its methods systematically ignore information that is crucially relevant to public deliberation in modern democracies and that it consequently cannot help but produce practically irrelevant interpretations and recommendations. This charge is most acutely directed at John Rawls and those who follow his methodological project.

1.3. Rawlsian Political Philosophy: Two Worries Normative political theory was one of the main preoccupations of the last three decades. [. . .] The key work was Rawls’ Theory of Justice. (Andrew Vincent 2004: 109)

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


The influence John Rawls’ work has had over the subdiscipline of political philosophy in the last five decades is hard to overstate. The best illustration of this prominence comes in the form of an oft-repeated story according to which we owe the revival of the tradition as a whole to the publication of TJ in 1971. Seemingly reinvigorating both philosophical liberalism and Kantianism in one fell swoop, Rawls’ two principles of justice, his Original Position, as well as the elegant clarity of his prose renewed philosophical interest in politics almost overnight. Or so the story goes (to name but a few places where this story is recounted, see Posner 1987: 768; Mouffe 1993: 25; Gewertz 2002; Geuss 2004: 14; Saward 2003: 117; Smits 2009: 3). Whether this account of intellectual history is overstated or not is beside the point. The mere fact that this perception is so widespread counts as evidence of Rawls’ influence. There is no space here to draw an exhaustive list of the effects his prominence has had on the work of others,4 but I think we can comfortably identify two broad developments that seem to be caused by or strongly related to Rawls’ influence, namely: first, the centring of the subdiscipline around the concept of ‘justice’; and second, the tendency to ignore many practical constraints that impinge upon the realisation of the ideals recommended by political philosophers. These mirror two worries underpinning the charge levelled in the previous section and I will now cash them out as follows: •

Rawlsian political philosophy unduly subordinates actual deliberative practices in democracies to the theories of philosophers about justice (a); Rawlsian political philosophy is too abstract to meaningfully inform deliberations about real political problems (b).

I will then consider a rather general objection to the thrust of my argument (c). a. The Priority of Justice Over Democratic Deliberation Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests. (TJ: 3)


Part I

There are two important related claims in this passage by Rawls that are worth drawing out: first, on the Rawlsian account, justice is the central theme of political philosophy, because “[j]ustice is the first virtue of social institutions” (TJ: 3); second, justice (or the right) always takes moral precedence over the good, because “[e]ach person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” (TJ: 3) In response to these claims, it has been argued that Rawlsian political philosophy fails to respect the sovereignty of actual democratic deliberation. In other words, it fails to respect what Jürgen Habermas calls the ‘political autonomy’ of citizens (1995: 128). According to Joshua Cohen, “[w]e are politically autonomous when we give ourselves our basic ideals and arrangements” (2003: 121). That is to say that political autonomy is the ability of a democratic citizenry to govern itself. Now, there is a view in democratic theory according to which political autonomy is a fundamental and irreducible political value.5 As John Christman (2009: § 3.6—emphasis in original) puts it: On this view, legitimacy and justice cannot be established in advance through philosophical construction and argument, as was thought to be the case in natural law traditions. [. . .] Rather, justice amounts to that set of principles that are established in practice and rendered legitimate by the actual support of affected citizens (and their representatives) in a process of collective discourse and deliberation. Accordingly, political autonomy understood in this way is held to be of fundamental and irreducible importance in democratic politics by a broad diversity of philosophers for various reasons (Habermas 1994; Mouffe 1993: 48–57; Gutman 2003: 168–199; Fraser 1997: 11–40; Anderson 1999; Young 2000). In the face of Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness, those who hold this view unite in worrying that, as Joshua Cohen (2003: 112) writes: justice as fairness understands actual democratic politics, and the debate surrounding it, to be guided and restricted by substantive principles that we arrive at through reasoning that can be conducted independently of open public argument between and among citizens. The point is that justice as fairness assigns too large a role to an exercise of philosophical reason and too small a role to public-political argument in fixing the fundamental political norms in a democracy. Put more abrasively, Rawls’ theory of justice seems to give greater moral authority to the abstract conclusions of philosophers than to the concrete decisions of democratic citizenries. So much so that Colin Farrelly claims that on the Rawlsian account “[i]f the demands of justice could be satisfied by simply invoking the principles chosen in the original position [. . .]

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


then it seems that any real democratic process is superfluous” (2005: 201). Therefore, the general objection can be expressed as follows, in Cohen’s words: “justice as fairness improperly subordinates democracy to a philosophical conception of justice” (2003: 121). I will now consider the three general ways in which Cohen understands this worry: institutional subordination, denigration, and mistrust. Institutional Subordination Prioritising the demands made by a substantive theory of justice poses the threat of selecting non-democratic institutional arrangements in order to guarantee that the political outcome will be just. The thought here is that the open-endedness of democracy menaces the implementation of just principles of government in virtue of the fact that it is of the nature of democracy not to predetermine the outcome of decision-making processes. The objection runs as follows: making hypothetical principles of justice morally more significant than real public consultation provides potential grounds for legitimising undemocratic forms of government (such as, for example, the rule of a perfectly just philosopher-king) in the name of justice. However, Cohen (2003: 116) appropriately points out that this objection fails to affect Rawls because justice as fairness makes it an absolute requirement of justice that democratic processes be followed, insofar as the first principle includes the following principle of participation: “all citizens have an equal right to take part in, and determine the outcome of constitutional processes that establish the laws with which they are to comply” (TJ: 194). Accordingly, the fact that justice demands democratic rule ensures that the moral priority of justice does not legitimise undemocratic political institutions. However, although making justice as fairness morally prior to actual democratic decision-making does not result in providing grounds for inviting undemocratic institutions, it might nonetheless still denigrate the importance of participation in public debate. Denigration Insofar as it implies that questions of fundamental importance have been settled in advance, giving moral priority to a substantive theory of justice seems to lessen the importance of actual democratic deliberation. If the fundamental rules have already been determined, then it appears that the only task left is to make sure that we live up to those rules. Or, as Jürgen Habermas remarks concerning one of the requirements made by justice as fairness, “the public use of reason does not actually have the significance of a present exercise of political autonomy, but merely promotes the non-violent preservation of political stability” (1995: 128—emphasis in original). Thus, prioritising the norm of public reason to respect the


Part I

demands of justice seems to constrain the open-endedness of democratic debate and possibly undermine its authority. Cohen (2003: 121–122) grants that in the ideal society of justice as fairness, citizens would not enjoy unhindered political autonomy and would thus not be in a position to freely determine for themselves the basic ideals and political arrangements under which they are to live. Why? Because political autonomy is best expressed in the project of developing a constitution and Rawls claims that “[t]he idea of right and just constitution and basic laws is always ascertained by the most reasonable political conception of justice and not by the result of actual political process” (PL: 233). This suggests that justice as fairness denigrates political autonomy. However, Cohen provides three important responses to the claim that this amounts to a serious curtailment of political autonomy. First, he argues that any form of democratic procedure must always limit political autonomy in some sense (2003: 122). As he sees it, even a democratic proceduralist will have to limit the kinds of laws that can be voted into law such as to avoid allowing citizens to vote themselves out of the democratic process (by, for example, voting for a law that stipulates that a strong leader is, from now on and forever, to exercise the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers without any limitations— constitutional or otherwise). Accordingly, even those most committed to the notion that political autonomy is of fundamental moral importance will also have to accept it has limits, in order to rule out the possibility of autonomously relinquishing one’s autonomy. Second, Cohen mentions the worry that a substantive theory of justice makes the content of justice ‘already fixed’ (2003: 124) (by that, he means ‘given prior to political argument’). In response, he reminds us that Rawls’ theory does not rely on pre-political assumptions: Rawls has a conception of moral learning in which associating with equal citizens in political argument is necessary for acquiring a morality of principles— that is to say, “a direct commitment to principles of justice and a desire to be a just person” (2003: 124). Furthermore, I would add that his substantive principles of justice are derived—at least in PL (13–14)—from what Rawls takes to be the existent public political culture of modern democratic societies (most obviously, that of the United States of America), which is itself the product of past political argumentation. Finally, one might worry that the only role afforded to actual political participants by substantive theories of justice is to internalise the demands of justice and make sure that institutions comply with them. In the ideal society of justice as fairness, citizens are in a position where preserving the organisation of the basic structure is justice-preserving. Consequently, their sense of justice requires that they preserve this organisation. But, Cohen argues that this is no impingement on their political autonomy. He gives two reasons for believing this that relate to the structure of justice as fairness: (i) citizens can choose not to follow the demands of

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


justice by not sustaining those institutions (2003: 126) and (ii) justice as fairness does not eliminate the need for judgement—even if citizens were to preserve just institutions, there would still be space for debate and disagreement about the appropriate interpretations of how the principles of justice are to be balanced and what they require, both in theory and in practice (2003: 127–128). However, even if these responses are adequate, justice as fairness might still mistrust actual democratic citizens. Mistrust On this view, setting out substantive principles of justice and a norm for public deliberation (i.e. ‘public reason’) for citizens to follow denotes a fundamental mistrust of citizens. Cohen (2003: 114) goes on to say that this mistrust seems to be inconsistent with a theory founded on the idea that citizens are “equals and are entitled to equal political rights in virtue of having a capacity to live together on mutually acceptable terms.” Cohen thinks that he addresses this worry in demonstrating that justice as fairness neither entails institutional subordination nor denigration of democratic debate. But I think he fails to fully appreciate the force of this worry. He tells us that justice as fairness provides “a shared, public terrain of reasoning, that enables mutually respecting parties to explore their disagreements” (Cohen 2003: 128). Yet, in providing this terrain it also constrains the form of moral claims we might be able to make, such that they minimally meet the demands of public reason. Ultimately, this is because Rawls prioritises justice above all other moral or political consideration as the goal of democratic deliberation. However, as Raymond Geuss points out, to prioritise “an ‘intuitive conviction of the primacy of justice’ (TJ: 3) over all other considerations including welfare, efficiency, democratic choice, transparency, dignity, international competitiveness, or freedom, and, of course, over any rooted moral, philosophical, or religious conceptions” (2008: 71) is itself controversial and rooted in a distinct political tradition (namely, American liberalism).6 In other words, Geuss points out that a belief in the primacy of justice is more controversial than Rawls would have us believe and that it is largely influenced by contingent historical and sociological factors. We might therefore be well justified in pursuing other values than justice through our democratic deliberations. Indeed, according to Geuss, political judgement requires taking into account a greater variety of considerations—or ‘virtues’, as Vincent (2004: 110) calls them—than justice.7 The fact that the Rawlsian project focuses exclusively on the concept of justice entails an underappreciation of the political importance of other considerations, or virtues, that are often relevant to and important for political deliberation (such as, for example, the feasibility of particular options, the urgency with which concrete problems need resolving, optimising the use of resources, the survival of a community, or plausibly the dispositions of a particular


Part I

citizenry). In adopting this narrow focus, Rawlsian political philosophy gives the false impression that political deliberation is merely applied moral reasoning, where moral reasoning is taken to be entirely unaffected by considerations beyond an abstract notion of justice. Rawlsian philosophy therefore does imply subordinating actual democratic deliberation to the abstract demands of justice. b. Abstract Goals in the Face of Concrete Problems The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them—to imagine some ideal state in which there was no misery or greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity—or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies—simple exercises of the poetical imagination. (Isaiah Berlin 2003: 20)

As Berlin suggests so evocatively, from Plato onwards, many political philosophers have habitually turned to abstract considerations of ideals and principles in the hope that they could guide their political diagnostics, prognostics, and prescriptions. The assumption underlining such a practice consists in taking the more general, abstract moral considerations to be necessary for determining what needs doing in particular, concrete situations. Political philosophers are thus accustomed to taking part in something akin to a thought experiment where they imagine what properties would characterise a perfectly just society in order to recommend how our imperfect societies might come closer to emulating the perfect model. Thus, it has been thought that thanks to the contemplation of such imaginary conceptions of a perfectly good life, balanced state, or just society, philosophers would be able to provide enlightened answers to the two following questions: What exactly is wrong with the present political state of affairs? What should be done in order to correct these wrongs? And this methodological habit—that is, the tendency to focus more on the demands of perfection than on concrete political failures—is more or less recurrent among many authors identified with the canon of Western political philosophy. Rawls is largely thought to be the contemporary standard-bearer of this model. So, I will focus on his formulation of the current dominant methodological outlook. I will start by presenting Rawls’ view and then I will turn to its contemporary detractors. Ideal Theory: Explaining Rawls Through Plato According to the characterisation of ideal theory offered by Rawls, one ought to start by considering what a perfectly just society would be like

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


in the abstract, before seeking to determine what needs doing to remedy concrete injustice. Rawls calls this way of doing political philosophy ‘ideal theory’ (TJ: 8–9 & 245–246). In other words, ideal theory recommends that political philosophers leave aside (at least temporarily) the task of making explicit what the theories they construct demand in present conditions, for the sake of establishing what justice demands in the abstract. Importantly, on Rawls’ account, ideal theory requires that we aim to develop a theory that can be, eventually, translated such as to apply in nonideal circumstances. This, however, is the object of disagreement amongst ideal theorists, since they disagree about how practicable or achievable the moral demands expressed by their theories ought to be.8 On one end of the spectrum, G.A. Cohen’s defence of ‘pure’ or ‘extreme’ ideal theory recommends that philosophers seek to uncover principles of justice independently of factual considerations. He claims: “the question for political philosophy is not what we should do but what we should think, even when what we should think makes no practical difference” (G.A. Cohen 2003: 243). Thus, G.A. Cohen’s conception of ideal theory aims to uncover knowledge of principles of justice without worrying about whether such knowledge will ever end up guiding actual moral and political practices. On his account, political philosophy, since it is a subdiscipline of philosophy, is only interested in abstract knowledge, to which practical considerations of any type are entirely irrelevant. One is tempted to put it simply—perhaps too simply—by saying that G.A. Cohen’s version of ideal theory aims to obtain abstract knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Either way, it is fair to say that G.A. Cohen has rid himself of the aspiration to produce philosophical work with any relevance to practical problems. On the other end of the spectrum of ideal theory, Rawls contends that his version of ideal theory aims to be ‘realistically utopian’ (2001: 6). This amounts to claiming that ideal theory ought to be (i) realistic, insofar as it ought to provide an ideal that societies could in principle live up to, and (ii) utopian, because it should also aim to specify what the highest normative requirements amount to in the process of ordering political life. In other words, Rawls’ conception aims to “depict a social order that is the best that one can hope for. Given men as they are, as Rousseau said, philosophy imagines how laws might be” (Wenar 2012: § 2.1). This, according to Rawls, consists in taking people as they are in their moral and psychological characteristics, and drawing from that what moral demands we can reasonably expect people to abide by under the best foreseeable circumstances. As I see it, the Rawlsian form of ideal theory, unlike G.A. Cohen’s, is committed to the view often summarised by a strong reading of the dictum ‘ought implies can’. That is to say, Rawls aims to establish normative standards that our societies can be reasonably expected to live up to. In performing this task, ideal theory “extends what are ordinarily thought to be the limits of practicable political possibility and, in so doing, reconciles us to our political and social condition”


Part I

(Rawls 2001: 11). Therefore, the ultimate goal of Rawlsian ideal theory is reconciliation. Now, this concept of reconciliation is something Rawls draws from G.W.F. Hegel’s conception of philosophy as reconciliation of humans to the lifeworld in which they operate. In his Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, Rawls (2000: 355) writes: What raises human life above the workaday bürgerliche world is the recognition of the universal interest of all citizens in participating in and maintaining the whole system of political and social institutions of the modern state that make their freedom possible. Citizens knowingly and willingly acknowledge this universal (collective) interest as their own, and they give it the highest priority. They are ready to act for it as their ultimate end. This is the goal of the project of reconciliation. This means that the goal of political philosophy, on this account, is the grasping in conscious thought of the underlying principles animating the relationship between the agent and her social world.9 Rawls writes that “when in our reflections we understand our social world as expressing our freedom and enabling us to achieve it as we live our daily life, we become reconciled to it” (2000: 332). Moreover, he claims that Hegel thinks individuals ought to “belong to a rational (reasonable) social world that [they] on reflection can accept and be reconciled to as meeting their fundamental needs” (2000: 333). Transcribed to the political context, one might say that reconciliation requires what Rawls calls ‘stability’, which broadly speaking means that agents upon reflection endorse the principles of justice ruling the society in which they live. Or as he puts it, “those taking part in [just] arrangements acquire the corresponding sense of justice and desire to do their part in maintaining them” (TJ: 398). Although Rawls seems to think that this reconciliation first happens at the level of thought and could plausibly have effects on the conduct of agents, he does not spell out what will spark widespread reconciliation in actual democratic societies. Instead, reconciliation remains a rather abstract notion and it is taken to be sufficient to say that reconciliation, and therefore a deep understanding of what justice requires in practice, necessarily requires the prior knowledge of “the nature and aims of a perfectly just society” (TJ: 8). Therefore, for Rawls, grasping the demands of justice in their abstract generality is a necessary first step for beginning to think about appropriately reordering the social world in which we live. Rawls thus claims that “ideal theory [. . .] provides [. . .] the only basis for the systematic grasp of [. . .] more pressing problems” (TJ: 8). In writing this, Rawls demonstrates his commitment to the idea that knowing what is best is a necessary condition for knowing what is better. I think

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


that Plato’s description of the task of the philosopher expounded in the ‘Allegory of the Cave’ provides an apt illustration of this way of thinking. At the beginning of book VII of The Republic, Socrates presents Glaucon with an allegory designed to depict “the enlightenment or ignorance of our human condition” (Plato 1987: 317 [514a]). Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a cave. In this cave, there are imprisoned men, constrained in such a manner as to be forced to look straight ahead at a curtain-wall. The only objects that come into their sight are the shadows of objects projected onto it. They have been in this position for as long as they can remember. Accordingly, they assume that the shadows they observe are complete and real objects (Plato 1987: 317–318 [515a–d]). Socrates goes on to explain that, if one day one of the prisoners were to be freed from his bonds and carried out of the cave into the sunlight, he would find the experience of looking at real objects excruciatingly trying, and thus would, at first, fail to see them. But over time, he would grow accustomed to the upper world: he could start by looking at shadows, then reflections, and next, objects themselves. Eventually, he would be able to observe the heavenly bodies and comprehend that one of them—the Sun—is, in some sense, responsible for all he has ever seen (Plato 1987: 318–319 [516a–c]). After this, Socrates contends, the released prisoner would no longer desire to return to the cave and compete for prestige with the prisoners down below. He would much prefer to live in the light. However, if he were made to forcibly descend into the realm of shadows once again, at first, his eyes would be unable to detect the details of his surroundings for he would have grown used to contemplating bright objects. Subsequently, he would likely make a fool of himself when made to discuss the shadows with the other prisoners, for their eyes would have remained attuned to the penumbra. Over time, however, as his sight would adjust to the paucity of light, he would find that he could see ‘a thousand times better’ than the other prisoners, because he has come to know the real objects as they are in their full complexity and the original source of all things (Plato 1987: 324 [520b–c]). According to the common interpretation of this allegory, the condition of the prisoners is analogous to the condition of non-philosophers: while the prisoners in this story mistakenly take shadows to be genuine objects, most lay people mistakenly take the ephemeral world of appearances they encounter to be genuine reality. The philosopher, like the freed prisoner, takes on the painstaking task of contemplating reality as it is in its true form (Plato 1987: 322 [518c–e]). The outer world thus corresponds to the world of reality, which is composed of true Forms or Ideas. The Sun stands in lieu of the Idea of the Good, which Plato holds to be responsible for the existence of all other Ideas and the realm of appearances. Thus, the ultimate aim for the philosopher is to obtain the highest form of knowledge by contemplating the very Idea of the Good. Upon return to the realm of appearances, the philosopher may at first seem out of sorts.


Part I

Yet, according to Plato, it is the task of the philosopher-king to descend back into the unpleasantly dim world of politics and grow used to the darkness once again. However, this time, benefitting from the experience of having seen “the truth about things admirable and just and good,” the philosopher is able to take part in public life with the knowledge necessary to become a truly just ruler of men (Plato 1987: 324 [520c]). Now, the metaphysical doctrine of the Forms and the political doctrine of the philosopher-king represented in this allegory have been the object of much philosophical scrutiny and a great deal of scorn. Less attention, however, has been paid to the fact that this allegory seems to present us with a distinctive method for doing political philosophy. Clearly, according to this method, philosophers must begin by working at attaining complete knowledge of the Idea of the Good in its most abstract form. For only once this knowledge has been secured can philosophers wisely offer solutions to concrete political problems. On this view, it is only with this abstract knowledge in hand that philosophers will be able to identify the nature and the extent to which the present state of affairs falls short of the mark, and in turn set about rectifying it. The task originally set out by Plato (i.e. the pursuit of full knowledge of the Good) is of such immensity that it should be of little or no surprise that most political philosophers end up spending more of their time trying to secure this abstract knowledge than seeking to bring to bear what they have learnt from this task to their very own political circumstances. Nevertheless, on this view, the disproportionate amount of attention given to such distant goals compared to nearer ones is justified by the belief that we need to first comprehend what the distant goals ought to be so that we can calibrate our immediate behaviour in alignment with them. This I think is a crucial point of convergence between Rawlsian political philosophy and the Platonic story: both hold that the role of a political philosopher is to obtain abstract knowledge of the ideal ordering of political life in the hope that this knowledge will help guide attempts to correct existing shortcomings. Plato and Rawls thus essentially share the view that abstract knowledge of our moral goals is a necessary condition for wisely guiding our concrete political practices, because such considerations are the only means available for us to accurately pursue moral improvement in the realm of politics. For Rawls, without clear enough general aims—however abstract they might be—we cannot be sure that the particular solutions found to nonideal problems actually contribute to bringing about a more just society. He explains that “ideal theory, which defines a perfectly just basic structure, is a necessary complement to nonideal theory without which the desire for change lacks an aim” (PL: 285). It is often on the basis of this idea that contemporary political philosophers justify their relative lack of interest in the concrete political conditions in which moral and political problems emerge. Their defence of ideal theory often presupposes the idea that one must have knowledge

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


of what is best in order to accurately ascertain what is better in response to particular political problems. Although this may seem like a reasonable theoretical claim, it seems practically misleading because most political actors are constantly making piecemeal judgements about how to improve their responses to problematic situations without usually explicitly referring to an ideal of a perfectly just society. Of course, in reply, the Rawlsian ideal theorist might argue that this failure to consider this ideal generates poor practical decisions and that, perhaps, this lack of abstract thought is part of what entrenches injustice rather than alleviating it. This would be a reasonable point if the Rawlsian ideal theorist were able to demonstrate that her method actually did yield clearer recommendations and hence better practical results than the current state of affairs. Unfortunately, she cannot. It is precisely this failure to translate ideal theory into nonideal recommendations and thus articulate practicable advice for actual agents involved in political deliberation that makes many contemporary political philosophers frustrated with the Rawlsian model of doing political philosophy and motivated to pursue an alternative method. The criticism or Rawlsian ideal theory has broadly taken the form of two charges: it has been argued that it is futile and morally counterproductive. I will consider these in turn. Ideal Theory in Nonideal Circumstances: The Charge of Futility The often noted absence in Rawls of any theory about how his ideal demands are to be implemented is not a tiny mole that serves as a beauty spot to set off the radiance of the rest of the face, but the epidermal sign of a lethal tumour. (Geuss 2008: 94)

Critics of the Rawlsian methodological approach have claimed that it is futile because it is irrelevant to real political deliberation and futile because it is simply unnecessary for good political deliberation. Both merit further discussion. FUTILITY: IRRELEVANT TO ACTUAL POLITICAL DELIBERATION

Critics have identified a number of ways in which Rawlsian political philosophy fails to make itself relevant to actual political deliberation. These include the fact that Rawlsian ideal theory is useless because it is overly vague, it lacks a theory of transition, it is guilty of ‘idealisation’, and it fails to make sense of trade-offs. I will now detail some of the arguments made against Rawlsian ideal theory. In an early text, Michael Phillips (1985) argues that ideal theory leaves its recommendations too vague to be able to meaningfully guide political


Part I

practice. He forcefully makes the point that principles of justice that are applicable in an ideal world where full compliance is assumed are not directly applicable in the here and now. For example, if we assume that all citizens comply with principles of justice (even if we add the caveat: so long as all others are equally willing to comply), then we cannot make sense of the problems related to enforcing laws and the related opportunity costs that befall existing states.10 In Phillips’ view, Rawlsian ideal theory fails to specify how to deal with nonideal considerations and it therefore provides dramatically underdetermined guidelines as to what we ought to actually do in political practice. Of course, most ideal theorists do not deny this. In fact, many have remarked on the problem of connecting ideal theory with nonideal theory (see Okin 1987; Stemplowska 2008: 319; Swift 2008: 363–364; and in the context of global justice, see Pogge 2001; Macleod 2006: 145; Freeman 2006: 253). Rawls himself admits: In the more extreme and tangled instances of nonideal theory this priority of rules [the lexical priority of the liberty principle over the other principles of Rawlsian justice] will no doubt fail; and indeed, we may be able to find no satisfactory answer at all. But we must try to postpone the day of reckoning as long as possible, and try to arrange society so that it never comes. (TJ: 267) However, Rawls does not specify how ideal theory is supposed to help in the practical task of postponing ‘the day of reckoning’. And indeed, ideal theorists more generally have mostly failed to give a systematic account of how ideal theory eventually applies to nonideal situations. Thus, it should be clear that in order for ideal thinkers to provide useful political guidance, they must provide some account of how ideal theory is supposed to come to bear on nonideal circumstances, and it is not clear at all that such an account can be meaningfully articulated. According to Amartya Sen (2006, 2009: 1–30) and Raymond Geuss (2008), this is because ideal theory is simply too detached from real problems to be able to meaningfully contribute in the task of political problem solving. That is to say that, because ideal theory does not start from an overt discussion of real political problems as experienced by real people, it leads political philosophers to fail to take such problems into account when developing their theories. In fact, it would seem that it even leads most of those political philosophers to believe that it is simply somebody else’s responsibility to establish how their work might be of relevance to such problems. They thus become blind to the practical problems faced by actual political actors and fail to make clear how they think their philosophical work ought to have a bearing on practical decision-making.11 As a result, it appears that Rawlsian ideal theory does not end up relevantly

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


informing such actors about real political problems. In seeming to echo this, Jonathan Wolff (1998: 113) has argued that “ideal thinkers who want to have some impact on reality should pay more attention to issues of transition. Bringing about the ideal world will, no doubt, require many changes. Making these changes in the wrong order can lead us away from our goals.” However, couching the issue in such language suggests that ideal theorists just have some work left to do: namely, constructing an account of transition. But, the worry here, I think, is more fundamental. It is not just that ideal theorists are yet to have provided a satisfactory account of transition, but that such an account does not seem to be able to be constructed in such a manner as to make the ideal conclusions say anything determinate enough to help us derive from them relevant nonideal recommendations. Therefore, it appears as though ideal theory is not able to inform us about the decisions we face in nonideal circumstances with the kind of determinacy that would relevantly inform practical deliberations. Furthermore, Colin Farrelly (2007a) argues that ideal theory ought to be abandoned because the ideal theories produced by Rawls and Ronald Dworkin fall into what Onora O’Neill calls ‘idealisation’ (O’Neill 1996: 41). Instead of merely abstracting away from the complexity of the real world (that is, ignoring certain aspects of the world that one might not think to be relevant to the task at hand), Farrelly claims (2007a: 848, 857) that Dworkin and Rawls make false assumptions in order to simplify their arguments (this is what ‘idealisation’, in O’Neill’s sense, consists in). According to Farrelly, not only does Rawls falsely assume full compliance; Rawls and Dworkin also take a cost-blind approach to rights (that is, they assume that endowing citizens with rights does not come at a cost to the state). Farrelly points out that both these assumptions are plainly false: not all people in society abide by the rules even if all others are willing to do so, and the provision of rights always comes at a cost (in some form or another) to the state, since the state has a responsibility to uphold such rights (2007a: 848–859). For example, upholding the right of citizens to vote in regular elections incurs relevant costs in terms of procurement (that is, supplying the relevant materials for balloting—minimally ballots and ballot boxes) and logistics (that is, ensuring that ballot boxes are manned, that ballot points are reasonably accessible, that law enforcement ensure that no citizens are threatened or harmed while voting, etc.). Resources that are spent on upholding this right could have been spent on upholding another right—such as, for example, the right to an education (and thus paying for the associated costs of building and running schools, teachers’ wages and pensions, learning materials, etc.). Farrelly goes on to argue that making these false assumptions precludes the conclusions arrived at having any meaningful relevance to the political problems at hand (2007a: 859). According to him, the strategy


Part I

endorsed by Rawls to support his conclusion that parties in the original position would give priority to the first principle of justice (which guarantees the most extensive set of basic rights compatible with those of others) over the second principle (which upholds equality of opportunity, except in the cases where unequal social arrangements are to the benefit of the worst off) relies on a false assumption: namely, that all participants will take a conservative (or non-risk taking) approach when deliberating behind the veil of ignorance, because they would be unwilling to risk losing basic rights in return for potentially improved socio-economic prospects (Farrelly 2007a: 849). But, Farrelly counters that if we recognise that upholding basic civil rights (such as the right to free speech or the right to vote) comes at a resource cost (minimally, by paying for judges and policemen to uphold said rights, and plausibly far more) in the same way that providing economic and social opportunities comes at a cost to the state, we must also recognise that participants might have good reason to be tempted to trade the protection of basic liberties against the prospect of a better package of primary goods (and thus potentially improved socio-economic prospects). In other words, since both rights and primary goods come at a cost, parties may take the risk of opting for a smaller package of basic rights in the hope of obtaining a more extensive set of primary goods (Farrelly 2007a: 851–856). In light of this, it appears that Rawls’ account of how parties would converge on his conception of justice and the principles enshrined in such a conception fails to account for a fundamental feature of our political lives, namely, granting rights actually comes at a cost to the state. It thus fails to realistically address the potential need for trade-offs between the liberties secured by basic rights and the potentially improved economic prospects we might be able to negotiate as a result of forfeiting some of these liberties in nonideal circumstances. As to Dworkin’s version of luck egalitarianism (1981a, 1981b), Farrelly finds it lacking in that it is unable to account for the fact that there are limitless kinds of unfair misfortunes that we might want the state to insure us against, but only a limited amount of resources with which to do so (2007a: 856–859). Although in looking at any one brute luck disadvantage, Dworkin’s theory tells us that justice demands that we must insure against it, his theory fails to recognise the fact that even a rich state will not be able to appropriately insure all citizens against all types of misfortunes within foreseeable circumstances.12 Thus, Dworkin, like Rawls, attempts to sidestep the need to make sense of prioritising certain political goods in light of concrete practical limitations. Consequently, Farrelly contends that ideal theory is ‘inherently flawed’ (2007a: 845), because it fails to shed light upon the issue of ‘trade-offs’, which is the locus of most difficult, everyday political decision-making. In summary, Rawlsian ideal theory offers guidance that is too divorced from the relevant features of real political life to be able to yield advice

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


with determinate content when applied to nonideal political circumstances. In other words, it fails to issue recommendations that are “both achievable and desirable, as far as we can judge, in the circumstances that we are currently facing, or are likely to face in the not too distant future” (Stemplowska 2008: 324). Thus, although ideal theory of this type intends to eventually provide clear and substantive guidance for political practice, it fails to do so because it fails to take salient features of actual political decision-making seriously (see Farrelly 2007b: 1–16). Rawlsian political philosophy is thus unable to meaningfully inform public debate. It is thus futile, because it is irrelevant. Thus, the first sense in which ideal theory can be claimed to be futile is that it is simply lacking in meaningful practical content. FUTILITY: UNNECESSARY FOR GOOD POLITICAL DELIBERATION

The second argumentative strategy adopted by those seeking to level the charge of futility involves pointing out that constructing policies designed to reduce injustice simply does not require the kind of abstract considerations offered by ideal theories. Indeed, Amartya Sen argues, in support of his plea for moving beyond ideal theory (which he refers to as ‘transcendental theory’), that actual moral improvement in the form of reducing real injustices does not require knowing what is ideally just (2006). Rather, he claims, we would be better served by developing a comparative method of political philosophy where different social arrangements are evaluated in relation to each other—not against an abstract standard of justice. He claims that “[t]he transcendental and comparative approaches are quite distinct and [. . .] neither [. . .] subsumes or entails the other,” but transcendental theories do not comfortably yield the type of comparative frameworks needed for the actual assessment of injustices (Sen 2006: 216). This entails that those engaged in transcendental theory are ill-equipped for the task of practically addressing real injustices (Sen 2006: 236). What we have here is the rejection of the thesis according to which we need to know what is best before we can legitimately claim to know what is better. Sen offers a helpful analogy to make this point: just as we do not need to know that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain to know that some other mountain (say, Mount Blanc) is taller than another (say, Ben Nevis), we do not need to know what ideal justice requires to know what would advance justice for us in the here and now (Sen 2006: 222). We can simply identify which course of action available to us is more morally desirable than others, without reference to an ultimate moral aim, but rather with reference to a multitude of courses of action and the knowledge of the moral goods furthered by each scenario. Thus, the second sense in which ideal theory can be seen to be futile involves claiming that it is simply unnecessary for justice-enhancing policy-making.


Part I

Ideal Theory in Nonideal Circumstances: The Charge of Moral Counterproductivity Some political philosophers have gone to the extent of claiming that ideal theory is morally counterproductive. This claim can be interpreted in two ways. I will now outline each of these before turning my attention to an important objection. OCCLUDING THE IMPORTANCE OF POWER IN POLITICS

In real politics, theories like that of Rawls are nonstarters, except, of course, as potential ideological interventions. A theoretical approach with no place for a theory of power is not merely deeply deficient but actively pernicious, because mystifying. This is not a criticism of some individual aspect of Rawls’s theory, but a basic repudiation of his whole way of approaching the subject of political philosophy. (Geuss 2008: 94)

In Philosophy and Real Politics, Geuss charges Rawls’ political philosophy and all those who partake in a similar mode of philosophising with “not merely being deficient but actively pernicious, because mystifying” (2008: 93–94). At its core, Geuss identifies the failing of that type of political philosophy as a failure to acknowledge and respond to the role played by power in political action. In other words, for Geuss, it is the failure to confront the real problems of politics as they are experienced (namely, within a field of possibilities polarised by power relations) that banishes these theories not just to irrelevance but to a land of toxic reverie—presenting political choices with a degree of simplicity more becoming to a wishful child than adults facing life in its full contingency and complexity. Geuss does not deny that principles and abstraction can, at times, play a useful role in the art of political judgement and in politics. That is, ideals can be useful both to help make decisions and to justify them to a wider audience. But ultimately for Geuss (2008: 97), modern politics is importantly about power, its acquisition, distribution, and use. There is no reason to be narrow—minded about what counts as power, restricting it to armies and industrial plants, but still politics is not exclusively or in the first instance about our individual or collective moral intuitions. Rather than following Rawls’ injunction (If you want to think about politics, think about our intuitions about justice), I am suggesting a different injunction: If you wish to think about politics, think first about power. Theories, like Rawlsian ideal theory, that fail to even mention the role played by power in politics, are thereby blind to the importance of related

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


political considerations, such as feasibility, efficiency, and, as I mentioned earlier, democratic autonomy (since popular support is a form of power). On Geuss’ view, these considerations are crucially more important in actual politics than justice, and it is therefore dangerous to confuse citizens as to the nature of politics, by occluding the role of power at the expense of abstract justice (2008: 84). ALL OR NOTHING EXTREMISM

Sen (2006) argues that ideal theory’s ‘all or nothing extremism’ is morally counterproductive. Robert Goodin remarks that “focusing upon ideals [.  .  .] can [.  .  .] mislead us in thinking about second-best worlds” (1995: 38). Charles W. Mills adds that the stance of ideal theory betrays an implicit commitment to the status quo. He writes: If we start from what is presumably the uncontroversial premise that the ultimate point of ethics is to guide our actions and make ourselves better people and the world a better place, then the framework [of ideal theory] will not only be unhelpful, but will in certain respects be deeply antithetical to the proper goal of theoretical ethics as an enterprise. In modeling humans, human capacities, human interaction, human institutions, and human society on ideal-as-idealized-models, in never exploring how deeply different this is from ideal-as-descriptivemodels, we are abstracting away from realities crucial to our comprehension of the actual workings of injustice in human interactions and social institutions, and thereby guaranteeing that the ideal-asidealized-model will never be achieved. (Mills 2005: 170) I understand these authors to be expressing the following concern: the tendency of ideal theorists to focus on the highly demanding nature of abstract justice takes them away from the more pressing task of identifying actual injustices and ways in which we might morally assess concrete options for remedial political action. The idea here is that insisting on the need to answer the question “What is a perfectly just society?” before answering more practical questions about preferring policy A to policy B is often a hindrance in the concrete task of pursing moral improvement within the actual conditions of injustice, because it leads to an unyielding approach to action, where anything that fails to meet the abstract criteria of justice is simply labelled ‘unjust’, without clearly pointing out what, short of justice, would constitute improvement upon the existing situation and what would not. As a result, it fails to make sense of the practical necessity of comprehending moral progress in its strategic form. Crucially, developing a more strategic approach requires making nuanced judgements. This requires demonstrating sensitivity to a great variety of


Part I

moral and factual considerations when considering projected plans of action rather than focussing on one virtue at the expense of all others and ignoring the factors of risk and uncertainty involved in real political decision-making. This is also another way of interpreting Geuss (2008: 92–94) when he criticises Rawlsian ideal theory for solely focussing on justice, because it renders political philosophy tone deaf to other considerations (most obviously, expediency, political autonomy, and overall welfare) that might well prove to be potentially significant and more beneficial in the task of addressing political problems. In summary, many political philosophers have come to reject Rawlsian ideal theory because it is futile and/or morally counterproductive. These concerns have led several prominent political philosophers to call for an alternative method of doing political philosophy, which would be more practical and would better reflect the importance of facts and constraints in modern democratic political deliberations. The goal of this book is to articulate just such an alternative on the basis of John Dewey’s experimentalism. Yet, before we go on to discuss this alternative in greater detail, we must first confront an obvious objection to the argument I have presented so far. c. A General Objection Of course, one obvious objection consists in pointing out that there is a danger inherent in calling for a philosophy that is more sensitive to practical constraints, namely, the danger of moral quietism. If we ask of philosophy that it take into account the world as it is, it might end up actually defending the world as it is, warts and all. Living within conditions of injustice, adopting a philosophical stance which simply accepts the status quo would obviously defeat the purpose of doing political philosophy. In response, however, it seems prima facie unlikely that post-Rawlsian political philosophers would simply become entirely conciliatory towards the injustices of the status quo by virtue of taking facts more seriously. With that said, I think a more measured version of this concern might be more credible. For example, we might well worry that asking political philosophers to be more sensitive to the facts of a situation might make them overly accepting of unjust facts. They might thus fail to challenge all that is unjust. This would indeed be a problem. Janosch Prinz and Enzo Rossi (2017) call this the ‘status quo bias’ problem. I believe that we ought to be sensitive to this consideration: political philosophy that fails to address injustice might be just as pernicious as one that formulates a vision of justice without articulating a reasonable way of bringing it about. In my view, this calls for an appropriate balance between facing certain facts and challenging others. Ultimately, I believe that it is this balance that is the object of the debate between ideal theorists and those wanting a more practical approach to political philosophy.

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


In other words, calling on political philosophy to consider a wider array of moral and political virtues does not amount to rejecting justice as one such virtue. It is merely to assert that justice, however important a virtue, remains but one among other relevant and important virtues. Thus, what I have said so far comes down to saying that the balance of virtues offered by the Rawlsian model is unacceptable for the reasons mentioned previously and that we must seek a better, more appropriate balance, but that this new balance cannot forego the need to meaningfully challenge injustice. In ‘Ethics, Morality, and the Case for Realist Political Theory’, Edward Hall and Matt Sleat (2017: 279) identify three impulses behind the ‘realist’ turn in political philosophy. The first aims to bring political philosophy into closer conversation with the practice of politics by taking more seriously questions of feasibility and practical possibility, thus, in a sense becoming more responsive to the empirical facts constraining political agency in various contexts. The second impulse is rooted in a belief that politics is a separate moral realm from ordinary ethical reasoning and that, as a result, the demands of individual ethics do not seamlessly apply in the realm of politics. The third impulse consists of a critique of ordinary moral philosophy applied to politics on the grounds that such an approach constitutes a kind of moral failure, since it fails to meaningfully engage with the nature of the moral problems presented in real politics.13 Crucially, I contend that the threat of moral quietism looms largest for those realist projects that are principally animated by the second impulse (that is, the desire to cordon off a priori the realm of politics from the wider moral realm) because such a stance precludes the possibility that a supervening concern for justice (or another moral value) emerging from outside of a pre-established and clearly delineated political domain can legitimately demand fundamental change to existing ways of doing politics. Indeed, Peter Verovšek convincingly argues that realists with a “dual commitment to politics as an autonomous domain of social life and [its] typically utopophobic sensibility” (2018: 4) are likely to struggle to develop a sufficiently morally demanding positive agenda. Moreover, even a broader version of realism, one which opposes itself to mere ‘moralising’ without postulating an ontological dichotomy between the moral and political domains and which seeks to permit a limited role for utopian thinking in criticising actual politics (see, for example, Geuss 2016) still confronts an arduous task in articulating a rich positive distinctively realist account of the appropriate means and ends of political action. To address this, I contend that we need a methodological approach which charts a via media between ideal theory and realism. That is, we need a methodological framework which rejects the ontological commitment to partitioning politics from morality and pursues an approach that explicitly permits a richer articulation of our ethical demands in dialogue


Part I

with real political situations. It is with this end in mind that I seek to articulate John Dewey’s experimentalism as a promising methodological way forward.

1.4. Conclusion In conclusion, within the context of our present civilisational crisis, where the necessity for intelligent thought to come to bear on the real problems of ordinary citizens has become apparent, political philosophy has the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the task of cultural and social renewal. This opportunity is found in the willingness of decisionmakers to find counsel beyond their more traditional circles of advisers, and in the hunger of ordinary citizens for insightful, enlightening, and empowering visions of a better tomorrow. However, in order to meet this opportunity, political philosophers must grasp the nettle and do whatever is within their powers to make their work relevant to actual democratic deliberations, within the domain of existing empirical facts. This requires overcoming the methodological habits of Rawlsian ideal theory. As we have seen, these habits entail the following failures: (i) Prioritising the pre-democratic conclusions of philosophers over the political autonomy of democratic citizenries; (ii) Failing to start from real political problems as experienced by actual citizens; (iii) Relying on idealisation (that is, making false assumptions, such as full compliance or taking a cost-blind approach to rights); (iv) Lacking a theory of transition (that is, a theory of how we might go about seeking to implement the recommendations set out in the theory); (v) Failing to seriously consider a diversity of moral considerations in political deliberations; (vi) Ignoring the fact that trade-offs loom large in political deliberations; (vii) Ignoring the role played by power in political action. We have also seen that any attempt to overcome the limitations of Rawlsian political philosophy will need to ensure that it continues to give serious thought to challenging injustice, as it moves to consider wider concerns—I will call this constraint (j). I therefore conclude that we need to negotiate a new balance between the degree to which political philosophers are sensitive to actual democratic deliberations, empirical facts, and abstract moral considerations. Furthermore, I contend that Dewey’s experimentalism, rooted in his pragmatist conceptions of philosophy and democracy, offers a promising vision of such balance. The remainder of this book engages in the task of articulating this balance and critically assessing its viability as an alternative methodological outlook. The next part focuses on Dewey’s philosophic ideal.

The Problem of Method in Political Philosophy


Notes 1. For examples of views that emphasise the primacy of ethical and cultural change, see Elgin (1993) and Puech (2010, 2012). For more balanced views calling for change in both political institutions and cultural dispositions, see Brown, Flavin and Postel (1991), Jamison (2012), Ole Bærenholdt (2012), and Forstenzer (2012). 2. It seems unfair to leave out the many other fine examples of recent practically engaged political philosophy. However, drawing an exhaustive list here would detract from the overall argument. Suffice it to mention that some of the other major authors that come to mind in this category include Michael Walzer (1973), Chantal Mouffe (1993), Bonnie Honig (1993), Amy Gutman and Dennis Thompson (1996), and Philip Pettit (Brennan & Pettit, 2005). For a more extensive list, see Galston (2010: 386), and for a more detailed discussion of significant practically minded books in the field, see Chapter 10. 3. See More (2008: 36): “‘This philosophical way of speculation is not unpleasant among friends in a free conversation, but there is no room for it in the courts of princes where great affairs are carried on by authority’. ‘That is what I was saying’, replied he, ‘that there is no room for philosophy in the courts of princes’. ‘Yes, there is’, said I, ‘but not for this speculative philosophy that makes everything to be alike fitting at all times’.” 4. To give the reader some idea of Rawls’ influence in numerical terms, B. Rodgers claims that “[A Theory of Justice] has sold more than 200,000 copies worldwide. On a conservative estimate, about five thousand books or articles dealing with it, at least in some respect, have been written. The story of ‘How John Rawls Revived Political Philosophy and Rejuvenated Liberalism’ is part of academic legend” (Rodgers 1999: 50). One can only assume that these numbers have significantly increased since then. 5. I refrain here from calling this view ‘deliberative democracy’ for two reasons: first because Rawls also claims to be engaged in the project of deliberative democracy, and, second, because I think the view I am articulating here is also held by democratic agonists (see, for example, Mouffe 1999). If I had to name this view, I would call it ‘democratic dynamism’, because those who hold it share the idea that what is distinctly of value in democratic engagement is its dynamic character. 6. In a similar move away from the Rawlsian model, Bernard Williams rejects the priority of the moral over the political and contends that all political arrangements must prioritise responding to the “‘first’ political question in Hobbesian terms as the securing of order, protection, safety, trust, and the conditions of cooperation. It is ‘first’ because solving it is the condition of solving, indeed posing, any others. It is not (unhappily) first in the sense that once solved, it never has to be solved again. This is particularly important because, a solution to the first question being required all the time, it is affected by historical circumstances; it is not a matter of arriving at a solution to the first question at the level of state-of-nature theory and then going on to the rest of the agenda” (2005: 3). 7. For a more abstract argument to the effect that political judgement is not reducible to moral reasoning, see Vincent Descombes (2008). 8. For present purposes, I will assume that feasibility, fact-sensitivity, and practiceorientation amount to much the same thing, because giving serious consideration to either of these amounts to taking real, nonideal considerations into account in developing a political theory. 9. For a full discussion of Hegel’s conception of reconciliation, see Hardimon (1994).


Part I

10. For an informative discussion of these types of issues at both an individual and an institutional level, see Liam Murphy (2000). 11. Consequently, they may also become blind to their own implicit ideological or cultural biases (see Sen 2009: xiv; Mills 2005). 12. As an example, Farrelly discusses (2007a: 858) Justine Burley’s (2000) use of Dworkin’s work in the context of reproductive justice. 13. For the sake of clarity, ‘realism’ in this context is not to be confused with ‘realism’ in International Relations (i.e. the view according to which the behaviour of states is best explained by the pursuit of competitive selfinterest) or ‘realism’ in epistemology (i.e. the view according to which objects of knowledge pertain to a mind-independent reality).

Part II


In Pursuit of Relevance Dewey’s Pragmatist Rejection of the Quest for Certainty

The problem of restoring integration and cooperation between man’s beliefs about the world in which he lives and his beliefs about the values and purposes that should direct his conduct is the deepest problem of modern life. It is the problem of any philosophy that is not isolated from that life. (LW 4: 204) Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men. (MW 10: 46)

2.1. The Roots of Philosophy: The Quest for Certainty The original definition of philosophy offered by Plato drew a rather sharp distinction between the knowledge offered by philosophy and mere opinion. On this account, philosophy was thought to offer a more secure, more certain kind of knowledge than the everyday beliefs of the common muck. But the Platonic texts go one step further. These texts mostly stage a series of confrontations between Philosophy, as it is spoken through the mouths of Socrates and his disciples, and Sophistry, as it is spoken through the mouths of several notorious sophists of the time. In Ancient Greece, sophists taught young men how to speak upon all matters of importance while giving the semblance of expertise. Thus the domain of expertise of sophists was, in actuality, rhetoric—that is, the art of speaking convincingly. But through this art they could often give the false impression of having a great deal of expertise in other domains. In Plato’s works, Socrates typically takes these sophists to task, demonstrating— more or less successfully—that their claims to knowledge are all too often ill founded. They may speak well, but their thinking is often muddled and the reasons they offer in support of their views are rarely conclusive. In most Platonic dialogues, Socrates seems to be trying to show that his method of philosophy yields a superior kind of knowledge than that


Part II

available to the sophists—at the very least, the knowledge that the beliefs that we often take for granted are not as secure as we originally thought. Left at this, the Socratic claim does not seem all that problematic— the idea that some beliefs are more justified than others is, in itself, uncontroversial and so is the idea that some methods of inquiry yield better justified beliefs than others. However, the trouble comes when Plato infers from the existence of more and less justified beliefs that there must be some absolute and indubitable criterion by which to judge beliefs and a clear method to apply this criterion in order to establish the degree to which a belief is justified or not. For Plato, the ultimate criterion is accurate knowledge of the Idea of the Good (from which springs all other ideas composing Being) and the method is philosophy. And indeed, in The Republic, Plato intends to show that philosophy offers a superior kind of knowledge, not just to some, but to all other forms of knowing for a single fundamental reason: philosophy puts us in contact with the way things really are at their core, with the essence of Being; not just with the world of appearances, that unreliable outer shell of existence. Looking back at the history of Western philosophy, Richard Rorty (1991: xiii–xxi) came to draw a distinction between those philosophers who follow Plato in committing themselves to this notion of philosophy and other philosophers who attempt to see, in the words of Wilfred Sellars (1962: 35), “how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.” According to Rorty, most of the canon of Western philosophy falls in the first category, because they are committed to the Platonic presupposition we have been talking about so far. This presupposition is composed of two key claims: (i) the pursuit of Truth requires us to pursue knowledge in its most perfect form, that is, absolute certainty; and (ii) philosophy has a uniquely privileged role to play in offering us a method to distinguish Truth from Untruth, the Certain from the Uncertain. Rorty goes on to claim that within the group committed to this Platonic presupposition “there has been a traditional difference of opinion about the Nature of Truth, a battle between (as Plato put it) the gods and the giants. On the one hand there have been Philosophers like Plato himself who were otherworldly, possessed of a larger hope. They urged that human beings were entitled to self-respect only because they had one foot beyond space and time” (1991: xv). They thus held that philosophy is uniquely involved in the task of delivering indubitable knowledge, that is, knowledge of the ultimate reality underlying the way the world appears to us and therefore grounding all knowledge in the certainty afforded by reason such as it is uncovered by proper philosophical investigation. In contrast, Rorty (1991: xv) claims that “there have been Philosophers (e.g. Hobbes, Marx) who insisted that space and time make up

In Pursuit of Relevance


the Reality there is, and that Truth is Correspondence to that Reality.” According to these philosophers, broadly speaking, the role of philosophy is to delineate the proper sphere of real knowledge (usually thought to be delivered in some form or another by the empirical sciences) from the mere ‘nonsense’ offered by religion and metaphysical philosophies. Still, in this task, philosophy keeps a unique role insofar as it remains the ultimate arbiter between ‘truly scientific’ claims to knowledge and the whimsical postulations of ‘mere metaphysicians’, because philosophy provides the method for establishing the boundaries between what is indeed ‘empirical’ and what is not. Despite their marked differences, Rorty contends that both these schools of thought remain committed to the Platonic presupposition, according to which a fundamentally secure kind of knowledge (knowledge of the Good, of Truth, or of Reality) is the aim of intelligent inquiry and that philosophy has a privileged epistemic vantage point in this task (Rorty 1991: xv–xvi). Rorty, much like Dewey, wants to reject this conception of philosophy. The rest of this chapter focuses on Dewey’s reasons for this rejection.

2.2. Overcoming the Tradition To a large extent, in expressing the preceding views, Rorty is selfconsciously making himself the modern-day mouthpiece of Dewey’s view of the tradition. Indeed, while referring to Aristotle’s understanding of ‘First Philosophy’, Dewey writes: [Aristotle] says that the objects of philosophy are such as are the causes of as much of the divine as is manifest to us, and that if the divine is anywhere present, it is present in things of the sort with which philosophy deals. The supremacy of worth and dignity of these objects are also made clear in the statement that the Being with which philosophy is occupied is primary, eternal and self-sufficient, because its nature is the Good, so that the Good is among the first principles which are philosophy’s subject-matter:—yet not, it must be understood, the good in the sense in which it has meaning and standing in human life but the inherently and eternally perfect, that which is complete and self-sufficient. (LW 4: 12) Although Dewey was quick to recognise the cultural debt Western civilisation owes to Plato and Aristotle in enshrining “the ideals of science and of a life of reason” (LW 4: 14), he was also keen to point out that they bequeathed unto us a perversely staunch division between higher and lower forms of knowledge. This division put the theoretical knowledge


Part II

offered by philosophy upon a pedestal while vilifying the practical knowledge offered by lived experience. As Dewey puts it: They glorified the invariant at the expense of change, it being evident that all practical activity falls within the realm of change. It bequeathed the notion, which has ruled philosophy ever since the time of the Greeks, that the office of knowledge is to uncover the antecedently real, rather than, as is the case with our practical judgments, to gain the kind of understanding which is necessary to deal with problems as they arise. (LW 4: 14) Thus, since philosophy was thought to be the principal purveyor of this knowledge, it was tasked with purifying our beliefs until they became immutable knowledge, delivering us from the realm of contingency and change. According to Dewey, this systematic undervaluing of the realm of the practical (praxis) to the benefit of the theoretical (theoria) finds its causal root in the culture of Ancient Greece. Why? First, because Dewey believes that “there was a feeling before the rise of philosophy that the unalterably fixed and the absolutely certain are one, or that change is the source from which comes all our uncertainties and woes” (LW 4: 16). And, secondly, because Dewey claims that “[a]s long as man was unable by means of the arts of practice to direct the course of events, it was natural for him to seek an emotional substitute; in the absence of actual certainty in the midst of a precarious and hazardous world, men cultivated all sorts of things that would give them the feeling of certainty” (LW 4: 26—emphasis in original). I think this thought can be cashed out in two ways: (i) Dewey clearly thinks there is a significant emotional pay off in hoping and reaching for a realm of experience where all is truly known and where goodness always prevails, namely, the satisfaction of believing that, though it may be beyond our immediate reach and though we may never fully know it, there is a land of safety and purity for us to strive for. In this sense, this notion of philosophy is fundamentally in the same business as religion—making the realm of the here and now easier to inhabit by telling stories about a perfect and beautiful beyond, thus offering consolation for the woes of life, not means to overcome them. (ii) In a society where a reliable method for charting the courses of human and non-human events (such as, for example, the social and natural sciences) remains largely elusive, the development of a method yielding relatively clear rules and regularities through reflective thought (such as Plato and Aristotle did with logic and mathematics) is of great appeal, even if it fails to make sense of the vast majority of

In Pursuit of Relevance


events actually going on in the natural and social worlds; and this, simply because it gives us something reasoned and broadly coherent to go on rather than pure superstition and prejudice when seeking to plan out human action. Hence, it is likely that the philosophy of the Ancients offered a great deal more purchase on the world than any alternatives available at the time. It was thus in the deeply uncertain context that was Ancient Greece that the role of philosophy was originally thought to be accessing a realm of complete certitude, which would be fundamentally untainted by the vicissitudes of practical life. And had it stayed in that context, Dewey would probably not have had all that much to say about it, since he acknowledged that it had sprung out of real human needs, as “[t]he need for protection and prosperity of action created the need for warranting the validity of intellectual beliefs” (LW 4: 32). Yet, much of Dewey’s concern stems from the fact that this conception of knowledge and its associated conception of philosophy were taken to be literal and unequivocal truths by most subsequent philosophers, thus enabling these ideas to survive well beyond the practical context from which they had originally emerged. Most fundamentally, Dewey rejects the use that came to be made of this idea in response to the birth of Modern science.

2.3. Philosophy and the Birth of Modern Science It is more or less of a commonplace to speak of the crisis which has been caused by the progress of the natural sciences in the last few centuries. The crisis is due, it is asserted, to the incompatibility between the conclusions of natural science about the world in which we live and the realm of higher values, of ideal and spiritual qualities, which get no support from natural science. (LW 4: 32–33)

On Dewey’s interpretation, the principal problem of Modern philosophy involved making sense of the rightful place of moral values within the cold and mechanistic natural world ‘uncovered’ successively by Copernican, Galilean, and Newtonian physics. Indeed, the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries turned the world on its head (or at least our conception of it) by removing the Earth from its static foundations, displacing humans from the centre of the Universe, and describing natural processes without reference to teleology. From that point on, the world of observable phenomena was to be described from a purely mechanistic point of view. This had two related implications: first, it challenged the prevalent Christian view of the Cosmos, where humans, supposedly created in God’s image, had hitherto been thought to live firmly


Part II

at the centre of God’s attention and grace; and, second, it challenged the idea that God’s will was to be found at the heart of existence itself, since the natural world was now to be understood as a soulless mechanism, made up of forces and masses, but not of divine intentions and teleological processes. In describing and accurately predicting the movement of macroscopic masses, Modern scientists developed a cosmology defined by demonstrable universal laws of motion. This seemingly left no place in the Universe for non-physical objects—such as “[q]ualities, excellences and ends” (LW 4: 43). But where then were we to find the source of our moral values, if not in the structure of the physical Universe? That is the question Modern philosophers attempted to answer by developing sophisticated metaphysical theories designed to explain the gap between fact and value, subject and object, and mind and body. In other words, Modern philosophers felt compelled to theorise about the metaphysical structure of reality, the essence of human subjectivity, and the laws of reason in order to reconcile traditional religious and moral beliefs with this new scientific world view. According to Dewey, such is the problem of Modern philosophy— “the adjustment to each other of two unquestioned convictions: One, that knowledge in the form of science reveals the antecedent properties of reality; the other, that the ends and laws which should regulate human affection, desire and intent can be derived only from the properties possessed by ultimate Being” (LW 4: 46–47). And, in response to this tension, Modern philosophers (such as, for example, René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Immanuel Kant) set about trying to show that even though the sciences give us knowledge of the physical world, philosophy is still necessary to gain knowledge of the underlying structure of this world. However, Dewey takes this problem to be a cultural rather than a metaphysical problem, a problem which emerges as a result of the contradiction generated by an enduring commitment to what Rorty came to call the ‘Platonic presupposition’ in the face of Modern physics. Dewey writes: As long as the notion persists that values are authentic and valid only on condition that they are properties of Being independent of human action, as long as it is supposed that their right to regulate action is dependent upon their being independent of action, so long there will be needed schemes to prove that values are, in spite of the findings of science, genuine and known qualifications of reality in itself. (LW 4: 35) In other words, for Dewey, the epistemological commitment to knowing Reality as it exists in itself, subsuming all existing things in their fullest and purest forms, and being meaningfully accessible from a perspective completely independent of human concerns, sub specie aeternitatis—or

In Pursuit of Relevance


as Hilary Putnam puts it, from “a God’s Eye point of view” (1981: 49)— is precisely what generates such a worry about the ontological grounding of our morals in the first place. If we are not committed to seeking a uniquely privileged description of the world from which we are to derive ontological justification for our moral world, once and for all, then the fact that scientific practice describes the laws of the physical world in some way rather than another should not disturb us in the least. In fact, for Dewey, scientific discovery should merely make us rejoice, since it may prove to be useful in helping us attain previously unattainable goods. That is why, according to him, we should reject the notion that our values need grounding in a singular and absolute metaphysical structure of the world and we should thus also reject the notion that the proper office of philosophy is to get to the bottom of the meta-structure of reality in order to generate the desired reconciliation between a seemingly inhuman, Godless, and amoral natural world offered by science and the moral values we happen to cherish. Nonetheless, the worry might arise that Dewey needs to give us good reasons for thinking that we should not seek to ground our beliefs in the metaphysical structure of the world. After all, it seems intuitively appealing to seek to justify our beliefs by showing that they minimally cohere with, and optimally, derive from the ultimate nature of Being. The more our beliefs can be shown to flow from the essence of the world as it ultimately is, the more it would seem that our beliefs will be ultimately justified. Why? Because it is ordinarily held that the chief virtue of a good belief is that it accurately depicts how the world really is: if it can be shown that any one belief corresponds to the ultimate structure of the world, then it will stand firmly beyond contingency and doubt, and thus beyond the possibility of error. If Dewey is going to convince us that we should no longer follow this method, then he is going to have to give us a good reason to do so. In fact, Dewey gives us several reasons but before I delve into these, it is worth clarifying exactly what he took himself to be rejecting: namely, a particular conception of epistemology—that is to say, the notion that knowledge is in need of metaphysical grounding at all. Fundamentally, Dewey rejects this view because he thinks the beliefs we humans hold are not the kinds of things that can legitimately aspire to a level of warrant rooted in ultimate reality. So why does he think this? First, for Dewey, philosophies that have sought an indubitable kind of knowledge have, throughout the history of philosophy, systematically failed to solidly ground, once and for all, the notion of an ultimately secure kind of knowledge. Not only have they failed to demonstrate their infallibility, but also there is no compelling evidence to suggest that substantive progress has been made towards this end. He thus sees no reason why we should think that any future attempts at grounding knowledge in secure metaphysical foundations would be any more successful. He therefore issues a condemnation of this intellectual waste; when philosophy is


Part II

no longer relevant to the problems at hand it ceases to be philosophy and becomes ‘academic scholarship’ (LW 5: 163). Second, philosophy that is fully invested in the quest for certainty all too often fails to bring its insights to bear on life as it is pre-philosophically experienced. “The charge that is brought against the non-empirical method of philosophizing is not that it depends upon theorizing,” Dewey says, “but that it fails to use refined, secondary products as a path pointing and leading back to something in primary experience” (LW 1: 16–17). What exactly he means by this is the object of a much more detailed discussion in Chapter 3, but for now, suffice it to say that Dewey thought that the chief failure of this type of philosophy was to be found in its alienation from the concerns which actually affect the lives of everyday people, because in so doing, philosophy (i) cuts itself off from the wisdom of ordinary experience;1 (ii) makes itself irrelevant to the lives of intelligent human beings; and (iii) sets itself up as a competitor to science for ultimate authority over the criteria for securing ultimately reliable knowledge. Finally, following in the footsteps of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, Dewey claims that the philosophical desire for an ultimately secure kind of knowledge springs from a fundamentally flawed conception of human psychology. At the root of Modern philosophy, we find a concern with arriving at an indubitable kind of knowledge. Descartes famously developed methodological scepticism in order to ground a secure kind of knowledge in foundations of which he could not conceivably doubt. The worry he confronted was clear: how can we be certain that we know what we think we know? Descartes’ (1984: 193) strategy for answering this question involved three key commitments: “1. The seeker after truth must, once in the course of his life, doubt everything, as far as is possible”; “2. What is doubtful should even be considered as false”; “3. This doubt should not meanwhile be applied to ordinary life.” Descartes notoriously went on to argue that the first belief beyond doubt is belief in the existence of the doubting subject and he went on to demonstrate how all other knowledge is ultimately grounded in this initial metaphysical certainty. According to Dewey, it was in the hope of safeguarding the knowledge offered by the sciences that Modern philosophers originally adopted the general strategy of seeking to ground all justification for knowledge in the metaphysical structure of the world—thus seeking to make knowledge a matter beyond sceptical doubt. But in so doing, they split philosophy from the realm of ordinary experience. This, to Dewey, is profoundly objectionable and is rooted in an illegitimate sceptical anxiety itself derived from an erroneous conception of human psychology. So what exactly constitutes this erroneous conception of human psychology? It is the view that belief and doubt are merely cognitive states and that human psychology is able to meaningfully doubt all beliefs at once.

In Pursuit of Relevance


Following Peirce, Dewey and fellow pragmatists reject both of these notions: belief is at its root a disposition to act, not merely a cognitive state—in a letter, Peirce writes that “what a man really believes is what he would be ready to act upon, and to risk much upon” (cited in Menand 2002: 226);2 and the habitual state for the human mind is belief, not doubt—elsewhere Peirce (1982: 66) writes: Doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state from which we struggle to free ourselves and pass into the state of belief; while the latter is a calm and satisfactory state which we do not wish to avoid, or to change to a belief in anything else. On the contrary, we cling tenaciously, not merely to believing, but to believing just what we do believe. Pragmatists conclude from this that doubt, like belief, requires justification. Moreover, they add that such justification requires that we hold other background beliefs when justifying doubt. They thus conclude that there is no intelligible way of justifying methodological doubt, since it demands doubting all our beliefs at once. It is in this sense that the methodological doubt heralded by sceptics is unjustified. As a result, pragmatists conclude, such sceptical doubt is not real doubt, but purely academic doubt. Thus, according to pragmatists, sceptical doubts are empty because groundless, and therefore the sceptical anxiety does not demand a solution—it demands dissolution.3 Let us delve a little deeper by considering this passage by William James (1975: 259) in his Pragmatism: The soul and meaning of thought [. . .] can never be made to direct itself towards anything else but the production of belief. [. . .] When our thought about an object has found its rest in belief, then our action on the subject can firmly and safely begin. Beliefs, in short, are rules for action; and the whole function of thinking is but one step in the production of habits of action. If there were any part of a thought that made no difference in the thought’s practical consequences, then that part would be no proper element of the thought’s significance. In other words, according to James, the only doubts which inquiry can resolve are those that genuinely challenge our existing dispositions to act. Genuine doubts are thus always specific and contextually embedded. Thus, if the ordinary state of mind for humans is belief, not doubt, and real doubts can only be considered within the contexts in which they arise, then we cannot make sense of what it would mean to truly doubt all beliefs at once. Why? Because doubts are in need of justification and the justification for any one doubt must emerge from within concrete situations, or as we might say, lived experiences; the emergence


Part II

of mere armchair doubts is not reason enough to worry about the level of warrant of our beliefs. To be clear, it is not that all doubts are to be ignored; it is rather that, to be taken seriously, a particular doubt must be given sufficient and appropriate justification; meaningful justification for this or that doubt is required before we go on to consider revising our beliefs. Such justification will inevitably rely on one or more of our currently held beliefs. Since each doubt is to be resolved against a background of other beliefs, reconsidering any one of our beliefs requires that a part of our web of beliefs remains solid during this process of re-evaluation, hence making it impossible to doubt all of our beliefs at once. To summarise, Dewey and his fellow pragmatists hold that (i) the injunction to doubt all of our beliefs at once is not intelligible, and (ii) the mere postulation of a potential doubt does not warrant suspending or rejecting any one of our currently held beliefs. This is because meaningfully doubting any one belief requires justification, and such justification requires a continued commitment to a whole set of other beliefs. As a result, pragmatists do not take the sceptical injunction to doubt all beliefs that can be doubted as an intelligible injunction. That is why, instead of taking scepticism to be a potent adversary, Dewey holds that methodological doubt is paper-thin. In fact, he adds that it is positively counterproductive in the task of improving our beliefs since it takes our energies away from addressing real doubts—this is the main thrust of his arguments in Reconstruction in Philosophy (MW 12: 77–202), Experience and Nature (LW 1), and The Quest for Certainty (LW 4). Hence, for Dewey, we ought not to worry about the spectre of scepticism haunting our philosophical endeavours. Instead, we ought to start from where we are, not seek out an ever-evasive tabula rasa upon which many a philosopher has unsuccessfully sought to erect an ultimate, indubitable kind of knowledge. He writes, “We believe in the absence of knowledge or complete assurance, the quest for certainty has always been an effort to transcend belief” (LW 4: 21). The possibility of this transcendence is precisely what Dewey denies: though we can hope to improve our beliefs, we can never hope to completely transcend the uncertainty and mere probability that lurk behind the warrant bestowed upon even our best-justified beliefs. We must therefore accept that the only kind of knowledge we can ever hope to access is fallible, open to radical change and progressive revision. Crucially, Dewey believes this to be the case for both scientific and moral knowledge (see 2.6). Therefore, the office of philosophy must be to help us engage on the rocky path towards securing more—but never ultimately—justified beliefs. But in order for philosophy to do this, it must first rid itself of a sterile quest for certainty and overcome its deeply flawed reliance upon what Dewey called the “spectator theory of knowledge” (LW 4: 19).

In Pursuit of Relevance


2.4. The Spectator Theory of Knowledge: A World Divided Upon Itself The most serious indictment to be brought against non-empirical philosophies is that they have cast a cloud over the things of ordinary experience. They have not been content to rectify them. They have discredited them at large. (LW 1: 40) [A]ll of the rivalries and connected problems [of epistemology] grow from a single root. They spring from the assumption that the true and valid object of knowledge is that which has being prior to and independent of the operations of knowing. [. . .] If we see that knowing is not the act of an outside spectator but of a participator inside the natural and social scene, then the true object of knowledge resides in the consequences of directed action. (LW 4: 157)

The problems identified by Descartes, the methods he embraced, as well as the views he ended up defending, laid the groundwork for many of the debates that animated Modern philosophy. It is in this sense that Descartes can be seen as its spiritual father. Dewey takes aim at what he sees to be the foundations of the Cartesian framework when critiquing what he labels ‘the spectator theory of knowledge’. This is what he calls an epistemology based on the notion that “the office of knowledge is to uncover the antecedently real, rather than, as is the case with our practical judgments, to gain the kind of understanding which is necessary to deal with problems as they arise” (LW 4: 14). Dewey sometimes also calls this view the “photograph view of knowing,” because this “theory of knowing is modelled after what was supposed to take place in the act of vision. The object refracts light to the eye and is seen; it makes a difference to the eye and to the person having an optical apparatus, but none to the thing seen. The real object is the object so fixed in its regal aloofness that it is a king to any beholding mind that may gaze upon it” (LW 4: 19). On this conception, the process of knowledge acquisition is staunchly dichotomous with, on the one hand, clear and immutable facts (extended substance), and, on the other, a mind (thinking substance) needing to take in such facts with as little interference as possible. The ultimate aim on this account of knowledge is adequacy of mind to object. According to Dewey, Modern philosophy is fundamentally wedded to this theory of knowledge and it is the source of many of the presumed intractable problems of philosophy. Thus, much of Dewey’s work amounts to a fullthroated attack on the spectator theory of knowledge. At the heart of Dewey’s critique we find his desire to reject the traditional distinction


Part II

between theory and practice (as we have seen in 2.2). To this end, he offers an alternative conception of knowledge: All knowing effort to know starts from some belief, some received and asserted meaning which is a deposit of prior experience, personal and communal. In every instance, from passing query to elaborate scientific undertaking, the art of knowing criticizes a belief which has passed current as genuine coin, with a view to its revision. It terminates when freer, richer and more secure objects of belief are instituted as goods of immediate acceptance. The operation is one of doing and making in the literal sense. Starting from one good, treated as apparent and questionable, and ending in another which is tested and substantiated, the final act of knowing is acceptance and intellectual appreciation of what is significantly conclusive. (LW 1: 320) Moreover, Dewey cashes out this idea of a fundamentally practical understanding of knowledge by rejecting the key dualisms found at the heart of Modern philosophical problems. Hence, the overall strategy adopted by Dewey consists in demonstrating that the spectator theory of knowledge fails to account for the practical character of knowledge and generates a series of dualisms which are usually seen as the root of the perennial problems of philosophy. For Dewey, however, many of those dualisms are in fact dichotomies—that is to say, they are merely philosophical distinctions, not divisions between substantive ontological categories. In order to further clarify Dewey’s rejection of the spectator theory of knowledge, I will go through two key related dualisms that underpin it and their Deweyan rejections.

2.5. The Mind/Body Split: The Asomatic Attitude vs. the Embodied Self If one excludes the status of God (who is really the only fully independent substance), Descartes claims that reality consists of two types: thinking substance and extended substance. Mind is thinking substance while body or matter is extended substance. Much of modern philosophy since Descartes has presupposed this dualistic framework. (Richard Bernstein 1972: 29)

The idea Descartes was expressing when separating the mind from the body was, of course, far from new. Not only did it represent the Modern adaption of the Judeo-Christian belief in the ultimate separation of one’s eternal soul from one’s earthly body, but it also inscribed itself into the wider historical ascent of the hierarchical notion that psyche ought to rule over soma. In John Dewey: Rethinking Our Time, Raymond Boisvert

In Pursuit of Relevance


(1998: 9–10) contends that Modern philosophers took this notion of a divided and hierarchal self to be central to the problem of knowing and thus central to the problems of philosophy.4 On this view, humans are ultimately associated with their cognition and defined as ‘thinking things’ (for Descartes) or ‘rational essences’ (for Kant), while, “the body, when considered at all, was interpreted as a clumsy, inconvenient and troublesome appendage” (Boisvert 1998: 10). The body, with its distorting emotions and unreliable senses, was seen as the cause of human imperfection both in matters of ethical conduct and knowledge. Thus, the mind was to take pre-eminence in controlling matters in both domains by overcoming the diverse biases born out of the worldly considerations demanded by our petulant bodies. Since the spectator theory of knowledge demands neutrality, the purity and independence of the knowing mind was thus the ideal to be achieved and the body was the interfering obstacle to be overcome. Boisvert calls this general outlook ‘the asomatic attitude’ and he goes on to explain that Dewey fundamentally rejects this way of envisioning the human subject because he is committed to the notion of an inevitably embodied self. To explain Dewey’s conception of the human self, I must start by stressing the influence the work of Charles Darwin had on Dewey’s ideas (see MW 4: 2–15; Campbell 1995: 25–38). Indeed, the picture Darwin’s evolutionary theory offered of the development of biological processes and thus of human life as a continuous part of the natural world came to hold a central place in Dewey’s philosophy. This led Dewey to wholeheartedly embrace the notion that our embodiedness is an inescapable feature of the human condition. From the notion that the needs, reflexes, limitations, and habits experienced by our bodies are unavoidably at the centre of our lives—cognitive or otherwise—Dewey develops a naturalistic understanding of the mind: “The biological point of view commits us to the conviction that mind, whatever else it may be, is at least an organ of service for the control of the environment in relation to the ends of the life process” (MW 2: 41). Furthermore, Dewey thinks that there is a fundamentally practical character to our mode of experiencing the world we live in. Influenced by Stuart Hall, but even more fundamentally inspired by James’ The Principles of Psychology (1981), Dewey developed an active interest in what was called the ‘New Psychology’ (Ryan 1995: 74–75). This shift consisted in leaving behind armchair speculations about human psychology and taking hypotheses to the laboratory for experimentation. This change of tack resulted in a radically different conception of human subjectivity, where physiological processes and outwardly visible behaviour became the fundamental units of psychological analyses. The resulting conception of human psychology begins by rejecting the notion that the mind is an empty space waiting to be filled by external stimuli. Rather, for Dewey the knowing qualities of the mind (what is


Part II

referred to as ‘awareness’, ‘consciousness’, or ‘thought’) are secondary to (or, in other words, fundamentally dependent upon) the functional behaviours demonstrated by the body’s activity. Or, as Dewey puts it, “in a certain sense it is the movement which is primary, and the sensation which is secondary, the movement of the body, head and eye muscles determining the quality of what is experienced” (EW 5: 97). Thus, experience does not start with an empty mind struck by a sensory stimulus; rather it starts with a sensory-motor coordination, that is, an already active body reacting to the environment before the mind is fully aware of its contents. As a result, Dewey rejects the notion that the mind is fundamentally independent from the body. Instead, for him, the body is the ultimate source of the causes and concerns which activate the mind and the activity of the mind has for ultimate purpose change in the activity of the body. There is thus a dialectical relationship between mind and body— each one fundamentally affecting the other, but with the mind ultimately being at the service of the body’s organic needs.5 He envisions the human subject as an organism permanently and fundamentally engrossed in the task of survival and adaptation to its environment. In his view, thought (i.e. the knowing function of the mind) is a tool for the human organism to remain in harmony with its environment; thought is not the means to get in touch with some remote final reality. It follows from this that the complex dialectical relationship between mind and body, as Dewey envisions it, makes it impossible to meaningfully split off entirely the one from the other. This is because, as William Galvin aptly summarises it, “thought [. . .] is prospective in nature. The purpose of thought is to produce habits of action” (2008: 352). This inescapably practical aspect of thinking and knowing lies at the heart of Dewey’s pragmatism. He thus writes: [T]he doctrine of organic development means that the living creature is a part of the world, sharing its vicissitudes and fortunes, and making itself secure in its precarious dependence only as it intellectually identifies itself with the things about it, and, forecasting the future consequences of what is going on, [and] shapes its own activities accordingly. If the living, experiencing being is an intimate participant in the activities of the world to which it belongs, then knowledge is a mode of participation, valuable in the degree in which it is effective. It cannot be the idle view of an unconcerned spectator. (MW 9: 347)6 On Dewey’s account, this practical and participative conception of knowledge also undermines the fact/value dichotomy so central to the spectator theory of knowledge.

In Pursuit of Relevance


2.6. The Fact/Value Dichotomy and the Practical Character of Reality When the hierarchical ascent of nature to mind and to ideal forms was disturbed by the conviction that the subject-matter of natural science is exclusively physical and mechanistic, there arose the dualistic opposition of matter and spirit, of nature and ultimate ends and goods. (LW 4: 43)

According to Dewey, the spectator theory of knowledge came of age with Modern philosophy and it was chiefly motivated by the perceived need to draw the line between the domains of fact and value. As mentioned previously, Modern philosophy confronted an historic crisis in making sense of the epistemic authority provided by the natural sciences while wanting to preserve the moral authority of traditional values. The standard response was to point to the existence of a complete separation between facts and values. The exact ways in which this line is drawn vary, but I will consider here two paradigm cases, namely those presented by Immanuel Kant and David Hume. It is in Kant that Dewey finds an exemplar of the Modern intention to draw the line between the world of facts and the world of moral values, but it is in Hume that we find the prime motivation for this attempt at a resolution. It was Hume who first raised the concern that it is not clear at all how statements about what ‘is’ the case can confer authority on statements about what ‘ought’ to be the case. The key argumentative move made by Hume is found in this oft-quoted passage of A Treatise of Human Nature: In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention wou’d subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice


Part II and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceiv’d by reason. (Hume 1978: 469–470—emphases in original)

What emerges from this passage is that, according to Hume, authority for ‘is’ statements are to be found in the world of observable facts (best observed through the natural sciences), but such facts do not clearly inform us about anything other than the world as it is in its empirically observable traits. Consequently, any epistemic authority one might encounter for supporting statements on the way the world is cannot be extended through reason alone to statements about the world as it ought to be (for which no empirical observations can be made). The traditional interpretation of ‘Hume’s Law’—as this distinction is sometimes called (see, for example, Bergstrom 2002: 3–4)—is that one cannot infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. In other words, this amounts to saying that there is no rational connection between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ statements and that there are thus two completely severed, logically distinct realms: the world of facts and the world of values. Hume then goes one step further in explaining that ‘ought’ claims are really to be understood as statements rooted in our natural human dispositions and disclosed to us through our emotions—or as he puts it, our ‘sentiments’ (Stroud 2003: 187). Although Hume probably did not intend this, one can infer from this view a downgrading of values in relation to facts, leaving us with a crude kind of naturalism where the existence of facts takes ontological precedent over that of merely subjective values. In contrast, despite recognising the special authority exercised by the natural sciences in the domain of empirical facts, Kant found the threat posed by Hume’s moral emotivism unacceptable. Kant thus set about reconstructing a philosophical system which would elevate morals from mere subjective emotion to the rank of rational necessity, while also respecting the epistemic authority of the natural sciences. Dewey tells us that “[t]he work of Kant may be regarded as a perpetuation of the method of adjustment by means of partition of territories” (LW 4: 47). Indeed, in The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant (1999) seeks to demonstrate that there are a priori rational grounds, underpinning natural knowledge. Thus, ‘Natural Science’ is to have dominion over the empirical world. On the other hand, in The Critique of Practical Reason (1997), he seeks to show that “[s]cience is limited to phenomena in space and time in order that the world of higher and noumenal realities may be appropriated by ideals and spiritual values” (LW 4: 48). In so doing, Kant seeks to erect the foundations for a “higher although intellectually unapproachable realm” (LW 4: 48), a noumenal realm which we cannot immediately experience, but which Pure Reason tells us is a necessary condition for us to have a moral experience at all. Accordingly, for Kant on Dewey’s reading, there are two totally independent realms of existence where two

In Pursuit of Relevance


different modes of knowing each have their own jurisdiction. Dewey concludes: “In its essential framework, the Kantian scheme thus agreed marvellously well with the needs of the historic crisis. It gave freedom—and blessing—to both science and morals, with a guarantee that they could never interfere with each other” (LW 4: 49). However, Kant and Hume’s ways of separating the two domains both gave a surprisingly consistent basic framework for how one might arrive at the static, objective, and neutral knowledge of facts seemingly required by Modern sciences. Indeed, they both recommend splitting off different aspects of one’s experience into two modes of experiencing: one which accounts for the experience of values and one which accounts for the knowledge of facts. In response, Dewey’s attitude towards their shared commitment to the fact/value dichotomy could not be more scathing: “To frame a theory of knowledge which makes it necessary to deny the validity of moral ideas, or else to refer them to some other and separate kind of universe from that of common sense and science, is both provincial and arbitrary” (MW 4: 131). Why does he think this? Let me begin by following Putnam in specifying that the Deweyan rejection of this dichotomy is not the rejection of the idea that “for certain purposes, it might be helpful to draw a distinction (say, between ‘facts’ and ‘values’); rather his target is what he called the fact/value ‘dualism’” (Putnam 2002: 9). In other words, Dewey rejects the notion that sense can be made of the idea that there is a substantive and impermeable ontological separation between facts and values; not that it may be useful, within specific given contexts, to draw attention to the ways in which facts may, in some key respects, differ from values. The attempt is not to collapse the distinction but rather to reject the dichotomy by drawing our attention to the deep and complex enmeshment of facts and values. Putnam identifies the lynch pin of the Deweyan rejection of the fact/ value dichotomy and summarises it thus: “knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of values” (Putnam 2002: 137—emphasis in original).7 I will endeavour to explain what this might mean in the remainder of this section. a. The Causal Claim One interpretation one might adopt of the Deweyan position is that knowledge of facts causally requires a prior commitment to certain values. This interpretation is certainly consistent with the larger Deweyan story. According to Dewey, knowledge of facts is only obtained as a result of the process of inquiry, which itself is only generated by our practical inability to continue enjoying the goods we value. He writes: Organic interaction becomes inquiry when existential consequences are anticipated; when environing conditions are examined with reference


Part II to their potentialities; and when responsive activities are selected and ordered with reference to actualization of some of the potentialities, rather than others, in a final existential situation. Resolution of the indeterminate situation is active and operational. If the inquiry is adequately directed, the final issue is the unified situation that has been mentioned. (LW 12: 111)

The intensely practical character of inquiry is born out of the initial motivation to inquire. Inquiry begins with a disruption in activity and inquiry is, at its most fundamental, best understood as the process of seeking to overcome this disruption. Recall that Dewey conceives of the human being as an organism permanently involved in the pursuit of equilibrium with its environment. It is the disruption of this equilibrium which causes it to inquire into the nature of the situation lacking in equilibrium. Indeed, for Dewey, knowledge of any one fact only ever becomes an issue for us when our practical ability to achieve our ‘ends-in-view’ is disturbed. Thus, inquiry is not a passive or merely reflective process; it emerges from within a whole web of practical concerns. Thus, we only come to consider a given state of affairs qua facts, if we first encounter an existential inability to continue enjoying the goods we did before behaving in the manner we did before. The ordinary mode of operation outside of inquiry, according to Dewey, is the following of habits; for our habits under usual circumstances (i.e. outside of ‘indeterminate’ situations) streamline and safeguard the delivery of the things we existentially value (‘ends-in-view’). Inquiry for Dewey, that is the process through which we come to acquire knowledge about the world, is necessarily initiated by a disruption of the ordinary experience of routine. That is to say that all inquiries begin with the external disruption of business-as-usual (i.e. our pre-reflective, habitual behaviour) (LW 12: 11). An obstacle of some kind or another must emerge, stopping us from benefitting from the continued goods produced by pre-reflectively acting in accord with our habits of action. Our knowledge of facts only emerges as a result of being confronted by the need to revise our behaviour in order to continue to get what we want. Hence, our actual valuing of ends-in-sight and our being thwarted in pursuing them is the precondition for inquiry and thus for obtaining knowledge of facts. However, that is all well and good, one might reply, but it is not enough to truly challenge the dichotomy, because asserting that values are required for knowing about facts is not the same as asserting that values are required for facts to exist at all. The ordinary way of thinking about the world is to presume that the existence of facts ascertained by the process of inquiry precede the process of inquiry itself. Surely then, we can accept that values are important for motivating our being concerned with facts without accepting that values permeate or substantively affect

In Pursuit of Relevance


the actual domain of facts. The separation thus prevails: inquiry comes to inform us about the world of facts, but the projects, ends, and values that motivate the need to know about facts continue to merely inhere in us. It is in this sense that the dichotomy still holds. To offer the strongest formulation of the deeper Deweyan argument, I will now return to Putnam’s articulation of it. b. The Entangled Vocabulary Claim In The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays (2002), Putnam identifies one chief premise for upholding the dichotomy, namely, valuations and descriptions are entirely independent. For example, Putnam tells us that for Hume “a fact is something that corresponds to a sense-impression” (2002: 28), while for logical positivists the domain of facts was limited to statements that were empirically verifiable. Evaluation, on the other hand, for Hume and the logical positivists, was respectively of an ‘emotive’ and ‘noncognitive’ nature. Putnam reads their formulations of the dichotomy as fundamentally premised on the existence of a clean separation between evaluative statements and descriptive ones. In response, Putnam rejects the premise by pointing to instances of what he calls ‘entanglement’. He identifies a whole class of words that run evaluation and description together. Words such as ‘courageous’, ‘rash’, ‘foolhardy’, ‘cruel’, ‘crime’, ‘rude’, or even ‘valuable functionings’, ‘well nourished’, ‘premature mortality’ pertain to this class. Their salient commonality is that they express both a fact of the matter and an evaluative judgement of this fact. He calls these “entangled vocabulary” or “thick ethical concepts” (Putnam 2002: 35). Putnam claims that it is not merely that these words express two neatly dividable statements about a given situation—the one evaluative and the other descriptive. Rather, he argues that sense cannot be made of the one without the other. Let us follow Putnam in considering the example of the word ‘cruel’. The word ‘cruel’ clearly expresses a factual statement about a particular action (say, for example, gratuitously slapping one’s child in the face), but it also expresses an evaluation of that action (i.e. that the action is gratuitous and therefore unjustified and wrong). This leads noncognitivists, such as R.M. Hare, to simply claim that these “thick ethical statements are ‘factorable’ into a purely descriptive component and an ‘attitudinal’ component” (Putnam 2002: 36). This comes down to saying that the value judgement and the statement of fact expressed by the word ‘cruel’ are intelligibly discernible from each other. But Putnam rejects this possibility: “The attempt of noncognitivists to split thick ethical concepts into a ‘descriptive meaning component’ and a ‘prescriptive meaning component’ founders on the impossibility of saying what the ‘descriptive meaning’ of, say, ‘cruel’ is without using the word


Part II

‘cruel’ or a synonym” (2002: 38). “For example,” Putnam writes, “it certainly is not the case that the extension of ‘cruel’ (setting the evaluation aside, as it were) is simply ‘causing deep suffering’, nor, [. . .] is ‘causes deep suffering’ itself free from evaluative force. ‘Suffering’ does not just mean ‘pain’, nor does ‘deep’ just mean ‘a lot’. Before the introduction of anesthesia at the end of the 19th century, any operation caused great pain, but the surgeons were not normally being cruel, and behaviour that does not cause obvious pain can be extremely cruel” (2002: 38—emphasis in original). This comes down to saying that we cannot intelligibly tell apart the statement of fact from the value judgement inherent in the use of the word ‘cruel’. And this, Putnam thinks, applies to all thick ethical concepts of this kind. Any attempt at describing the factual components of each of these inextricably relies on an understanding of their respective evaluative components. Therefore, we cannot make sense of what it would mean to separate fact from value in the case of enmeshed vocabulary. c. The Justificatory Claim Not content with demonstrating that singular instances of enmeshment occasionally disturb the fact/value dichotomy, Putnam uses a similar argumentative strategy to show that “value and normativity permeate all experience” (2002: 30). Indeed, Putnam claims that “‘valuation’ and ‘description’ are interdependent” (2002: 62). One argument he offers in support of this claim seeks to demonstrate that the activity of “justifying factual claims presupposes value judgements” (2002: 137). His principal strategy rests on taking scientific practices as the paradigm case of good justificatory practices for our factual claims and showing that they—pace logical positivists and most empiricists—fundamentally rely on value judgements. First, one way in which values become apparent is in the process of selecting which theories we choose to test in the first place. Since we cannot hope to follow the rule “Test every theory that occurs to anyone” (Putnam 2002: 142), we must decide which theories to test and which ones to leave to the side—if for no other reason than to accommodate limitations in time and resources. Against those who would claim that there are value-neutral a priori means of establishing which theories and hypotheses are worthy of testing—be they probabilistic, algorithmic, or otherwise—Putnam levels counter-examples and counterargument. For Putnam, the criteria that guide us in selecting which hypotheses to test are value judgements about “‘coherence’, ‘plausibility’, ‘reasonableness’, ‘simplicity’ and of what Dirac famously called the beauty of a hypothesis” (2002: 31). These are not moral values, but according to Putnam,

In Pursuit of Relevance


they are “all normative judgments in Charles Peirce’s sense, judgments of ‘what ought to be’ in the case of reasoning” (2002: 31). Second, another way in which values come to have a bearing on scientific justificatory practices arises when we confront conflicting theories that are equally corroborated by observational data. Karl Popper offers a pithy formulation of what is often ordinarily understood as the scientific method: “test all strongly falsifiable theories and retain the ones that survive” (as cited in Putnam 2002: 141). But Putnam thinks that Popper overlooks two facts: (i) “When a theory conflicts with what has previously been supposed to be fact, we sometimes give up the theory and we sometimes give up the supposed fact, and [. . .] the decision is a matter of trade offs [. . .] a matter of informal judgments of coherence, plausibility, simplicity and the like” (Putnam 2002: 142). Hence, we cannot always rely on observation itself to decide which theories and descriptions of fact are to be preferred. In situation where observations offer equal corroboration to conflicting hypotheses, judgements inevitably enter the picture. And these judgements are guided by values. (ii) Ordinary scientific practices do not merely wait for all but one of the theories to be disproved by observations. Scientists accept and reject theories on the basis of considerations beyond pure observation. In support, Putnam here gives the example of Einstein’s theory of gravitation and Alfred Whitehead’s 1922 theory. Both of these apparently agreed with special relativity and “both predicted familiar phenomena of the deflection of light by gravitation, the non-Newtonian character of the orbit of Mercury, the exact orbit of the Moon, among other things. Yet, Einstein’s theory was accepted and Whitehead’s theory was rejected fifty years before anyone thought of an observation that would decide between the two” (2002: 142). Putnam goes on to generalise this point, “indeed, a great number of theories must be rejected on non-observational grounds” (2002: 142). The grounds we use in those cases are judgements of the type mentioned earlier (‘coherence’, ‘plausibility’, ‘simplicity’) and come down to a judgement relating to the ‘reasonableness’ of certain theories and hypotheses. Putnam goes on to claim that such judgements are “essential even at the observational level: we have to decide which observations to trust, which scientists to trust—sometimes even which of our memories to trust” (2002: 145). He thus concludes that all scientific practices rely on these non-empirical judgements. This is how he establishes that justificatory practices relating to statements of fact crucially and inevitably depend on judgements about values—or as Putnam puts it “the activity of justifying factual claims presupposes value judgments” (2002: 137).


Part II

d. The Elephant in the Room: Are Facts and Values Made or Discovered? Denial of an inherent relation of mind to truth or fact for its own sake, apart from insight into what the fact or truth exacts of us in behavior and imposes upon us in joy and suffering; and simultaneous affirmation that devotion to fact, to truth, is a necessary moral demand, involve no inconsistency. Denial relates to natural events as independent of choice and endeavor; affirmation relates to choice and action. (LW 1: 50)

One of the traditional motivations for insisting on the existence of a thoroughgoing dichotomy separating fact from value is the belief that facts are discovered while values are made. It should be clear from what has been said so far that both Putnam and Dewey reject this assumption. But it would be more appropriate to say that they reject the dualistic framework presupposed by the question. This dualistic framework frames the issue by assuming that facts and values are either discovered or made, when in fact, as Putnam puts it, “we make ways of dealing with problematical situations and we discover which ones are better and which worse” (Putnam 2002: 97—the emphasis is my own). For Dewey, this last statement applies for both facts and values. In the case of facts, it is clear to Dewey that our attempts at gaining a certain grasp on the world are generated by our interactions with it. He writes, “Concerned with prudence if not with what is honorifically called wisdom, man naturally prizes knowledge only for the sake of its bearing upon success or failure in attaining goods and avoiding evils” (LW 1: 50). I think it is thus fair to interpret Dewey as telling us that our beliefs about the world come into existence to help us ‘cope’, to use Rorty’s phrase, with our environment. In this sense, facts are made. However, the epistemic processes to which we subject our beliefs, the methods of rational justification which we use to establish which beliefs are more warranted than others (such as for example, the scientific method) do in fact relate our beliefs with the world in its ‘objective reality’, that is, in its concrete limitations. Since not all statements of fact survive the process of rational justification, the statements that survive are justified factual claims. It is in this sense that facts are discovered. In the case of values, the same basic analysis applies. And yet, if our values are to be both made and discovered, it seems I need to say a little bit more about the sense in which they are both. Dewey often insists on the connection between what is actually valued and what is valuable. He is keen to relate our quest for higher ideals to our practical motivations and heartfelt emotions. But let it be clear, Dewey does not think everything we happen to actually value is valuable—just as it is not the case that anything we happen to think is a fact actually is a fact. The process

In Pursuit of Relevance


of intelligent reflection upon our judgements of ‘facts’ and of ‘values’ is required to transform them respectively into facts and values. Against those who think that judgements of value are matters of taste that are beyond rational justification, Dewey writes: “Instead of there being no disputing about tastes, they are the one thing worth disputing about, if by ‘dispute’ is signified discussion involving reflective inquiry” (LW 4: 209). For statements of fact we have scientific practices to serve as the paradigm case of procedures of rational justification. But for values it is less obvious what is to serve as an equivalent. We must thus ask: “By what criteria do we decide that some valuations are warranted and some are unwarranted?” (Putnam 2002: 103). Dewey would reply that we do in fact have an equivalent to the scientific method for valuations; it is called ‘criticism’ or ‘appraisal’. And he would tell us that the criteria that guide criticism are those that generally guide good inquiry. What does this mean? I think we can break down Dewey’s answer into six parts: (i) Criticism is a process of intelligent reflection. It requires from participants that they give and receive reasons in support of the views under discussion. (ii) Criticism is a social process. It requires that discussions be carried out collectively in an open forum. (iii) Criticism is rooted in existing justificatory practices. That is to say that we cannot step back from the process of inquiry to establish once and for all what ought to be the specific criteria that guide it from here on in. Instead, criticism always occurs in a context where certain norms of discussion and local criteria for justification are already assumed. (iv) Criticism is self-regulating. The process of criticism allows for the intelligent critique of the very criteria governing the discussion. With that said, as stated in (iii), it does not allow for the fullblown revision of all criteria in extenso at the same time. But it does however allow for the progressive revision and clarification of the many considerations that are relevant and applicable to the task at hand. (v) Warrant for assertions is always fallible and thus radically open to revision. (vi) Warrant for assertions comes from the norms inherent in the actual practices of criticism. The assertions deemed to be warranted by those engaging in the process of criticism are ‘objectively real’. In support of (v), Putnam quotes Ralph Sleeper’s interpretation of Dewey: Dewey takes great pains to demonstrate that ‘warranted assertions’ are reliable means of obtaining desired results, that they function


Part II in controlled activity designed to resolve problematical situations and produce valued consequences. But he also takes pains to demonstrate that those valued consequences are reliable only when the means employed to obtain them are causally related to objective reality. He wants to show not merely that matters of fact have value as instrumental satisfaction, but that they are values. He wants to demonstrate not only that there is no conceptually valid basis for the distinction between factual judgment and value judgment, but that there is no basis for an ontological distinction either. (Sleeper 1986: 141; as cited in Putnam 2002: 99— emphases in original)

This seems consistent with Dewey’s insistence on the point that “the justification of a choice [. . .] is extrinsic. It depends upon the extent in which observation, memory and forethought have entered into making the choice, and upon the consequences that flow from it. When choice is avowed, others can repeat the course of the experience; it is an experiment to be tried, not an automatic safety device” (LW 1: 390–391). The truth of a given conclusion, for Dewey, “depends upon what [people] find when they warily perform the experiment of observing reflective events” (LW 1: 35). And to emphasise: Dewey intends for this to be applicable both for judgements relating to facts and values. Taken together, what these positions add up to is that Dewey rejects the notion that we can establish general and static criteria that would take the form of “algorithms or decision procedures” (Putnam 2002: 104). He warns us: “No cast-iron rules can be laid down” (MW 6: 241). Instead, he envisions the process of inquiry as radically open to new considerations, following the maxim Peirce would have had written upon every wall of the city of philosophy: “Do not block the path of inquiry” (Peirce 1931: 135). Moreover, Dewey is deeply wedded to the notion that all voices are potentially relevant in the process of inquiry and that the experimental method itself is the final bestower of warrant upon beliefs. Putnam speaks of this particular notion as the ‘democratization of inquiry’ (see 2004: Part II), since it requires upholding the same norms of discussion held to be the chief values of genuine democratic deliberation (i.e. freedom of expression, freedom from physical coercion, and the commitment to engage in discussion on the basis of mutually agreeable terms).8 Dewey was keen to stress the action-guiding nature of these deliberations. He writes: “Judgments about values are judgments about the conditions and the results of experienced objects; judgments about that which should regulate the formation of our desires, affections and enjoyments. For whatever decides their formation will determine the main course of our conduct, personal and social” (LW 4: 212—emphasis in original). In addition, it is worth noting that this rejection of the ‘made’ or ‘discovered’ dichotomy in relation to the nature of facts and values entails a

In Pursuit of Relevance


rejection of a clean dichotomy between ‘subject’ and ‘object’. The obvious intention behind attempts to ascertain whether facts and values are made or discovered is to draw the line between a supposedly epistemically problematic realm of subjectivity (which would ‘make’ facts and/or values) and a supposedly epistemically reliable realm of objectivity (where facts and/or values are to be ‘discovered’). Dewey rejects the dichotomy between facts and values and he rejects the notion that a clean separation between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ can be meaningfully drawn. Thus, to express this enmeshment between inquiring subject and the object of inquiry, Dewey writes: While the astronomer cannot change the remote stars, even he no longer merely gazes. If he cannot change the stars themselves, he can at least by lens and prism change their light as it reaches the earth; he can lay traps for discovering changes which would otherwise escape notice. Instead of taking an antagonistic attitude toward change and denying it to the stars because of their divinity and perfection, he is on constant and alert watch to find some change through which he can form an inference as to the formation of stars and systems of stars. (MW 12: 144–145) e. An Immediate Objection At this point, the astute critic might object by claiming that all I have shown so far is that inquiry must be informed by values. But perhaps, the critic might argue, both facts and values exist entirely independently of inquiry and are both simply discovered through the process of inquiry. In response, I would argue that we should, with Putnam and Dewey, resist this ‘pure-discovery’ formulation because it betrays an implicit commitment to “the idea that there is some final set of [. . .] truths [. . .], all of which can be expressed in some fixed [. . .] vocabulary” (Putnam 2002: 109).9 As Putnam puts it: “An essential part of the ‘language games’ that we play in science, in morals, and in the law is the invention of new concepts, and their introduction into general use; new concepts carry in their wake the possibility of formulating new truths. If the idea of a frozen ‘final truth’ does not make sense in science, it is even more the case that it does not make sense in ethics and the law” (Putnam 2002: 109). In other words, the pragmatist rejection of a simple correspondence theory of truth entails that we seek to make sense of objectivity as yielded by our best efforts when engaging in our actual processes of rational justification. The idea that we could, in the last instance, step out of our ordinary epistemic practices to see if our beliefs are expressed in the ultimately correct vocabulary, sub specie aeternitatis (that is, a vocabulary which ultimately corresponds to the way the world really is ‘in itself’) simply


Part II

fails to make sense. Why? Because, the Dewey-Putnam view comes down to believing that “there is an extremely close connection between the notions of truth and rationality; [.  .  .] to put it even more crudely, the only criterion for what is a fact is what it is rational to accept” (Putnam 1981: x—emphasis in original). Or as Dewey puts it: “Truth is a collection of truths; and these constituent truths are in the keeping of the best available methods of inquiry and testing as to matters-of-fact; methods, which are, when collected under a single name, science” (LW 1: 307).10 In other words, on this view, truth is what the actual processes of inquiry establish that it is good to believe—that is all. In support of this, we have seen that attempts at cordoning off what counts as a ‘fact’ antecedently to the process of inquiry presuppose an unargued for and ultimately unjustified notion of what will count as a ‘fact’ and fail to make sense of what actually happens in our best justificatory practices.11 This ambition to ultimately establish in abstracto, once and for all, what can and what cannot count as a ‘fact’, as ‘objective’, or ‘true’ is practically damaging, because it structurally undermines the authority of our ordinary justificatory processes, thus entrenching what Dewey calls the ‘invidious discrimination’ between theory and practice (LW 4: 5). In the face of this, we must, as James does, conclude that “[t]he trail of the human serpent is thus over everything” (1991: 31). Or, in Dewey’s own words: If the living, experiencing being is an intimate participant in the activities of the world to which it belongs, then knowledge is a mode of participation, valuable in the degree in which it is effective. It cannot be the idle view of an unconcerned spectator. (MW 9: 347)

2.7. Conclusion In summary, Dewey characterises the Modern tradition of Western philosophy as deeply wedded to the spectator theory of knowledge. This theory holds that the ultimate aim of any epistemic practice is to obtain an ultimately neutral and certain kind of knowledge and that philosophy has a privileged role to play in helping us attain it. Dewey then goes on to tell us that we should reject the spectator theory of knowledge and its associated conception of the role of philosophy because it relies on the transformation of intellectually useful distinctions (if deployed in the appropriate contexts) into supposedly inescapable ontological dualisms between mind and body, fact and value, and subject and object. Furthermore, these dichotomies or dualisms impede our ability to pursue practically useful forms of inquiry and get in the way of philosophy playing its deeper social and epistemic role: that is, enabling the growth of practical wisdom by developing a ‘criticism of criticisms’ (Shusterman 2002: 26). I will now to turn to a discussion of Dewey’s positive agenda for philosophy.

In Pursuit of Relevance


Notes 1. He writes: “The failures of philosophy have come from lack of confidence in the directive powers that inhere in experience, if men have but the wit and courage to follow them” (LW 1: 5). 2. Peirce also writes: “The feeling of belief is a more or less sure indication of there being established in our nature some habit which will determine our actions. Doubt has no such effect. [. . .] Belief does not make us act at once but it puts us into a condition that we shall behave in a certain way, when the occasion arises” (Peirce 1982: 66–67). 3. I owe special thanks to Robert Stern for the articulation of this point. 4. Or as Dewey puts it: “Since man was on one hand a part of nature and on the other hand a member of the realm of spirit, all problems came to a focus in his double nature” (LW 4: 43). 5. It should be noted that for Dewey the body’s organic needs are more inclusive than merely physiological needs, it also crucially includes emotional needs. He writes: “There are other things not so directly physical that seem to me equally engrained in human nature. I would mention as examples the need for some kind of companionship; the need for exhibiting energy, for bringing one’s powers to bear upon surrounding conditions; the need for both cooperation with and emulation of one’s fellows for mutual aid and combat alike; the need for some sort of aesthetic expression and satisfaction; the need to lead and to follow; etc.” (LW 13: 286). 6. In anticipation, James wrote: “I, for my part, cannot escape the consideration [. . .] that the knower is not simply a mirror floating with no foot-hold anywhere, and passively reflecting an order he comes upon and finds simply existing. The knower is an actor, and co-efficient of the truth. [. . .] Mental interest, hypotheses, postulates, so far as they are bases for human action— action which to a great extent transform the world—help to make the truth which they declare. In other words, there belongs to mind, from its birth upward, a spontaneity, a vote. It is in the game” (James 1978: 21—emphasis in original). 7. It is worth noting that these values, however, are not limited to what many philosophers would call ‘moral values’. Rather, for Putnam as for Dewey, values include a whole host of considerations that others might call ‘epistemic’ or ‘aesthetic’. 8. Much more will be said about this aspect of inquiry later on (specifically, see 6.6). 9. In Experience and Nature, we find a parallel thought expressed by Dewey. When rejecting the notion of ‘Absolute Experience’, he writes: “Nothing is gained—except the delights of a dialectical problem—in labeling one assortment absolute experience and the other finite experience. Since the appeal of the adherents of the philosophy of absolute and phenomenal experience is to a logical criterion, namely, to the implication in every judgment, however erroneous, of a standard of consistency which excludes any possibility of contradictoriness, the inherent logical contradictions in the doctrine itself are worth noting” (LW 1: 56). 10. Or, put more negatively: “All reason which is itself reasoned, is thus method, not substance; operative, not ‘end in itself’. To imagine it the latter is to transport it outside the natural world, to convert into a god, whether a big and original one or a little and derived one, outside of the contingencies of existence and untouched by its vicissitudes. This is the meaning of the ‘reason’ which is alleged to envisage reality sub specie aeternitatis” (LW 1: 324–325). 11. In addition to the points discussed previously, it is worth mentioning in passing Dewey’s cutting remarks on the notion of ‘Absolute Experience’: “the


Part II contents as well as the form of ultimate Absolute Experience are derived from and based upon the features of actual experience, the very experience which is then relegated to unreality by the supreme reality derived from its unreality. It is ‘real’ just long enough to afford a spring-board into ultimate reality and to afford a hint of the essential contents of the latter and then it obligingly dissolves into mere appearance. If we start from the standpoint of the Absolute Experience thus reached, the contradiction is repeated from its side” (LW 1: 56).


Dewey’s Experimentalist Conception of the Role of Philosophy

In the previous chapter, I presented Dewey’s rejection of philosophy as the purveyor of some kind of absolute Truth, on the grounds that he rejects the spectator theory of knowledge this presupposes. Thus, the starting point for Dewey is that philosophy does not have purview over a privileged domain of knowledge. As Alan Ryan writes, “The ‘Copernican Revolution’ that Dewey calls for in the final chapter of The Quest for Certainty amounts to asking his readers to turn away from the desire for certainty and accept that they can have security in the midst of uncertainty instead; and this will give them as much as traditional faith ever offered” (1995: 241). I contend that Dewey goes further still and claims that it will give them still more. My intent in this chapter is to offer a clear formulation of Dewey’s thesis as to the positive role of philosophy. On the surface, this may appear to be a more challenging task because Dewey wrote much more about what philosophy ought not to be than what it should be. Still, it is clear to me—and to most of his commentators—that throughout Dewey’s oeuvre we find a distinctive understanding of the discipline composed of a re-interpretation of the past and a prescription for the future.

3.1. Philosophy as a Human Phenomenon Prometheus For men at first had eyes but saw to no purpose; they had ears but did not hear. Like the shapes of dreams they dragged through their long lives and handled all things in bewilderment and confusion. They did not know of building houses with bricks to face the sun; they did not know how to work in wood. They lived like swarming ants in holes in the ground, in the sunless caves of the earth. For them there was no secure token by which to tell winter nor the flowering spring nor the summer with its crops; all their doings were indeed without intelligent calculation until I showed them the rising of the stars, and the settings, hard to observe. And further I discovered to them numbering, pre-eminent among subtle devices, and


Part II the combining of letters as a means of remembering all things, the Muses’ mother, skilled in craft. It was I who first yoked beasts for them in the yokes and made of those beasts the slaves of trace chain and pack saddle that they might be man’s substitute in the hardest tasks; and I harnessed to the carriage, so that they loved the rein, horses, the crowning pride of the rich man’s luxury. It was I and none other who discovered ships, the sail-drive wagon that the sea buffets. Such were the contrivances that I discovered for men—alas for me! [. . .] One brief word will tell the whole story: all arts that mortals have come from Prometheus. (Aeschylus 1959: 327–328)

When reading Dewey, one is struck by the parallels between his account of the human condition and that offered by Aeschylus’s version of the Promethean myth. To put it a little glibly: on Dewey’s naturalised picture, we are to substitute the word ‘intelligence’ for ‘Prometheus’, for it is intelligence which yields all human arts, not divine pity.1 Putnam writes, “Intelligence, for Dewey, is not a transcendental faculty; it is simply the ability to plan conduct, to learn relevant facts, to make experiments, and to profit from the planning, the facts, and the experiments” (Putnam 1989–1990: 1683). For Dewey, the brute necessity of everyday problem solving is the natural ground from which philosophical thinking springs. Indeed, according to him, the root of philosophy is found within natural features of the human condition. He claims that “it is the intricate mixture of the stable and the precarious, the fixed and the unpredictably novel, the assured and the uncertain, in existence which sets mankind upon that love of wisdom which forms philosophy” (LW 1: 55). The bedrock of philosophical inquiry, like that of all applications of intelligence, is the need to make ourselves ‘at home’—to use the Hegelian phrase—in a world which is profoundly marked by insecurity, and yet which also offers the means for humans to controllably generate safer, more reliable conditions for our flourishing. In a similar fashion to Aeschylus’ Prometheus, Dewey calls such means ‘arts’, thus subsuming all human methods to seek control over our environment—from ordinary skills and crafts (such as cooking, cleaning, building, etc.) to the Modern scientific practices which serve as the basis for contemporary technological exploits. It is in this sense that philosophy is also an art generated by human intelligence. But what use does this art serve? After all, we know that the art of cooking enables us to eat tasty meals and nurture our bodies, the art of politics to administer the affairs of the state, the art of music to create and play beautiful sounds, the art of history to inform us about events that have come before us, the art of engineering to create technologies that facilitate our engagement with our material surroundings, etc. What does the art of philosophy enable us to do?

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


Dewey answers: [Philosophy’s] primary concern is to clarify, liberate and extend the goods which inhere in the naturally generated functions of experience. It has no call to create a world of ‘reality’ de novo, nor to delve into secrets of Being hidden from common sense and science. It has no stock of information or body of knowledge peculiarly its own; if it does not always become ridiculous when it sets up as a rival of science, it is only because a particular philosopher happens to be also, as a human being, a prophetic man of science. Its business is to accept and to utilize for a purpose the best available knowledge of its own time and place. And this purpose is criticism of beliefs, institutions, customs, policies with respect to their bearing upon good. This does not mean their bearing upon the good, as something itself formulated and attained in philosophy. For as philosophy has no private store of knowledge or of methods for attaining truth, so it has no private access to good. As it accepts knowledge of facts and principles from those competent in inquiry and discovery, it accepts the goods that are diffused in human experience. It has no Mosaic nor Pauline authority of revelation entrusted to it. But it has the authority of intelligence, of criticism of these common and natural goods. (LW 1: 305—emphases in original) It is worth extracting from this passage the following entailments: (i) Philosophy does not have a unique domain of expertise; its domain is generic. (ii) Philosophy does not possess a higher (or competing) level of epistemic authority than other forms of inquiry (e.g. common sense and science). (iii) Philosophy’s main purpose is cultural criticism, insofar as it ought to help in ascertaining how to adjudicate between competing world views, since philosophy is the “criticism of beliefs, institutions, customs, policies with respect to their bearing upon good.” I interpret this to mean that, if ordinary methods of intelligent inquiry (such as common sense and science) can be, roughly, said to be ‘firstorder’ tools for problem solving, then philosophy is, crudely, of a ‘second-order’ in this same domain. It asks of us that we critically consider the wider social and intellectual context within which ‘first-order’ inquiries are carried out. Dewey sometimes calls philosophy the “criticism of criticisms” (Shusterman 2002: 26), and he suggests that philosophy emerges as a result of a conflict of epistemic and moral authority


Part II

experienced within human civilisation: “philosophical problems arise because of widespread and widely felt difficulties in social practice” (MW 9: 338). Philosophy, according to Dewey, is thus born out of practical and emotional social tensions expressed in political, moral, and intellectual troubles. And he goes on to conclude that “the chief role of philosophy is to bring to consciousness, in an intellectualized form, or in the form of problems, the most important shocks and inherent troubles of complex and changing societies since these have to do with conflicts of values” (LW 8: 30). On this picture, philosophical thought is interested in establishing the better and worse ways of making use of human intelligence. It is, Dewey writes, “not a contemplative survey of existence nor an analysis of what is past and done with, but an outlook upon future possibilities with reference to attaining the better and averting the worse” (MW 10: 38). Historically, Dewey claims that Western philosophy came into existence for the purpose of cultural reform, since it arose as an “intelligent substitute for blind custom and blind impulse as guides to life conduct” (MW 12: 152). But, as we have seen (in 2.1 and 2.2), he rejects the Platonic ambition for philosophy to stand in a realm above all other forms of knowledge, in an entirely separate domain from the ordinary beliefs and practices of everyday people. Instead, Dewey defends the Socratic aspiration to put philosophy to work within public discourse at the service of people and in response to their cultural needs. He argues that “philosophy, like politics, literature, and the plastic arts, is itself a phenomenon of human culture. Its connection with social history, with civilization, is intrinsic” (LW 3: 3). This has two obvious implications: first, all philosophies are deeply wedded to the cultural reality of their respective locations and epochs; and, second, the fruits of philosophy ought to come to bear upon human culture, as it is actually experienced. Dewey thus rejects the notion that philosophy is a contemplative activity which has as its sole purpose the consolation of humanity to its plight. He acknowledges that “few would philosophize if philosophic discourse did not have its own inhering fascination,” yet he goes on to claim that “it is not the satisfactoriness of the activity which defines science or philosophy; the definition comes from the structure and function of subjectmatter” (LW 1: 158). This definition of philosophy, according to Dewey, includes the discursive and dialogic structure of the practice and its function as a social tool for collective problem solving. It thus behooves philosophers to ensure that they respond to the real cultural and emotional needs expressed in their situations in practically meaningful ways. Or as James Campbell puts it, “philosophical criticism is a persistent attempt to uncover and evaluate, and replace if necessary, the basic assumptions of culture” (1995: 93). This is Dewey’s distinctive claim about the role of philosophy.

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


3.2. Philosophy as Cultural Criticism ‘[P]hilosophy is vision’ [and] its chief function is to free men’s minds from bias and prejudice and to enlarge their perceptions of the world about them. [. . .] Philosophy can proffer nothing but hypotheses, and [. . .] these hypotheses are of value only as they render men’s minds more sensitive to life about them. (MW 12: 91–92)

An all too common impediment to solving a problem is the entrenched belief that the problem at hand simply cannot be resolved, no matter how hard we try. We often see this hopelessness seep into the political discourse in times of grave crisis in the form of the famous leitmotif: ‘there is no alternative’. This closing down, this practical despair, this giving-up in the face of some supposedly irresistible force is often unwarranted. Yet, solving a problem requires believing that there is a solution, however remote it might be. I contend that philosophy, on the Deweyan picture, ought to stand as the ultimate source of this practical hope. This needs explaining. To solve a particularly recalcitrant problem, we may need to revisit and revise the way we are using our tools, or we may need to change our tool set, or we may even need to invent new tools altogether. Dewey offers a vision of human society where many tools are employed pre-reflectively (much like we ordinarily use a switch to turn the lights on when we enter a dark room) and where these tools are employed reflectively only when the customary ways fail us (for example, we need to look for a lighting device when we cannot find the switch on the wall just by putting our hand to the right of the door approximately at stomach-level). These tools are in turn generated and revised reflectively by more abstract methods for problem solving (such as, for example, the scientific inquiries that eventually led to the production and installation of one’s lighting arrangement) when we encounter repeated problems with them or much-improved alternatives (in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability, or whatever considerations are deemed appropriate). Moreover, the general methods for problem solving are formulated and revised at an even higher level of abstraction (think of the formulations of methods of inquiry for distinctive academic disciplines, such as, for example, electrical engineering), when previous general methods are deemed to be insufficient or when we encounter better ones. These general methods are integrated into wider social practices: their professional development is seated within universities and other research institutions; their practical impacts distributed by an industrial system and accounted for within the legal system; and their broader conclusions flow back into general cultural practices and beliefs (to continue with the example, say, the practice of using electric lighting


Part II

and, say, the belief that electricity is produced in power plants). Finally, we encounter an even higher level of abstraction when these cultural practices and beliefs come into conflict with other competing cultural practices and beliefs (e.g. when environmental concerns lead us to reconsider whether or not to use electricity in the way we have been doing so far). This, according to Dewey, is where philosophy enters the picture: If insight into specific conditions of value and other specific consequences of ideas is possible, philosophy must in time become a method of locating and interpreting the more serious of the conflicts that occur in life, and a method of projecting ways for dealing with them: a method of moral and political diagnosis and prognosis. (MW 4: 13) Philosophy is thus to play this role in three obvious ways: (i) it ought to identify serious cultural problems; (ii) it ought to generate new hypotheses in response to such problems; and (iii) it ought to offer considerations as to how we might adjudicate between such hypotheses. These three functions taken together enable philosophy to play its wider role, namely, that of cultural criticism. Dewey writes: “Philosophy, then, is a generalized theory of criticism. Its ultimate value for life-experience is that it continuously provides instruments for the criticism of those values—whether of beliefs, institutions, actions, or products—that are found in all aspects of experience” (LW 1: 9). And, he claims that philosophical criticism “traces the beliefs to their generating conditions as far as may be, [. . .] tracks them to their results, [. . .] considers the mutual compatibility of the elements of the total structure of beliefs” (LW 6: 19). Thus, instead of stepping on the metaphorical epistemic toes of those actively involved in other forms of inquiry, philosophy comes as a mediating agent between conflicting ways of envisioning and conducting human life. In other words, Dewey tells us that “the task of future philosophy is to clarify men’s ideas as to the social and moral strife of their own day. Its aim is to become so far as is humanly possible an organ for dealing with these conflicts” (MW 12: 94). This requires from philosophy that it relinquish its Modern ambition to ground or ultimately justify the findings of other forms of inquiry. To have the authority to level a certain kind of critique is not to have the authority to proclaim infallibility or even justificatory soundness. Deweyan philosophy leaves it to biologists to ascertain what counts as a well-justified theory in biology, to physicists in the domain of physics, and forth. Since “philosophy has no private store of knowledge or of methods for attaining truth” (LW 1: 305), it must recognise the autonomy of various modes of inquiry while preserving the authority of intelligence or criticisms. But what kind of authority, exactly, is this authority of intelligence or that of criticism? It is the authority we bestow upon an effective part

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


of a wider process, rather than the authority we bestow upon a given outcome of said process. This needs explaining. Let us take the analogy of a committee meeting. We may consider that the person chairing that meeting did so effectively because she struck a good balance between enabling all participants to meaningfully weigh in on the matters at hand, fruitfully participating in discussions herself, and ensuring that decisions were made in a timely fashion. We may even judge that the quality of the discussions that were enabled by this excellent chairing were very high. And yet, we may also disagree with the decisions that were eventually collectively settled upon by the committee. The authority of philosophy is analogous to that of the chairperson: its responsibility resides in enabling a discussion, not ensuring that the conclusions that follow are the right ones. Indeed, for Dewey, philosophy ought to offer a forum within which different ideas and belief systems can engage in a fruitful dialogue to help make decisions about how to think and live. On this interpretation, the Deweyan view amounts to claiming that enabling this dialogic encounter requires that philosophy find a balance between expressing views, listening to the views and expertise of others, and encouraging responsible decision-making within the collective. Let it be clear—in no way does this mean that philosophy has the authority to circumvent discussions in the way a belligerent chair might attempt to, nor does it mean that philosophy lacks a voice within the discussions: its goal is to orchestrate good deliberation but it is entitled to voice its own opinions. Philosophy, like a good chair, must thus be careful to navigate between the Charybdis of self-effacing insignificance and the Scylla of self-righteous belligerence. To be clear, philosophy’s domain of responsibility, and thus the area over which it has authority, is the orchestration of good, intelligent, and effective deliberations, not in the safeguarding of particular pre-given outcomes. The Deweyan worry (expressed in Chapter 2) involves objecting to the fact that too many philosophers have abandoned this role and have chosen to engage in purely academic discussions—that is, debates that are only of interest to other philosophers. They have thus abandoned the rest of the community, and we find ourselves without a competent chairperson. The result has been, to further the analogy, much the same as when we find ourselves stuck in a meeting with a sizeable agenda and a poor chair, namely, a shouting match, characterised by chaotic cacophony, unnecessarily abrasive exchanges, and arbitrary decision-making. Thus, the importance of philosophy does not dissolve with its failure to claim ultimate epistemic and moral authority. Its importance is crucial— it is that of being a catalyst for open, intelligent, and responsible deliberations in general matters of human culture. Philosophy alone should not tell us what to do or how to live. But without philosophy stepping up to this catalytic role, open, intelligent, and responsible discussions about our collective future seem unlikely to spontaneously arise. Instead, we are likely to face a wasteland of despair and destruction and the potentially


Part II

prosperous fields of our cultural future will be kept barren by the endless barrage of otherwise avoidable battles, in which a few entrenched positions vie for hegemonic supremacy. Without a higher standard of deliberation than that demanded by the current political and media culture, we are left with little space for intelligent public discussions. Those actively involved in public life know this only too well. The Socratic commitment to avoiding misunderstandings and making decisions on the balance of good and relevant reasons are distinctive features of philosophical discussion. The common language this offers for charting a course through turbulent times is the jewel that goes to waste when philosophy fails to perform its public role. That is why Dewey claims that philosophy ought to play the role of “a messenger, a liaison officer, making reciprocally intelligible voices speaking provincial tongues, and thereby enlarging as well as rectifying the meanings with which they are charged” (LW 1: 306). Moreover, in his Ethics, he writes about moral theory something that I think applies to his conception of philosophy more generally: Moral theory can (i) generalize the types of moral conflicts which arise, thus enabling a perplexed and doubtful individual to clarify his own particular problem by placing it in a larger context; it can (ii) state the leading ways in which such problems have been intellectually dealt with by those who have thought upon such matters; it can (iii) render personal reflection more systematic and enlightened, suggesting alternatives that might otherwise be overlooked, and stimulating greater consistency in judgment. But it does not offer a table of commandments in a catechism in which answers are as definite as are the questions which are asked. It can render personal choice more intelligent, but it cannot take the place of personal decision, which must be made in every case of moral perplexity. (LW 7: 166) But, if not philosophers, who then is to have ultimate authority for actual decisions? In the case of individual moral decisions, it is the individual agent. In the case of collective decisions, as in the case of a democratically functioning committee, the ultimate authority for such matters lies with the decision-making body as a whole. This is a central issue in Dewey’s work and it goes some way to explaining his emphasis on the importance of human association and democracy. This is the topic of Part III of this book, but for the time being, suffice it to say that philosophy does not have the single-handed authority to ultimately govern, direct, or guide human affairs; the demos does and it should be led by its collective conscience. Philosophy, as envisioned by Dewey, offers a way for this collective conscience to become more self-aware.

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


To recapitulate, philosophy properly understood is not in the business of issuing ultimate conclusions or executive orders. It points to salient problems within human experience, suggests possible solutions, and emits tentative theories as to the nature of the considerations that should be included when deliberating upon what to think and what to do. Philosophy does not resolve problems all on its own; it helps the wider collectivity think about how to engage in the task of problem solving. Its role and chief responsibility lies in being a catalyst, an enabler of intelligent problem solving. It best performs this role by articulating conflicts and problems in human culture, and then furthering our understanding of these problems in the hope that this may lead to better deliberations and, as a result—one can only hope—improved solutions. Although contemporary philosophers may be irked by the inherently messy and inevitably prospective nature of philosophy as envisioned by Dewey, he takes it to be a return to the roots of our discipline: Only in verbal form is there anything novel in this conception of philosophy. It is a version of the old saying that philosophy is love of wisdom, of wisdom which is not knowledge and which nevertheless cannot be without knowledge. The need of an organon of criticism which uses knowledge of relations among events to appraise the casual, immediate goods that obtain among men is not a fact of philosophy, but of nature and life. (LW 1: 305–306) Nevertheless, even a sympathetic commentator like Campbell recognises that “adopting such an attitude toward inherited philosophies, and toward the ongoing task of philosophic inquiry, will not be without cost” (1995: 92). That is why we must consider what might justify adopting Dewey’s philosophic ideal.

3.3. Justifying Dewey’s Conception of Philosophy: Bringing the Past to Bear on the Future In Plato’s Protagoras, Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus, is blamed for failing to provide any positive physical qualities to humans during the task of giving natural gifts to all living creatures (Plato 2002: 13–14 [320d–322a]). Although humans were intended to be Prometheus’ masterpiece, Epimetheus’ lack of foresight resulted in him giving out all the available physical gifts to other species, arriving at the creation of humanity empty-handed. He thus left our species utterly “naked and unshod, without any covering for his bed or any fangs or claws” (Plato 2002: 14 [321c]). It is this initial mistake that Prometheus famously attempts to overcome by stealing the arts of civilisation and fire from the Olympian


Part II

Gods and bestowing them upon humans. Prometheus is eventually condemned to an eternity of bondage and suffering to atone for this act of divine disobedience. It is often held that Prometheus stands as the martyred hero of humanity, while Epimetheus is our original wrongdoer, pathetic in his stupidity and worthy of scorn for his lack of foresight. Indeed, Prometheus is usually thought to represent intelligent choice, while Epimetheus is associated with dithering absorption in irrelevancies. (Hesiod’s account of Epimetheus’ acceptance of the beautiful, but ill-fated first woman, Pandora, compounds this judgement of Prometheus’ seemingly dim-witted brother.)2 Yet, in fact, the two Titan brothers reflect two sides of the human spirit: on the one hand, we have our proactive, future-looking, Promethean capacity to think and engineer our way out of trouble; and on the other hand, we have our past-oriented, Epimethean urge to contemplate, relive, and recount our dreams and joys of yesteryears. The etymology of each name suggests as much: Prometheus (∏ρομηθεύς) is usually translated as ‘forethinker’ or ‘forethought’, while Epimetheus (Επιμηθέας) is usually translated as ‘hindsight’ or ‘after-thought’. Thus, Prometheus is able to think ahead and ascertain which decisions are preferable, while Epimetheus understands and remembers the past. We have seen that Dewey rejects a purely Epimethean or contemplative notion of philosophy. With Dewey’s pragmatic notion of thinking, with his orientation towards progress, with his commitment to seeking out ingenious ways to help us adapt to challenging circumstances, it is tempting to simply see his vision for philosophy as staunchly Promethean. However, I contend that it would be incorrect. Philosophy for Dewey, if it is to serve us to its full capacity, must seek to bring the Epimethean insights (found most obviously in the disciplines of the humanities) to bear on our problems, but in a Promethean spirit (a spirit perhaps best exemplified in the domain of engineering). In this way, Dewey’s philosophic ideal is to be understood as a point of contact between a contemplative wisdom of the past and a proactive, action-oriented wisdom for the future. Indeed, he writes: To act, to enjoy and suffer in consequence of action, to reflect, to discriminate and make differences in what had been but gross and homogeneous good and evil, according to what inquiry reveals of causes and effects; to act upon what has been learned, thereby to plunge into new and unconsidered predicaments, to test and revise what has been learned, to engage in new goods and evils is human, the course which manifests the course of nature. They are the manifest destiny of contingency, fulfillment, qualitative individualization and generic uniformities in nature. To note, register and define the constituent structure of nature is not then an affair neutral to the office of criticism. It is a preliminary outline of the field of criticism,

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


whose chief import is to afford understanding of the necessity and nature of the office of intelligence. (LW 1: 315) As this passage suggests, despite being turned toward the future, Deweyinspired philosophy ought to be informed by a rich understanding of our past, thoroughly rooted in a complex and uncertain present, but ultimately directed towards a hopeful future. In this manner—if we are to overlook the misplaced connotation with hypocrisy for just one moment—philosophy can be seen as having much in common with the two-faced Roman God, Janus: he has one face looking to the past and one looking to the future. Much as Dewey warns us against a philosophy which has no interest or relevance to the future, it would be an equally grave mistake to envision philosophy as suffering from the same curse as poor Orpheus: being unable to look back upon itself.3 On the Deweyan story, philosophy like Janus ought to assist with the difficulty of transition—change, beginnings, and endings. Dewey writes, “the future as well as the past can be a source of interest and consolation and give meaning to the present,” but he urges us to recognise that “the world is re-commencing and being re-made under our eyes” (LW 2: 20). The ultimate role of philosophy is therefore to be an intelligent point of contact between our past and our future. Philosophy therefore has the prophetic role of helping us interpret the course of human affairs (or as the Ancients called it, the ‘will of the Gods’) so as to enable us to change it.4 It ought to enable us to consciously and responsibly choose how to steer the remaking of our world in the present—as opposed to doing so out of unconscious reflex or prejudice. This is the vocation Dewey envisions for philosophy, at least in part, because of his deep commitment to facing the full and rich complexity of the human condition, not an abstracted fantasy. We must face human life as it is actually experienced precisely because it is the only way to make sure that our responses to problems within it are genuinely appropriate. The ultimate role of philosophy is thus a moral role. And it is on moral grounds that Dewey calls for the adoption of his philosophic ideal. a. Moral Responsibility In the essay, ‘Politics as a Vocation’, Max Weber (1994) draws a distinction between two forms of moral responsibility. The first he calls an ‘ethic of conviction’ and is a responsibility which responds to an ethic of ultimate ends. It does not allow for a notion of greater or lesser moral action—the action undertaken either meets the standard or fails to do so. The paradigmatic case of this kind of morality is Kant’s deontological moral system. The second, which he calls an ‘ethic of responsibility’, is a responsibility which responds to a consequentialist ethic. On this


Part II

notion of responsibility, the moral value of an act is directly derived from its effects. On this account of moral responsibility, one’s actions can be deemed more or less moral, depending on the exact measure to which one’s actions yield positive or negative outcomes. The paradigmatic case of this kind of morality is utilitarianism. Weber is often understood to have held that these ethics were simply incompatible and that the tension between the two was insurmountable (Kim 2012). However, it would seem that Weber did think that this tension could be resolved in the moral character of genuine leaders. He writes, “the ethic of conviction and the ethic of responsibility are not absolute opposites. They are complementary to one another, and only in combination do they produce the true human being who is capable of having a ‘vocation for politics’” (Weber 1994: 363). Dewey, no doubt, had a more inclusive conception of moral considerations (at the very least, he includes virtues) and he did not draw a special line of demarcation between politics and the wider moral domain, yet he would have agreed with the Weberian notion that a reconciliation of all moral considerations within the fullest field are what is required by genuine moral responsibility. For Dewey, this is the kind of responsibility we must all aspire to, because all of our moral problems contain tensions between different morally desirable ends (of course, this is so to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specifics of the situation). A key Deweyan insight is that responsible choice requires the acknowledgement of limitations, risks, and probabilities. Philosophy can help in establishing what is better and what is worse. But it cannot meaningfully inform us about such things if it focuses solely on questions of ultimate ends without bringing its insights back down to bear on the contingent and messy realm in which our choices actually take place. He writes, “Unless a philosophy is to remain symbolic—or verbal—or a sentimental indulgence for a few, or else mere arbitrary dogma, its auditing of past experience and its program of values must take effect in conduct” (MW 9: 338). Or, as he writes in one of his most famous passages, Dewey claims that “philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men” (MW 10: 46). Since our practical choices have real impacts on the lives of others, morally responsible deliberation demands careful thought and a capacity to draw meaningful distinctions. For Dewey, philosophies that can help in such a task are clearly preferable to those that cannot. Indeed, the moral ground from which emerge his general recommendations to philosophers is his commitment to responsibly inform us about the concrete problems faced by ordinary people. He writes, “Unless philosophies are to be Edens of compensatory refuge, reached through an exercise of dialectical ingenuity, they must face the situation which is there. It is their

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


business to bring intellectual order out of the confusion of beliefs” (LW 3: 127–128). He further claims: A philosophy animated, be it unconsciously or consciously, by the strivings of men to achieve democracy will construe liberty as meaning a universe in which there is real uncertainty and contingency, a world which is not all in, and never will be, a world which in some respect is incomplete and in the making, and which in these respects may be made this way or that according as men judge, prize, love and labor. To such a philosophy any notion of a perfect or complete reality, finished, existing always the same without regard to the vicissitudes of time, will be abhorrent. (MW 11: 50) That is why he often reprimands philosophers for simply folding under the pressures of complexity. He rebukes them for all too often choosing to ignore those aspects of the moral domain in which they are operating for wont of being able to theoretically countenance relevant considerations. Thus, Dewey often condemns the intellectual waste caused by philosophers who construct theoretically handsome but essentially practically irrelevant theories. He tells us that, in fact, when the work of philosophers becomes so disconnected from the concerns of ordinary people, it ceases to be philosophy and becomes “academic scholarship” (LW 5: 163). And when philosophy becomes academic scholarship it ceases to produce what is most necessary: namely, the conscious confrontation with the full complexity of the situations within which we must act. When the work of so-called philosophers no longer helps us in doing this, it is no longer philosophy, because it no longer delivers the ultimate good that philosophy is supposed to offer. This ultimate good, according to Dewey, is none other than concrete help in making choices from a place of full consciousness. He remarks: Wisdom is a moral term, and like every moral term refers not to the constitution of things already in existence [. . .] it refers to a choice about something to be done, a preference for living this sort of life rather than that [.  .  .] to a desired future which our desires, when translated into articulate conviction, may help bring into existence. (MW 11: 44) Thus, for Dewey, it is not that philosophy could or should deliver pregiven answers to human problems. As we have seen, that is not the role or authority Dewey envisions for philosophy. It is rather that philosophy, at its best, ought to point to ways to include the widest and deepest considerations in our deliberations before helping us give birth to eventual decisions. For, if we are to become fully aware of all the relevant


Part II

considerations before we determine what to do, one may legitimately hope that our determination will be improved by our increased awareness. It is on the basis of this hope for moral improvement that Dewey calls for a renewal of philosophy around the notion of assisting real, not just theoretical, deliberations. That is why he specifies that this philosophy will have to prove willing to adapt to the needs and limitations of given situations while continuing to insistently shine a light on the road to ‘better’, if not so obviously to ‘best’. Finally, to ensure that our philosophies actually help in such a task, Dewey specifies that practical considerations are to provide, in the last instance, the grounds for evaluating them. He writes: [A] first-rate test of the value of any philosophy which is offered us: Does it end in conclusions which, when they are referred back to ordinary-life experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us, and make our dealings with them more fruitful? Or does it terminate in rendering the things of ordinary experience more opaque than they were before, and in depriving them of having in ‘reality’ even the significance they had previously seemed to have? (LW 1: 18) Indeed, for Dewey, the ultimate justification for his own philosophic ideal is experience itself. We must thus apply the experimental method to the idea of an experimentally guided philosophy. b. The Experimental Method There may be those to whom it is treason to think of philosophy as the critical method of developing methods of criticism. But this conception of philosophy also waits to be tried, and the trial which shall approve or condemn lies in the eventual issue. The import of such knowledge as we have acquired and such experience as has been quickened by thought is to evoke and justify the trial. (LW 1: 326)

Dewey’s intentions should be clear by now. The transformation he calls for involves making conscious philosophy’s hitherto unconscious function. In his view, philosophy has always played the role of cultural critic— but more as a reflex than as a conscious choice. He thinks that making it conscious will yield richer fruits, mostly in the form of improved practical deliberations. His re-articulation of philosophy offers a different self-conception for philosophers: one rooted in an understanding of the past, a commitment to the reality of the present, and a solid hope for a better future. He tells us that the attitude we should adopt is that of

Dewey’s Experimentalist Role of Philosophy


experimenters: “The conjunction of problematic and determinate characters in nature renders every existence, as well as every idea and human act, an experiment in fact, even though not in design. To be intelligently experimental is but to be conscious of this intersection of natural conditions so as to profit by it instead of being at its mercy” (LW 1: 63). This experimental attitude, for Dewey, also applies to his conception of philosophy. That is why, in the last instance, the ultimate justification for adopting Dewey’s conception of philosophy is experience itself. Since philosophy conducted in a non-self-consciously experimental manner has yielded underwhelming achievements, we must try a new way of doing philosophy. Dewey’s own vision is one he offers to be tested out, not dogmatically adopted. And it will be on the basis of this test that we will have to decide whether or not it is a genuine improvement upon what has come before. The operationalisation of this test, however, requires an understanding of the wider environment in which this type of philosophy is, ideally, thought to yield its richest fruits—that is, within Dewey’s conception of democracy. However, before we move on to a discussion of Dewey’s democratic ideal, I must first consider some obvious objections to his philosophic ideal.

Notes 1. In fact, on some interpretations of this myth, this is its intended meaning since the name ‘Prometheus’ (∏ρομηθεύς) can be read to mean ‘forethinker’. I will say more on this further on. 2. See Hesiod (1998: 78 [ll. 507–543]): Now Iapetos took to wife the neat-ankled maid Klymene, daughter of Okeanos, and went up with her into one bed. And she bare him a stouthearted son, Atlas: also she bare very glorious Menoitios and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained Epimetheus who from the first was a mischief to men who eat bread; for it was he who first took of Zeus the woman [Pandora], the maiden whom he had formed. 3. To bring back his beloved, Eurydice, from the underworld, Orpheus is condemned to climb out of the darkness of the underworld without ever looking back. As he arrived at the top, he looked back; forgetting that both his beloved and he had to be out of the underworld before he could do so. As a result, he lost her once again, but this time it was forever. See Ovid (1994–2000: Book X). 4. I would stress however that the sense of the ‘prophetic’ I have in mind here is one rather like Cornel West’s, when he says that his notion of prophesy “is not one in which one speaks from on top, which is continuous with the great and grand Jewish and Christian traditions of the prophetic that I know of, in which ‘Thus says the Lord’, or ‘Eternal truth speaks from on top’. My notion of the prophetic is a democratic one in which, in the midst of the quotidian, the commonplace, in the midst of the messy struggle in which one’s hands are dirty, that one is holding on to moral convictions and tries to convince others that they ought to be accepted even though these moral convictions themselves can still be subject to criticism and change in vision and whathave-you” (West 1993: 66).


Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal

There are a great many potential objections to Dewey’s philosophic ideal, but I will only consider here those I find to be the most powerful objections. They are these: philosophy always comes too late to be able to relevantly inform actors and real-time decision-making (4.1); philosophy is inherently conservative (4.2); and philosophy is analogous to art in that it simply lacks in practical content (4.3).

4.1. Objection: Philosophy Always Comes Too Late A further word on the subject of issuing instructions on how the world ought to be: philosophy, at any rate, always comes too late to perform this function. As the thought of the world, it appears only at a time when actuality has gone through its formative process and attained its completed state. This lesson of the concept is necessarily also apparent from history, namely that it is only when actuality has reached maturity that the ideal appears opposite the real and reconstructs this real world, which it has grasped in its substance, in the shape of an intellectual realm. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk. (Hegel 1991: 23)

This passage from Hegel’s Preface to The Philosophy of Right is often taken to point to the impossibility of philosophical projects, such as Dewey’s, concerned with making a concrete difference in the lives of ordinary people. However, this passage is notoriously difficult to interpret. I consider two interpretations here: the first of these, we may call the ‘naïve reading’, which presents an objection to the Deweyan project I have just mentioned, while the second, ‘less-naïve’ reading does not. In fact, Robert Stern’s interpretation (2009: 92–98) suggests that Hegel and Dewey are best understood as brothers in arms in the struggle against the disconnection of philosophy from ordinary life. Let us consider these in turn.

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


a. The Naïve Reading In the famous passage quoted earlier, Hegel is often somewhat naively taken to be expounding the view that philosophy is, at its core, merely retrospective (most notoriously in Cieszkowski 1983; for a more general overview, see Ashton 2007). Philosophy is not, on this account, in the business of helping us chart a course for the future; its true role is contemplative understanding of what has come and gone. This understanding is only ever complete once all significant events have been played out. That is why philosophy cannot be of any help in understanding how to behave in the present—it never grasps the full significance of present events in time to be able to meaningfully inform us about what to do. Hence, on this naïve interpretation of the Hegelian view, Dewey is just barking up the wrong tree: philosophy always comes too late to be practically relevant. It hence cannot hope to play a part in informing us about what is to be done in the here and now. Why might we think this? It could be argued that it is of the nature of philosophy to fail to respond in a timely fashion to the demands of the present. After all, the present by definition presents a certain kind of urgency, while philosophy demands a certain degree of time for reflection and maturation to bear the fruits of wisdom. Indeed, in order for the conclusions of philosophy to be well justified, sufficient time is needed to allow for thorough reflection, criticism, and deliberation. Hence, this presents us with an apparent tension: philosophy either comes too late to meaningfully help or it is imperfect in the advice it provides. Allow me to disentangle the issues at play. First, the worry that urgency makes philosophy deliver imperfect advice is a non-issue for Dewey: no advice can ever be perfect, since our best-justified beliefs continue to be fallible; all we can ever legitimately hope for are more rather than less justified beliefs. Still, the root worry remains: time is necessary to ensure that beliefs are better justified and the demands of the present make it difficult to ensure that we can trust our present conclusions—perhaps further inquiry may show that we were in error. Second, although this worry reflects an important problem for a philosophy wishing to have a bearing on practice, it is worth noting that it is not just philosophy that faces this tension. All thinking, not just philosophical thinking, requires deliberation to ascertain whether or not its contents are trustworthy. All thinking requires time for such deliberation and such time may well be unavailable when the demands of the present strike upon our door. But I see no obvious reason why this should affect philosophy in a fundamentally different manner than it does, say, engineering or physics. Engineering and physics clearly come to have a bearing on practice but both require time for deliberation. Thus, reasoning


Part II

by analogy, philosophy might well hope to be able to have a bearing on practice despite its own need for time. Third, on Dewey’s view, this tension between the trustworthiness or warrant of a belief and the urgency with which it is needed is a simple fact of practical deliberation. Recall that for Dewey all thinking occurs in response to a problem. On his view, thinking is never a matter of merely settling what is the case in a disinterested fashion—thinking is always for some purpose. Hence, the aim of thought is to resolve actual problems. Yet, a certain degree of uncertainty and arbitrariness are inevitably present in the task of problem solving: the details of the problem at hand, the relevant knowledge currently accessible, the practical resources on offer to resolve the problem, and the time available to come to a decision about what to do are all unavoidably limiting factors in our attempts to solve problems. Hence, problem solving demands a special kind of wisdom which takes into account the need to reconcile in action the demands coming from (i) a diversity of relevant desirable ends, and (ii) the relevant limitations or constraints within which agents need to operate. Finally, this discussion points to what Dewey takes to be philosophy’s most distinctive feature, namely, its scope or the breadth of its horizon. It is precisely philosophy’s capacity to be clear and open about what is assumed, what is pursued, and what is satisfactory in any given situation, that yields its promise in the task of meaningfully contributing in resolving problems. The dialogic clarity and self-awareness of philosophy can be of service to our practical wisdom in helping us stand on top of the mountain of clear thought without tumbling down into the precipices of mistake and irrelevance. To put it less metaphorically, I interpret Dewey as teaching us that the self-awareness and openness of philosophy are what, under the right circumstances, might enable us to make more intelligent, more conscious and more responsible decisions about our futures. However, on a less naïve account, it could be argued that Hegel should be read along similar lines. b. A Less Naïve Reading In his Hegelian Metaphysics, Stern offers a reading of Hegel’s views on the nature of philosophy which sets Hegel’s intent in the wider context of the Preface. His reading of the passage in question is as follows: [W]hen Hegel famously says at the end of the Preface that “philosophy paints its grey in grey” he means that it gives us a kind of theoretical reflection on the essential elements of the social world, where this can only be done after the dust of day-to-day debate and social change has settled and “actuality has reached maturity”, when “a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


begins its flight only with the onset of dusk” (Hegel 1991: 23). Philosophy is therefore necessarily limited in how far it can go in claiming to be able to change the world from ‘outside’, so that in this sense philosophy ‘comes too late’ to tell us what we ought to do (Hegel 1991: 23). (Stern 2009: 92, footnote 25) To be clear, Stern takes Hegel not to be rejecting the notion that philosophy can or should make a difference to practice, but rather, he thinks that Hegel is rejecting the notion that philosophy ought to dream up a utopian ‘world beyond’ (Stern 2009: 96). According to this view of Hegel, it is precisely the pursuit of these ungrounded flights of fancy, of these ‘empty ideals’ that alienate people from the discipline. More precisely, Hegel argues that it is the subjectivism which lies at the heart of the demand to dream up a brave new world, born not from rational evaluation, but from the “individual’s heart, emotion and enthusiasm” (Hegel 1991: 15) which causes people to distrust and dismiss philosophy. Stern explains, “Given his view that ‘arbitrary sophistry has usurped the name of philosophy’ (Hegel 1991: 17), Hegel expresses himself in sympathy with those who ‘grow impatient as soon as they hear talk of a philosophical science of the state’ (Hegel 1991: 17), for as it is currently practised such a science could only lead to ‘superficiality [Seichtigkeit]’ (Hegel 1991: 16)” (Stern 2009: 95). Hegel places blame for this on the misguided belief that questions of values are incapable of rational evaluation. Thus, for Hegel, we must reject this belief. As a result, philosophy must be more than ‘empty moralizing’ (Stern 2009: 94); it ought to be the application of rationality to ‘the concrete ethical life’ (Stern 2009: 96) of our time. On this reading, Hegel is hence committed to the notion that philosophy should serve as a tool for the rational evaluation of our ethics, laws, and modes of government. Furthermore, much like Dewey, he does not think philosophy can legitimately claim to have a privileged authority upon such questions. All it can hope to do is to help us improve our ordinary moral beliefs and practices. Yet, this demands the recognition that “as a rational enterprise, philosophy can and will engage with ‘the actual’ and ‘the present’, rather than some ‘beyond’” (Stern 2009: 97—emphasis in original). Hence, on Stern’s interpretation, Dewey and Hegel hold a very similar view of philosophy: they both see it as a tool for piecemeal rational improvement of the political and cultural world in which we live, essentially operating as an intercessor between the ideal and the actual. However, although this interpretation of Hegel removes the worry that Dewey is overly optimistic about the practical role philosophy can hope to play, one may now worry that this apparent closeness between Dewey and Hegel’s conceptions of philosophy ushers in the worry that philosophy is overly wedded to the world as it is.


Part II

4.2. Objection: Philosophy Is Inherently Conservative Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, the point is to change it. (Karl Marx 1969: 15)

Dewey clearly shares something of the spirit found in the challenge Marx formulates in his 10th thesis on Feuerbach; at the very least, the pragmatic ambition it expresses. Dewey’s aim is to change the world, not merely interpret it. Moreover, as we have seen, he also shares with Marx a deep impatience with regards to purely scholastic philosophers and their philosophies. Finally, Dewey and Marx both call for a critical engagement with the status quo—for a critical and scientific approach to the political and social world.1 Despite these points of convergence, there is much that separates the two men. More than France and the Atlantic Ocean or 41 years of age, it is their respective ways of conceiving of social change which drives them apart. Indeed, the social and moral incrementalism found at the heart of the Deweyan vision of philosophy is at odds with the key tenant of Marx’s analysis, that is to say, the belief that meaningful change only comes about as a result of violent revolution. Throughout Dewey’s academic and political works, he regularly rejected the reckless, ‘all or nothing’ approach he saw lurking behind the revolutionary banner of Marxism, preferring to it his own notion of piecemeal intelligent problem solving (see Diggins 1970; Damico 1981; Moreno & Scott Frey 1985). Marxists in response have usually accused the reformism in Dewey’s notion of practical engagement as pointing to an implicit conservative bias. Or, to put it more bluntly, Marxists often took Dewey’s emphasis on discussion, values, and morality as nothing more than the perpetuation of ‘bourgeois illusion’ (Vincent 2010: 99; also see Wood 1972; Lukes 1982). Thus, Marxists receive Dewey’s hope that philosophy can play a meaningful role in improving society with a great deal of suspicion, if not outright condemnation (see, for example, Novack 1975, 1979; Trotsky 1979).2 To be clear, Marxist commentators have usually taken it to be the case that Marx’s charge against all heretofore philosophy also applies to Dewey’s philosophic ideal. This charge, broadly speaking, can be interpreted in one of two ways: either (i) philosophy is fundamentally irrelevant to the genuinely significant events of human life, or (ii) philosophy is complicit in the perpetuation of the domination of one class by another. Let us consider these interpretations in turn. a. Orthodox Marxism or the Freedom to Comply to Necessity The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. [.  .  .] Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. (Marx 1977: 4)

As we have seen, the Deweyan hope for a practical philosophy rests upon the notion that philosophy generates new ideas and new interpretations of old ideas that, in turn, have the potential to generate new ways of behaving. On this view, new conceptions of the world and new thoughts are necessary to generate new actions. Hence, philosophy can change the world by offering the possibility that we might revise our self-conceptions, beliefs and attitudes, and ultimately our behaviour. Orthodox Marxism however could not be more at odds with this picture of social and political change. It is usually associated with the later writings of Friedrich Engels (1989a, 1989b), Karl Kautsky (1971, 1988), Georgi Plekhanov (1969, 1972), and Vladimir Lenin (1962). Vincent informs us that “this theory discerns certain objective determining structural laws of development. The autonomy or individuality of the human subject counts for very little in this brand of Marxism” (2010: 91). According to Orthodox Marxism, there are necessary causes that push human History forwards and contingent factors that exist only as a by-product of such causes. The causally necessary forces are found in the relations of economic production (the base), while the contingent features of the lifeworld are found within the ideological fabric of each historical epoch (the superstructure) (Marx 1977). Hence, on this picture, philosophy merely forms part of the realm of ideology, which is “an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life” and which, at its root, is fundamentally and uniquely caused by society’s ‘material foundations’ (Marx 1987: 47). Said otherwise, on this interpretation of Marxism, economic arrangements ultimately and implacably determine every aspect of human History. Philosophy, as part of the wider domain of ideology, merely comes to add a meaningless layer of epiphenomenal dust. To be clear: on this account, it is the struggle between those who own the means of production and those who do not that ultimately causes all meaningful change in human society.3 No amount of thinking can ever be relevant to the unfolding of History—only the economic rapport de force between the class that owns the means of production and the class exploited by the former is relevant in causing meaningful change in social and political arrangements. Methods of comprehending and changing the


Part II

social world “are to be sought, not in philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch” (Engels 1989b: 305). Hence, the only meaningful knowledge philosophy could offer is the awareness of the iron laws of economic necessity—nothing more. (Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985: 25) call it a ‘logic of necessity’.) Finally, philosophy can only do that by thoroughly embracing Marx’s materialist analysis. Dewey’s conception of philosophy does not. It therefore suffers from a thoroughgoing form of triviality: politically trivial because it is thought, not matter, and intellectually trivial because it does not even recognise the absolute ultimate pre-eminence of the material. In response, Dewey objects to the simplistic scientism found at the root of this view. As we have seen (in Chapter 2), he rejects the Modernist quest for certainty and he therefore objects to the degree of certainty with which Orthodox Marxism purports to operate. Indeed, Orthodox Marxism rests upon the supposedly scientific certainty that the iron laws of historical necessity implacably yield the outcomes Marx foresaw. Dewey is sceptical of the scientific status of this approach (Diggins 1970: 905). Indeed, he flatly rejects the notion that history is unidirectional and/ or driven by a single fundamental teleological process that is positively demonstrable through scientific processes (LW 9: 91–95; LW 13: 349– 354; LW 13: 99–110). Although Dewey dares to hope for improvement, he insists that improvement is in no way inevitable. Historical processes, for him, are always precarious and contingent, potentially open to yielding unpredictable outcomes. Furthermore, he objects to the methodological notion that class relations cause and/or explain all thought or all significant social phenomena. For Dewey, the social world cannot be reduced to a deterministic account of class relations. Why? First, it is overly reductionistic—for Dewey, not all social phenomena are reducible to class relations (LW 13: 136–141). Although he is keen to denounce vested interests and class privilege, Dewey has faith that individuals can choose to act independently of their class interests, given the right circumstances. On a more sociological level, Dewey is keen to reject the dogmatic attitude with which Orthodox Marxists usually assert their analyses (LW 2: 92–93). Instead, he believes that the probabilistic turn in 20th-century science suggests that we should adopt a probabilistic rather than a deterministic attitude to our social reality; that is to say, Dewey offers a far more complex social picture than Orthodox Marxists usually allow. Second, adopting the Orthodox Marxist kind of deterministic approach “dictates a kind of all-or-none practical activity, which in the end introduces new difficulties” (LW 13: 134). This means that the epistemic commitments inherent in Orthodox Marxism entail a certain degree of simplicity of analysis and of resulting action which has been repeatedly challenged throughout the 20th century—most obviously, by the ‘failures’ of advanced capitalist societies to generate proletarian revolutions and by the rise of fascism. Third,

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


the Orthodox Marxist insistence on the necessity of revolution demands that the relation of means and ends be a matter of theoretical axiom, not a topic up for negotiation and adaptation in the here and now. The means (i.e. proletarian revolution) are set out in advance and they are presumed to eventually yield the end sought after (i.e. the emancipation of the working class), no matter what the evidence suggests. Laclau and Mouffe write: “The orthodox response to the ‘crisis of Marxism’ sought to overcome the disjuncture between ‘theory’ and ‘observable tendencies of capitalism’ by intransigently affirming the validity of the former and the artificial or transitory character of the latter” (1985: 29). This final point for Dewey is both morally and practically objectionable. Indeed, Moreno and Scott Frey claim that “Dewey concludes that the sort of struggle required to implement the revolutionary changes advocated by Marx would lead to the destruction of civilized life” (1985: 24; also see Damico 1978: 53–54). The relationship between means and ends is not a side issue for Dewey: it is the substance of moral and political thought. It must therefore be thoroughly deliberated upon by moral and political agents, not dictated by armchair revolutionaries, charismatic leaders, or party apparatchiks. Dewey thus writes: The social welfare can be advanced only by means which enlist the positive interest and active energy of those to be benefited or ‘improved’.  [.  .  .] It takes time to arouse minds from apathy and lethargy, to get them to thinking for themselves, to share in making plans, to take part in their execution. But without active cooperation both in forming aims and in carrying them out there is no possibility of a common good. (LW 7: 347—emphasis is my own) On Dewey’s account, the relationship between ends and means is precisely what thinking, in general, and philosophy, in particular, are here to help resolve. That is how philosophy can make a real difference to how we behave and live together. According to him, the values and ideas philosophy generates are not the mere epiphenomena of a complex system of economic exploitation or tools for the preservation of the status quo. They are adaptive, critical mechanisms to help humans cope with their environment. They can be put to a great diversity of uses, since they offer the possibility to change our attitudes and behaviours, and hence our environment. At its most fundamental, for Dewey, philosophy offers hypotheses to be tested out in our lives, because it opens up the sphere of possibilities and “a world where possibilities are ever-present is a world in which intelligent participants have to gauge carefully the consequences of their actions” (Boisvert 1998: 25). Human affairs, for Dewey, are inevitably messy and open-ended. Boisvert explains Dewey’s view thus: “Progress is neither inevitable as the optimist would hold, nor hopeless


Part II

as would hold the pessimist” (Boisvert 1998: 25). Thought in general and philosophy in particular are in the business of asking questions and developing new ideas for experimentation in our lives, always aiming towards improvement. This melioristic and progressive role of thought is ultimately what justifies the hope that philosophy might be able to make a positive practical contribution to our lives. What is at stake for Dewey is precisely what Orthodox Marxists think is of no import, that is to say: our collective self-conceptions. Other Marxists share Dewey’s scepticism with regard to Orthodox Marxism’s methods and conclusions but remain hostile to what they see as the conservatism inherent in the discipline of philosophy. I will now consider how these (non-orthodox) Marxists might object to Dewey’s philosophic ideal. b. Hegemony, Philosophy, and False Consciousness Political identities are not pre-given but constituted and reconstituted through debate in the public sphere. (Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 95)

Those Marxists who were disillusioned by Orthodox Marxism’s inability to account for or predict the revolutionary failures of the beginning of the 20th century and the rise of fascism, developed alternative interpretations of Marx’s analysis. This large-tented camp is usually identified with Antonio Gramsci (1971), Karl Korsch (1972), György Lukács (1972) and, more recently, post-Marxists, such as Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985). The point of convergence found amongst these thinkers is the renewed importance of thought. Vincent claims that this strand of Marxist theory “tries to incorporate a much stronger element of human autonomy into the social and economic theory” (2010: 91). It is on the basis of this school of thought that one can develop something of an alternative Marxist argument against the Deweyan philosophic ideal. On this account, instead of ideology being fundamentally irrelevant, it becomes a crucial site of confrontation for class struggle. Hence, this interpretation still sees philosophy as a part of the wider domain of ideology, but unlike for Orthodox Marxism, ideology is seen as having a non-negligible causal role to play in the social and political domain. This role can be progressive, provided it enables oppressed groups (that is, the proletariat) to become more aware of their situation, helps them identify with their own class interests or inspires them to take political action. But this role can also be regressive, if it props up a ‘false consciousness’ through which the oppressed learn to identify with the interests of their

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


oppressors (that is, the bourgeoisie) or are convinced to accept their plight (see Habermas 1973: 235–242). The related objection to the Deweyan project one can derive from this interpretation boils down to claiming that philosophy, as a matter of historical fact, tends to side with the oppressors, not the oppressed. The claim is thus that philosophy tends to be a conservative rather than a progressive force: throughout history, philosophy has mostly arrived après coup as a justification and a defence of the interests of the ruling class of a given epoch. So why should we believe that philosophies of the future will be any different? Although Dewey is very critical and suspicious of the political affiliations and motives of certain figures in the history of philosophy, he does not share this despair with philosophy in toto. More specifically, in response to the charge that philosophy has tended to serve the mighty, Dewey sometimes points to the occasions in which philosophy has played a radically progressive role as an example of what can be achieved. Minimally, Dewey reminds us that Socrates was put to death precisely for disrupting the social order by asking questions that made the affluent and mighty Athenians of his day uncomfortable (on the relationship between Socrates and Dewey, see Betz 1980). If philosophy has sometimes sided with those who suffered injustice in the past, it can plausibly do so with greater regularity in the future. Perhaps more crucially, the willingness to disrupt the prevalent intellectual and social order, for the sake of improving it, is precisely what Dewey takes to be the central intellectual role of philosophy. Indeed, I think we can read Dewey as envisioning philosophy as an important site of hegemonic articulation. This explains his plea for philosophers to consciously take up the challenge of making themselves relevant to the lives of fellow citizens. I would stress that this call for discussion is by no means an attempt at evading conflict with those who stand in the way of progress.4 I share Moreno and Scott Frey’s (1985: 24) understanding of the man when they write that it would be erroneous to draw from Dewey’s incrementalist views the implication that he shied away from confrontation and struggle in the face of danger to his value commitments. He was capable of advocating [more violent tactics], but only as a last resort, after bargaining around common interests failed, and when collective intelligence itself was threatened by its enemies. Still, some critics may be tempted to press the argument further. They may want to claim that the institutional nature of philosophy renders the Deweyan philosophic project doomed from the outset. Why so? Because the title of ‘philosopher’ is usually reserved for those who are actually employed in higher education institutions and that these organisations


Part II

are either funded by the state or through market mechanisms (such as fees or returns on invested endowments) and that this dependence on those who control the existing social order curtails the freedom of philosophers to speak truth to power. There are two obvious Deweyan replies: (i) Philosophy is not limited to work produced in philosophy departments. Any piece of thinking which pursues wisdom as characterised by Dewey should be named ‘philosophy’. Hence, philosophy understood in this Deweyan fashion can emerge from all corners of society. (ii) Though academic freedom is a controversial issue at the best of times in advanced democracies (since the debate always comes down to establishing whether to fund one piece of research rather than another), there is usually space for dissident voices within academia in democratic societies. The simple fact that Marxian scholars, Marxist historians, economists, sociologists, philosophers, as well as a variety of other dissident voices can be found within academic departments suggests that academia is precisely a space where critique and dissent often find a permanent home. At any rate, Dewey was a powerful advocate for establishing and protecting the norm of academic freedom that enables a great diversity of voices to express themselves (Menand 2002: 412–417). The question Deweyans are keen to ask is whether or not these voices ever make it back out into wider society. We think that it is imperative that they do.

4.3. Objection: Philosophy Is Simply Lacking in Practical Content The final objection I will consider consists in resisting the notion that philosophy as philosophy has any conception of practical value as its goal. I articulate this objection by developing an analogy between art and philosophy. Mount Parnassus is a mountain in central Greece that stands above the town of Delphi. If, according to Plato, the town of Delphi is the spiritual birthplace of philosophy,5 then, according to Greek mythology, the mountain of Parnassus towering over Delphi is the spiritual birthplace of art. The 19th-century ‘mouvement parnassien’ bestowed upon itself the name of that mountain to denote its commitment to ‘art for art’s sake’. According to this movement, the aesthetic value of a work of art is to be understood merely in reference to its value as art, not as a work with a deeper didactic or moral purpose. On this view, art has no greater goal than art itself. Théophile Gautier is usually credited with offering the best articulation of this doctrine. First, in the preface to his poem, Albertus, Gautier expressed the essence of this position by

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


developing an image of the artist removed from public life, standing behind a window inside his house: The author of this book [. . .] has seen nothing of this world but what can be seen out his window, and neither did he want to see any more than that. He has no political colour; he is neither red, nor white, nor even tricolour [in reference to the colours of the French flag]; he is nothing, he notices revolutions only when the bullets break through the window panes.6 (Gautier 1890: 19—my own translation) Then, in his preface to Mademoiselle de Mopin, Gautier elaborates on his understanding of the slogan of ‘l’art pour l’art’ (in English: ‘art for art’s sake’) by writing: “Only that which has no use can be beautiful; all that has use is ugly because it is the expression of a need and human needs are ignoble and disgusting, much as humanity’s feeble and defective nature.— The most useful room in a house is the latrine”7 (Gautier 1973: 57—my own translation). To explain further, Boisvert illustrates the core of this position by drawing on his interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, where “‘Art’ [is, at its core,] understood as inhabiting a province separate from the everyday occurrences of ordinary life. Indeed its main role [is] identified as providing solace and refuge from the trials, difficulties, and short-comings of ordinary life. [. . .] Art is the home of the pure, elevated, and detached aspirations of human life” (Boisvert 1998: 118–119). Although few are those who flatly accept Gautier’s identity claim according to which all things useful are ipso facto ugly—since there are a great many obvious counter-examples (most obviously in the domains of design, architecture, and fashion)—a more refined version of the argument in favour of evaluating art for art’s sake can be constructed along the following lines. There are many human activities that have no obvious practical value beyond the enjoyment the activity itself procures both to those performing it and to those witnessing its results. One such activity is the production of artwork. The value of an artwork is not derived from its practical effects so much as the aesthetic satisfaction we gain by performing it and contemplating its results. Consequently, the essential role of art is to provide aesthetic satisfaction, not moral progress. Therefore, we ought not to demand that works of art help us make better political or moral decisions—even though they may well incidentally do so. It is on the basis of this conception of art that I think one could elaborate an interesting objection to Dewey’s conception of philosophy.8 This objection essentially consists in claiming that philosophy should be considered analogous to art in the argument for valuing art for art’s sake. On this account, philosophy may well be able to enlighten us for certain practical purposes, but when it does, it does so incidentally; it’s essential


Part II

purpose is to generate a philosophical kind of beauty by devising aesthetically pleasing theories and arguments. Consequently, the objection runs, we ought to reject the Deweyan demand that philosophy be enslaved to practical considerations: as in the case of art, allowing practicalmindedness to invade the philosophical realm inescapably involves denaturing it. The objector would conclude that what we want in the last instance from philosophy is identical to what we want from art, namely, the profound sense of awe that can only be derived from pure spectatorship; any attempt at intentional practical engagement detracts from the true purpose of the activity. On this view, the remoteness of Mount Parnassus’ spiritual offspring from practical affairs is entirely equalled by that of Delphi’s. In response, Dewey does not so much reject the analogy as he rejects the assumption that art is a non-practical matter in the first place. He claims, “Were art an acknowledged power in human association and not treated as the pleasuring of an idle moment or as a means of ostentatious display, and were morals understood to be identical with every aspect of value that is in shared experience, the ‘problem’ of the relation of art and morals would not exist” (LW 10: 351). Thus, according to him, art is a thoroughly practical affair born out of the strain of thwarted human strivings. He explains: [R]esistance and conflict have always been factors in generating art; and they are [. . .] a necessary part of artistic form. Neither a world wholly obdurate and sullen in the face of man nor one so congenial to his wishes that it gratifies all desires is a world in which art can arise. The fairy tales that relate situations of this sort would cease to please if they ceased to be fairy tales. Friction is as necessary to generate esthetic energy as it is to supply the energy that drives machinery. (LW 10: 341–342) Furthermore, Dewey rejects the notion that ‘art’ should be understood as the final objects produced by artistic activities. On his account, the whole experienced process of imagining, making, and enjoying a particular physical work, taken together form the deeper meaning of art. To illustrate this point, let us take the example of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It is tempting to think of the poplar panel covered in oil paint on permanent exposition in the Musée du Louvre in Paris as the work of art in its entirety. Yet, for Dewey, we should resist this temptation. For him, the work of art considered as a whole includes not only the resulting physical piece but also the experiences (both personal and social) of the author that went into the whole process of production and the effects (physiological, emotional, and intellectual) the physical piece generates upon those who come into contact with it. This leads Dewey to claim that a work of art in this broad sense is inevitably a thoroughly

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


practical matter: it originates from within a realm of experience thoroughly imbibed in practical concerns—such as, for example, Da Vinci’s lack of prospect or need for pecuniary gain, the number of years he was able to work on the painting, his relationship to Lisa del Giocondo, his sexuality, his relationships to the Medicis and other principes, and plausibly his related concerns with regard to survival in the profoundly unstable environment of Renaissance Florence—and it results in the experiences people actually have when they come into contact with the physical work. These latter experiences occur within their own practically charged circumstances—perhaps, one looks but fails to truly see the piece because of shooting pangs of hunger experienced after queuing for many hours to enter the museum; or perhaps one pays attention to the technique and notices significant details in anticipation of an art class; or perhaps, one glances at the painting for a second and then flaunts the rules about taking photographs to demonstrate that one has seen with one’s own eyes the most famous painting in the world; or, perhaps, prolonged exposure to the painting gives one the inspiration to study and learn enough to be able to imagine important features of life during the Italian Renaissance, perhaps even motivating one to eventually write a book, or a film, or a television series about the topic. To put it otherwise, for Dewey, artistic activities inevitably occur within the full flow of human life, filling to the core art works with human, practical considerations: to attempt to separate the realm of practice from art is to gut art of its meaning and thus of its substance. Dewey therefore concludes: 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. (LW 10: 9) Thus, it is not just that art unavoidably though disappointingly deals with the realm of practice; it is rather, Dewey argues, that art in its fullest sense is thoroughly concerned with helping with practical matters. He claims that “works of art are the most intimate and energetic means of aiding individuals to share in the arts of living” (LW 10: 339). Yet, it is not the role of art to preach or to moralise.9 Rather, it is the role of


Part II

art to stretch the realm of possibility. For him, art is the sphere where imagination meets limitation in its most concrete, creative, and ultimately satisfying form. On an individual level, I think Dewey would agree with Marshall McLuhan’s when he claims that “art [. . .] is [. . .] exact information of how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our extended faculties. [. . .] The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the person aware of the nature of the present” (McLuhan 1964: 70–71). Art is thus a thoroughly practical matter and a highly effective one at that. As a result, since Dewey accepts the analogy between art and philosophy in relation to practice, he also considers that philosophy is a thoroughly practical matter, thus defeating the objection. Moreover, I read him as furthering this analogy by pointing to the social nature of both art and philosophy. For Dewey, both art and philosophy are collective exercises in re-imaging self-conceptions and responses to new circumstances. In both cases, the production of philosophy and art is not a one-sided affair limited to those making the works; it also fundamentally involves those engaging with, reacting to, and consuming the products of art and philosophy. In this respect, art and philosophy are both fundamentally dialogic. If the relationship between art and practice is disanalogous to the relationship between philosophy and practice in any way, it is only in the sense that art has a greater capacity than philosophy to facilitate communication between people and communities: “Art is a more universal mode of language than is the speech that exists in a multitude of mutually unintelligible forms. The language of art has to be acquired. But the language of art is not affected by the accidents of history that mark off different modes of human speech” (LW 10: 338). This is a most practical matter, for it enables the unleashing of human energies toward the resolution of common problems and the furthering of community formation. Hence, for Dewey, art has a major moral and communal role to play: namely, building bridges between otherwise divided life experiences in the hope of bringing them into ever more fruitful dialogue. He writes: I do not think that what Keats has said in one of his letters can be surpassed as to the way in which poetry acts. He asks what would be the result if every man spun from his imaginative experience “an airy Citadel” like the web the spider spins, “filling the air with a beautiful circuiting”. For, he says, “man should not dispute or assert, but whisper results to his neighbour, and thus, by every germ of spirit sucking the sap from mould ethereal, every human being might become great, and Humanity instead of being a wide heath of Furze and Briars with here and there a remote Pine or Oak, would become a grand democracy of Forest Trees!” (LW 10: 349)

Objecting to Dewey’s Philosophic Ideal


Thus, according to Dewey, the role of the philosopher or the art theorist in relation to art is thus to make this underlying goal ever clearer and thus render efforts ever more effective.10 Accordingly, both art and philosophy are thoroughly involved in the task of collective problem solving. For Dewey, philosophy is much like art in that it serves as a way of sharing and connecting human experiences in such a manner as to hopefully improve future experiences. If art is more creative and pliable in this task, then philosophy is clearer and more thorough. Art enables us to imagine ever more creative hypotheses for experimentation, while philosophy enables us to begin envisioning the operationalisation of experiments to test such hypotheses by helping us clarify what different aspects of our hypotheses might mean in practical terms. Thus, on the Deweyan picture, art and philosophy are two moments in the application of the experimental method to the task of collective problem solving. Neither can be meaningfully divorced from practice. Thus, both the divine peak and the prophetic city at the base of Mount Parnassus are inevitably and intimately associated with the realm of human practice. In conclusion, the Deweyan response to the objection raised here consists in asserting that art is a practical matter, and thus concluding that philosophy is equally practical. For Dewey, both disciplines are called upon to serve a practical and social purpose. In the last instance, this purpose is the generation and renewal of genuine community as a result of a continually renewed dialogue about our collective future. Or put otherwise, this purpose is democracy itself. To continue the metaphor, one could thus say that Mount Parnassus, from base to peak, is thus at the service of Athens.

4.4. Conclusion In summary, after presenting Dewey’s rejection of the quest for certainty, we have seen that Dewey offers a fundamentally practical conception of the role of philosophy. His conception thus situates philosophy within the flow of everyday cultural and political deliberation. Although Dewey denies that philosophers have any privileged authority in such affairs, he envisions them as liaison officers between consonant, discordant, and simply unheard voices. Their task is to help, in whatever way they can, in cultivating improved habits, pursuing better courses of action and thus in resolving new problems ever more satisfyingly. I have argued that I think the best way to think about this role is to think about the careful balance a good chairperson must strike between enabling others to speak, whilst still having the right to air her own voice. However, in the last instance, I believe that this balance is best understood within the wider context of Dewey’s democratic ideal. That is why I will discuss his democratic ideal in the next part of this book.


Part II

Notes 1. However, it should be clear from Dewey’s rejection of the quest for certainty that the conception of science he is committed to is fundamentally experimental and open-ended, rather than dogmatic and fixed. It is thus radically different from the conception of science usually ascribed to Marx (see Engels 1989a). 2. George Novack puts it clearly and rather amusingly when he writes that “[i]n the matter of sticking to principles, pragmatism differs from Marxism as a jellyfish differs from a vertebrate” (1975: 82); and then writes: “[pragmatism] is the habit of acting in disregard of solidly based scientific rules and tested principles. In everyday life, pragmatism is activity which proceeds from the premise (either explicit or unexpressed) that nature and society are essentially indeterminate” (1975: 17). Both of these statements are, of course, intended to be damning indictments of Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy. 3. For example: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx & Engels 1998: 14). 4. While Jeff Jackson (2015) argues that Dewey’s democratic ideals make sense of the value of political struggle (through, for example, protests, strikes, and direct action), Caspary (2017) maintains that Dewey was, in fact, reticent to endorse such tactics, favouring the language of participation and discussion to that of struggle. Ultimately, regardless of whether it matched Dewey’s intention, I think a Deweyan account of oppositional participation under existing democratic conditions can be articulated. 5. According to Plato’s Apology (1993), it was there that the Delphic oracle revealed to Chaerephon that Socrates was the wisest of Greeks, thus setting in motion Socrates’ pursuit of another Greek wiser than himself to refute the prophetic claim. After much testing, Socrates eventually concluded that the prophesy may well have been correct, if only in the sense that his wisdom consisted in knowing that he knew nothing. Thus was born philosophy. 6. In its original: «L’auteur du présent livre [. . .] n’a vu du monde que ce que l’on en voit par la fenêtre, et il n’a pas eu envie d’en voir davantage. Il n’a aucune couleur politique; il n’est ni rouge, ni blanc, ni même tricolore; il n’est rien, il ne s’aperçoit des révolutions que lorsque les balles cassent les vitres.» 7. In its original: «Il n’y a de vraiment beau que ce qui ne peut servir à rien; tout ce qui est utile est laid, car c’est l’expression de quelque besoin, et ceux de l’homme sont ignobles et dégoûtants, comme sa pauvre et infirme nature. [. . .] L’endroit le plus utile d’une maison, ce sont les latrines.» 8. ‘One’ here is in fact a reference to an actual person: I am grateful to Robert Stern for articulating this view eloquently and convincingly in our discussions. 9. Dewey quotes Shelley positively when he writes that “[i]t is the lesser poets who ‘have frequently affected a moral aim, and the effect of their poetry is diminished in exact proportion as they compel us to advert to this purpose’” (LW 10: 350). 10. As Leddy (2011) writes,“[t]he business of aesthetics is to restore the continuity between the refined experiences that are works of art and the experiences of everyday life.”

Part III


Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal

To those who think that Dewey possessed not ‘the answer’ but a way of thinking about how to reach some answers, he provides a model of engaged intellectual life. (Ryan 1995: 24) [M]y hope is that Dewey will be reread for the single most important reason for which any philosopher is read: because he sheds light on issues that dominate our own time. (Boisvert 1998: 11)

5.1. Dewey as a Guide for Practical Political Philosophy In the preceding three chapters, I have presented (Chapter 2) and defended (Chapter 4) Dewey’s rejection of the quest for certainty, as well as his alternative philosophical ideal (Chapter 3). Though most of the concerns animating that discussion were explicitly epistemic, the underlying concerns were in fact moral and political. Indeed, Dewey sees philosophy as intelligence put to the service of the needs and hopes of ordinary people. Now, he did not just theorise this conception of philosophy, he also exemplified it. He went to great pains to engage intellectually and politically with the concerns, debates, and struggles of his times; so much so that Sidney Hook once wrote that Dewey’s “concern with specific social problems and with the development of a social philosophy directly relevant to them is as clear as day” (1995: 149). And conversely, it is clear that Dewey sought to integrate insights provided by philosophy and the budding social sciences (specifically, sociology, and psychology) into his political arguments and calls to social action. This desire to bring theory and practice into fruitful dialogue is, of course, a hallmark of Dewey’s pragmatism and reaches its pinnacle in his democratic ideal. In the sense that Dewey self-consciously wrote for the everyday thinking men and women of his era and that he was actively involved in many social struggles, he was an atypical philosopher. Yet, it was Dewey’s ability to communicate so well with so many of his contemporaries on so


Part III

many issues that truly made him stand out, even among fellow pragmatists. Others have already well recounted the full story of his rise to intellectual prominence in the first half of the 20th century (see Westbrook 1991: 1–115; Ryan 1995: 19–118; Campbell 1995: 7–13), so I will not do so here myself. I would simply draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Dewey’s intellectual prominence at its zenith led Henry Steele Commanger to hail him as “the conscience of the American people,” noting that “it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that for a generation no major issue was clarified until Dewey had spoken” (1950: 100). As part of the project I outlined at the beginning of this book, it should be obvious that the philosophical stance Dewey adopts in seeking to intelligently address the practical concerns of his day has serious prima facie appeal, since it is this care for the concrete and practical that I contend contemporary political philosophers would do well to adopt. Since ‘democracy’ is the central concept of Dewey’s political philosophy, I intend to use Dewey’s democratic ideal as a means of explaining how thoughts can be made to have operational value. Yet, to avoid stumbling at the first hurdle, I must confront head-on a key related worry, namely, the depth of Dewey’s commitment to addressing problems from his own context risks rendering what he said contextually parochial and thus useless for our present purposes. Why should we take account of what he said when his purported aim was to address his contemporaries and their problems, not us and ours? Why should we think that what he had to say about his time is relevant to ours at all? To clarify—although it is precisely its ability to connect philosophy to the empirical world that makes Deweyan philosophy an appealing alternative to ideal theory, the danger of drawing inspiration from a philosophy based on facts is that facts can change. As a result, it is not clear how much this philosophy will be applicable to our present circumstances. After all, Dewey warns us that “the history of thought is peculiarly exposed to an illusion of perspective”: Earlier doctrines are always getting shoved, as it were, nearer our own day. We are familiar with the intellectual struggles of our own time and are interested in them. It is accordingly natural to envisage earlier thought as part of the same movement or its forerunner. We then forget that that earlier period had its own specific problems, and we proceed to assimilate its discussions to our present interest. (MW 11: 18) Consequently, one might think that if we want Dewey’s philosophy to be meaningfully brought to bear on our current problems, we need to show that such problems sufficiently resemble those experienced in Dewey’s day. Indeed, I believe that such a case can be made. That is why I use this chapter to draw a parallel between certain aspects of the crisis he confronted and the one we do now.

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


However, I also contend that although Dewey was interested in the problems of his times, the theories he developed were sufficiently abstract—in the sense of being general—to be potentially relevant in contexts beyond their point of origin. Though he was practically minded, Dewey was after all a philosopher; he wrote a great deal about logic, knowledge, science, freedom, art, democracy, and education—to name but a few of the domains he touched upon. He investigated each of these domains in the hope of better understanding and enriching associative living in the modern world. Not only that, his ideas focussed mostly on helping us think about the way we go about resolving problems rather than offering predetermined outcomes for us to pursue. Finally, as a pragmatist, he urged his readers to consider the value of his ideas and ideals in light of their practical effects in facing the problems they actually experience. I thus follow Ryan and Boisvert in claiming that it is, in the last instance, on this basis that we should take an interest in Dewey’s thought, namely, as a hypothesis to be tested out in present circumstances. Thus, after drawing a parallel between Dewey’s times and our own in this chapter, I then offer a substantive exposition of Dewey’s democratic ideal (Chapter 6). In the subsequent chapters, I consider some general objections to Dewey’s democratic ideal (Chapter 7), before turning to a more contemporary objection to Deweyan democracy (Chapter 8).

5.2. The Historical Appeal of Dewey’s Philosophy We, like Dewey, find ourselves moving into a new century. Like him, we wonder how to realize democratic aspirations in a large, technologically advanced, multi-ethnic society. We worry about the inadequacy of our schools, and seek for ways to resolve the tensions between big business, big government, and the public interest. The problems of incorporating the discoveries of the sciences with the everyday search for the good life, of overcoming the disjunction between art and ordinary life, and sorting out the opposition between an overly rationalized secularism and a closeminded religiosity, are as real today as they were in Dewey’s time. (Boisvert 1998: 11–12)

a. Modernity at the Turn of the 20th Century Dewey’s philosophical career began just as the historical era Karl Polanyi called ‘The Great Transformation’ was coming to an end. This period is, of course, more commonly known as the Industrial Revolution.1 According to most historians, this historical period is marked by a fundamental change in the methods of production (Harvie & Matthew 2000: 13). New technological advances are said to have enabled an increase in productivity— first in the agricultural sector, then in industry—yielding a radically new way of transforming raw materials into consumer goods ready for mass consumption (see Franssen, Lokhorst & Van De Poel 2009: § 1.2). Rural


Part III

exodus ensued, as people fled the countryside for the prospect of more reliable incomes in the booming cities. The resulting urbanisation was a key part of the Industrial Revolution, since manufacturing required masses of workers performing their allotted tasks within the confines of industrial mills and factories. This geographic and life-style change did not come without a large share of loss, confusion, and suffering. As Polanyi puts it: “At the heart of the Industrial Revolution [. . .] there was an almost miraculous improvement in the tools of production, which was accompanied by a catastrophic dislocation of the lives of the common people” (1957: 33). Yet, he goes further still. Polanyi charts the relationship between this dislocation and industrial change rather closely. According to him, the advent of the industrial era and its free market had the effect of destroying the basic social fabric upon which all human societies had heretofore been founded (Polanyi 1957: 111–220). And indeed, new social problems emerged: from the dissolution of traditional ties of kinship and a radical increase in population, to the excruciating conditions of child labour and the sprawling growth of squalid housing. In response, hitherto disenfranchised members of society came to fight—within organised and semi-organised groups—against this change (as in the case of the Luddites) or to improve working conditions and obtain greater political recognition for the common folk (as in the case of workers’ unions). In time and under the pressure created by such social movements, the political institutions of industrial nations were forced to democratise and began to guarantee basic welfare provisions to its citizens. Thus was born the modern state—at least, according to Polanyi (1957: 223–235). The social sciences were born in the 19th century seemingly to make sense of this societal shift, generating numerous explanations of this radical transformation. Different schools of thought emphasised varying features of the social world as the crucial variable responsible for the whole sequence of events culminating in this ‘Great Transformation’. Chief among these were liberal explanations. They heralded the role of the unfettered market in generating the fastest increase of wealth in human history (up to that point at least) and the advent of modern democracy. They thus came to popularise the notion that freedom and free-marketcapitalism, in their modern forms, were in fact the key sources of human progress (Polanyi 1957: 135–150). They went on to advocate the minimisation of impingements upon individuals and what they deemed to be the ‘natural’ functioning of the market, calling for minimal levels of state involvement in society and the economy (specifically, in the form of taxation, market regulation, or welfare provisions), for they believed them to be dangerously illiberal and regressive. The distinctive thesis advanced by Polanyi comes as a partial rejection of the standard liberal account of 19th-century development (1957: 149– 150). On his view, the advent of the modern capitalist democratic state was only made possible by mitigating the social cost of industrialisation.

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


Such mitigation was not freely given; it was instead taken and negotiated as a result of social struggle. The rise of popular movements engaging in a rapport de force with the political and economic elites, yielded significant concessions for those involved in wage labour. Thus, according to Polanyi, the modern state is born from a paradoxical “double movement: the market expanded continuously but this movement was met by a countermovement checking the expansion in definite directions” (1957: 130). Dewey lived, thought, and wrote mostly in the United States of America, while Polanyi’s thesis was mostly intended to account for European development (with Britain serving as the central case study). It might thus appear rather odd to seek to make sense of Dewey’s context by appealing to Polanyi. Despite the specificities of the American experience (where feudalism never had its day and where agricultural expansion continued to boom as manufacturing emerged), not only do I think that Polanyi’s thesis is compatible with the dominant narrative of American development, but I believe it helps deepen our understanding of it. On traditional accounts of 19th-century American history, much is often made of the role of ever-available resources ripe for the taking beyond an ever-retreating Frontier. It is said that the possibility of going west to seek one’s slice of the American pie encouraged the organic growth of an enterprising, freedom-loving, and instinctively egalitarian people (Campbell 1995: 4). Although this account relies on a fundamental blindness to the suffering of millions of black slaves, former slaves (see, for example, Dubois 2011, Coates 2017), Native Americans (Zinn 1980: 124–146), women (Cruea 2005; Zinn 1980: 102–123), poorer members of society, and of the central role of imperialism in this period of American history (Zinn 1980: 247–313), one particularly influential expression of this view was developed by Frederick Jackson Turner. He claimed that the “existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development” (1920: 1). On this view, the simple possibility of moving on at will gave (white male) Americans the de facto right to opt out of terms of association they did not find to their liking or that they deemed unfair. Moreover, the availability of a seemingly unending supply of natural resources just a little further afield (typically forcefully taken by indigenous people or from the Spanish and the French empires) was presumed to have given Americans equal opportunities to prosper. Thus, on this view, the ‘American Dream’ of freedom and endless economic opportunity notoriously attracted millions of settlers from the Old to the New World. While Turner’s thesis is at best naïve and at worst cruelly narrow in its lack of care or concern for groups of people who paid the highest price for American development in the 19th century, it still contains an important insight. The inverted consequence of Turner’s thesis is that the loss of the Frontier negatively impacted upon social relations: “When we lost our free lands and our isolation from the Old World, we lost our immunity


Part III

from the results of our mistakes, of waste, of inefficiency, and of inexperience in our government” (1920: 357). According to James Campbell, this thesis points to the fact that when the Frontier closed, Americans faced the need “to develop the political means to ensure social peace [and thus] to ensure democracy” (1995: 5). Or to put it more accurately, when white America no longer benefitted from the free labour of slaves or from the possibility of expropriating more land from Native American people, Americans more generally confronted a novel set of constraints requiring a new collective way of life. If we take the theses defended by Turner and Polanyi together, it becomes apparent that once the Frontier closed, America faced the tension already experienced in Europe between the growth of a free market and the need to preserve the social fabric in which such a market operates. Now, violence and war constitute destructive ways of resolving tensions such as these (indeed, they have played a prominent role in the actual way in which America first confronted limitation and, arguably, they still do).2 In contrast, Dewey seeks to develop an alternative model of social interaction which could bring human energies into balance peacefully and constructively. Yet, he intends to do so without illusion; he openly recognises the challenge that this represents. In Human Nature and Conduct, Dewey writes: An immense debt is due William James for the mere title of his essay: ‘The Moral Equivalen[t] of War’. It reveals with a flash of light the true psychology. Clans, tribes, races, cities, empires, nations, states have made war. The argument that this fact proves an ineradicable belligerent instinct which makes war forever inevitable is much more respectable than many arguments about the immutability of this and that social tradition. For it has the weight of a certain empirical generality back of it. Yet the suggestion of an equivalent for war calls attention to the medley of impulses which are casually bunched together under the caption of belligerent impulse; and it calls attention to the fact that the elements of this medley may be woven together into many differing types of activity, some of which may function the native impulses in much better ways than war has ever done. (MW 14: 79–80) This passage points to Dewey’s overarching ambition: propitiating destructive human impulses through social reconstruction. Campbell (1995: 144— emphasis in original) expresses it as follows: The Pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey and other Social Pragmatists [. . .] is in its nature a philosophy of reconstruction. It was developed as a means of contributing to the intelligent resolution of

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


social problems by turning from the problems of philosophers and other intellectuals to the problems of average women and men. Their basic hope was that we might be able to use our newly found intellectual stance—‘science’—to address more adequately the problems of contemporary living. Through careful study we might be able to, for example, determine what aspects of our social problems are the results of outdates habits, to develop new and better habits—better adapted and more adaptive institutions—and to bring these institutions into existence. For Dewey, evidence of the need for better-adapted habits and institutions was found in the prevalence of widespread unease and social struggle. The Frontier officially closed in 1890. It is thus interesting to note that Robert Westbrook (1989: 86–89) points out that Dewey was much affected by the advent of social struggles, in the form of strikes organised by worker’s movements, shortly after that time. The most prominent he witnessed first-hand was the Pullman strike, in Chicago, organised by the American Railway Union (Menand 2002: 289). On his way into the city, he spoke with one of the organisers of the strike. This had a profound effect on Dewey. He wrote about it the next day to his wife, Alice: I only talked with him for 10 or 15 minutes, but when I got through my nerves were more thrilled than they had been for years; I felt as if I had better resign my job teaching & follow him round till I got into life. One lost all sense of the right or wrong of things in admiration of his absolute almost fanatic sincerity & earnestness, & in admiration of the magnificent combination that was going on. Simply as an aesthetic matter, I don’t believe the world has seen but a few times such a spectacle of magnificent, widespread union of men about a common interest as this strike evinces. [. . .] The gov’t is evidently going to take a hand in & the men will be beaten almost to a certainty—but it’s a great thing & the beginning of greater. (Dewey July 2, 1894) Dewey was right. The government did get involved, workers were beaten, and many of the organisers of the strike (most notably, Eugene Debs) were arrested and prosecuted. Worse still was that the strike was widely deemed a failure. But Dewey did not see it as such: As you will have found out in the papers, the strike is lost, & ‘Labor’ is rather depressed. But if I am a prophet, it really won. The business made a tremendous impression; & while there has been a good deal of violent talk—particularly it seems to me by the ‘upper classes’ yet the exhibition of what the unions might accomplish, if organized and working together, has not only sobered them, but given the public


Part III mind an object lesson that it won’t soon forget. I think the few thousand freight cars burned up a pretty cheap price to pay—it was the stimulus necessary to direct attention, & it might easily have taken more to get the social organism thinking. (Dewey July 14, 1894)

It was shortly after this that Dewey’s philosophical work took a decidedly social and political turn. Although it would be presumptuous to boldly assert that Dewey’s interest in social matters was solely caused by this particular incident, or the closing of the Frontier, or the wider economic effects of scarcity, the correlation of events remains striking and stands as a powerful illustration of the lifeworld Dewey experienced, studied, and ultimately responded to.3 So while I do not think we should take Turner and Polanyi’s theses uncritically, they provide a useful articulation of the general challenge to which Dewey was explicitly trying to respond throughout his philosophical oeuvre, namely, the need to create the political and social means to generate a self-sustaining, free, and safe democracy within a prosperous yet profoundly unequal social order. Crucially, implicit here are two facts: (i) we lacked such means at that time, and (ii) we became more aware of this lack when we confronted a greater scarcity of resources and social strife ensued.4 b. Postmodernity in the Early 21st Century Clearly, much social progress has been made over the last century in most liberal democracies. We now enjoy a more democratic political system (with universal suffrage), the benefits of a national education system, greater welfare and healthcare provisions, the protection of antidiscrimination laws, and much-improved workers’ rights. Nevertheless, our present means of addressing social ills remain, at best, mediocre. While efforts to contain prejudice and better accommodate social heterogeneity seem to have made some small but significant in-roads in many democratic countries, since the 1970s, we have seen a gradual but generalised worsening of a whole host of social and economic woes. According to many of our most prominent social theorists, we have entered a new societal phase, often called ‘postmodernity’, in which we are witnessing the breakdown of the political and social mechanisms once used to contain and limit social strife. Indeed, the facts speak loudly: poverty and entrenched unemployment (as well under-employment) continue to be pervasive features of advanced capitalist societies; the economic divide between rich and poor continues to increase;5 racial and sexual discrimination, though illegal in most liberal democracies, continue to be the norm rather than the exception;6 cases of mental health disorders are on the rise;7 while workers continue to be savagely exploited and disposed of by a transnational economic system, pitting all workers of the globe

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


against each other in a ruthless bottom-bound competition to determine who will provide the cheapest and tamest labour, merely to satisfy the capitalist class’ ever growing thirst for profit. To explain this insatiability, Luc Boltansky and Eve Chiapello (2005: 5) write: Because capital is constantly reinvested and can expand only in circulation, the capitalist’s ability to recover his outlay with a profit is under constant threat, particularly as a result of the actions of other capitalists with whom he competes for consumers’ spending power. This dynamic creates constant anxiety, and offers the capitalist a very powerful self-preservation motive for continuing the accumulation process interminably. This anxiety, however, is not the preserve of the capitalist class; it is endemic in contemporary liberal democratic society.8 On a psychological level, we are told that it is our responsibility as individuals to tighten our belts to make up for the financial disarray in which the wealthiest have thrown the world and to tackle climate change. Yet, in neither case can we make those most directly responsible for the problems (i.e. the individuals governing banks and major transnational companies) bear the brunt of the cost. We, the people, are thus seemingly bound to accept the instability of our economic lives, while we are asked to pay for the insulation of those at the very top from the consequences of their behaviour. Or, as Zygmunt Bauman eloquently puts it: “Only the few powerful enough to blackmail other powerfuls into the obligation of a golden hand-shake can be sure that their home, however prosperous and imposing it may seem today, is not haunted by the spectre of tomorrow’s downfall” (1997: 23). On a global level, we face a time which political economists Colin Hay and Anthony Payne (2013) have branded ‘The Great Uncertainty’. After nigh on 50 years of a relatively stable balance of powers, we are now witnessing the prospect of a radical disordering of the international system (Hay & Payne: 3; De Vasconcelos 2012: 107–127). Globalisation and the unabated economic frenzy of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ nations have increased international economic competition and put the global environment in peril. In response, most elected democratic leaders insist on telling their respective citizenries that they have no choice but to accept the reality of immense competitive pressure, and thus that, perversely, labour laws and environmental regulations must become more and more pliable to suit the demands of ‘the market’. Thus, it appears that the poorest in the developed world have no choice but to accept to receive less help from a state that seems unable to tax those who have the most to give. All the while, the hope of a more just and more peaceful world recedes as the threat posed by climate chaos pushes all of humanity, day by day, towards an increasingly threatening future (as we saw in 1.1).


Part III

In the face of this, citizens of wealthy democracies have been led to believe that they are mostly powerless. Their best hope, it appears, involves scrapping with others for whatever short-term opportunities present themselves, in full consciousness of the fact that “[n]o jobs are guaranteed, no positions are foolproof, no skills are of lasting utility, experience and know-how turn into liability as soon as they become assets, seductive careers all too often prove to be suicide tracks” (Bauman 1997: 23). Anxiety is bred into children at home and in school, where overworked parents and teachers only rarely have enough time and resources to provide a basic sense of safety and impart the key skills of socialisation and community formation. Anxiety is seemingly wished upon all by a morally irresponsible and often purposefully manipulative media, social media, and advertising culture in which debilitating fears are brought to life for receptive minds to feast on. Finally, anxiety has been cemented into the lives of citizens by the paralysing sense of stupor they have experienced in the face of insensitive political leaders, who, when turned to as a last hope to regain a semblance of control over their daily lives, all too often denied them with facile words and empty gestures, dismissing their hopes and aspirations, brushing them to the side with the pithy and only rarely explained condemnations: ‘childish’ and ‘unrealistic’. Bauman (2000) thus re-baptised this era ‘liquid modernity’ to stress that it is primarily defined by endemic uncertainty. As we find ourselves unable to meaningfully hold on to the established structures of the past, we come to the realisation that our lives are constructed with fluid bricks and mortar, only stable for unpredictably fleeting moments. Much like a builder trying to make a house out of these new fluid materials with a hammer and nails, we are impotent; though we are able to make the movements and gestures that would normally generate positive change, we do so to no avail. And indeed, the not-so-subtle implicit rule of this new way of life is that ordinary citizens can only rarely do anything to substantively shape it; the variables are too complex and unpredictable, the language too slippery, and the key actors too remote and too powerful. Our lot, it appears, is merely to suffer this uncertainty more or less comfortably.9 Thus, the key feature of liquid modernity, according to Bauman, is our seeming individual and collective powerlessness in shaping the structures of our social and political world. Speaking about his own time, Dewey wrote: “Individuals are groping their way through situations which they do not direct and which do not give them direction” (LW 5: 75). Thus, this experience of powerlessness points to the fact that we once again seem to be struggling to find the means to cope with the social effects of market mechanisms. In 1932, in the wake of the Great Depression, Dewey declared: “The breakdown in which we are living is the breakdown of the particular romance known as business. It is the revelation that the elated excitement of the romantic adventure has to be paid for with an equal depression” (LW 6: 74).

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


We now find ourselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Much like Dewey in his time, we face the effects of the conflict between big money and the needs of ordinary people, between financial and social forces brought to a point of breakdown. Most obviously, this breakdown has been characterised by the transformation of the private debt crisis of 2008 into sovereign debt crises across the democratic world (see, for example, Reinhart & Rogoff 2011). This was then used as a political motive to dramatically reduce the provision of public goods by many democratic governments. Moreover, rapid technological changes (such as the development of artificial intelligence and robotisation) threaten to further erode the provision of stable and reasonably well-paying jobs (Dobbs et al. 2012; Brynjolfsson & Mcafee 2014). All the while, the effects of climate change continue to grow in amplitude. As of 2018, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Man (2018: i) explain that we confront the following circumstances: Record-breaking temperatures on every continent. Rates of extinction so high that the only relevant comparisons are to planetary cataclysms far beyond human memory. Species and ecosystems scrambling to change their geographical range—and where they cannot move quickly, as with coral reefs—perishing altogether. Rising seas, forests ablaze, glaciers disappearing, superstorms. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, climate change is worsening the impact of population growth, urbanisation, and food, water, and energy insecurity, and contributing to the displacement of large groups of people across the globe (Hansen et al. 2017). In the face of all of this, a fractious mood has emerged across much of the democratic world. Anxiety, for many, has turned into regressive rage, perhaps nowhere more obviously than in the United States. Writing in 1998, Rorty seems to have foreseen the present crisis in one of his more prophetic moments: [M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers— themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. [. . .]


Part III One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. [.  .  .] All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet. (Rorty 1998: 89–90)

And indeed, even beyond America, something has cracked. Much of the political right has coalesced around a far right nativist and xenophobic platform across many democratic nations. Casting the forces of liberal democracy in the role of ‘vested interest’ and ‘protectors of the status quo’, far right political actors (such as, for example, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Heinz Christian-Strache in Austria, Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Donald Trump in the USA) are capitalising on popular anger and fear resulting from economic uncertainty and the reduction in the provision of public goods (largely resulting from austerity and rampant inequality) by scapegoating various ‘Others’ (from Muslims to Mexicans, immigrants, refugees, and Jews) for the sake of a promised nationalist ‘renewal’. These voices worryingly echo fascistic leaders of the 1930s and 40s. Anger on the political left has articulated itself around horizontal social movements (such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter) and a renewal of interest in more radical democratic socialist projects. Indeed, from Syriza in Greece (Petras 2014) and Podemos in Spain (Hague 2016) to Jeremy Corbyn (the leader of the British Labour Party) (Panitch 2015) and Bernie Sanders (the runner-up in the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination contest for the presidency of the United States) (Wittner 2016), left-wing political forces proclaiming a connection to the tradition of democratic socialism and promising to challenge inequality meaningfully have been growing in popularity in recent years. All the while neo-liberal, purportedly ‘moderate’ voices of the political ‘centre’ continue to hold power in many democratic countries, but they typically fail to capture popular imagination or sentiment. The political winds are not blowing in their sails. There should be no doubt: the nature of our present situation is fractious, unpredictable, and dangerous. And yet, it also holds the potential for democratic renewal. Whatever the eventual outcome, we are currently witnessing the concrete expression of a new kind of political consciousness rooted in a response to similar conditions to those Dewey sought to address. Indeed, an increased experience of scarcity has brought to the fore tensions and cleavages in the social fabric that need resolving if we are to preserve (and hopefully improve) the democratic peace— recall (ii)—and we confront what seems to be an intellectual and political

Dewey’s Call for Democratic Renewal


impasse when attempting to meaningfully and sustainably harmonise social and economic relations—recall (i). The dominant neo-liberal economic paradigm seems unwilling or unable to invest in state services or to enforce stringent environmental regulations, leaving the social and environmental fabric upon which the economy is ultimately constructed at great risk of terminal deliquescence. It thus seems as though David Marquand accurately described our conundrum, when he wrote: “Either democracy has to be tamed for the sake of capitalism, or capitalism has to be tamed for the sake of democracy” (as cited in Berger 2002: 32). What is clear from where we presently stand, is that if democracy cannot curb capitalism, the task may well be entrusted (to little avail, I suspect) to ‘strong men’, leaders with more authoritarian styles of getting things done (Levitsky & Ziblatt 2018: 1–10; Rouyer 2018). Thus, if Dewey faced the intellectual task of conceiving what might effectively tame capitalist economic forces for the sake of democracy in the era leading up to the ‘postwar’ settlement, then one might say that we are engaged in a parallel task to prepare for what, one hopes, will result in a new democratic (rather than authoritarian) settlement between economic, human, and, this time, environmental forces. There are, therefore, significant parallels between Dewey’s time and ours, since both situations include a direct threat to democracy and therefore warrant a fundamental rethink of its very nature. The task before us thus involves navigating this rich and threatening environment. Dewey’s conception of democracy sought to articulate ideas, principles, and values that could meaningfully help in a task such as this. This is why I think we, contemporary political philosophers, would do well to revisit it now. I will thus discuss his democratic ideal in greater detail in the following chapter.

Notes 1. Although Albert Toynbee first identified the British Industrial Revolution as beginning in 1760 and ending in 1832, in the American context, the period associated with the Industrial Revolution is thought to begin in 1820 and end anywhere between 1870 and 1890—see R. Grayson (2011). More controversially, J.S. Olson (2002) covers material ranging from 1750 to 1920. 2. For more on the role of violence, war, and empire in America’s past and present modes of development, see West (2004, 2017). 3. Other likely causes include Dewey’s first-hand experience of the plight of the poor in Baltimore and Chicago, joining a friendship circle with other important socially minded people (not least of which was Jane Addams), and the marked personal influence of his wife, Alice. 4. In his own words, Dewey presents the rather simpler, less specific narrative of a lost Golden Age where, as Campbell (1995: 145) writes, “life was simpler: areas were less densely populated, there was a more manageable technological base, people had free land, open opportunity, and a lesser degree of interdependence, there was greater continuity from generation to generation, and so on.” 5. For the basic facts, see Keeley (2015), and for more systematic analyses, see Piketty (2014) and Dorling (2014).


Part III

6. For an international perspective on racial inequality, see Myers and Corrie (2006). On gender income inequality, see Hausmann, Tyson and Zahidi (2008). And for an approach to gender inequality more rooted in ethical philosophy, see Nussbaum and Glover (1995). 7. On the social and health effects of income inequality, see Marmot (2005), Wilkinson (2005), Marmot and Wilkinson (2006), and Wilkinson and Pickett (2009). 8. For a compelling narrative about the rise of anxiety throughout the ages, see Olivier Rey (2006). For more specific analyses of the spread of economic anxiety since the 2008 liquidity crisis, see Jacques Attali (2008) and John Lanchester (2010). 9. An anonymous student in the 2009 California college student occupations against tuition fee rises vividly expresses this sense of despair when they say: “We work and we borrow [only] in order to work and to borrow” (Solomon & Palmieri 2011).


Dewey’s Democratic Ideal Democracy as a Way of Life

To say that democracy is only a form of government is like saying that a home is a more or less geometrical arrangement of bricks and mortar; that the church is a building with pews, pulpit and spire. It is true; they certainly are so much. But it is false; they are so infinitely more. Democracy, like any other polity, has been finely termed the memory of an historic past, the consciousness of a living present, the ideal of the coming future. Democracy, in a word, is a social, that is to say, an ethical conception, and upon its ethical significance is based its significance as governmental. Democracy is a form of government only because it is a form of moral and spiritual association. (EW 1: 240)

6.1. Deweyan Democracy—An Outline ‘Democracy’ is the central concept of Dewey’s political thought. At its core, we find democracy understood as social hope. This social hope consists in believing that we can resolve tensions and problems experienced within human groups in peaceful, intelligent, and truly satisfying ways. On the Deweyan view, we must hold this hope for fear that our failure to resolve such problems will call forth unnecessary friction, violence, and war. In Greek mythology, Ares and Athena represent two responses to friction, violence, and war. Ares symbolises sheer brutality and chaos, while Athena symbolises social skill, wisdom, the arts of civilisation, craftsmanship, military strategy, and moral leadership. They thus correspond to two different ways of dealing with conflict: Ares expresses violence in its arbitrary, savage, and uncontrollable nature (he is described by Walter Burkert as “overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering” (1985: 169)), while Athena personifies the idea of just war and the possibility of channelling the raw energy of rage and violence into controlled and reasoned action: “[S]he is ready to fight for her own needs and rights, for cultural achievement and human dignity and causes. For the sake of her convictions and needs she is willing also to disregard relationships and destroy old patterns that have outlived their usefulness” (Whitmont 1982: 141).


Part III

If Ares fights to destroy, then Athena fights in order to defend and create. Athena’s creative skills enable constructive confrontation. She channels violent energies away from Ares’ fury. She enables humans to constructively engage with limitation and inter-personal strife, propitiating the need to erupt in the face of inevitable frustration and tension, thus bringing into balance the opposing human impulses of aggression and community formation while avoiding unnecessary blood spill and chaos. This is relevant to our present purposes, because, in the Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, Jane E. Harrison claims that “[t]o tell the story of the making of Athene is to trace the history of the city of Athens, to trace perhaps, in so far as they can be severed, its political rather that its religious development” (1991: 301). In reference to the battle for the patronage of Athens, Harrison contends that Poseidon represented oligarchy, while Athena represented democracy. Had he been part of the battle, I believe it would have been appropriate to associate Ares with a violent state of perpetual anarchy. In the end, by offering an olive tree as a sign of peace and prosperity to the people, Athena won patronage of Athens. This was in fact the victory of democracy. As Harrison writes: “the real object of the worship of the citizens was not the goddess but the city herself” (1991: 301). I thus summon the figure of Athena here because, in the last analysis, I interpret the Deweyan conception of democracy as an attempt to emulate her ability to transform violent conflict into constructive change thanks to the hallmark activity of democratic society: that is to say, open, honest, and intelligent discussion. In ‘Creative Democracy’, Dewey thus explains: [D]emocracy as a way of life is controlled by personal faith in personal day-by-day working together with others. Democracy is the belief that even when needs and ends or consequences are different for each individual, the habit of amicable cooperation—which may include, as in sport, rivalry and competition—is itself a priceless addition to life. To take as far as possible every conflict which arises—and they are bound to arise—out of the atmosphere and medium of force, of violence as a means of settlement into that of discussion and of intelligence is to treat those who disagree—even profoundly—with us as those from whom we may learn, and in so far, as friends. A genuinely democratic faith in peace is faith in the possibility of conducting disputes, controversies and conflicts as cooperative undertakings in which both parties learn by giving the other a chance to express itself, instead of having one party conquer by forceful suppression of the other—a suppression which is none the less one of violence when it takes place by psychological means of ridicule, abuse, intimidation, instead of by overt imprisonment or in concentration camps. To cooperate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because of the belief that the expression of difference is not only a right of the

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


other persons but is a means of enriching one’s own life-experience, is inherent in the democratic personal way of life. (LW 14: 228) In other words, this conception of democracy calls for the careful articulation of differences and disagreements within and across individuals and communities, while holding steadfast to a commitment to imagine and build together a common future. For Dewey, the denial of this capacity for meaningful constructive social change is the cardinal sin of our politics. The worst offence of this sort consists in holding democracy itself to be a static, unchangeable object. Indeed, in The Public and Its Problems, Dewey writes: The belief in political fixity, of the sanctity of some form of state consecrated by the efforts of our fathers and hallowed by tradition, is one of the stumbling blocks in the way of orderly and directed change; it is an invitation to revolt and revolution. (LW 2: 257) This offence is often committed with relatively good intentions. Democracy was held in Dewey’s time, as it sometimes still is today, as a political equivalent to the folkloric ‘silver bullet’—able to resolve all challenges, by sheer force of being what it is. As Dewey puts it, people believed that democracy was “a machine that solved the problem of perpetual motion in politics” (LW 14: 225). This, for Dewey, was an intellectual mistake with grave repercussions. He argues that democracy is not essentially a specific set of institutional arrangements. Rather, at its core, it is the result and the continued application of the experimental method to problems of associative living. For him, the propensity to cling too tightly to certain aspects of the existing institutional apparatus is the direct consequence of failing to acknowledge this fundamental truth: democracy is not a static object; it is a dynamic process that is constantly being reinvented. The necessity to continuously adapt our responses to the world is rooted in the precarious nature of human life. The world we live in is a world of change, threats, and opportunities. Confronting this world as part of an intelligent collective is the challenge Dewey calls upon us to face when giving meaning to the word ‘democracy’. According to him, a great deal of confusion arises from the fact that we often fail to acknowledge that meanings associated with words are actually tools for solving problems. Many of the meanings currently associated with political and moral concepts come from a time when those meanings served to solve particular social problems in their own parochial contexts. This is true of the word ‘democracy’. The liberal association of the word with a specific institutional arrangement made sense in its own time: it enabled the overthrow of tyranny and feudalism. But what Dewey finds deeply


Part III

objectionable is the continued, almost pathological, refusal to acknowledge that the meaning of the word ‘democracy’ and its associated political ideal must be allowed to change in order to make itself relevant to the new and manifold problems of ordinary people. Why? Because the failure to understand and acknowledge the dynamic and practical nature of such words leads to confusion and disempowerment; without adapting the meanings of words to our present context, our words and their associated actions are likely to fail to respond to our existing problems. In fact, at times of crisis, Dewey contends, “[t]he words are so loaded with associations derived from a long past, that instead of being tools for thought, our thoughts become subservient tools of words” (LW 13: 323). As he writes elsewhere, “the older symbols of ideal life still engage thought and command loyalty. Conditions have changed, but every aspect of life, from religion and education to property and trade, shows that nothing approaching a transformation has taken place in ideas and ideals. Symbols control sentiment and thought, and the new age has no symbols consonant with its activities” (LW 2: 323). According to Dewey, our failure to adapt our intellectual tools is to blame for many of our difficulties in effectively responding to the multitude of new human problems. In order for us to adapt our problem solving tools to such problems, we must accept that our conceptions of politically and morally important words are to be thought of “as hypotheses to be employed in observation and ordering of phenomena, and hence to be tested by the consequences produced by acting upon them” (LW 12: 499) and not as pre-given, static entities imposing themselves upon our thinking. This dynamic and critical edge is crucial because: Directing conceptions tend to be taken for granted after they have once come into general currency. In consequence, they either remain implicit or unstated, or else are propositionally formulated in a way which is static instead of functional. Failure to examine the conceptual structures and frames of reference which are unconsciously implicated in even the seemingly most innocent factual inquiries is the greatest single defect that can be found in any field of inquiry. Even in physical matters, after a certain conceptual frame of reference has once become habitual, it tends to become finally obstructive with reference to new lines of investigation. In biology and in the social disciplines, law, politics, economics and morals, the danger is more acute and more disastrous. Failure to encourage fertility and flexibility in formation of hypotheses as frames of reference is closer to a death warrant of a science than any other one thing. (LW 12: 501) It is thus as a working hypothesis that Dewey presents his own conception of democracy. His intention is to help in the task of social reconstruction

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


by devising a new meaning for an old symbol such that it might better respond to the needs and concerns of present circumstances. So, Dewey’s conception of democracy is devised to work on three levels: (i) it is a hypothesis to be tried out in practice; (ii) its initial success ought to be judged by its capacity to inspire the generation of more working hypotheses for experimentation in the lifeworld; (iii) its ultimate success ought to be judged by the results of these manifold experimentations as experienced by ordinary people in their everyday lives. As a result, it should be clear that Dewey’s overarching ambition is to help in concretely coming to terms with the real challenges of choice and action. ‘Democracy’, in Dewey’s mouth, is thus synonymous with a form of social hope. This social hope contains two related ambitions: it aims for the full application of the scientific (or experimental) method to moral and political life, and it aims for the resulting concrete improvement of the lives of all. In a way that is unusual for political philosophers, the intended purpose of Dewey’s ideal is not to serve as a blue print for the construction of governmental arrangements. Instead, it is intended to serve the general population as a tool for critique. Dewey writes, “[i]t is by a sense of possibilities opening before us that we become aware of constrictions that hem us in and of burdens that oppress” (LW 10: 94). His democratic ideal is intended to do just that—open up the sphere of possibilities by making the darkness of existing political, social, and moral conditions conscious. In other words, Dewey’s democratic ideal is intended to help us understand the shortcomings of our existing associative lives by making us aware of the possibilities concretely available to us for improvement. Alan Ryan (1995: 369) thus writes: Dewey was a visionary. That was his appeal. He was a curious visionary, because he did not speak of a distant goal or a city not built with hands. He was a visionary about the here and now, about the potentiality of the modern world, modern society, modern man. Yet, Dewey’s democratic ideal is self-admittedly aspirational and underdetermined: it does not promise singing tomorrows or happiness for all; it does not prescribe given outcomes to citizens and institutions, for “[i]t is not the business of political philosophy or science to determine what the state in general should or must be.” Instead, he continues, “[w]hat they may do is aid in creation of methods such that experimentation may go on less blindly, less at the mercy of accident, more intelligently, so that men may learn from their errors and profit from their successes” (LW 2: 257). Thus, Dewey offers a hypothesis to be tried out, a path to venture down, a potential line of inquiry with recommendations about what to consider when evaluating its success or failure. This is because, as Putnam writes, “[f]or Dewey, social problems are not solved by telling people what to do. Rather, they are


Part III

resolved by releasing human energies so that people will be able to act for themselves” (1989–1990: 1695). In this chapter, we see that the first place to begin to release such energies for Dewey is intellectual. He argues that we must begin by overcoming the old conceptions of individualism, freedom, and democracy we have inherited from classical liberalism, for they have outlived their usefulness.

6.2. Individualism Old and New The question of the relation of man and nature, of mind and matter, assumes its vital significance in this context. A ‘humanism’ that separates man from nature will envisage a radically different solution of the industrial and economic perplexities of the age than the humanism entertained by those who find no uncrossable gulf or fixed gap. The former will inevitably look backward for direction; it will strive for a cultivated élite supported on the backs of toiling masses. The latter will have to face the question of whether work itself can become an instrument of culture and of how the masses can share freely in a life enriched in imagination and esthetic enjoyment. (LW 5: 101)

Classical liberalism is usually associated with the economic and political thought of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, and Benjamin Constant, to name but a few. Smith’s 1776 book, On the Wealth of Nations (1999), is usually thought to be the foundation of the economic wing of this school of thought, while Locke’s 1690 opus, Second Treatise on Government (1980), stands as its paradigmatic political articulation. The upshot of their works is taken to be the claim that the role of the state ought to be fundamentally limited: in the economic realm, the state is to limit itself to protect its citizens from force, fraud, and the like in order to enable individuals to ‘freely’ exchange goods and services (Williams 1983: 29; for a wider discussion, see Hampsher-Monk 1992: 88–95); while in the political realm, the state is to abstain from intervening in the lives of citizens on the condition that their actions do not infringe upon the rights of (or do no harm to) others.1 Thus, Sheldon Wolin (2008: 219) writes: Historically, the ideology of liberalism came to represent an uneasy combination of elements: elected representative government, limited government, equal rights, property rights, and an economy that, when freed from governmental interference and rid of privilege, nevertheless produced inequalities as striking as any in the traditional regimes.

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


Classical liberalism’s calls for limited government were born out of two opposing concerns. On the one hand, the state in the Ancien Régime had systematically abused subjects with little more justification than the royal cachet. Hence, curtailing the tyranny of the state demanded that somebody set out in advance just how far the authority of the state could reach into the lives of individuals. Dewey writes: Thus the practical movement for the limitation of the powers of government became associated, as in the influential philosophy of John Locke, with the doctrine that the ground and justification of the restriction was prior non-political rights inherent in the very structure of the individual. From these tenets, it was a short step to the conclusion that the sole end of government was the protection of individuals in the rights which were theirs by nature. (LW 2: 289) On the other hand, classical liberals feared that a state left in the hands of the people would lead to what some have called “the tyranny of the majority” (Madison 2003a: 71–79; Adams 1856: Vol. VI; de Tocqueville 1961: Vol. II, Book I; J.S. Mill 1978: 4), that is to say, the unchecked power of the majority to oppress the individuals that are part of the minority. Thus, the powers of a government were to be curtailed through a system of checks and balances, and the state’s authority was always to be trumped by the rights of individuals. This led classical liberals to draw a sharp distinction between the public sphere, where the state can authoritatively exert its power, and the private sphere, where individuals are free to enjoy what Benjamin Constant (1819) called “the peaceful enjoyment of private independence.”2 This emphasis on the individual’s freedom betrays the fact that the most distinctive feature of classical liberalism is its commitment to a thoroughgoing individualism. As Vincent puts it, “[t]he individual is seen as both more real than, and prior to, society” (2010: 32). This is the ‘old’ individualism Dewey is keen to reject. In fact, he does so by rejecting the classical liberal accounts of human nature, psychology, and individuality. Let us consider these in turn. a. Human Nature: The Rugged Individual or the Socially Encumbered Self? We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (Jefferson et al. 2003: 528)


Part III

The individualism of classical liberalism did not merely consist in taking persons to be the ultimate political and moral source of authority, it also crucially presupposed—at least on methodological grounds—that certain motivations and interests inhered in all people. The overarching principle driving such motivations and interests is the idea that all humans are to be taken to be self-regarding or selfish. The infamous 31st President of the United States of America who oversaw the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover, is often credited with coining the phrase ‘rugged individualism’ to speak of his belief that human industriousness and the principles of competition left to themselves would solve all real social problems (see Hoover 2004). This faith in the individual left to his own devices is a good illustration of fundamental aspects of the conception of human nature defended by classical liberals. Moreover, its symbolic representations in mainstream culture abound: They range from the detective Philip Marlowe, the solitary western hero Shane, the celebrations of self-indulgence in popular television programs, to the lionizing of wealthy executives. These figures, whether actual or fictional, stand both as reflections of a particular ideal of human life and as incitements to pursue that ideal. What unites them is the assumption of individualism rather than individuality. They are depicted in ways that isolates them from family connections, social relations, and cultural heritage. They set fixed goals, and are not fastidious about the means for achieving them. They tend to go their own way, and are critical if not outright hostile to the more complex and messy processes involved in dealing with public officials and agencies. They set things aright according to their own view of what needs done. (Boisvert 1998: 85–86) These artistic and cultural symbols are not accidentally related to the political ideals of classical liberalism. They are its cultural embodiment. The political ideal lurking behind these examples is what Dewey calls ‘old individualism’ (LW 5: 41–123). According to this view, the essential features of a human being are made out to be entirely asocial, since it holds that the individual is: • • • •

In principle, entirely independent of other human beings for his survival; Selfish, in the sense of being fundamentally uninterested in the welfare of others;3 Instrumentally calculating, insofar as he only uses his rational intelligence, not moral considerations, in the process of decision-making; In pursuit of the maximisation of his welfare in all circumstances; and,

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal •


Inherently right-bearing—that is to say that his moral value is not derived from any external source of authority: the individual is morally significant qua individual.

To explain further, classical liberalism’s conception of human nature fundamentally involves both a psychological and a political claim. First, according to classical liberalism, human nature is defined by a profound psychological egoism, according to which people “will desire to render the person and property of another subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of pleasure which it may occasion to that other individual” (Mill 1955: 17). E.K. Hunt writes that, on the classical liberal account, people are “egoistic, coldly calculating, essentially inert and atomistic” (2003: 44). Said otherwise, on this picture, people function on the model of a more or less sophisticated automaton: they are set into motion by a drive for pleasure and constrained by an aversion to pain. Nothing else really impacts upon their behaviour. Still, it should be noted that the experiences that cause one sensation or another are not necessarily the same for each individual. This points to the inherent value of individuality (i.e. the special worth of being the individual that one is), and the need to protect the individual’s right to experiment and to make life choices for himself. Second, human beings are endowed with fundamental rights and it is from the need to defend these rights against assaults from others that the state is called forth into existence. Building on the social contract theories developed by Thomas Hobbes and Locke, classical liberals believed that the authority of the state was derived from the consent of primordially independent, asocial individuals. As Louis Menand evocatively puts it: “In Lockean thinking, human beings are essentially rights-bearing ciphers” (2002: 244). The assumption here is that there exists a “natural opposition between the individual and organized society” (LW 11: 8). Menand adds: “Like Newtonian physics, Lockean philosophy is atomistic: it imagines everything as a concatenation of independent entities [. . .] social groups are aggregations of autonomous individuals linked by voluntary and revocable contractual bonds” (2002: 244). On such accounts, these lonesome creatures would have proven willing to give up of some of their natural freedom and answer to a greater authority than themselves for one reason and one reason alone: that is, for the sake of having their personal rights firmly upheld. Thus, the classical liberal notion of the state is born out of the idea that individuals would have purposefully and calculatingly come together under the authority of the state, each to improve their own respective lots. In this exchange of authority from the individual to the state, these individuals would have been finding a social arrangement in which they exchanged a certain degree of freedom for a greater degree of security. Classical liberals drew from this the conclusion that society and the state


Part III

are only of instrumental value—the former for the sake of mutual gain, while the latter for the sake of upholding the freedom of the individual. They conclude that personal freedom is thus the highest political good, and that the state is only entitled to interfere with the freedom of individuals for the sake of upholding their rights and resolving competing rights claims, as and when conflicts arise. Although Dewey was a self-proclaimed liberal and individualist, he radically rejected the conception of the ‘self’ offered by classical liberalism. Throughout his oeuvre, he sought to undermine it and he expressly rejected the essential features of its conception of human nature: one of Dewey’s most recurrent themes is the ferocious rejection of the notion that humans ever have been, are, or could ever hope to be entirely asocial, non-dependent beings. He explains: The statement that “yesterday and ever since history began, men were related to one another as individuals” is not true. Men have always been associated together in living, and association in conjoint behaviour has affected their relations to one another as individuals. It is enough to recall how largely human relations have been permeated by patterns derived directly or indirectly from the family. (LW 2: 295) As is now well supported by the empirical sciences (see, for example, Ainsworth & Bell 1974; Cicchetti & Lynch 1993; Carlson & Sroufe 1995; Eisenberg et al. 1997; Masten & Coatsworth 1998),4 Dewey held that the relationships we entertain with our family and our communities play such a constitutive role in shaping oneself that it is pure folly to talk of an individual completely divorced from such relationships. For him, “no one is born except in dependence on others” (LW 7: 227). Consequently, according to Dewey, human nature is inherently social. At first, humans are utterly vulnerable. They depend on others for their survival and for their apprenticeship of the means by which they will secure the means to subsist for the rest of their lives. He reminds us that, as a simple matter of fact, any human born without the support of other more developed humans to nurture and care for her, will inevitably die (LW 7: 227). In comparison with the rest of the animal kingdom, this phase of dependence and progressive development in humans lasts longer than most. During that phase, we not only learn how to physically look after ourselves and avoid imminent annihilation, we also learn to relate to our future and to other human beings through complex symbolic systems. This acquisition of an understanding of human relationships and symbolic meanings (through language) is a necessary condition for the kind of thinking which eventually enables conscious choice: to become responsible and autonomous adults, we must learn to project and imagine

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


sets of meaningful alternatives to the status quo in order to meaningfully chose one course of action over another. This we learn how to do by communicating, both non-verbally and verbally, with others. Through this process, humans first learn from others to understand and cope with their environment in order to comfortably subsist, and later, they learn to develop into beings who can imagine, deliberate, and make meaningful choices for themselves in relation to significant others. For Dewey, this dependence is made all the more obvious in the domain classical liberals saw as the ultimate sanctorum, that is: personal labour. Indeed, classical liberals tended to view technologies, understood as the means through which individuals emancipate themselves from the onerous requirements of nature, as the zenith of purely individual achievement. But, here again, Dewey thinks this position farfetched. On his account, “the technique of employing tools” (however simple or complex those tools might be) is not the product of some ‘natural endowment’ (LW 2: 300). Rather, it is something we learn from others. Why does he think this? Dewey sensibly claims that if we were not members of a community where the use of tools was practiced and encouraged, there is good reason to believe that we would not develop the ability to master our environment any more than other great apes.5 He describes the industrious condition of an asocial human being as follows: There are organic or native needs, of course, as for food, protection and mates. There are innate structures which facilitate them in securing external objects through which they are met. But the only kind of industry they are capable of giving rise to is a precarious livelihood obtained by gathering such edibles and animals as chance might throw in the way: the lowest type of savagery just emerging from a brute condition. (LW 2: 300) Elsewhere he writes that humans “not bound together in associations, whether domestic, economic, religious, political, artistic or educational, are monstrosities” (LW 5: 80–81). Moreover, he adds: “Association in the sense of connection and combination is a ‘law’ of everything known to exist. Singular things act, but they act together” (LW 2: 250). Ultimately, I think Dewey best exposes the heart of the issue when he claims that it is not “an intelligible question” to ask “how individuals or singular beings come to be connected.” The meaningful question however is “how they come to be connected in just those ways which give human communities traits so different from those which mark assemblies of electrons, unions of trees in forests, swarms of insects, herds of sheep, and constellations of stars” (LW 2: 250). Dewey’s answer to this is thoroughly rooted in his interpretation of Darwin and the insights of experimental psychology.


Part III

b. Human Psychology: Collaborative and Dynamic, Not Atomistic and Pre-Given Society in its unified and structural character is the fact of the case, the non-social individual is an abstraction arrived at by imagining what man would be if all his human qualities were taken away. (EW 1: 232)

We have already seen that classical liberalism endorses a psychological theory of human motivation. On this account, human behaviour in the public realm is not to be accounted for by empathy or more complex moral commitments. The only motives for action are to be understood as the furthering of self-interest and self-preservation. Classical liberals diverge on the question of whether we are to believe that all humans actually behave like this, or whether we must just assume this as a general rule to ensure that our institutional arrangements cater for those few individuals who do actually function like this.6 Whatever the case may be, their commitments and models are thoroughly bound to a fundamentally asocial picture of human motivation where the interests, or ends, pursued by individuals are pre-socially fixed or ‘given’. Dewey rejects this psychological picture. He sees it as overly simplistic and ultimately morally counterproductive. As I have already touched upon (see 2.5), Dewey’s conception of psychology was deeply affected by the dual influences of Darwinism and the New Psychology: at its core, we find the notion of the human mind as fundamentally developed thanks to and in response to “an environment which is social as well as physical” (MW 1: 69). Hence, for Dewey, the drive to survive is a fundamental fact of human psychology, but it is supplemented by the necessity to adapt and belong to a social group, for we could not survive without it. On his account, the social impulse is therefore also bound to affect our behaviour (via habits and decisions). The classical liberal attempt to cleanly separate given, self-inhering motivations from motivations produced by interactions with others involves dreadfully losing touch with the real conditions of human life. The manner in which classical liberals ignored such obvious facts of human life for the sake of preserving their pristine abstractions forced them to deny salient features of actual human psychology. They thereby committed themselves to what Dewey called the fallacy of ‘intellectualism’ (LW 1: 28). This fallacy consists in abstracting so far away from concrete situations that the theory loses touch with the salient features of the original situation and then projects back onto the original situation categories that bear no meaningful relation to the actual problem at hand (Boisvert 1998: 18–20). Going further still, Dewey rejects the idea that our ends or interests can be asocial or given. Why? He maintains that our very ability to comprehend and formulate our own interests is something we develop as a

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


result of interacting with others. The most significant tool for acquiring self-knowledge and self-description is language and it is thus through the acquisition and use of language that an individual becomes a fully formed self.7 He writes: “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). Yet, this capacity to speak and communicate is entirely socially inherited. Consequently, interactions with others are the prima materia from which our awareness and our experience of self emerge: “Apart from the social medium, the individual would never ‘know himself’; he would never become acquainted with his own needs and capacities” (MW 5: 388). Awareness of such needs and capacities is what we usually understand by the notion of an individual’s interests. Dewey adds that the content of these interests is also the product of social interaction. For him, humans and their interests are fundamentally shaped by the expectations and needs of significant others. He claims that “man is not merely de facto associated, but he becomes a social animal in the make-up of his ideas, sentiments and deliberate behavior. What he believes, hopes for and aims at is the outcome of association and intercourse” (LW 2: 251—emphases in original). Thus, for Dewey, humans do not have pre-given interests, established once and for all prior to the process of socialisation; they generate their interests out of their interactions with their immediate environment. Acquiring the tools of imagination and communication from significant others is a necessary condition for becoming an individually distinct self, with motivations and interests. After that, individual motivations and interests are sculpted, like the bed of a river, out of the primary materials constituted by the survival instinct and other primordial motives by the flow of social interactions. Before we go any further, let us first recapitulate: the picture of human motivation offered by classical liberalism rests upon the belief that individuals possess fixed interests. For example, they believed that humans inherently have an interest in being protected from harm and furthering their own conception of the good. Dewey does not deny that humans have such interests so much as he rejects the idea that such interests are pre-given or pre-social. To be clear, we have seen that he rejects the idea that we can make sense of what it means to be harmed or what it means to have interests without relying on a tool that is inescapably acquired by the individual through the process of socialisation: namely, language. This is why Dewey rejects the classical liberal account of human psychology as asocial and fixed. The obvious consequence of the views I have attributed to Dewey so far is that humans, for him, are not best understood as asocial, self-interested utility maximisers. They are best understood as members of communities, who learn through complex mechanisms of socialisation how to understand and control themselves and their environments. This task is driven by the dialogic interaction of the self with


Part III

its social and physical environment such as to make such environment amenable to (i) reliably meeting survival needs, and (ii) eventually meeting wider emotional needs that enable individual self-realisation. This, on the Deweyan view, is inevitably done by learning from and working with others. Ultimately, Dewey tells us that it is this collective process of self-formation that is the key to truly understanding the notion of human individuality. c. Individuality: Achieved Not Given If Abraham Lincoln once observed that “every man is born an original, but sadly, most men die copies,” then Dewey would have answered that we are all born with the potential for originality (or individuality), but only those lucky enough to benefit from supportive social conditions can actualise this potential before death. Thus, individuality, understood as the process of becoming the very person that one is (as opposed to being a ‘copy’, to use Lincoln’s phrase) involves learning to responsibly choose to live one’s life as one sees fit in response to one’s community and environment. Learning to responsibly make such decisions is a social and a dynamic process for Dewey. He writes: “Only in social groups does a person have a chance to develop individuality” (MW 15: 176). Or elsewhere: “the human being is an individual because of and in relations with others” (LW 7: 227). Autonomous choice is thus a pre-given potentiality but not a pre-given ability. The actual ability to choose requires meaningful interaction with others and the acquisition of important dispositions (such as, for example, critical thought, creative imagination, careful consideration of relevant factors, drawing on collective cultural values and knowledge, etc.). Thus, although Dewey believes, like classical liberals, that individuality is the fundamental goal of human life, he sees this individuality as a task to be achieved through a complex and dynamic social process of development, not a static, pregiven fact of human life. He therefore argues that “an individual is nothing fixed, given readymade. It is something achieved, and achieved not in isolation but with the aid and support of conditions, cultural and physical:—including in ‘cultural’, economic, legal and political institutions as well as science and art” (LW 11: 291). Again, the individuality classical liberals take as given, Dewey sees as a task to be achieved, as the result of a process of interaction with our environment and our community. He continues: “social conditions may restrict, distort and almost prevent the development of individuality. [Dewey] therefore takes an active interest in the working of social institutions that have a bearing, positive or negative, upon the growth of individuals” (LW 11: 291) because “society and individuals are correlative, organic, to one another” (MW 12: 187). Elsewhere, he explains:

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


To learn to be human, is 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. (LW 2: 332) Crucially, this communally acquired individuality is not merely characterised by learning how to obtain what one already desires and wants; rather, it is the very process through which one comes to desire and want what one eventually does. To be clear, “[a]ssociation does not create impulses of affection and dislike, but it furnishes the objects to which they attach themselves” (MW 9: 21). Or said otherwise, “[n]ative human nature supplies the raw materials, but custom furnishes the machinery and the designs” (MW 14: 78). This comes down to saying that individuality is not pre-given or fixed; it is plastic—though not infinitely plastic—and the necessary tools to sculpt the self are acquired by the self through complex processes of interaction with significant others.8 This model of the development of human prizing also applies to human identity: we learn to identify ourselves as the individuals that we are as distinct members of our community through relationships entertained with significant others. In fact, he goes so far as to claim that “apart from the ties which bind [the human being] to others, he is nothing” (LW 7: 323). Therefore, Dewey presents us with a fundamentally socially embedded conception of individuality and human nature, where the self cannot be fully extracted from her community without being needlessly and meaninglessly abstracted away from her actual conditions of living. Instead, we are to envision individuality as an accomplishment—a dynamic capacity one develops, not a given one simply inherits. Individuality requires that individuals responsibly choose for themselves how to act, but they can only learn how to make meaningful choices for themselves through interactions with others. Thus, culture understood as human association is the fundamental site for the development of the capabilities that eventually enable individualisation. He writes: As the developing growth of an individual from embryo to maturity is the result of interaction of organism with surroundings, so culture is the product not of efforts of men put forth in a void or just upon themselves, but of prolonged and cumulative interaction with environment. (LW 10: 34–35) In the last instance, for Dewey, this notion of individuality—to be who one really is by solving problems, by responsibly making choices in the face of imagined possibilities and concrete limitations—is the goal of human life. That is why, for him, “[l]ife still centres in individuals and


Part III

always will” (LW 11: 388). In order for individuals to be truly individual, they must develop the capacities to make autonomous choices in response to the lifeworld in which they operate. Thus, individuality is a life of autonomous yet practically limited and socially embedded choice, not a life of unfettered egoistic willing. Ultimately, individuality is to be understood as an endless process, as a work-in-progress with no finishing point. There is no pre-given terminus towards which each individual is bound to tend other than individuality (or ‘personality’) itself. This process of self-realisation is what Dewey calls ‘growth’. Growth involves the fulfilment of fundamental human needs—not just physical needs; needs understood in the widest sense of the word—by continuously solving problems (LW 13: 286). A life of growth for Dewey is the ultimate moral end and it is the true meaning of freedom.9 Thus, in Dewey’s mouth, ‘freedom’, ‘individuality’, and ‘growth’ are largely synonymous. On the basis of this, I will now show how his conception of freedom radically departs from that defended by classical liberalism.

6.3. Freedom as Individuality: A Teleology Without an End Liberty does not mean the removal of the checks which nature and man impose on the life of every individual in the community, so that one individual may indulge impulses which go against his own welfare as a member of society. But liberty for the child is the chance to test all impulses and tendencies on the world of things and people in which he finds himself, sufficiently to discover their character so that he may get rid of those which are harmful, and develop those which are useful to himself and others. (MW 8: 297) The only freedom that is of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment, exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while. The commonest mistake made about freedom is, I think, to identify it with freedom of movement, or, with the external or physical side of activity. (LW 13: 39)

Dewey claims that the “negative view of freedom is the root of the defects in [old] individualism” (LW 15: 181). According to old individualism, “individuals [are] endowed with an equipment of fixed and ready-made capacities, the operation of which if unobstructed by external restrictions would be freedom, and a freedom which would almost automatically solve political and economic problems” (LW 3: 99). As we have seen, Dewey thinks that there are no such “fixed and ready-made capacities.” He claims that “individuality is not originally given but is created under the influences of associated life” (MW 12: 193). As a result, he rejects the

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


notion that we can establish once and for all where the line between the individual and society, and between a private sphere—that is, “the area within which the subject—a person or group of persons—[. . .] should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons” (Berlin 1969: 2)—and a public sphere (that is, the domain where state coercion is legitimate) are to be drawn. To be clear, it is not so much that Dewey denies that “there ought to exist a certain minimum area of personal [political] freedom which must on no account be violated” (Berlin 1969: 4); it is rather that Dewey denies that any a priori answer to this political question can hope to settle, once and for all, the legitimate demarcation between individual interests and those of society. Since freedom for Dewey is “something to be achieved [not] an original possession” (LW 3: 103), freedom cannot be understood in its negative sense, as a mere absence of external constraints: because each of us learns to be a free individual in relationship with others, it is unintelligible to cleanly and entirely separate the domain of ‘self’ from that of ‘others’. The interactions are too deep, too messy, and ultimately too mutually constitutive to be able to set out in advance where for each case the one should begin and where the other should end. According to Dewey, the classical liberal attempt at a metaphysical separation between the self and society is a false dualism. Although we can make sense of meaningful distinctions between the self and others in a great deal of morally and politically relevant contexts, the transformation of these relations into two entirely distinct categories smacks of reification—that is, “the accidental error of mistaking the abstract for the concrete” (Whitehead 1997: 51). Classical liberals held steadfastly to the negative notion of liberty because they wanted to defend the interests of the individual from external coercion. As we have seen, Dewey’s reply consists in rejecting the assumption that individuals meaningfully have pre-given interests prior to entering social relations. For him, individuals have interests as a result of interactions with their respective communities. To be clear, “[a]ssociation does not create impulses of affection and dislike, but it furnishes the objects to which they attach themselves” (MW 9: 21). Thus, Dewey concludes that “an individual’s desires take shape under the influence of the human environment” (LW 10: 274). Still, Dewey does not deny the existence of particular conflicts between the interests of individuals, or between those of particular groups, and the rest of the community: such as relating to, for example, the relative distribution of material resources and power, the personal preference to indulge in socially destructive activities, or the collective intention to scapegoat an unsuspecting individual to propitiate the wrath of the Gods or to satisfy the mob’s thirst for blood. In each of these cases, there are clearly conflicting interests. Campbell (1995: 45) writes: “Some people often want to, and everybody at least sometimes wants to, act completely independently of the group. Still, Dewey believes that individuals are


Part III

‘chiefly interested upon the whole, in entering into activities of others and taking part in conjoint and cooperative doings’ (MW 9: 28).” Thus, in general, humans seek a certain degree of recognition and a sense of belonging from significant others. When this drive is overcome by desires that break the expectations of one’s community, we have a conflict. This is the type of conflict that calls for peaceful social resolution, thus establishing a line between a public and a private sphere. Yet, since, for Dewey, there is an enmeshment of personal and collective interests at a deep level, he does not think that we can hope to establish, in the abstract, a fully worked out method of delineation between the interests of the individual from those of her community. Instead, we must do so in the particular cases where conflicts arise. Why? General answers are unlikely to offer good answers to particular problems. Specifically, in the case of drawing the line between a private sphere (where the state ought not compel citizens to act in a particular way) and a public sphere (where the state is legitimate in coercing individual behaviour), we must be wary of accepting received ideas: it was not so long ago that slavery, overt sexism, and racial discrimination and abuse were looked upon as perfectly acceptable public behaviour in advanced democracies. Allow me to take some less morally charged examples of behaviours that were once deemed to be self-regarding but no longer are: choosing whether or not to have unprotected sex (see, for example, Philipson & Posner 1993: 126–153), smoking tobacco (see Pampel 2009), and being depressed (see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1999). Although liberal democratic states once steered away from interfering with these aspects of citizens’ personal lives, most of these states have now recognised that all three situations carry repercussions in the wider community that warrant state interference. In all three cases, most liberal democratic nations have now come to recognise that these intimate behaviours can and often do have profound repercussions on the lives of others—perhaps not to such an extent as to warrant the promulgation of an outright ban on each of these behaviours, but enough to warrant more subtle forms of state interference (such as, for example, publicly funded sexual and mental health programmes, awareness campaigns, and banning cigarette-smoking in public places). The relevant point here is that before these political and cultural changes had taken place, these examples were held as exemplars of entirely self-regarding actions. Now they are no longer beyond the reach of legitimate state coercion. Arguably, greater understanding of these issues has led us to determine that the chain of causal relations rendered such actions more public than we had once admitted. Thus, in those cases, the line between the public and the private sphere has been redrawn.10 Conversely, looking up the causal chain, choices that may seem intensely personal may be significantly influenced by the wider social contexts in

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


which we operate. For example, research shows that perceived social acceptability has an effect on the likelihood of smoking cigarettes (Alamar & Glantz 2006; Cataldo, Jahan & Pongquan 2012) and that gender and socio-cultural factors impact upon the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual practices (World Health Organization 2005: 10, 57), as well as on the prevalence of mental health issues (Fried & Lindemann 1961). In cases such as these, it would appear that wider social groups have a fundamental impact on the seemingly personal behaviours of individuals. This suggests that personal choices are not always discreetly personal. They are often the product, at least partially, of the influences that wider social groups exert on individuals. Thus, public health social scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, conclude—perhaps a little glibly—that: Social influence does not end with the people we know. If we affect our friends, and they affect their friends, then our actions can potentially affect people we have never met. We discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend gained weight, you gained weight. We discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend stopped smoking, you stopped smoking. And we discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend became happy, you became happy. (Christakis & Fowler 2010: xi) This highlights the level of interdependence humans actually experience. It is this interdependence which leads Dewey to reject the classical liberal notion of a clean dichotomy between public and private realms. He thus insists that we must allow determinations between what is indeed public and what is private to be made collectively by citizens in response to experienced social problems, such that “the line between private and public [be] drawn on the basis of the extent and scope of the consequences of acts which are so important as to need control, whether by inhibition or by promotion” (LW 2: 245). To summarise, because the boundary between the interests of self and others are not inherently clear, we must make it clearer one step at a time by engaging in the art of collective problem solving—not in advance or in the abstract. Classical liberals rejected this degree of messiness and uncertainty. They had the ambition of establishing in advance a standard of legitimacy by which to constrain the behaviour of a potentially tyrannical state towards its citizens. But this was not just a political commitment. It was also epistemic. Classical liberals were, after all, committed to the quest for certainty Dewey adamantly rejects, and they thus sought unshakable answers where only precarious ones could perhaps be found. The failure of this school of thought to understand the full complexity of real relationships between self and others blinded it to the possibility that, whatever abstract theory told us, individuality and freedom had


Part III

to be redefined in practice by confronting real social problems. On the Deweyan picture, no rights are thus unalienable by virtue of some kind of abstract or pre-social reality. They are called ‘unalienable’ rights because we, as a community, at a given time, have deemed it to be of social value to give priority to some rights rather than others, or because after much deliberation and experimentation in modes of collective living, we have found, after full investigation, that, all things considered, certain rights are unalienable for a whole host of compelling reasons. But we cannot decide about such things in the abstract. The social world is far too complex for abstractions to flatly and cleanly solve problems before the full details of concrete problems make themselves felt. That is why, in the last instance, for Dewey, determining the appropriate ways in which the state and other agents can interact with the self is a social matter, a matter always resolved by a particular group of people at a particular time, in the process of deciding how to confront our collective problems. Freedom, he thus writes, “is always a social question” (LW 11: 361–362). But, in fact, Dewey’s claims about the political meaning of freedom— that is, where the line between the public and the private sphere is to be drawn—as a fundamentally social and inescapably practical matter, follow from his wider conception of freedom—freedom understood in its fullest sense. It is because he objects to the atomistic reductionism inherent in the claim that “[t]he only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way” (Mill 1978: 12) that he rejects the classical liberal notion of liberty as merely political liberty. For Dewey, the deepest meaning of liberty is thoroughly ethical and involves a complex conception of human flourishing understood as growth. Failing to understand this would be a failure to grapple with the foundation upon which his democratic ideal ultimately rests. In order to explain this democratic ideal, I must thus first offer an overview of his more general conception of freedom. I will therefore present six of its dimensions. a. Freedom as Intelligent Choice Dewey writes, “Liberty is not a numerical notion of isolation; it is the ethical idea that personality is the supreme and only law, that every man is an absolute end in himself” (EW 1: 62). Matthew Festenstein, a commentator and sympathetic critic of Dewey’s, interprets this by claiming that “freedom consists in ‘intelligent self-control’ (MW 5: 392). An aspect of freedom as individuality is the capacity and the willingness of an agent to reflect on her own goals, aims and purposes, and to revise them as a result of this reflection” (Festenstein 1997: 67). In other words, freedom involves the capacity to deliberate and meaningfully choose the course of action one follows in a given context. Festenstein (1997: 67) reads Dewey as identifying a weak sense of freedom in which we all express dispositional preferences in how we deal with our

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


environment and a strong sense in which we critically reflect upon our life and our commitments prior to choosing how to act. I further interpret Dewey as holding that freedom requires that we develop the skills and dispositions which will enable both systems to fruitfully interact—to engage in dialogue—when problematic situations arise. For him, moral deliberation involves a series of interactions between the thinking and the feeling sides of the human psyche, between an agent’s mind, imagining a diversity of possible scenarios, and her emotions as she experiences her responses to each imagined scenario. Thus, Axel Honneth (1998: 693) writes, “[Dewey] comes to the conclusion that what plays a central part in the individual reflection on the future shape of life is the emotional reactions that ensue when anticipating the practical consequences that would follow from the realization of each of the various need interpretations.” Dewey’s insistence on the distinction between what is desired and what is desirable flows from this. Although the agent must start from imaginings that are related to her immediate desires, her process of emotional reflection can yield a fundamental change in what she deems to be desirable. Hence, the process of critical reflection is a crucial aspect of freedom. Dewey explains: “Genuine freedom [. . .] is intellectual; it rests in the trained power of thought, in ability to ‘turn things over’, to look at matters deliberately, to judge whether the amount and kind of evidence requisite for decision is at hand, and if not, to tell where and how to seek such evidence” (LW 8: 186). Thus, freedom in its fullest sense is not unbounded desiring but autonomous reflective decision-making. b. Freedom as an Exercise in Problem Solving Freedom involves dealing with concrete problems, in the here and now. Recall that for Dewey all meaningful thought is directed towards solving a particular problem; that is, we only engage in real decision-making when we face a concrete inability to go on functioning as we did before. It is in those situations that we must exercise the freedom to choose how to act. Freedom, accordingly, is the process of consciously encountering and overcoming problems. He thus writes, “Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces” (LW 11: 35). Thus, the responsible autonomous decision-maker is to be fully responsive to the concrete limitations of her situation. Decisions must be made in response to actual problems by considering genuine limitations and by identifying relevant aspects of the situation (see Honneth 1998: 696– 697). Thus, deliberations cannot be made in advance or in the abstract. Nevertheless, having a theoretical understanding of relevant moral and practical considerations can help an agent become more sensitive to the full array of possibilities and concerns she must take into account before deciding how to act. Yet, he warns us that it does not provide


Part III

pre-established answers, or “a table of commandments in a catechism” (LW 7: 166)—to use his colourful phrase. Thus, an agent cannot determine the right course of action in abstracto, merely on the basis of general rules. She must face the moral world as it is—in all its murkiness and complexity. Her ability to reflect upon what is to be done is of great moral importance—it is an important part of what gives her freedom to choose how to act but only insofar as it serves the resolution of particular problematic situations. c. Freedom Is a Developmental Achievement Freedom is not a state of being for Dewey. It is a dynamic process of selfrealisation through which the individual fully realises her true nature. How so? Through the agent’s encounters with the series of problems presented to her throughout her life, she grows in conscious understanding both of herself and of the environment in which she operates: she grows in her capacity to make meaningful choices for herself. Experiencing the strain of resistance upon one’s will makes one more aware of external limitations, and by confronting such limitations head on, and consciously choosing how to act in the face of limited options, one becomes more aware of what (that is, a being gifted with the capacity to choose) and who (that is, a person who makes precisely the decisions one makes) one actually is. Each act of conscious overcoming, each act of deliberate choice, makes the self more aware of itself by forcing it to confront what it is—one choice at a time. “Consequently”, Dewey writes, “it is proper to say that in choosing this object rather than that, one is in reality choosing what kind of person or self one is going to be. Superficially, the deliberation which terminates in choice is concerned with weighing the values of particular ends. Below the surface, it is a process of discovering what sort of being a person most wants to become” (LW 7: 287). This process, Dewey calls ‘growth’ and he holds it to be the ultimate goal of human life. In a rather different context, Edward Whitmont (1982: 212) lyrically evokes this process of self-overcoming: [T]he ego is challenged to be alert for cues and take its chances on guessing and improvising as the action unfolds. Herein lies our freedom, but also our responsibility: not for the conflicts, unacceptable qualities, or mix-ups we have gotten into—but for our performance; for how we respond to these difficulties, how we use our talents. [.  .  .] The stern limitation of destiny includes freedom: this is the great paradox of life: limitation and freedom are opposite poles on the axis of self-discovery through creative responsiveness or responsibility. Freedom is not absence of restraint and limitation but a particular, imaginative way of responding to these limitations, or using them to discover and invent. [. . .] Freedom is the ability to be one’s

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


authentic self and to choose. Therein lies its very built-in limitation. I can only be what is in accord with my intrinsic nature. [. . .] The use of one’s freedom demands a sensitivity to pattern and timing, in a sense of kairos, of those moments when freedom is given and choice is possible. Logic and reason may help, but intuition and feeling, a quasi-artistic sense for the dramatic moment, is still better. This passage vividly expresses major aspects of the Deweyan conception of growth. However, it leaves out three further crucial aspects: the need to learn the tools that will enable us to embark on this developmental journey; the interdependence between self and community presupposed by the learning process; and the need to actually use such tools in order to engage in the process of becoming free. d. Freedom Is a Teleology Without an End Freedom, for Dewey, is autonomous choice and self-realisation arrived at as a result of repeated confrontation with concrete limitations. In other words, freedom is intelligent problem solving. This is something we must learn how to do—at least, if we are to do it well. Minimally, intelligent choice presupposes the possession of certain cognitive capacities (such as the ability to imagine, to think, and to create) and emotional dispositions (such as the disposition to care for certain people and for certain things rather than others). The development of these capacities and dispositions requires both the political right to think for one’s self without fearing punishment, and fostering these abilities and dispositions through ‘education’ in the broadest possible sense of the word (including play, conversation and, of course, formal education). Thus freedom requires the actual development of capacities learnt from others. Merely being left to one’s own devices does not produce freedom, for Dewey: “No man and no mind was ever emancipated merely by being left alone” (LW 2: 340). If freedom is to avoid being merely formal, it must offer the actual ability to do things. Boisvert (1998: 62) writes: Effective freedom [. . . means] the concrete capacity to carry out a course of action. The claim “I am free to speak Spanish,” in its fullest sense, means that, given the opportunity, I could actually carry on a conversation. In the concrete world of practice, not the abstract world of formal possibility, I am not free merely because socio-legal restraints are absent. I am free when I can converse intelligibly with someone. Thus, freedom involves developing actual capabilities, not abstract potentialities (LW 13: 41). The transformation of potentialities into capabilities is a social process: I can only learn to choose who I want to be by


Part III

developing my decision-making capabilities in consort with others. Freedom understood as growth in one’s ability to make autonomous decisions is thus the ultimate aim of human life for Dewey. This account is sometimes described as teleological in the sense that it sets out a pre-given end towards which we are to strive. But it should be clear that this telos is not closed and cannot be meaningfully externally imposed on individuals. Striving towards this telos requires specific social and environmental conditions of development, but it is not a matter of imposing specific choices upon individuals. Why? Because the telos towards which Dewey thinks we strive is precisely the exercise of our capacity to make responsible decisions. This betrays traces of Hegelianism in Dewey’s philosophy since this conception of freedom structurally mirrors Hegel’s conception of Development. Hegel characterises it as “the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual” (1977: 10). Despite sharing in this circular structure, Dewey systematically emphasises the plurality and openness of the ends through which freedom and human development are actualised.11 That is why I like to oxymoronically refer to Dewey’s conception of human flourishing as a ‘teleology without an end’. To illustrate this point, Matthew Taylor has suggested that we should think of human autonomy as “an elephant being ridden through a cultivated jungle, in which the rider is our conscious thought, the elephant our automatic systems and the jungle our social context. The skilful elephant rider is not under the illusion he can take any route at any speed but understands the habits of elephants and the advantages and pitfalls of different paths through the jungle” (2010: 12). This understanding of autonomy highlights the fact that freedom or autonomy may not have a pre-given end, but it does require that we follow some routes rather than others, for some just happen to offer better chances for survival or a greater variety of options than others. For Dewey, the royal route we must all follow to radically expand our options is education. e. Freedom Is Educational and Ethical Recall that for Dewey, one is not born an individual, one becomes one through the educational and inevitably social process of interaction with one’s community and environment, first by learning to communicate with others, and eventually by learning to critically deliberate for one’s self thanks to the acquisition of intellectual skills and emotional dispositions from others. Dewey explains: Society exists through a process of transmission quite as much as biological life. [. . .] Society not only continues to exist by transmission, by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in transmission,

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


in communication. [.  .  .] The communication which insures participation in a common understanding is one which secures similar emotional and intellectual dispositions—like ways of responding to expectations and requirements. (MW 9: 6, 7) Thus, Richard Shusterman (1997: 201) aptly points out that Dewey insists “not only on the social construction of the self but also on the essentially social nature of self-realization.” He continues: Although advocating individual “self-realization as the moral ideal,” [Dewey] argued that the individual self is best fulfilled not by consciously attending to its individuality, but by instead attending to social relations and shared concerns that shape and enrich the self in forming its interacting environment. “Self-realization may be the end” but preoccupation with self is not the way to achieve it. For “to make self realization a conscious aim might and probably would prevent full attention to those very relationships which bring about the wider development of the self.” (LW 7: 302) Freedom of the self is thus best achieved by caring not for the self per se but for the group. In A Common Faith, Dewey writes: The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.12 (LW 9: 58) Freedom should thus be considered a communal and an educative process: the process of growth through which we become ever more capable to choose for ourselves who we want to be on the basis of the complex interactions we entertain with our social group. Thus, although freedom gives me the capacity to choose for myself, I fundamentally depend on others to understand, develop, and exercise my freedom. Interaction with my community enables me to learn to identify with my interests and myself. Through this interaction, I thus learn what it means to responsibly make choices for myself. But I can only learn to do this by engaging in common activities that enable the development of meaningful relationships with significant others. Such common activities presuppose common ends-in-view, shared goals. The pursuit of these goals is what enables


Part III

me to become the kind of being who can make individually distinctive choices. Yet, once I have acquired those skills through social interactions, they cannot be expunged of their inter-personal roots: Even the hermit and Robinson Crusoe, as far as they live on a plane higher than that of the brutes, continue even in physical isolation to be what they are, to think the thoughts which go through their minds, to entertain their characteristic aspirations, because of social connections which existed in the past and which still persist in their imagination and emotions. (LW 7: 323) Thus, to reiterate—the self and its community are doubly bound: first, at the level of personal survival and basic functioning (we need others to survive when we are young and fragile); second, at the level of the development of self as autonomous, that is, in the educative process through which one attains the full realisation of one’s capacities (this process occurs throughout life). As a result, my self-conception is inextricably bound up with that of my social group and my self-realisation is only truly fulfilled through my commitments (conscious or unconscious) to my community. Or as Dewey writes, “an individual’s desires take shape under the influence of the human environment” (MW 9: 21; LW 10: 274). Thus, Festenstein (1997: 68) writes: Since freedom consists in “the power of varied and flexible growth,” it possesses a moral dimension [. . .] it is crucial to this conception of growth or self-realization that pursuit of the human good embroils the agent in the moral life: the reflective pursuit of desires and interests which promote individual growth is not morally neutral but includes a commitment to ethical and social ends. What exactly these ethical and social ends are remains an open-ended question (I offer a more explicit argument to this effect in Chapter 8). Yet, what is now clear is that freedom as growth is enabled by meaningful interactions with one’s community. Having meaningful interactions with one’s community is thus a necessary condition for the exercise of genuine freedom. Thus, freedom requires that we actually engage in associative living. f. Freedom Requires Engaging in the Exercise of Collective Intelligence I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity. [. . .] For to be free

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning. (Nelson Mandela 1994: 624–625)

Festenstein explains that “Dewey’s conception of freedom belongs to the tradition which argues that we can only be said to be fully or genuinely free if we are engaged in those activities which are most conducive to eudaimonia or ‘human flourishing’, and which may therefore be said to embody our deepest human purposes” (1997: 68). On my reading, ‘our deepest human purposes’ for Dewey is best understood as the need to solve our problems. Engaging in problem solving activities, on this account, fundamentally involves making one’s own ‘special’ contribution to one’s social group. In other words, my freedom and flourishing requires that I determine who I am, but that very process crucially requires that I actually seek to contribute my idiosyncratic stone to the social edifice. Festenstein (1997: 70) remarks: Freedom is thought to involve participation in shaping the social conditions of individuality. Liberty “is that secure release and fulfilment of human 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). Freedom requires that each person play his part in moulding his social environment through democratic institutions. It is thus only through interactions with others and by sharing in the devising of common goals that we come to be fully free. It is not enough to simply have the theoretical capacity to make intelligent and responsible decisions within the collectivity—we must actually do so to fully engage in the process of self-realisation that is freedom. Dewey thus holds what some of his commentators (see Festenstein 1997: 68–69; Boisvert 1998: 62–63) refer to as an ‘exercise’ concept of freedom: engaging in certain collective tasks is a necessary part of developing the ability to make genuine choices. This is not to say that individuals cannot choose to make choices of their own. As Shusterman informs us, “individual expression in lifestyles” are understandable, “since differences in our talents, situations, and inclinations will make for distinctive contributions to the society and values we share.” Furthermore, he specifies that it does not “mean that every life must be devoted to politics, since the realm of shared interests is much wider. But it does militate against extreme concentration of the self’s distinction and more private gratifications” (1997: 201). To be clear: the ultimate goal of


Part III

freedom or of this process of individualisation is growth, individuality, or personality—that is to say, the practical and conscious articulation of self as self by encountering and successfully resolving problems. This process, for Dewey, is only truly achieved when the self is appropriately supported by and engaged in the affairs of her community. In other words, responding to problems and the associated sculpting of the self in relation to one’s environment and community are the ultimate goals of freedom. In summary, I have presented Dewey’s rejection of the classical liberal conception of negative freedom and his conception of freedom as growth. Dewey thus envisions freedom as a self-aware and socially embedded notion of autonomy. Once we fully understand Dewey’s conception of freedom, we understand that it requires that individuals be provided with special social conditions: 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) Furthermore, he adds: Government, business, art, religion, all social institutions have a meaning, a purpose. That purpose is to set free and to develop the capacities of human individuals without respect to race, sex, class or economic status. And this is all one with saying that the test of their value is the extent to which they educate every individual into the full stature of his possibility. Democracy has many meanings, but if it has a moral meaning, it is found in resolving that the supreme test of all political institutions and industrial arrangements shall be the contribution they make to the all-around growth of every member of society. (MW 12: 186) Dewey’s democratic ideal is intended to be the articulation of the social conditions of genuine freedom.

6.4. Democracy as a Social Ideal Democracy and the one, ultimate, ethical ideal of humanity are to my mind synonyms. (EW 1: 248)

At the beginning of this chapter (6.1), I suggested that Dewey’s conception of democracy is rather different to traditional philosophical ideals.

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


Now that I am about to discuss his democratic ideal in greater detail, more needs to be said about this. If traditional political philosophers approach the question of how society ought to be arranged much as an architect approaches the construction of a house, with the intention of drawing up a blue print to lead construction to a pre-given final design, Dewey, in contrast, approaches the question more like a psychotherapist working with an unhappy client. That is to say, he thinks of democracy as providing a framework for citizenries to become more aware of the source(s) of their unease(s), and by making such ailment(s) more conscious, enabling them to consciously confront the resulting choice(s) they face. Dewey’s social philosophy is, at its core, a method of social reconstruction. As I have already suggested, ‘method’ here is not to be understood in a narrowly prescriptive sense; it is rather to be understood as a method for assessing more specific methods used to resolve social problems. In this sense, it is a meta-method. Campbell explains that Dewey specifies that this meta-method is driven by the following evaluations: Bad methods are [. . .] methods that produce “short-cut ‘solutions’” that “do not get rid of the conflict and problems; they only get rid of the feeling of it” (MW 12: 160). As [Dewey] notes, “[u]ncertainty is got rid of by fair means or foul” (LW 4: 181). On the other hand, a good method would “protect the mind against itself” (MW 12: 99) by making sure that the doubt was put to “productive use” (LW 4: 182) by the inquirers who recognize that the existence of such problems requires that they make changes through social exploration and evaluation. (Campbell 1995: 148) The application of this critical method of social reconstruction operates at two stages of the problem solving process. The first locus is situated in the process of articulating our problems and devising potential solutions. This task involves drawing on the experiences of those experiencing the disturbance and the expertise of those in possession of relevant technical knowledge to refine formulations of the problem and our tools of analysis. It calls on experts and the affected public to think critically and creatively about the ways in which we formulate our problems and hypothetical solutions such as to find the best candidate solutions. Thus, the first aspect of social reconstruction is that it is an intellectual task. The second locus is found at the point of decision-making. It involves “the public [in] testing and evaluating [the] ideas and proposals that the experts and others have put forward, and the enactment of those that are found to be effective” (Campbell 1995: 151). Dewey’s method of social reconstruction is thus intended both to improve how we think about collective problem solving and how we deliberate about the actions we eventually resolve to carry out.


Part III

I agree with Campbell that this method of social reconstruction is the appropriate prism through which to understand both Dewey’s philosophical ambitions (since he thinks of his philosophy as contributing in the intellectual task of the first locus) and the content of his philosophy (which he sees as producing hypotheses to be tested out by the wider public in the second locus). Dewey’s conception of democracy consists in the general application of this notion of social reconstruction. It is therefore correct to say that Dewey’s democratic ideal is an ethical ideal: it intends to help us identify what is amiss in our existing practices and help us find ways to improve our responses to problematic situations. Yet, somewhat unusually, it is not ethically prescriptive: it does not pre-empt actual democratic decision-making by telling us in advance which decisions are the most ethical or rational. Instead, he honours the primacy of inquiry: for him, the decisions democratic communities actually make ultimately establish standards of morality and rationality. However, in order for such decisions to be genuinely democratic, they must be the result of a free and open dialogue among citizens. Indeed, Festenstein notes that, for Dewey, “[d]emocracy is the precondition for intelligent deliberation in addressing social and political problems, and is necessary for the autonomous resolution of these problems by the individuals involved” (1997: 89). I thus follow Festenstein in thinking that we should interpret Dewey’s democratic ideal as the generalisation of his conception of freedom: with his democratic ideal, Dewey seeks to extend his conception of freedom from the context of an individual involved in face-to-face relationships to the context of an individual living in large, diffuse, and complex societies. Said otherwise, Deweyan democracy is thus the articulation of the modern social conditions for freedom or personality. He writes: In one word, democracy means that personality is the first and final reality. It admits that the full significance of personality can be learned by the individual only as it is already presented to him in objective form in society; it admits that the chief stimuli and encouragements to the realization of personality come from society; but it holds, none the less, to the fact that personality cannot be procured for any one, however degraded and feeble, by any one else, however wise and strong. It holds that the spirit of personality indwells in every individual and that the choice to develop it must proceed from that individual. From this central position of personality result the other notes of democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity,—words which are not mere words to catch the mob, but symbols of the highest ethical idea which humanity has yet reached—the idea that personality is the one thing of permanent and abiding worth, and that in every human individual there lies personality. (EW 1: 244)

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


Recall that for Dewey, freedom or personality consists in the capacity to responsibly make autonomous decisions and is an inter-personal and developmental achievement. The social context in which we operate is therefore of crucial importance in securing the habits of functioning that will enable us to make free choices. He remarks: If we want individuals to be free we must see to it that suitable conditions exist:—a truism which at least indicates the direction in which to look and move. It tells us among other things to get rid of the idea that leads us to believe that democratic conditions automatically maintain themselves, or that they can be identified with fulfillment of prescriptions laid down in a constitution. (LW 13: 87) As a result, on Dewey’s account, free citizens will need to benefit from and take part in particular social arrangements, such as to develop the specific capacities and dispositions that will enable them to freely contribute in the task of collective problem solving and develop personality. These social conditions are ultimately the object of Dewey’s democratic ideal. Thus Boisvert writes that “[d]emocracy, for Dewey, represents the ideal manifestation of community life” (1998: 55). Deweyan democracy is therefore a social ideal that aims to enable effective social reconstruction and thereby further the social peace by enabling all citizens to have a meaningful chance to live a life characterised by personality. The best way to explain the details of Dewey’s democratic ideal is to begin by specifying what it is not. Following Dewey’s own tendency, in this section, I pit Deweyan democracy against the classical liberal account of liberal democracy. That is why I present his objections to classical liberalism’s conception of democracy (6.5) before moving on to present the core tenets of Deweyan democracy (6.6).

6.5. Beyond Liberal Democracy Classical liberalism is the recurring foe in Dewey’s political thought. Nevertheless, throughout his work, Dewey is careful to specify that he does not object to the moral sentiments that originally motivated the rise of classical liberalism and that he does not object to the practical instantiation of its associated institutional arrangement, namely, liberal democracy. Dewey recognises that liberal democracy, which he calls ‘political democracy’, came into being as a response to real problems: the tyranny of the old regime was real and so was the immense suffering it caused. Moreover, Dewey sees liberal democratic principles and institutions as tools that effectively, though imperfectly, responded to such problems.13 What Dewey rejects, in the end, is the belief that this imperfection is merely to be accepted and not ameliorated. Thus, at its heart, Dewey’s


Part III

argument is an objection to the notion that liberal democracy is the finest, truest, or final meaning of democracy. He thus draws a distinction between political democracy and democracy in its more general sense (that is to say, as a social and ethical ideal). In contrast, classical liberals denied that the word ‘democracy’ ought to have a broader meaning than liberal democracy; they sought to identify democracy solely with majority rule and limited government (Boisvert 1998: 51). This is precisely what Dewey rejects. He does so for three main reasons: (i) the liberal democratic conception of popular participation betrays a deep-seated fear of the people’s capacity to make intelligent collective decisions; (ii) the advent of liberal democracy shaped its conception of democracy around the interests of the bourgeoisie; (iii) presenting democracy as nothing more than liberal democracy threatens to make us blind to continued human suffering. a. Liberal Democracy: Fear and Loathing of the Modern Demos For centuries, there has been a fear that the unchecked rule by the people would be anarchic and turn into tyranny. The Founding Fathers of the United States did not think of themselves as creating a democracy, but rather a new republic. The elaborate system of checks and balances, as well as the Bill of Rights, were intended to counter the abuses of unrestrained democracy. Only in the nineteenth century did the word ‘democracy’ begin to take on a positive connotation, although Alexis de Tocqueville—the most perceptive commentator on American democracy—warned about the many dangers that it confronted. And John Stuart Mill, the great liberal thinker, was worried about the tendency of democratic societies to foster mediocrity. There has always been an undercurrent, even among champions of democracy, that it is neither viable nor desirable to think that a workable democracy can involve the active participation of all the people. (Bernstein 2010: 70)

As Bernstein suggests, classical liberalism only cautiously endorsed a limited notion of democratic participation. In fact, it opted for a republican notion of democratic participation where the involvement of the people was largely limited to voting in regular elections for representatives and occasional referenda. Despite vehement objections from the likes of JeanJacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson, classical liberals came to associate direct democracy with mob rule, vicious partisanship, and political chaos. Classical liberals habitually summoned up the most influential expression of this fear, found in Book VI of Plato’s Republic. There, Plato develops an analogy between a ship and a democratic society. He thus asks us to imagine a ship where the captain is larger and stronger than any of the crew, but a bit deaf and short-sighted, and similarly limited in seamanship. The crew are

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


all quarrelling with each other about how to navigate the ship, each thinking he ought to be at the helm; they have never learned the art of navigation and cannot say that anyone ever taught it them, or that they spent any time studying it; indeed they say it can’t be taught and are ready to murder who says it can. They spend all their time milling around the captain and doing all they can to get him to give them the helm. If one faction is more successful than another, their rivals may kill them and throw them overboard, lay out the honest captain with drugs or drink or in some other way, take control of the ship, help themselves to what’s on board, and turn the voyage into a pleasurecruise you would expect. [. . .] With all this going on aboard aren’t the sailors on any such ship bound to regard the true navigator as a word-spinner and a star-gazer, of no use to them at all? (Plato 1987: 282 [488a–b]) In this analogy, the captain represents the large but challenged demos; while the crew stand for the sophists (or politicians) who seek to manipulate the captain for self-interested reasons; and, finally, the true navigator is the analogue of the philosopher, the lover of wisdom who seeks truth rather than power, but who goes unheeded by the captain because of the excitement and confusion caused by the crew. For Plato, such are the conditions of democracy: in the name of giving everybody a say in the task of government, ignorance, malice, and chaos truly reign. Thus, the good of all is lost in the fight of each struggling for his good at the expense of that of others. He therefore concludes that direct democracy, as a principle of government, spells doom and disaster for all. With no leadership at the helm and self-interested squabbling as the rule, the ship is bound to sink and the captain, the crew, and the true navigator will sink along with it. When reading this passage of Plato’s Republic, I am often reminded of a painting by Théodore Géricault, called The Raft of the Medusa (see Figure 6.1). In it, we see the remains of a ship. I imagine these remains to be much like those of the ship in Plato’s analogy at the end of the democratic pleasure-cruise: the ship is utterly destroyed, with perishing bodies amassed on the one end of the make-shift raft; the captain of the ship is nowhere to be seen—he may have been the first to be pushed overboard, or perhaps he is now one of the rotting corpses. At the front of the raft, some stronger or luckier men—the surviving members of the crew—stand, looking out and signalling to the horizon in the hope that a help as yet unseen by us, but seen (or perhaps imagined) by these distressed survivors, might come to their rescue, Finally, on the bottom left of the painting, we find an old man sat in a pensive mood. This man I see as Plato’s dispirited navigator, the philosopher who knew another way but was ignored, shunned, or mocked as a Cassandra proffering catastrophic predictions that no one wanted to hear for fear that it would ruin their fun. Now that his prophesies have come true, he looks back to


Part III

Figure 6.1 The Raft of the Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse), Théodore Géricault, oil on canvas, 1818–1819, 491 cm × 716 cm (193.3 in. × 282.3 in.) Source: Photo © Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Angèle Dequier

the past—perhaps seeking the point in time where he could have acted otherwise and prevented this disaster—where nobody else is looking, holding his brooding head in his right hand and a dead body in his left. On his face, we read the dark and depressing thought: ‘What a waste!’ I take pains to summon the force with which direct democracy was feared and rejected by Plato because he was a major inspiration for classical liberalism: like Plato, classical liberals feared the stupidity of the mob and the propensity of the masses to turn on individuals and minorities for irrational reasons; like Plato, they believed that only a certain class of people were fit to rule; like Plato, they believed those people to be those in possession of a greater degree of understanding and knowledge than the general populace. Despite these points of convergence, there are some important differences between the Platonic and classical liberal political ideals. On the one hand, Plato believed that it was the task of selfless philosopher-kings to govern in the interests of all. The general argument Plato offered in support of his view can be summarised as follows: since some members of society (i.e. philosopher-kings) are wiser and better trained in the art of

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


ruling, it makes sense to entrust them with the responsibility to guide and direct the affairs of the state. Why? Because, as wise experts in ruling, they will be able to make best use of relevant knowledge to arrive at informed and reasoned decisions in the interests of all when deciding how to rule. On the other hand, although classical liberals shared in the Platonic belief that enlightened people should have more of a say in directing the affairs of the state than the common folk, they did not believe that those who rule should be entirely free to rule as they please. The potential for abuse is far too great. After the despotic horrors exacted by Popes, Kings, and Lords in the name of the ‘common good’ during the Ancien Régime, classical liberals could no longer believe that “[t]he few best, the aristoi [would] rule not in their own interests but in that of society as a whole, and therefore, in that of every individual in society” (EW 1: 242). In their view, the end of tyranny was brought about by the mass realisation that tyrants, however benevolent they intended to be, had a propensity to serve their interests and that of their friends a great deal more than they served the interests of others. Consequently, if classical liberalism feared direct participatory democracy for its inherent instability and corruption, it also feared unchecked aristocratic rule for its inherent arbitrariness. As a result, classical liberals maintained that legitimate authority requires the consent of the governed—even if only in the sense of having a say in who does the governing. They therefore had the ambition of creating a political system combining the virtues of an enlightened aristocracy (in the sense that rulers would have expert knowledge of ruling, since they would belong to a class of professional politicians and would be highly educated and have access to the time and knowledge necessary to make intelligent decisions) and a democracy (since the people could, at election time, rid themselves of leaders they deem to be unsatisfactory) (Wolff 1996: 103–112).14 Of course, even within this indirect form of democracy, they were also careful to constitutionally limit the powers of government with a system of checks and balances and a list of individual rights to protect minorities and individuals from the dreaded tyranny of the majority. As touched upon earlier, this notion of the tyranny of the majority played an important role in the rejection of direct democracy by classical liberalism. The tyranny of the majority consists in the potential abuse a majority can exact upon a minority if it chooses to make use of state coercion against those who do not form part of the majority. James Madison wrote that this was very dangerous indeed because, in situations where the people directly resolved on issues, it could never be expected to turn on the merits of the question. It would inevitably be connected with the spirit of pre-existing parties, or of parties springing out of the question itself. It would inevitably be connected with persons of distinguished character and extensive


Part III influence in the community. It would be pronounced by the very men who had been agents in, or opponents of, the measures to which the decision would relate. The passions, therefore, not the reason, of the public would sit in judgment. But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government. (Madison 2003b: 314)

Furthermore, Madison added that direct democracy would only be acceptable “[i]n a nation of philosophers [. . . where] reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato” (Madison 2003b: 312). It is thus, at its root, their distrust of ordinary citizens that drove classical liberals to exclude the vast majority from the day-to-day affairs of the state. Dewey rejects this attitude. Given appropriate education, Dewey sees no moral or epistemic reasons why citizens should be excluded from collective decision-making. Democratic education should precisely aim at creating citizens who are as wise as Plato’s philosopher-kings. What cannot be expected is that this education will transform citizens into disinterested rulers. They will always be expressing their own concerns, their own hopes, in their own voices. But liberal democratic principles only guarantee a modicum of popular involvement in collective decisionmaking, because they presume that, even at its best, the wisdom of the masses is not to be trusted. Dewey sees this view as the result of a double failing: a failure of the imagination (since they could not imagine that people could all benefit from mass education) and a failure to rise above class interest. This last failure, he takes to be a deeper cause than a genuine sense of foreboding in the face of the intellectual failings of the public. b. The Advent of Liberal Democracy: Democracy as Bourgeois Rule The Representatives of the French People, formed into a National Assembly, considering ignorance, the lapse of memory or contempt of the rights of man to be the sole causes of public misfortunes and the corruption of Governments, have resolved to set forth, in a solemn Declaration, the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man, to the end that this Declaration, constantly present to all members of the body politic, may remind them unceasingly of their rights and their duties; to the end that the acts of the legislative power and those of the executive power, since they may be at every moment [continually] compared with the aim of every political institution, may thereby be the more respected; to the end that the demands of the citizens, founded henceforth on simple and incontestable principles, may always be directed toward the maintenance of the Constitution and the happiness of all.15 (Assemblée Nationale Constitutante 1789)

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


The French Revolution of 1789 is a major event in world history. It is said to have caused, through intellectual agitation and conquest, the spread of the ideals of the Enlightenment and Modernity to the rest of Europe and beyond. The American Revolution of 1776 also played a significant role in this development. Classical liberals share a broad interpretation of the series of events that led up to the advent of liberal democracy. They claim that the ultimate cause for this change was the collective realisation that individuals held certain unalienable rights and that the enforcement and protection of those rights ought to be the foundation of the legitimate exercise of political power. Thus, the standard liberal account of the advent of liberal democracy goes something like this: In the Old Regime, despotic rulers abused privilege and power, arbitrarily harassing ordinary people, flaunting common decency and self-restraint, eventually causing widespread flares of moral outrage. This is what directly led to popular insurrections. Successful uprisings liberated the people from the yoke of tyranny and enabled them to determine for themselves how they wanted to be ruled. They chose liberal democracy. Thus, the constitutions adopted by the people enshrined the liberal democratic principles of representative government, the separation of powers and the defence of individual rights.16 The not so subtle implication here is that it was the realisation that the people ought to have a say in how they are governed, that the state is never to be entirely trusted, and that individuals are endowed with certain unalienable rights taken together that directly led to revolution and the democratically willed establishment of liberal democracy. The more subtle implication is that, since liberal democracy responded so well to these truths, it was therefore the culmination of all political development. Dewey rejects several aspects of this historical account. In general terms, he objects to the evolutionist fallacy embedded in the classical liberal accounts of these events. The evolutionist fallacy holds that the outcome of particular evolutionary events is, in effect, guiding these events rather than the other way around. In other words, it assumes that evolutionary outcomes precede evolutionary processes, much like goal posts are set before engaging in a game of football. Darwinian evolutionary theory rejects this idea in the natural sciences. Dewey rejects it in the human or cultural domain. He explains: Political forms do not originate in a once and for all way. The greatest change, once it is accomplished, is simply the outcome of a vast series of adaptations and responsive accommodations, each to its own particular situation. Looking back, it is possible to make out a trend of more or less steady change in a single direction. But it is, we repeat, mere mythology to attribute to such unity of result as exists (which is always easy to exaggerate) to single force or principle. Political democracy has emerged as a kind of net consequence


Part III of a vast multitude of responsive adjustments to a vast number of situations, no two of which were alike, but which tended to converge to a common outcome. (LW 2: 287)

More specifically, he maintains that bourgeois revolutions were not caused by a mass awakening, akin to a Pauline conversion, to the truths of limited government and universal human rights: There was no logic which rendered necessary the appeal to the individual as an independent and isolated being. In abstract logic, it would have sufficed to assert that some primary groupings had claims which the state could not legitimately encroach upon. In that case, the celebrated modern antithesis of the Individual and Social, and the problem of their reconciliation, would not have arisen. (LW 2: 289–290) Instead, he argues that the rights of individuals and the associated language of individualism were powerful political tools, not the root cause of revolution (LW 2: 289–290). He argues for this primarily on empirical grounds. He states, It is even more important to realize that the conditions out of which the efforts at remedy grew and which it made possible for them to succeed were primarily non-political in nature. For the evils were of long standing, and any account of the movement must raise two questions: Why were efforts at improvement not made earlier, and, when they were made, why did they take just the form which they did take? (LW 2: 288) These questions are all the more pertinent because the liberal democracies instituted after the revolutionary fervour failed to transform society according to their self-proclaimed ideals of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Indeed, the unalienable rights of individuals were only slowly and partially distributed in the Nouveau Régime: slavery remained a staple of liberal democratic regimes well into the 19th century; it took as much time for men of modest wealth to obtain the right to vote; and, it took longer still for women to benefit from the right to vote (and longer still before women obtained the legal right to live independently of a male guardian).17 The reasons for this unequal distribution of basic rights, Dewey argues, had little to do with attempting but incidentally failing to uphold democratic ideals—it had even less to do with fulfilling “some inherent nisus, or immanent idea” (LW 2: 291–292). On his account, it had more to do

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


with the protection of the interests of a new social class: the bourgeoisie. For him, this new class was a key force behind the overthrow of feudalism and had, once the overthrow had occurred, established a mode of government that was to their advantage (LW 2: 296–297). Dewey claims that this particular social arrangement is the real meaning of liberal democracy. The key piece of evidence he offers in support for this claim is the fact that liberal democracy preserved intact an institution inherited from feudalism, namely, property rights (LW 2: 302). As a result, in the new liberal democratic regime, property rights came to replace the traditional system of privileges as the main tool to carve up the social order. This, for Dewey, shows that the advent of liberal democracy did not result in the universal democratic redistribution of power we all too often identify with it. He draws from this that the classical liberal justification for liberal democracy is in fact the rationalisation of unjust social conditions, since it falsely presents such injustices as the inescapable products of brute reality. He writes of classical liberalism: in the very act of asserting that it stood completely and loyally for the principle of individual freedom, [it] was really engaged in justifying the activities of a new form of concentrated power—the economic, which new form, to state the matter moderately, has consistently and persistently denied effective freedom to the economically underpowered and underprivileged. (LW 11: 136) This is the crux of the matter for Dewey: by intellectually constructing a conception of democracy where the protection of private property ultimately trumped all other social considerations, classical liberalism morally abdicated in the face of oppression. Dewey profoundly objects to this abdication. c. Overcoming the Threat of Quietism The liberals of more than a century ago were denounced in their time as subversive radicals, and only when the new economic order was established did they become apologists for the status quo or else content with social patchwork. If radicalism be defined as perception of need for radical change, then today any liberalism which is not also radicalism is irrelevant and doomed. (LW 11: 41)

As I mentioned previously, classical liberals held that the liberal democratic principles of the separation of power, the sanctity of individual rights, and the legitimacy of representative government were beyond


Part III

democratic revision. They therefore erected liberal democracy as the ultimate standard of political legitimacy. This is ultimately problematic for Dewey, because he thinks that this commitment calls forth a spirit of quietism in the face of widespread oppression. Against this quietism, Dewey argues that imperfection in our political arrangements, though inevitable, should call forth a spirit of radical meliorism. For Dewey, the classical liberal stance of acceptance in the face of human suffering is a moral and an intellectual failing. At its root, according to him, this failing springs from an over-commitment to classical liberalism’s ill adapted ‘habits of thought’: classical liberals held fixed conceptions of human nature and democracy. This led them to deny the existence of human problems that were left unaccounted for by their philosophical stance. According to Dewey, this is caused by classical liberalism’s “conception of democracy as something static, as something that is like an inheritance that can be bequeathed, a kind of lump sum that we could live off and upon” (LW 13: 298–299), for it offers abstract rigidity when responses to concrete problems require practical dynamism and adaptability. Dewey thus denies that democracy can ever be as solid or fixed as classical liberals suggested. He writes: [E]very generation has to accomplish democracy over again for itself; [. . .] its very nature, its essence, is something that cannot be handed from one person or one generation to another, but has to be worked out in terms of needs, problems and conditions of the social life of which, as the years go by, we are a part, a social life that is changing with extreme rapidity from year to year. (LW 13: 299) Thus, for Dewey, democracy is a dynamic process rather than a static object. Denying the processive nature of democracy makes it difficult to meaningfully respond to the full array of human problems. Why? Because, if we follow classical liberalism in taking liberal democracy to be the ultimately best mode of government, then we are unlikely to seriously consider radically revising existing liberal democracies in light of new problems and evidence; we will most likely accept most of the failures of the status quo as deplorable but inevitable tragedies; tragedies caused by natural and unavoidable factors, not human choice. Dewey laments: With an enormous command of instrumentalities, with possession of a secure technology, we glorify the past, and legalize and idealize the status quo, instead of seriously asking how we are to employ the means at our disposal so as to form an equitable and stable society. This is our great abdication. (LW 5: 48)

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


It is this abdication that Dewey wants to resist. He thus vehemently rejects the claim that such tragedies are beyond human choice and, as support, claims that the liberal model of democratic capitalism so dearly defended by classical liberalism has, in fact, actively generated many avoidable tragedies. The most fundamental among these, for Dewey, is the existence of an uneven distribution of power which generates a great deal of human suffering and renders the democratic application of social intelligence all but impossible: [A]ll special privilege narrows the outlook of those who possess it, as well as limits the development of those not having it. A very considerable portion of what is regarded as the inherent selfishness of mankind is the product of an inequitable distribution of power— inequitable because it shuts out some from the conditions which evoke and direct their capacities, while it produces a one-sided growth in those who have privilege. Much of the alleged unchangeableness of human nature signifies only that as long as social conditions are static and distribute opportunity unevenly, it is absurd to expect change in men’s desires and aspirations. Special privilege always induces a standpat and reactionary attitude on the part of those who have it; in the end it usually provokes a blind rage of destruction on the part of those who suffer from it. The intellectual blindness caused by privileged and monopolistic possession is made evident in ‘rationalization’ of the misery and cultural degradation of others which attend its existence. These are asserted to be the fault of those who suffer; to be the consequence of their own improvidence, lack of industry, willful ignorance, etc. There is no favored class in history which has not suffered from distorted ideas and ideals, just as the deprived classes suffered from inertia and underdevelopment. (LW 7: 347–348) In summary, Dewey is critical of the fact that modern liberal democracies rest too comfortably on their laurels, smugly content in the belief that they are, as Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “better than all the other systems which have actually been tried” (Putnam 1989–1990: 1688). Dewey does not deny that there has never been a better mode of government, but he sensibly thinks that the continuing existence of serious social problems within liberal democracies means that we ought to experiment further to find better associative arrangements. He offers a kind of potentiality argument, claiming that democracy as a symbol for collective thinking has unexplored potential in helping us respond to our most pressing needs.18 Dewey thus calls on us to seek for a better conception of democracy and reject the classical liberal belief that liberal democracy is the highest practical application of democracy. He then puts forward his very own democratic ideal as a competing hypothesis.


Part III

6.6. Deweyan Democracy: The Idea of Experimental Associative Living Democracy will come into its own, for democracy is a name for a life of free and enriching communion. It had its seer in Walt Whitman. It will have its consummation when free social inquiry is indissolubly wedded to the art of full and moving communication. (LW 2: 350)

So far, we have seen that Dewey rejects the idea that democracy is subsumed under the notion of liberal democracy. What remains to be made explicit are the exact ways in which democracy transcends it. The most obvious way in which Deweyan democracy exceeds liberal democracy is in its domain of application: liberal (or political) democracy is a political ideal that only applies to the institutional organisation of a state, whereas Deweyan democracy is a social and an ethical ideal that applies to all forms of human association. Robert Talisse (2007a: 43) aptly explains that for Dewey, “[d]emocracy is not a state (LW 2: 325) and not simply majority rule (LW 2: 365); rather it is a ‘mode of associative living’ (MW 9: 93), the ‘idea of community life itself’ (LW 2: 328), and, in short, a ‘way of life’ (LW 11: 217; LW 13: 155).” In fact, Dewey goes further and claims that democracy “is the idea of community life itself” (LW 2: 328). That is why Dewey envisions his democratic ideal as applying to “all areas and ways of living” (LW 11: 25) including “the family, the school, industry, religion” (LW 2: 325). At its root, Deweyan democracy is intended to be the application of the experimental method to all human interactions. To be clear, Dewey does not believe that a democratically elected group of experts ought to be called upon to govern all human relations. It is rather that Dewey’s conception of democracy stands for the widest application of the method of intelligence—the meta-method of social reconstruction mentioned previously. Thus, Festenstein claims that this conception of democracy is to be understood as “a generic principle immanent in associated and communal life as such [. . . . That is why] Dewey does not differentiate between the forms it must take in the various social and political spheres whose common normative core it is meant to express” (1997: 91). As I have suggested previously (see 6.1), this normative core is not straightforwardly prescriptive in the sense of attempting to formulate clear and systematic institutional or policy prescriptions. In fact, it is often criticised for being overly vague. In response, Dewey claims that his “democratic ideal poses, rather than solves, the great problem: How to harmonize the development of each individual with the maintenance of a social state in which the activities of one will contribute to the good of all the others” (LW 7: 350). We must thus interpret him as attempting to characterise the challenge before us, not solving it, when he writes:

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


The problem under discussion is precisely how conflicting claims are to be settled in the interest of the widest possible contribution to the interests of all—or at least of the great majority. The method of democracy—inasfar as it is that of organized intelligence—is to bring these conflicts out into the open where their special claims can be seen and appraised, where they can be discussed and judged in the light of more inclusive interests than are represented by either of them separately. (LW 11: 56) Dewey admits that his ideal “is not a fact and never will be” (LW 2: 328). But it ought to serve as a regulative ideal to guide our attempts at building an ever-more democratic community. Or, as Boisvert (1998: 83) puts it, “the fundamental challenge is that of providing a ground map which will allow the transformation of a ‘Great Society’ to a ‘Great Community’.” For Dewey, the ‘more inclusive interests’ that are to guide democratic deliberations are to be established through democratic deliberation itself. However, it is the democratic nature of such a process that Dewey intends to make explicit with his ideal. I will explain this ideal by engaging with five of its aspects: (i) democracy as active citizenship; (ii) democracy as a transformational process; (iii) democracy as applied social intelligence; (iv) democracy as an educational achievement; and (v) democracy as a method of conflict resolution. a. Democracy as Active Citizenship: Political Participation and Beyond The term ‘democracy’ generally refers to a mode of government that relies, in some way or another, on popular involvement in political decisionmaking. In its ancient form, democratic participation was direct, with the public as a whole actively involved in collective deliberations. Yet, over time, growth in the size of the public has made it difficult to envision such direct forms of popular participation effectively shaping major political decisions. With large citizenries, complex bureaucratic institutions governing over an extended territory and with growing reliance on highly sophisticated technological expertise, the conditions of modern democracy seem irreconcilably at odds with the participative ideal of the ancients. Indeed, citizens of advanced democracies tend to live too far away from each other, lack the leisure time to engage in public affairs, and they all too often fail to understand their systems of government and the technologies at their disposal in order to competently and meaningfully engage in the task of collective ruling (see Wolff 1996: 68–103). Hence contemporary liberal democracies rely on public representatives to perform this task instead. In reaction, Dewey expresses great fear at the associated loss of community spirit. By the 1920s, Walter Lippmann (1925) drew the diagnosis


Part III

that the class of public representatives and the public in the United States of America were fundamentally estranged. He went on to argue that the complexity of modern democracies requires that the mostly uneducated public be kept away from the essentials of government, leaving to competent and neutral experts the task of setting day-to-day policy. Although Dewey shares Lippmann’s diagnosis, he responds by fundamentally rejecting the purported cure. What we need in order to improve our democracy, Dewey argues, is not simply the benevolent intercession of experts, but the conditions under which an educated and engaged citizenry can come to life: “the cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy” (LW 2: 327). In his view, therefore, the key democratic resource is the collective intelligence of an active, problem solving citizenry. In the political realm, Dewey does not, however, advocate a return to the direct forms of democracy of the ancients. He fully recognises the need for public representation in the contemporary context and for sophisticated expertise. Yet, he also thinks that the public at large should be more deeply involved in the deliberations of the community. These views are consistent because Dewey thinks democratic deliberation is something that happens throughout society, not just in political assemblies (LW 2: 325; LW 11: 25). As a result, Festenstein writes, “Dewey attaches no particular value to political participation [per se]: his ideal of associated living aims to outline principles constitutive of social life as such, and not principles which define the political sphere” (1997: 95). We should therefore understand Dewey as seeking to make sense of the place and promise of active citizenship in a more general sense than strictly political participation. He thus writes: From the standpoint of the individual, [democracy] 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. Since every individual is a member of many groups, this specification cannot be fulfilled except when different groups interact flexibly and fully in connection with other groups. (LW 2: 327–328) To explain Dewey’s point further: from the perspective of the individual, democracy consists in receiving the necessary support and challenge to enable the development of responsible choice, thus securing a life of genuine freedom; from the perspective of the group, social conditions must be such as to enable the freedom of all to effectively co-exist by fostering a spirit of community-mindedness. Thus, to put these together,

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


democracy, for Dewey, is a form of collective deliberation, where free citizens engage with each other in conversation within and across social groups (such as, families, businesses, workers’ unions, schools, housing associations, religious communities, etc.) in pursuit of common goals. Crucially, he recognises that the democratic functioning of these groups is only generated and sustained by communally minded citizens. This, for Dewey, also applies to the democratic state itself: the development of democratic citizens is necessary for a truly democratic functioning of the state. Boisvert (1998: 79) writes: For a state to possess at least the formal requirements of democratic excellence [. . .] citizens must have a sense of being participants in the community’s life. The public must be so organized that it can have a real impact on guiding public policy [and] the officials chosen to lead [. . .] must be sensitive to multiple social consequences, not merely whether narrow, sought-after ends will result. If, for classical liberals, democracy is essentially a mode of government that respects the pre-given rights of individuals, then Deweyan democracy is defined by its capacity to generate free citizens who have not only the right but also the genuine ability to responsibly and meaningfully dissent from and renegotiate the terms of community living.19 Thus, the key feature of democracy is the social and moral fabric of the community as it is brought to life by the problem solving efforts of citizens in pursuit of common goals. Genuine democracy thus frees (following Dewey’s conception of freedom) individuals by developing their capacities to responsibly contribute to the life of the community and thus developing a deeper notion of their own individuality (that is, the compound of their relatedness to and separateness from others). This two-way relationship between self and others, according to Dewey, is what ultimately enables the development of a sustainable community. Therefore, democracy’s transformational character lies in both the personal and the communal aspects of our lives. b. Democracy as a Transformational Process: Towards the Great Community There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication. Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common. What they must have in common in order to form a community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge—a common understanding—like-mindedness as the sociologists say. (MW 9: 7)


Part III

We have already touched upon classical liberalism’s conception of human nature. We have thus seen that it is essentially atomistic. On their view, individuals are not bound by force of nature but by contractual agreement reached for the sake of mutual gain. Human nature for them is fundamentally asocial; Dewey cites John Stuart Mill’s Logic as claiming that “[h]uman 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” (LW 13: 138). Classical liberalism’s conception of individual human nature is thus central to its wider philosophical edifice. Most obviously, it led classical liberals to advocate a conception of democracy—commonly referred to as liberal democracy—inextricably linked to laissez faire policies (i.e. the minimal involvement of the state in economic matters) and a representative majoritarian representative mode of government.20 Thus, on their account, democracy is essentially a political arrangement that enables the aggregation of fixed individual interests—with each individual counting for one and no more than one— such as to yield majorities. These majorities are understood to confer political legitimacy upon policies, so long as these do not contravene the constitutional principles upon which liberal democracy ultimately rests. Consequently, in their view, democracy is chiefly of instrumental value since it is necessary for the resolution of inter-personal disputes without encroaching upon the rights of individuals (de Ruggiero 1927: 370–380). In response, we have already seen that Dewey rejects the classical liberal notion of human nature. This enables him to expand and improve upon their conception of democracy. Recall that for Dewey, the self is inevitably social, not atomistically self-sustaining: the individual only develops a truly individual identity by taking part in social relations that offer her recognition as a socially valuable member of her community; in doing so, she sustains communal practices and thus takes part in the manifestation of her community itself. He thus sees the individual and her community as mutually constitutive—“‘we’ is as inevitable as ‘I’” (LW 2: 330); “Society, as a real whole, is the normal order, and the mass as an aggregate of isolated units is the fiction” (EW 1: 232). This leads Dewey to develop an associative and transformational conception of democracy. Since, on his view, the individual evolves through the co-constitutive dialogic relationship she entertains with her community, her interests and her values are also the product of this relationship. According to Dewey, the moral bedrock or the deeper meaning of democracy [. . .] was expressed by Abraham Lincoln when he said that no man was good enough or wise enough to govern others without their consent; that is, without some expression on their part of their own needs, their own desires and their own conception of how social affairs should go on and social problems be handled. (LW 13: 295)

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


The act of voting for representatives and in occasional referenda offered by liberal democracy goes some way towards expressing this meaning, for Dewey: it gives a voice to people at specific times to influence the direction of the polis. However, in the fullest expression of its meaning, democracy gives to citizens not merely the right to vote but the responsibility to consider “what it is that we as individuals want, what our needs and troubles are” (LW 13: 295). Democracy thus means bestowing upon citizens the capacity and the responsibility to engage with others in the task of living lives of mutual (or communal) interest. On his account, this is best furthered by the act of engaging in collective problem solving. Why does Dewey believe this? Since for him the citizen, her interests, and her values are fundamentally shaped by her interactions with her community, the interactions she will entertain with others during the process of collective decision-making have the potential to transform her values, her interests, and her identity. This potential for transformation is the truest expression of the spirit of democracy. As a result, democracy does not merely enable the tallying up of pre-given preferences; it enables these preferences to be transformed by engaging in “mutual conference and mutual consultation and arriving ultimately at social control by pooling, by putting together all of these individual expressions of ideas and wants” (LW 13: 295). Democracy thus crucially yields the prospect of personal and social transformation through interaction with others. That is why Dewey rejects the classical liberal reduction of democracy to a game of numbers: for him, democracy is not primarily a method for aggregating the diverse interests of individuals while respecting the rights of individuals, rather it is a method for harmonising relations between diverse people and communities by transforming the self-conceptions, values, and interests of citizens. For this to take place, citizens must be actively involved in associative living. Dewey explains that true democracy requires community. He specifies: Wherever there is a conjoint activity whose consequences are appreciated as goods by all singular persons who take part in it, and where the realization of the good is such as to effect an energetic desire and effort to sustain it in being just because it is a good shared by all, there is in so far a community. (LW 2: 328) In practice, this shared activity can be as simple as “taking part in a game, in conversation, in a drama, in family life” (LW 7: 345), but such communicative activities must be related, in some way, to the needs and concerns of the community. Dewey contends that “[a]ssociated or joint activity is a condition of the creation of a community” (LW 2: 330). The goal is thus to construct a community by engaging in collective problem


Part III

solving. Citizens are to join forces and take part in common endeavours. Through these common endeavours, common values are fostered. With these common values binding individuals across social and cultural lines, a democratic society can hope to foster the spirit of a true and genuine community. Democracy thus enables the transformation of “physical interdependence into moral—into human—interdependence” (LW 13: 180). This emphasis on seeking common values may lead the astute critic to fear that Dewey’s democratic ideal calls for a dangerous level of homogeneity at the expense of diversity. But that is the opposite of what is intended: The concept of uniformity and unanimity in culture is rather repellent. [. . .] Variety is the spice of life, and the richness and the attractiveness of social institutions depend upon cultural diversity among separate units. In so far as people are all alike, there is no give and take among them. And it is better to give and take. (MW 10: 288) In the last instance, “the greatest experiment in humanity” crucially involves “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). This presupposes a certain conception of equality among members of the community “which recognizes both interdependence and the individuality of each” (Festenstein 1997: 90). As Dewey remarks: Equality denotes the unhampered share which each individual member of the community has in the consequences of associated action. It is equitable because it is measured only by need and capacity to utilize, not by extraneous factors which deprive one in order that another may take and have. A baby in the family is equal with others, not because of some antecedent and structural quality which is the same as that of others, but in so far as his needs for care and development are attended to without being sacrificed to the superior strength, possessions and matured abilities of others. (LW 2: 329) Community thus presupposes a conception of equality, he continues, which “denotes effective regard for whatever is distinctive and unique in each, irrespective of physical and psychological inequalities” (LW 2: 329–330). From the perspective of society, equality is “the form of society in which every man has a chance and knows that he has it—and we may add, a chance to which no possible limits can be put, a chance which is truly infinite, the chance to become a person” (EW 1: 63). This balance

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


between self and community is the goal of democracy.21 Crucially, for Dewey, this balance cannot be resolved in abstraction. It must be resolved through actual community building as a result of collective deliberation, for it is in this task that radical personal and social transformation is enabled. In summary, democracy is not primarily of instrumental value in the sense of being a mechanism serving pre-established ends; it is the source of values in the sense of being the process through which we select communal ends to be pursued. If this possibility of transformation is affirmed, then democratic deliberation cannot be pre-empted: legal, moral, or political philosophy cannot prescribe the methods or the outcomes of democratic practice. Citizens must determine these for themselves by forming a genuine community as a result of taking part in collective deliberation. Intelligent communication is thus a constitutive part of democracy. It is in this sense that democracy is an exercise in applied social intelligence. c. Democracy as Applied Social Intelligence The clear consciousness of a communal life, in all its implications, constitutes the idea of democracy. (LW 2: 328)

Dewey defends equality and freedom, diversity, and the value of open communicative conflict, because he seeks to offer a truly effective method for peaceful living. This method requires self-aware, equal, open, and honest discussion among all parties. For Dewey, self-awareness, in both the personal and collective senses, enables free choice. Yet, self-awareness is necessarily produced by friction. The self only becomes aware of itself as self in the unfolding drama of encountering a challenging world to survive in. The same goes for communities. A community only comes to understand itself as a community as a result of experiencing the strain of concrete limitations, for it is this strain that calls forth the necessity of choice. In the face of problems, we are not only deciding what to do, we are also resolving upon the moral character of our community. Conscious choice, for Dewey, enables intelligent self-definition. But conscious choice only emerges as a result of confrontation with limitation and resistance. To explain exactly how Dewey envisions this process, I must first offer a brief explanation of his conception of inquiry. Recall that, according to Dewey, inquiry begins with the external disruption of pre-reflective or habitual behaviour. Or in more mundane words, inquiry begins with the disturbance of business-as-usual (LW 12: 11). This disruption is caused by the emergence of an obstacle of some kind that stops the organism from continuing to act according to its habits of action.22 The obstacle thus confronts the organism with the need to


Part III

revise its behaviour to continue to get what it has heretofore obtained as a result of mere habit. Thus, all thinking emerges as a result of encountering resistance. This resistance eventually gets formulated into a problem— thus an important stage of inquiry involves establishing the nature of said problem. The awareness of a problem results from investigating the disturbed situation. This investigation yields an understanding of facts about the organism and its surrounding environment. From this investigation, hypothetical resolutions emerge. Hypothetical resolutions will be tested out in practice, until the organism finds a resolution to the problem that releases the experience of resistance. In the final unified situation, the organism thus returns to a pre-reflective or habitual type of behaviour, with this time, however, a new habit of action driving its overt behaviour. If we return to Dewey’s characterisation of inquiry (see 2.6 or LW 12: 111), we can understand problem solving as taking two potential forms: either (i) our thinking enables us to find a way to overcome or obliterate the obstacle, enabling us to return to our previously enjoyed end-in-sight thanks to the establishment of a new habit of action; or (ii) our deliberation leads us to abandon the pursuit of the end-in-sight that can no longer be achieved because of the obstacle, establishing a new end-in-sight and a new associated habit of action. In fact, for Dewey, options (i) and (ii) are not mutually exclusive; they operate in constant dialogue (LW 12: 108–118). In the face of many problems, we revise our ends-in-sight without entirely abandoning our previously held ones. This enables creative adjustments that are successful insofar as they enable the return to a state of routine-like functioning. Thus, a dialectical relationship exists between our two options, resulting in the following process of inquiry: When a set of facts F arises in which we can no longer achieve our endsin-sight E by relying on our habits of action H, we inquire into the nature of the situation, and then decide whether to continue pursuing E, and adopt habit of action H′, or opt for E′ and adopt habit of action H″. For Dewey, this amounts to saying that “means and ends are two names for the same reality” (MW 14: 28): Means-consequences constitute a single undivided situation. Consequently when thought and discussion enter, when theorizing sets in, when there is anything beyond bare immediate enjoyment and suffering, it is the means-consequence relationship that is considered. Thought goes beyond immediate existence to its relationships, the conditions which mediate it and the things to which it is in turn mediatory. (LW 1: 297) Ultimately though, what we are seeking to resolve during inquiry is the relationship between particular ends and particular means. We resolve them by adopting new adapted habits of action (or ‘policies’, or ‘plans of

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


action’). However, Dewey stresses that the thinking side of inquiry really only formulates hypotheses for action that must be tested out in practice. Importantly, the resolution of problematic situations only takes effect by acting, by experimenting, by testing the relevant hypotheses: [E]very measure of policy put into operation is, logically, and should be actually, of the nature of an experiment. For (1) it represents the adoption of a one out of a number of alternative conceptions as possible plans of action, and (2) its execution is followed by consequences which [. . .] may serve as tests of the validity of the conception acted upon. (LW 12: 502) The essence of Deweyan democracy is thus the application of this process to the collective context. He calls this ‘social inquiry’. According to Dewey, members of the public ought to be involved in tasks of collective inquiry to enable the renegotiation of communal ends and means. This is where the superiority of Deweyan democracy in relation to liberal democracy comes to the fore: liberal democracy assumes that citizens merely pursue pre-selected and unchanging ends and that resolution of collective problems is only arrived at as a result of a numerical rapport de force; whereas Deweyan democracy takes seriously the human capacity to revise ends and means, thus operating an inner-transformation and a redefinition of our self-conceptions, habits, and goals in light of those we encounter in others. This is desirable for three reasons: First, from the perspective of generating desirable outcomes, this flexibility offers the possibility of responding to social problems in more nuanced and adaptive ways. Simply put, flexibility of ends and means affords us with a richer array of potential solutions to consider. How so? By enabling all those who are affected by a problem to express their concerns, and to take part in the discussions seeking to address the problem, the decision-making process can draw on their specific ideas, experiences, and aspirations to broaden the field of possible options in responsible and responsive ways. In other words, democratic participation allows us to hope that the interaction between participants can generate more intelligent, better-adapted solutions as a result of creative dialogue (see, for example, Festenstein 2001). Second, from the perspective of the citizen, on Dewey’s account, the process of critical self-reflection called forth by active collective deliberation is a necessary part of developing freedom, thus learning how to make responsible autonomous choices. Third, from the perspective of the community, the Deweyan conception of collective deliberation offers an alternative to the liberal conception of rule by compromise. Since classical liberals took individual interests to be fixed, they could only imagine resolutions of inter-personal conflict as compromises, that is, as an agreement that fails


Part III

to fully satisfy all parties. Dewey in contrast seeks to articulate a conception of conflict resolution where dialogue could lead to deeper satisfaction for all parties by fostering “what, metaphorically, may be termed a general will and social consciousness” (LW 2: 331). This means that democratic discussion, for Dewey, has the potential to generate a sense of community-mindedness, enabling a deeper engagement with the realities of others and resulting practical considerations. Taken together, Dewey’s democratic ideal thus seeks to bring intelligence and choice to bear not upon the satisfaction of predetermined desires but upon the self-conceptions we adopt and the desires we chose to act upon in the face of limitation, challenge, and disagreement. Deweyan democracy is thus a method for fostering growth, social peace, and a deeper sense of community. To embrace this method means for citizens to seek to develop the capacities and the dispositions that will enable such sophisticated social interactions. This is a task to be furthered throughout all of life. But it is education that is called upon to be “the fundamental method of social progress and reform” (EW 5: 93). d. Democratic Citizenship as an Educational Achievement Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife. (MW 10: 139) In a complex society, ability to understand and sympathize with the operations and lot of others is a condition of common purpose which only education can procure. The external differences of pursuit and experience are so very great in our complicated industrial civilization, that men will not see across and through the walls which separate them, unless they have been trained to do so. (MW 10: 139) The only way to prepare for social life is to engage in social life. (EW 5: 62)

It should be clear by now that Dewey’s democratic ideal is more explicitly about the habits and dispositions of citizens than it is about the specific structures of political and social institutions. Thus for Dewey, the democratic nature of society crucially hinges on the existence of democratically disposed citizens. Such citizens are to be caring, intelligent, and active problem solving members of the community. Boisvert (1998: 93) writes that the Deweyan notion of applied social intelligence calls upon citizens to demonstrate: “1. Awareness of fundamental principles; 2. Attention to consequences of varied actions; 3. Information about contemporary issues; 4. Dissemination of the results of inquiry; 5. [Transformation of]

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


all of this into instrumentalities for social change.” In other words, in order to properly and fully participate in the task of collective problem solving, citizens must be morally sensitive, practically minded, meticulous, well-informed, proactive individuals with access to public forums to discuss and debate their views. This means that, on Dewey’s account of democracy, citizens must have sophisticated intellectual and moral capacities and dispositions, enabling them to intelligently and responsibly respond to the full complexity of the lifeworld in which they participate. Evidently, the overwhelming majority of citizens in modern democracies fall short of this ideal. According to Dewey, education is the principal means at our disposal to improve upon this. Although education of course exceeds the notion of formal education, Dewey stresses the role of the school in learning how to be a democratic citizen. He often explains his own conception of the role of the school against two dominant models of education. On the one hand, we are presented with a conception of education where knowledge is valued for its own sake and learning essentially consists in amassing knowledge. On the other hand, we are presented with the notion that education is of value only inasmuch as it prepares children to become productive members of society, and learning consists in the acquisition of skills which will be of value to individuals in the labour market. According to Dewey, both of these models prepare students for two forms of socially disengaged lives: the first, by creating a false disconnection between knowledge and culture (that is, between theory and practice), resulting in the failure to put knowledge to social use; and the second, by fostering a selfish notion of practical engagement with the world, single-mindedly focussing on the prospects of pecuniary gain, resulting in the inability to meaningfully cooperate with others. Dewey rejects both these conceptions of education and argues instead for a form of schooling designed to develop active citizens by cultivating in them the dispositions and habits of democratic communal problem solving and individuality (see MW 9: 1–375). Thus, in addition to the acquisition of basic skills and knowledge, students in a truly democratic school would be encouraged to learn to think, debate, and work towards solving communal problems by engaging in age-appropriate collective tasks. By growing accustomed to this process, students would acquire the dispositions and habits that would later enable them to become active problem solving citizens in all areas of associative living. According to Mathew Lipman, the Deweyan classroom should be thought of as a ‘community of inquiry’ (2003: 20) that will prepare young citizens to belong to such a community when they grow older. In this community of inquiry, the teacher is not primarily tasked with the transfer of knowledge to pupils; she is rather engaged in the orchestration of discussion among them. Collective participation and individual expression are thus crucial. By exposing students to intellectually stimulating material,


Part III

by supporting them when expressing their views, by encouraging others to meaningfully and respectfully respond, the teacher is instilling in her pupils the dispositions to personally and thoughtfully engage with important problems and to take part in genuine communication, by entering the process of exchanging reasons with one another. On this view, students will develop the capacity to think critically (by thinking thoroughly about the issues at hand) (Lipman 2003: 205–242), collaboratively (by engaging in genuine collective discussions, learning how to listen to others and to make one’s self heard) (Lipman 2003: 83–125), caringly (by addressing morally important issues and engaging in a respectful and open dialogue) (Lipman 2003: 261–271), and creatively (by enabling the flow of ideas and arguments to take a relatively free course, with no pre-given endpoint—simply a commitment to the process of deliberation itself) (Lipman 2003: 243–260). Ultimately though, students will develop the capacity for responsible choice such as to be able to truly individuate from others, while developing a deep understanding of the bonds that tie them to their community by practically taking part in communal life. From the perspective of the child, “education means the creation of a discriminating mind, a mind that prefers not to dupe itself or to be the dupe of others,” and the transitional goal is thus to “cultivate the habit of suspended judgement, of scepticism, of desire for evidence, of appeal to observation rather than sentiment, discussion rather than bias, inquiry rather than conventional idealizations” (MW 13: 334). From the perspective of the community, “[e]ducation should create an interest in all persons in furthering the general good, so that they will find their own happiness realized in what they can do to improve the conditions of others” (LW 7: 243). Bringing the two perspectives together, the goal of a truly democratic education is the creation of “a desire for continued growth [by supplying the] means for making the desire effective in fact” (MW 9: 58). However, it is worth pointing out that Dewey’s faith in education is not without limits. He understands and accepts that education alone is not capable of generating a truly democratic society. He remarks: “Social institutions, the trend of occupations, the pattern of social arrangements, are the finally controlling influences in shaping minds” (LW 5: 102). That is why Dewey suggests that the democratisation of industrial relations would have a profoundly transformational effect upon our societies. Yet, he believes that changes of this grander type will only come about when citizens actually have the intellectual capacity to critically assess the wider social context in which they operate. Thus, “while the school is not a sufficient condition, it is a necessary condition of forming the understanding and the dispositions that are required to maintain a genuinely changed social order” (LW 11: 414). Therefore, a democratic education, for Dewey, is both required by and requires actually participating in democratic activities. This explains

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


why actual democratic participation is a necessary part of the life of a citizen in a democracy. Democracy requires concrete actualisation. This democratic actualisation is at its root performed by individuals-alreadyin-relationships-with-significant-others engaged in collective pursuits, involved in the task of solving communal problems. Deweyan democracy calls upon the character of those relationships to be ever more thoroughly democratised, for the sake of better-solving problems, meaning that relationships ought to be made free from oppressive practices and arbitrary power relations and oriented towards the collectively willed mutual liberation of all. Ultimately, Deweyan democracy calls for society to be rendered more democratic in all spheres of human relationships: from the ordinary relations of men and women and children within families and the school, to larger groups and communities, and eventually the state. In this sense, Deweyan democracy envisions agency for democratic change as pervading every level of society. Despite the fact that Dewey focuses most on the psychological and cultural level, no one level seems to be given absolute priority. Experimentation in the concrete is required to determine which methods are most effective at which levels of society. Deweyan democracy thus shares with his conception of freedom the Hegelian circular structure mentioned previously, according to which it is “the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual” (Hegel 1977: 10). e. Democracy as a Dynamic Balance in Inter-Personal Relationships In the career of any impulse activity there are speaking generally three possibilities. It may find a surging, explosive discharge—blind, unintelligent. It may be sublimated—that is, become a factor coordinated intelligently with others in a continuing course of action. Thus a gust of anger may, because of its dynamic incorporation into disposition, be converted into an abiding conviction of social injustice to be remedied, and furnish the dynamic to carry the conviction into execution. Or an excitation of sexual attraction may reappear in art or in tranquil domestic attachments and services. Such an outcome represents the normal or desirable functioning of impulse; in which, to use our previous language, the impulse operates as a pivot, or reorganization of habit. Or again a released impulsive activity may be neither immediately expressed in isolated spasmodic action, nor indirectly employed in an enduring interest. It may be ‘suppressed’. Suppression is not annihilation. ‘Psychic’ energy is no more capable of being abolished than the forms we recognize as physical. If it is neither exploded nor converted, it is turned inwards, to lead a surreptitious, subterranean life. An isolated or spasmodic manifestation is a sign of immaturity, crudity, savagery; a suppressed activity is the cause of all kinds of intellectual and moral pathology. One form of the resulting pathology constitutes ‘reaction’ in the sense in which the historian speaks of


Part III reactions. A conventionally familiar instance is Stuart license after Puritan restraint. A striking modern instance is the orgy of extravagance following upon the enforced economies and hardships of war, the moral letdown after its highstrung exalted idealisms, the deliberate carelessness after an attention too intense and too narrow. Outward manifestation of many normal activities had been suppressed. But activities were not suppressed. They were merely dammed up awaiting their chance. (MW 14: 108–109)

If we take the aspects of Deweyan democracy discussed so far and put them together, we arrive at a distinctive picture of human relationships. Indeed, I contend that it offers an ideal of inter-personal relationship, aiming for the concrete liberation of all constitutive members of the relationship, while seeking to secure the conditions that enable the continuance of the relationship itself. This ideal is therefore best described as a dynamic process that attempts to balance two fundamentally conflicting demands: the demand for independence on behalf of each party and the communal demand for relatedness. Deweyan democracy succeeds in generating growth “when a temporary falling out is a transition to a more extensive balance of the energies of the organism with those of the conditions under which it lives” (MW 14: 146). Thus, this task of striking a balance in the face of tension and conflict is, I think, the underlying goal of Dewey’s democratic ideal. Thanks to this procedure, we can make explicit the relevant considerations for establishing and sustaining meaningful and peaceful dynamic relationships with others. The underlying assumption here is that human relationships are essentially defined by how participants navigate, address, and (hopefully) resolve the problems that emerge from this underlying conflict. Experience tells us that inter-personal problems are very likely to emerge over time, no matter how hard we try to avert them. We seem to have little control over the frequency of occurrence of inter-personal problems. What we are more likely to be able to control is how we respond to such problems. Drawing on one’s private experience of one-to-one relationships, it is easy to notice that the absence of a certain kind of balance has a tendency to generate destructive outcomes for one or both of its constitutive parts. If this imbalance is left unaddressed for long enough, or if the imbalance manifests itself violently enough, it results in breakdown. The relationship is terminated. Breakdown is usually emotionally painful and can be at times violently tragic. The figures of Ares and Athena mentioned earlier come as responses to the threat of breakdown. Ares represents the destructive urge within all of us, the part of us that believes that all relationships are doomed from the start, fated to end in disappointment and frustration. Athena represents the constructive potential within all of us: she symbolises the part of us that believes that, with deft skills and appropriate tools, even tense

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


and difficult aspects of relationships can be resolved in such a manner as to be mutually satisfying to both parties.23 The necessary tools and skills Athena mythologically bestowed upon her favourites, Dewey thinks we can all hope to enjoy through education. Such tools and skills are inherent in the norms guiding intelligent inquiry and open and respectful dialogue. It is thanks to these tools that destructive psychic energies can be ‘sublimated’ and used to transform and bring inter-personal relationships into balance. If we fail to develop the appropriate skills and use the relevant tools, destructive psychic energy will either immediately express itself blindly, unintelligently, and dangerously or be ‘suppressed’, pushed out of immediate sight, threatening to re-erupt into our lives with violent force in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. In other words, impulsive action and repression followed by acting out are risky and often misdirected, whereas sublimation enables greater control of psychic energies, and thus the development of inter-personal balance and growth. This balance, I contend, is the ideal goal of Deweyan democracy. Since human relationships extend beyond pairs and families into more or less complex and numerous arrangements, this balance is not always easy to negotiate. Yet, according to Dewey, most of us are already relatively well versed in finding a certain degree of balance within and across the social groups to which we belong. The Deweyan hope is that, through intelligent sublimation of destructive psychic energies, we can gain in meaningful control over our inner as well as outer lives, rendering our inter-personal balances more stable and more congruent. Developing this sense of balance requires practice. This is why Dewey recommends that we reach across social groups, stretching ourselves ever further, in order to improve it. This endeavour has the effect of growing our capacity to comprehend and sympathise with the plight of others, and our own understanding of our personal needs,24 responsibilities, and preferences. Thus, the reward for this process is dual: on the one hand, we gain a deeper sense of belonging and camaraderie; and, on the other hand, we also gain a deeper, more refined understanding of our own self, for it is only in relationship with others, confronted both by their sameness and their difference, that we fully individuate. I thus agree with William Caspary (2000: 43) when he claims that Dewey’s conception of democracy as social intelligence shares certain features with the art of conflict resolution. I must stress that democracy conceived of as a process is dynamic and is a task never fully completed. Rather like a plate atop the pole of a plate spinner, relationships can only find their respective points of equilibria as they are in motion, for it is the motion that provides the energy that, depending on human craftsmanship, has the potential to balance or unbalance the whole affair. If the plate spinner’s challenge consists in redirecting physical energies that threaten to push a plate off its gravitational orbit, then the democratic challenge consists in redirecting human


Part III

energies that threaten to pull relationships and society too far out of their own points of equilibria. Since Dewey often uses the language of biology in reference to society, one might be tempted to call this balance a ‘homeostatic’ balance, for it is crucially defined by a society’s own capacity to adapt and correct itself in response to experienced unease. We could thus also call the democratic efforts at redirecting society’s energies a negative feedback mechanism: ultimately, on the Deweyan picture, this means that the societal negative feedback mechanism is none other than cultural change as a result of inter-personal dialogue. Or, to put it in more general language, I follow Elizabeth Anderson in interpreting Deweyan democracy as the articulation of norms that welcome or at least tolerate diversity and dissent, that recognize the equality of participants in discussing by giving all a respectful hearing, regardless of their social status, and that institute deliberation and reason-giving, rather than threats and insults, as the basis of their communication with one another. (Anderson 2006: 15) I thus conclude with Anderson that viewing democracy in this light “helps us see that it is not just a matter of legal arrangements. It is a way of life governed by cultural norms of equality, discussion, and tolerance of diversity” (2006: 15). In more explicitly political terms, Dewey thinks that the overriding considerations that ought to guide our pursuit of this societal balance are well captured in the slogan ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’. We have seen that Dewey has a distinctive understanding of all three concepts: freedom for him consists in personal individuation as a result of concrete interaction with others in common pursuit; equality consists in equality of opportunity conceived as ensuring that each member of a community not be arbitrarily disadvantaged or silenced; fraternité consists in the community spirit Dewey sees as the fundamental binding agent, holding the collective cake together even as individuals, each in their own distinctive manner, bake it, carve it, sculpt it, decorate it, and eventually consume it. Each of these concepts thus points to a different way of articulating hypotheses that respond to the problem that Deweyan democracy itself aims to respond to, namely, the problem of balancing the demands of socially embedded yet distinctively individual selves operating within a modern society. For Dewey, modernity is defined by a radical contingency. As Menand (2002: 399) remarks: Modernity is the condition a society reaches when life is no longer conceived as cyclical [. . .] the reproduction of custom is no longer understood to be one of the chief purposes of existence, and the ends

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


of life are not thought to be given; they are thought to be discovered or created. Individuals are not expected to follow the life path of their parents, and the future of society is not thought to be dictated entirely by its past. Modern societies do not simply repeat and extend themselves; they change in unforeseeable directions, and the individual’s contribution to these changes is unspecifiable in advance. As we have seen, the postmodern condition in which we find ourselves is characterised by a greater degree still of uncertainty, contingency, and change. In the face of such psychological, social, and political turmoil, we need a method of doing political philosophy fit for purpose, able to deliver a vision of the role of political thought and action in a world mostly defined by limitation, uncertainty, and flux. My contention is that Dewey’s political philosophy is precisely one such form of political thought.

6.7. Conclusion In conclusion, I have argued that Dewey faced an historical context that shares some crucial characteristics with our own. The most striking similarity is that he faced, as we do now, the radical disordering of social life as a result of the tension between the dominant economic model and the fragility of the democratic social fabric upon which this economy ultimately depends. I have thus presented Dewey’s rejection of crucial aspects of the intellectual heritage of classical liberalism—most crucially, its conceptions of the person as pre-given and of democracy as a set of institutional arrangements. I then went on to present Dewey’s democratic ideal, arguing that it offers a picture of how we might be able to adapt in the face of the uncertainty of the modern condition while sustaining meaningful relationships with one another. This picture essentially consists in identifying the self as a social agent constantly engaged in the collective task of responding to problems and thus making and shaping cultural norms and habits. It further specifies that the more citizens are actually able to be the collective authors of their inter-personal lives without threatening their continued capacity to perform this role, the more a society approaches the ideal of democracy. I have thus argued that Deweyan democracy relies on a particular conception of freedom as a form of socially embedded selfrealisation, requiring thorough education and active participation in the public life of the polis. Moreover, I explained the democratic education Dewey envisions for citizens. Ultimately though, I argued that this ideal is marked by the ever-recurrent generation of a constantly evolving culture, committed to the pursuit of a dynamic inter-personal balance within a highly precarious social context. In response, Deweyan democracy has been the object of much criticism. Some such criticisms are well known, so in Chapter 7, I constrain myself


Part III

to considering the standard objections to Dewey’s democratic ideal that I find the most compelling. More recently, a potent criticism of Deweyan democracy has been levelled at Dewey by Robert Talisse. I discuss this novel objection to Deweyan democracy in Chapter 8.

Notes 1. Although Locke laid the foundations, the most explicit articulation of this idea is found in John Stuart Mill’s ‘Harm’ or ‘Liberty Principle’. It holds that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill 1978: 9). 2. This translation is my own. The original is: «Notre liberté à nous, doit se composer de la jouissance paisible de l’indépendance privée.» 3. Or at least, classical liberal political theories made such an assumption in the public realm. They also held that human compassion and wider otherregarding behaviours could take place in the private realm, but that our political arguments and arrangements ought not to rely on such tendencies. That is why Dewey also writes that “[i]t was officially held that sympathy with the gains and losses, the pleasures and pains of others, is a native part of human endowment. The two components, self-interest and sympathy, opposite in quality, were ingeniously linked together” (LW 13: 146). The ‘link’ was that classical liberals held that self-interest was to be assumed in the public realm, while the private realm would house the kinder elements of the human spirit. 4. For more of a general overview on the topic of relationship and child development, see, for example, Sunderland (2008), which is a scientifically grounded and practically oriented guide to child development; D. Brooks (2011), which is a journalistic cross disciplinary overview of the scientific perspective on early human development; Montagu (1986), which specifically focuses on the necessity of nurturing and human touch in healthy child development; and, Gerhardt (2004), which focuses on the importance of love and affection in the development of the brain in newborns and infants. 5. Dewey writes: “The technique of employing tools and machines was equally something which had to be learned; it was no natural endowment but something acquired by observing others, by instruction and communication” (LW 2: 300). 6. Andrew Vincent establishes a spectrum from the most thoroughgoing egoistic liberal thinkers to the least, with Max Stirner, Herbert Spencer, Auberon Herbert, and Ayn Rand on the most extreme egoist end of the spectrum, and Wilhelm von Humboldt, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, T.H. Green, and L.T. Hobhouse standing on the other extreme as the least egoistic individualist liberals (Vincent 2010: 33–35). It is worth noting that Sidgwick, Green, and Hobhouse are not usually understood to be classical liberals. In addition, J.S. Mill is an interesting case in that he sometimes offers the quintessential expressions of classical liberal views (which explains why both Dewey and I sometimes quote him to articulate classical liberal views), whilst rejecting many of the wider assumptions made by the previous generation of liberals, such as James Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Thus, I must ask the reader to understand that, although I sometimes use J.S. Mill’s words to articulate the tenets of classical liberalism, I do not take his philosophy in its entirety to fit neatly into the classical liberal tradition. 7. Here “language is taken in its widest sense, a sense wider than oral and written speech. It includes the latter. But it includes also not only gesture but rites,

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal





12. 13.


ceremonies, monuments and the products of industrial and fine arts. A tool or machine, for example, is not simply a simple or complex physical object having its own physical properties and effects, but is also a mode of language. For it says something to those who understand it, about operations of use and their consequences” (LW 12: 51–52—emphasis in original). On the topic of plasticity, speaking of David Hume’s approach to human nature, Dewey writes: “He saw the part played by the structure and operations of our common nature in shaping social life. He failed to see with equal clearness the reflex influence of the latter upon the shape which a plastic human nature takes because of its social environment. He emphasized habit and custom, but he failed to see that custom is essentially a fact of associated living whose force is dominant in forming the habits of individuals” (MW 14: 229). Also see MW 14: 88, where he writes that the human being “is a creature of habit, not of reason nor yet of instinct.” In his own words: “[T]he process of growth, of improvement and progress, rather than the static outcome and result, becomes the significant thing. Not health as an end fixed once and for all, but the needed improvement in health—a continual process—is the end and good. The end is no longer a terminus or limit to be reached. It is the active process of transforming the existent situation. Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim in living. Honesty, industry, temperance, justice, like health, wealth and learning, are not goods to be possessed as they would be if they expressed fixed ends to be attained. They are directions of change in the quality of experience. Growth itself is the only moral ‘end’” (MW 12: 181). Looking to the future, I suspect that we may find that other areas of our personal lives—such as how many children we have, how much meat we consume, or the modes of transportation we use—may also tip from the private to the public realm. In a world with limited resources, each of these aspects of our life is plausibly of concern to all. Yet, I am with Dewey here in believing that such political decisions must be arrived at collectively through dialogue in the face of concrete challenges, for wont of being oppressive. In fact, Boisvert goes to the extent of claiming that “‘[g]rowth’ is a carefully selected term. Readers must resist the temptation to treat it as synonymous with either self-development or self-realization. The latter expressions are too intimately linked with the ontology of monadic individualism. [They] readily [connote] either a preordained process toward an antecedently determined end, or the sort of trajectory which can be undertaken in isolation. By contrast, Dewey intends growth to signify (1) genuine contingency, and (2) contextuality” (1998: 62). Still, most of Dewey’s other commentators feel comfortable using the term ‘self-realisation’ while specifying that it is not directed toward a pre-given end. I feel equally comfortable in doing so. As an interesting aside, this passage is the epitaph found on the headstone of Dewey’s grave in Burlington, Vermont. Furthermore, he sees political democracy as rooted in the wider democratic ideal: “The meaning of democracy, especially political democracy which, of course, is far from covering the whole scope of democracy, as over against every aristocratic form of social control and political authority, was expressed by Abraham Lincoln when he said that no man was good enough or wise enough to govern others without their consent; that is without some expression on their part of their own needs, their own desires and their own conception of how social affairs should go on and social problems be handled” (LW 13: 294–295).


Part III

14. Just to be absolutely clear: this is the conception of democracy Dewey terms ‘political democracy’ and it is usually referred to in contemporary academic texts as ‘liberal democracy’. 15. This translation is from ‘fact-index’. It reads as follows in its original: «Les Représentants du Peuple Français, constitués en Assemblée nationale, considérant que l’ignorance, l’oubli ou le mépris des droits de l’homme sont les seules causes des malheurs publics et de la corruption des Gouvernements, ont résolu d’exposer, dans une Déclaration solennelle, les droits naturels, inaliénables et sacrés de l’homme, afin que cette Déclaration, constamment présente à tous les membres du corps social, leur rappelle sans cesse leurs droits et leurs devoirs; afin que les actes du pouvoir législatif, et ceux du pouvoir exécutif pouvant être à chaque instant comparés avec le but de toute institution politique, en soient plus respectés; afin que les réclamations des citoyens, fondées désormais sur des principes simples et incontestables, tournent toujours au maintien de la Constitution, et au bonheur de tous.» 16. For example: “There is a current legend to the effect that the movement originated in a single clear-cut idea, and has proceeded by a single unbroken impetus to unfold itself to a predestined end” (LW 2: 287). Also see Wolin (2008: 218): “[Capitalism and liberalism] represented ‘forces’ of change that promised greater freedom, economic opportunity, and an end to privilege and arbitrary government.” 17. It is worth pointing out that this is not a dead issue. To this day, across the liberal democratic world, there is still debate about who ought to benefit from voting rights: Should convicts have the right to vote? Should ex-convicts have the right to vote? Should the voting age be lowered to 16 years of age? Should foreign nationals with permanent residency have the right to vote in all elections? 18. I owe this formulation of the Deweyan case to Robert Stern. 19. This can be read as an adaptation of the Euthyphro dilemma, replacing the task of defining ‘holiness’ with that of defining ‘democracy’: For classical liberals, ‘democracy’ is defined by the existence of democratic institutions that respect the pre-given nature of individuals; For Dewey, ‘democracy’ is defined by the existence of democratic citizens who shape institutions such as to preserve the existence of democratic citizens. I would like to thank Christopher Hookway for suggesting this formulation to me and for thus further clarifying the contrast between ‘democracy’ as defined by classical liberalism and ‘democracy’ as defined by Dewey. 20. Dewey writes: “We still find a view put forth as to an intrinsic and necessary connection between democracy and capitalism which has a psychological foundation and temper. For it is only because of a belief in a certain theory of human nature that the two are said to be Siamese twins, so an attack upon one is a threat directed at the life of the other” (LW 13: 137). 21. To stress the point that this balance is to be found within heterogeneity, I would point to Menand’s (2002: 313) commentary on one of Dewey’s private letters to his wife: “‘I can see that I have always been interpreting the [he wrote “Hegelian,” but crossed it out] dialectic wrong end up’, he wrote to Alice, ‘—the unity as the reconciliation of the opposites, instead of the opposites as the unity in its growth, and thus translated physical tension into moral thing’ (Dewey October 10–11, 1894). He saw, in other words, that the resistance the world puts up to our actions and desires is not the same as genuine opposition of interests.”

Dewey’s Democratic Ideal


22. As Dewey puts it: “No matter how accidental and irrational the circumstances of its origin, no matter how different the conditions which now exist to those under which the habit was formed, the latter persist until the environment obstinately rejects it. Habits once formed perpetuate themselves, by acting, unremittingly upon the native stock of activities. They stimulate, inhibit, intensify, weaken, select, concentrate, organize the latter into their own likeness. They create out of the formless void of impulses a world made in their own image” (MW 14: 88). 23. The basic dynamics of propitiation are well illustrated in the poem A Poison Tree by William Blake (1991: plate 49): I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright. And my foe beheld it shine. And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole; In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree. 24. Recall that Dewey identifies emotional human needs (see LW 13: 286).


Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy

Over the years, Dewey’s democratic ideal has been the object of intense criticism. The core objection it traditionally faces can be summarised under the claim that Deweyan democracy is overly optimistic. In this chapter, I discuss three ways in which he might be seen in this light, namely, Dewey’s conception of the self overly stresses collaborative tendencies in human beings (7.1); Dewey’s conception of democratic deliberation denies the existence of moral tragedies (7.2); and Dewey’s conception of democracy is overly idealistic (7.3).

7.1. Is Dewey’s Conception of the Self Overly Social? [A]t [age] 12, I knew that the point of being human was to spend one’s life fighting social injustice. [. . .] But I also had private, weird, snobbish, incommunicable interests. In earlier years these had been in Tibet. [. . .] A few years later, [. . .] these interests switched to orchids. [. . .] I was uneasily aware, however, that there was something a bit dubious about this esotericism—this interest in socially useless flowers. [ . . . ] I was afraid that Trotsky [. . .] would not have approved of my interest in orchids. (Rorty 1998: 6–7)

In the autobiographical essay ‘Trotsky and Wild Orchids’, Rorty writes about the tension he experienced as a child between his commitment to social justice and his private passions. Rorty goes on to explain that his philosophical ambition consisted in seeking to harmonise these two conflicting concerns within himself. This conflict experienced by the young Rorty points to a conflict that seems to be denied by Dewey’s conception of the self. Since Dewey envisions the self as a fundamentally social entity, he does not seem to allow for there to be a substantive separation or conflict between one’s personal interests and communal interests. This seems unwarranted. Why? Because we may agree with Dewey that people are the products of their social environments, while still believing that the personal interests that emerge from such a process may well conflict

Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy


with those of others. As Festenstein writes, even in cases where there is a “mutual interest in some social action, such as the distribution of some good, [it] does not imply that the interests involved are common or compatible” (1997: 94). And indeed, having a common need for, say, clean drinking water does not entail that one does not have a personal interest in having clean drinking water when others do not. In response, I think Dewey would not deny the claim: conflicts of interest do exist. Rather, I think he would argue that the goal of democracy is to make such conflicts more manageable. This is because his conception of democracy emerges from within a context where participants are already committed to living communally. Indeed, he writes: 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. Now in any social group whatever, even in a gang of thieves, we find some interest held in common, and we find a certain amount of interaction and cooperative intercourse with other groups. From these two traits we derive our standard. 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) On the Deweyan view, a truly democratic way of life seeks to maximise the amount of shared interests and the freedom with which individuals and groups associate with others. This means that Deweyan democracy consists in believing that this pursuit of rich and varied interdependence will yield positive outcomes for all involved, by identifying and selecting better rather than worse ways of generating social harmony over time. Thus, Deweyan democracy does not assume that there are no differences or conflicts of interests. Rather, it assumes that these can be rendered less tense and less conflictual if we collectively engage in intelligent problem solving.

7.2. Does Dewey Deny the Possibility of Moral Tragedy? The Deweyan hope as I have articulated it seems to deny the existence of genuine moral tragedies. Thus, in Randolph Bourne’s ‘Twilight of the Idols’, he accuses Dewey’s philosophy of allowing “no place for the inexorable” (Bourne 1964: 59). Typical examples of moral tragedy occur in situations of war. Let us take Daniel Statman’s definition of a ‘moral tragedy’: A moral tragedy occurs when, all things considered, every viable option one is confronted with involves a serious moral violation. In


Part III a supreme emergency, this is clear: if one violates jus in bello, one commits murder and perhaps other crimes. On the other hand, if one does not violate jus in bello, one’s omissions may contribute causally to the death and devastation of one’s people at the hands of a brutal, rights-violating aggressor. (Statman 2006: 312)

The tragic element in such situations consists in the apparent intractability of the situation: whatever we choose to do, we commit a wrong. Dewey’s faith in the possibility of making better rather than worse moral judgements seems to deny, or at least overlook, the possibility that there simply are situations in which we can only make bad decisions. On the Deweyan account, each situation presents us with a problem and the goal of inquiry is to find a satisfactory resolution. It is argued that this attitude in response to moral tragedies is a moral failing in its own right, because it fails to fully acknowledge the wrongness of all plausible options. In response, although Dewey’s moral theory does not stop the conversation at the point of ascertaining that all of our practical options are bad, I contend that this insistence is laudable. It is true: the Deweyan approach urges us, in the face of moral tragedy, to continue the conversation in pursuit of options which we hope will be better than other available courses of action. Yet, this is not to deny the wrongness of every available course of action; it is merely to insist on finding that which is the ‘least wrong’ out of all those available. Thus, when critics accuse Dewey of failing to face up to the possibility of moral tragedy, I would respond with Jennifer Welchman (1995: 201), when she writes: Dewey’s answer is that, on the contrary, a pragmatic ethical theory is the only theory that truly recognizes the possibility of moral tragedies. Dewey argues that it is a virtue of a pragmatic approach to value that is not “under obligation to find ingenious methods for proving that evils are only apparent, not real, or to elaborate schemes for explaining them away or, worse yet, for justifying them. It assumes another obligation:—That of contributing in however humble a way to methods that will assist us in discovering the cause of humanity’s ills.” (MW 12: 181) In other words, Dewey’s account of moral inquiry allows for the possibility that no fully satisfactory solution may emerge from the process of inquiry, but it remains committed to the idea that inquiry might reveal which practical responses are more satisfactory than the others. In the art of painting, tenebrism consists in using the technique of the chiaroscuro to represent figures of light on a dark canvas: within a dark context,

Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy


differences of light can still be made out. By analogy, in the situation of moral tragedy, moral inquiry for Dewey uses the technique of intelligent criticism to illuminate the better options even within a bleak situation. As Welchman (1995: 201–202) puts it: If the evils of life, natural and artificial, cannot be avoided, they can, as a rule, be ameliorated. For this reason, Dewey rejected both optimism and pessimism in favour of ‘meliorism’: “Meliorism is the belief that the specific conditions which exist at one moment, be they comparatively bad or comparatively good, in any event may be bettered. It encourages intelligence to study positive means of good and the obstructions to their realization, and to put forth endeavor for the improvement of conditions. It arouses confidence and a reasonable hopefulness as optimism does not” (MW 12: 181–182). If we presume, as most people do presume, that further improvements to the quality of human life are possible above and beyond those already achieved, Dewey’s ethical philosophy is not unduly optimistic. Said otherwise, to believe as a general rule that problematic situations have better and worse solutions and that we ought to pursue better ones over worse ones does not amount to denying that all available solutions are bad. Thus, the ethical vision to which Deweyan democracy is committed does not deny the existence of moral tragedies. It merely insists on the necessity of seeking out the better over the worse—even when all options are bad.

7.3. Is Deweyan Democracy Overly Idealistic? The abstract character of [Dewey’s] conception of democracy is as far from a common and ‘realist’ view of democracy as the name of a set of specific political procedures and institutions as it is possible to find. [. . .] Furthermore, it is a bold assumption to hope, as Dewey does, that complex industrial societies can be characterised by a high level of harmony among the interests of their members, to be secured through public discussion and communication. (Festenstein 2005: § 4)

The objection I consider here consists in rejecting Deweyan democracy on the grounds that it is overly idealistic or disconnected from the reality of contemporary politics. This objection takes two general forms: (i) citizens in advanced democracies are not prepared to participate in collective problem solving; and (ii) Dewey fails to account for the role of power in political and social dynamics.


Part III

a. Is Deweyan Democracy Overly Optimistic About the Willingness of Citizens to Participate in Social Inquiry? This objection can be understood as a concern about the nature of public engagement in advanced technological societies. Deweyan democracy seemingly demands a great deal of willingness on behalf of citizens to use their own time for the sake of collective problem solving—both in the stages of deliberation and social action. Critics might claim that popular apathy suggests that there is no such willingness. Worse still, the apparent disconnect between the actions of mere citizens and the behaviours of governments suggests that this unwillingness is rational: there is no point in expending time and energy in seeking social change if all we get is more of the same. In response, Dewey believes that this apathy, though understandable, is not inevitable. The crucial change required for this apathy to transform into popular engagement is to see social and political change as a result of forces operating beyond the scope of politics proper (that is beyond the activities of political parties and members of the judiciary, legislature, and executive). As Campbell puts it: All along, as Dewey writes in 1939, his point has been the need to side-step or transcend the established party system and to use heightened involvement on the part of members of the community, working in ‘voluntary associations’, to directly address social problems: “the ultimate way out of the present social dead end lies with the movement these associations are initiating. Individuals who have lost faith in themselves and in other individuals will increasingly ally themselves with these groups. Sooner or later they will construct the way out of present confusion and conflict” (LW 14: 96–97). If they continue their efforts to uncover the facts of our current social situation and continue to demonstrate the social meaning of these facts, they will increasingly involve people in the cooperative inquiry necessary to address our social ills. (Campbell 1995: 228) In other words, Dewey holds that engagement in civil society is a crucial part of social and political change. The question then is: are citizens prepared to do this? This is an interesting question that I cannot hope to answer to full satisfaction within this book. However, suffice it to say that the recognition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as part of the United Nations’ Charter and the subsequent dramatic development of global civil society since the Second World War suggest that this type of political engagement is popular to the point of now being a staple of contemporary global politics. Furthermore, it would seem as though this form of civic engagement is waxing rather than waning, since, as we have seen,

Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy


major developments in communication technologies are enabling a transformation in modes of participation, resulting in what Stéphane Hessel (2008: 113) calls a ‘civisme mondial’ (global civic engagement). To those who worry that this form of engagement is largely impotent—rather like a wasp endlessly buzzing but never mounting the nerve to sting—Hessel responds: The struggle for full recognition of human rights remains a task before us, of which the success is not guaranteed. However, today, across the globe, no incident involving human rights infringements goes unchallenged by non-governmental organisations: after all, consider the achievements of Handicap International on the issue of anti-personal landmines!1 (Hessel 2008: 113—my translation) And indeed, examples of highly successful NGO campaigns abound. They thus represent a non-negligible locus of influence upon the formal modes of political decision-making, thereby lending credence to the notion that there is a stock of willing and concerned global citizens, who, when well organised, can bring about meaningful policy change. How far that change might go is debatable. Yet, what is clear is that, under reasonable conditions, citizens are disposed to take part in collective action. b. Does Deweyan Democracy Fail to Account for Conflict and Power in Politics? Critics have long argued that John Dewey’s political thought—and pragmatism in general—avoids conflict and is unsuspicious of power. While pragmatism might offer resources as an antifoundational theory of knowledge, it is unable to address distinctly political issues, particularly ones defined by structural inequalities. (Hildreth 2009: 780) [P]ragmatism is often accused on ignoring the analysis of power or even worse assumes a view of power that is overly idealistic and airy fairy. Dewey’s emphasis on consensus, cooperation, and social improvement may at first seem vulnerable to such interpretations. Critics charge that pragmatism is simply naïve about power. Typical is C. Wright Mills’ claim that John Dewey’s focus on discussion and consensus ignores the reality of conflict over values and elite domination. (Wolfe 2012: 121)

As Roudy Hildreth and Joel Wolfe suggest in these passages, one widespread objection we find levelled at Dewey’s conception of democracy consists in taking its understanding of power to be overly utopian, lacking


Part III

in understanding of the dynamics of conflict and domination. As an immediate response, I would remind the reader of what should already be clear: Dewey does not ignore the likely persistence of conflict, or wish away social disharmony. As we have seen, Deweyan democracy is designed to be a method for confronting conflict and disharmony in the hope of resolving them when possible and minimising them when not. It is not a blind faith in the literal possibility of endless harmonious living: it is a method for conflict resolution, which therefore presupposes the ongoing existence of conflict (see Smiley 1990). That is why, in anticipation of this type of objection, Dewey writes: “It is then assumed that the ‘experimentalist’ is one who has chosen to ignore the uncomfortable fact of conflicting interests. Of course, there are conflicting interests; otherwise there would be no social problems” (LW 11: 56). Indeed, elsewhere he claims that “[c]onflict is a sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity” (MW 14: 207). Therefore, conflict is not naively wished away by the Deweyan democrat: it is assumed as a fact to be dealt with. However, one aspect of conflict that is not systematically analysed by Dewey is the fact that many situations of conflict are characterised by profound imbalances of power. Thus, the astute critic might claim that Deweyan democracy provides a model of conflict resolution perhaps fit for the circumstances of the seminar room but definitely not for the streets or the deliberating assemblies of the state, or anywhere else where imbalances of power are rife. Since the Deweyan model intends to be of relevance to real situations, this would seem to be a failure indeed. Now, it is true: Dewey does not offer an explicit and systematic theory of power. Yet, Dewey does seem to offer an implicit one in contexts where such a theory is required, since Hildreth (2009: 786) writes: Dewey defines power as the “effective means of operation; ability or capacity to execute. [. . .] It means nothing but the sum of conditions available for bringing the desirable end into existence” (MW 10: 246). Or, in John Patrick Diggins’s more elegant rendering: “power is [. . .] the human ability to translate thought into action and desire into deed” (1994: 215). This definition of power as the capacity to execute desired ends is broadly consistent throughout Dewey’s career. Thus, power for Dewey is not merely about what happens between two actors (in the form of ‘power over’). Power is about what happens between an agent and its environment (which, of course, includes its social environment). Thus, for Dewey, power is about having the power to do something or other. However, on his view, doing something always involves a change both in the agent and in her environment. Thus, power is always about the transaction that takes place between an agent and her environment when she uses her capacity to effect change in the world. This theory of power can be referred to as a ‘transactional theory’ of power, since it points to the transactional nature of the relationship between

Traditional Objections to Deweyan Democracy


the self and society, as characterised previously (see 6.6-e). Therefore, since the goal of Deweyan democracy is the development of personality, understood as the development of individuals’ capacities to effect change, Dewey’s political philosophy is best understood as a theory of empowerment. Thus I agree with Hildreth (2009: 781) that Dewey “is acutely aware of how issues of power impede the realization of his central normative commitments: individual growth and the development of ‘democracy as a way of life’.” Although Dewey does not specify what exactly, in policy terms, would constitute the appropriate distribution of power, he does argue that the democratic ideal consists in seeking an ever-improved distribution of power over that which is in existence at any one time. The critic might thus insist that this fails to inform us about what to do to bring about such a state of affairs in the here and now. In other words, it fails to inform us about the problem of transition or political technology: how do we get from here to there? There is a sense in which this is right: Dewey is keen not to pre-empt situational problem solving by offering a systematic theory of social change, and this can seem disappointing to some. However, there is a sense in which this is false: Dewey is quite willing to offer guidelines and rules of thumb in the hypothetical mode that could help in directing situational thinking.2 Still, the point upon which he is the most insistent is that “there are no easy, a priori answers to questions regarding the use of force and violence” (Hildreth 2009: 787). This, in my view, comes down to saying, as Michael Eldridge does, that ultimately Dewey “seems to side with political operatives, the political ‘pragmatists’” (Eldridge 1998: 120) in giving precedence to the need to respond to the facts of the situation and making context-specific decisions about the political methods to adopt in any given context, in order to best achieve their situational ends-in-view. Although this open-endedness might appear to be a weakness to those seeking a political maître à penser in Dewey, it is precisely this openendedness that enables him to acknowledge the need to face power in all its unpredictable arbitrariness, one problem at a time. It is also this openendedness that calls for the experimentalist method of doing political philosophy so dear to Dewey. Of course, the critic may not accept that this theory of power resolves the problem of political technology (I discuss such dissatisfaction in greater detail in 9.4). Yet, the objection was that Dewey has no theory of power and I hope to have shown here that he does indeed have one: we have seen that his theory of power not only acknowledges the existence of power, but it also gives some indication as to its nature and significance, and how we might practically go about engaging with it.

Notes 1. The original reads as follows: «Le combat pour la prise en compte des droits de l’homme reste à poursuivre, sans qu’on soit assuré qu’il puisse se gagner. Mais aujourd’hui, il ne se passe plus un incident dans le monde, mettant en


Part III

cause les droits de l’homme, sans qu’il soit relayé par des organisations non gouvernementales: que l’on songe seulement a tous ce qu’a pu faire Handicap International sur les mines anti-personnel!» 2. For example, Dewey insists that democratic ends require democratic means (LW 11: 298) and that force “becomes violence when it defeats or frustrates purpose instead of executing or realizing it” (MW 10: 246). Yet, he also maintains that “any political or legal theory which will have nothing to do with power on the ground [or thinks] that all power is force and all force brutal and non-moral is obviously condemned to a purely sentimental, dreamy morals” (MW 10: 246).


Deweyan Democracy, Robert Talisse, and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism

Over the last decade, Talisse has developed a seemingly devastating argument against John Dewey’s democratic ideal. Indeed, most explicitly in his book, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy (2007a), and in his essays (2007b, 2010, 2011), Talisse has drawn on John Rawls’ Political Liberalism to articulate a crushing objection to the project of reviving Dewey’s conception of democracy. Instead of criticising particular arguments in favour of Deweyan democracy, Talisse contends that this democratic ideal has one fundamental shortcoming: namely, it fails to countenance the fact of reasonable pluralism. In the last instance, he argues that this failing is essentially a pragmatic inadequacy, which in turn enables him to conclude that Deweyan democracy “fails on its own terms” (Talisse 2007b: 1). In this chapter, I offer a Rawlsian defence of Dewey’s democratic ideal by drawing on Rawls’ broader conceptual apparatus with a special focus on his conception of ‘perfectionism’. However, before I go any further, I must state that despite serious misgivings about the possibility of meeting Rawls’ criterion for legitimate state action in a non-circular manner (see Wenar 1995), for the sake of responding to Talisse’s central argument in the most comprehensive and charitable manner, I assume throughout this chapter that the fact of reasonable pluralism can, at least in principle, be accommodated. Moreover, for the sake of clarity, it must be understood that for present purposes the terms ‘theory of the good’, ‘conception of the good’, and ‘conception of human flourishing’ are taken to be broadly synonymous. Furthermore, I understand ‘Deweyan democracy’ as Dewey’s democratic ideal as interpreted largely by the lights of his Middle and Later Works. Dewey’s early articulation of his democratic ideal and those developed by some commentators who stress this early period are fairly obviously perfectionistic and thus reasonably rejectable.1 To be clear, while there is undoubtedly continuity in Dewey’s thinking about democracy, I follow Gregory Pappas (2008: 89–90) in understanding there to have been significant changes between Dewey’s early and his ‘mature’ ethical theory.2 As a result, part of the task I am setting for myself here consists in articulating an understanding of Dewey’s mature democratic ideal,


Part III

fully reflecting the shift from ‘absolutism to experimentalism’ in Dewey’s overall philosophical project.3 Now, with that in mind, I show that Talisse’s argument fails on Rawlsian terms, since Dewey’s democratic ideal properly understood does not rely on what Rawls called a ‘full’ but a ‘thin’ theory of the good and is therefore fully consistent with Rawls’ characterisation of the fact of reasonable pluralism. To show this, I start by thoroughly presenting Talisse’s case against Deweyan democracy (8.1); then I present Shane Ralston’s objection to Talisse, according to which he fails to evaluate Deweyan democracy in its own terms (8.2). Subsequently, I articulate my Rawlsian defence of Deweyan democracy against Talisse’s argument (8.3); I consider and reject three potential responses and one actual response from Talisse (8.4); and ultimately, I show that Deweyan democracy is not reasonably rejectable in Rawlsian terms because it does not rely on a ‘full’ theory of the good.

8.1. The Case Against Deweyan Democracy In order to construct his case against Dewey, Talisse proposes “the following four interlocking theses as constitutive of Deweyan democracy”: (1) The Continuity Thesis: The democratic political order is a moral order characterized by a distinctive conception of human flourishing. (2) The Transformative Thesis: The democratic process is one in which individual preferences, attitudes and opinions are informed and transformed rather than simply aggregated. (3) The Way of Life Thesis: Democracy is not simply a kind of state or a mode of government, but a way of life. (4) The Perfectionist Thesis: Democratic states may enact legislation and design institutions for the expressed purpose of fostering the values and attitudes necessary for human flourishing. (Talisse 2011: 509–510) I understand Talisse’s argument against Deweyan democracy to take issue with the compound effect of (1) and (4). Why? Taken together, they lend authority to the notion that the state is entitled to use its power to further a distinctive conception of human flourishing. This is problematic for Talisse. According to him, since we live under conditions of reasonable pluralism, we cannot expect all reasonable citizens to agree upon one conception of the good, hence justifying state action with reference to this controversial conception of the good would result in oppressing dissident citizens. Talisse is, of course, here borrowing from Rawls’ characterisation of the fact of reasonable pluralism, which is in need of further explanation.

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


a. Rawls and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism According to Talisse, Rawls’ conception of “the fact of reasonable pluralism” is best understood as follows: There is no single comprehensive philosophical, religious or moral doctrine upon which reason converges. That is to say, there is a set of defensible and reasonable comprehensive moral ideals such that each ideal is fully consistent with the best exercise of reason but inconsistent with other members of the set. (Talisse 2010: 16) In other words, disagreement about what Rawls calls ‘comprehensive doctrines’ (i.e. religious or philosophical views about the order of the world or sources of normativity) cannot be explained by mere misinformation, stubbornness, irrationality, or malice (Talisse 2007a: 34). Or as Talisse (2007a: 80) puts it, “reasonable people—sincere, honest, and intelligent individuals carefully attending to the relevant considerations and doing their epistemic best—nonetheless disagree at the level of Big Questions.” Talisse therefore follows Rawls in claiming that we have no other choice but to accept that these disagreements are the necessary results of “the work of human reason under enduring free institutions” (PL: 129). Thus, since reasonable people disagree about the fundamental values that ought to guide the state, the state cannot justify the promotion of any one fundamental value to all reasonable members of society. For Rawls, the fact of reasonable pluralism entails that the only legitimate ideal for settling debates about constitutional arrangements and matters of basic justice is a political conception of justice which can be the object of an overlapping consensus among all reasonable citizens. According to Rawls, in order for this political conception of justice to be the object of an overlapping consensus, it must be modular, or freestanding from—or as Samuel Freeman (2007: 332) puts it, “independent of”—comprehensive doctrines. Since a political conception of justice needs to be acceptable (or at least not objectionable) to people holding any reasonable comprehensive doctrine, it must not crucially depend on any one of those doctrines for its final justification. Instead, it must find grounds for its justification in the shared public political culture of the society from which it emerges. Rawls writes: Since justification is addressed to others, it proceeds from what is, or can be, held in common; and so we begin from shared fundamental ideas implicit in the public political culture in the hope of developing from them a political conception that can gain free and reasoned agreement in judgment. (PL: 100–101)


Part III

If a given conception of justice—call it (j)—is grounded in views found outside the public political culture, then (j) is not a political conception of justice, because it is reasonably rejectable. To put it otherwise, reasonable citizens can object to living under a state which is dedicated to promoting (j). Thus, on the Rawlsian account, the state ought to remain neutral with regard to competing comprehensive doctrines (say, (j), (k), (l), etc.), however reasonable these may be. On this view, if the state is not neutral with regard to comprehensive doctrines, it is ipso facto oppressive. Accordingly, to avoid state oppression, no comprehensive doctrine is permitted to play a uniquely determining role in shaping the conception of justice that will justify the operations of the state. Only a political conception of justice, which remains neutral with regard to reasonable comprehensive doctrines, can legitimately justify state action. A political conception of justice is composed of the views found at the intersection of all reasonable comprehensive doctrine, but is not composed of the views associated with reasonable comprehensive doctrines that reasonable citizens might reasonably reject. If even one reasonable member of society has reason to object to a part of (j), then that part of (j) is not a part of the overlapping parts of (j), (k), (l), etc.; that is to say, that part of (j) is not a part of a political conception of justice, and it thus cannot justify the use of state power without being oppressive. b. The Fact of Reasonable Pluralism and Deweyan Democracy Crucially, Talisse believes Deweyan democracy to be a comprehensive doctrine and not a political conception of justice. Why? Talisse contends that Deweyan democracy is a comprehensive doctrine with the ambition of using the state apparatus to realise its particular conception of the good. Talisse (2007a: 44) writes: “The Deweyan view is driven by a distinctive conception of human flourishing according to which the participation of citizens in democratic community is both the necessary condition for and essential constituent of a properly human life.” He continues, “the Deweyan democrat seeks to reconstruct the whole of society in the image of her own philosophical commitments, she seeks to coerce people to live under political institutions that are explicitly designed to cultivate norms and realize civic ideals that they could reasonably reject” (Talisse 2007a: 45). Furthermore, to explain by way of analogy why this is problematic, Talisse offers the example of Joe the utilitarian: Joe thinks with Mill that the Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP) is “the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions” (Mill 1991: 15). Consequently, he thinks that any question of public policy or institutional design is decisively answered by the GHP. Suppose Joe also thinks, again with Mill, that a system of weighted voting, in which “graduates of universities” are given “two or more votes” (Mill 1991: 336), best

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


satisfies the GHP. Further stipulate that Joe is correct that weighted voting is required by the GHP. The fact of reasonable pluralism is the fact that utilitarianism is not the only reasonable moral doctrine that free citizens might adopt; one may reject utilitarianism without thereby revoking one’s fitness for democratic citizenship. In order to be legitimate, public policy must be justifiable to all citizens, even those who oppose utilitarianism as a moral theory. Consequently, Joe’s utilitarian reasons could be reasonably rejected; they are hence insufficient to publicly justify weighted voting. (Talisse 2011: 513) Thus, Talisse contends that the Deweyan democrat is in a position analogous to Joe the utilitarian, because her conception of human flourishing (or ‘growth’, but more on that soon) is analogous to the GHP: Deweyan democrats take growth to be—to use Mill’s phase—‘the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions’. To be clear, it is not so much that Talisse believes Deweyan democrats to be closet tyrants wanting to curtail the political rights of individuals; it is rather that Talisse believes Deweyan democrats to be discursive tyrants, since they hold that fostering growth is the one true goal of genuine democracy and they require, according to Talisse, that others agree to this goal as a precondition for engaging in democratic discussions. Talisse further specifies that, even if the Deweyan view of democracy were true, it would still be illegitimate to appeal to it in public deliberation, because other reasonable members of society can reject that view. Indeed, on the Rawlsian account, the truth of a moral doctrine is independent of its capacity to be the object of an overlapping consensus serving as the basis for public justification. Talisse explains: The Rawlsian insight is that in order to be legitimate, public policy must be justifiable by reasons that meet a standard higher than truth; publicly justifying reasons must be not reasonably rejectable. The fact of reasonable pluralism means that no comprehensive doctrine is beyond reasonable rejection; therefore, reasons, such as Joe’s, which derive from a single comprehensive doctrine—again, even a reasonable one—cannot publicly justify. In order to publicly justify weighted voting in a democratic society, Joe must appeal to reasons that even non-utilitarians could accept. (Talisse 2011: 513) In other words, Talisse contends that Dewey’s conception of democracy is not an appropriate social ideal because people can legitimately reject some of its core philosophical commitments (that is, its conception of the good) without being said to be ‘unreasonable’ or ‘failing at democracy’. According to him, although Deweyan democracy is reasonable, it


Part III

demands of other participants in democratic deliberation that they recognise that Dewey’s conception of the good can serve as the basis for political justification. This, in turn, is unacceptable to Talisse, since the fact of reasonable pluralism entails that reasonable people disagree about what is the ultimate goal of moral action. Talisse thus concludes that Deweyan democracy is reasonably rejectable and oppressive (2007a: 45). As I made clear at the outset of this chapter, it is precisely this contention that I intend to dispute. Many responses to Talisse’s argument focus on demonstrating that his alternative Peircean conception of democracy fares no better than Deweyan democracy in accommodating the fact of reasonable pluralism.4 While those criticisms have their merits, I intend to defend Deweyan democracy by showing that, on Rawls’ account of perfectionist conceptions of the good, the conception of the good held by Deweyan democrats (growth) is not perfectionist. However, in order to provide more context before offering a substantive argument to that effect I will rehearse Shane Ralston’s defence of Deweyan democracy against Talisse’s objection on the grounds that it fails to evaluate Deweyan democracy by its own standard of pluralism.

8.2. Ralston’s Response to Talisse In ‘Deweyan Democracy and Pluralism: A Reunion,’ Shane Ralston (2009) argues that Talisse fails to treat Deweyan democracy on its own terms. He argues that Talisse interprets Deweyan democracy through three filters: Isaiah Berlin’s ontological value pluralism, John Rawls’ legitimacy principle, and the dichotomy between procedural and substantive conceptions of democracy. While Talisse eventually abandons both the procedural/substantive dichotomy and the use of Berlinian value pluralism to articulate his criticism of Deweyan democracy,5 I think we can ignore the former but not the latter in explaining Ralston’s reply to Talisse. That is why I address Ralston’s characterisation of the Berlinian and then the Rawlsian filter. a. The Lens of Berlinian Value Pluralism According to Ralston, the Berlinian lens requires that we accept that “individuals select their values from among a universe of competing possibilities” (Ralston 2009: 226). This means that, on this view, human ends are incommensurable and potentially mutually exclusive. It follows from this that any attempt at fully harmonising these competing goods is a mistake: “Intractable value conflicts therefore become an unassailable fact of human moral life” (Ralston 2009: 226). This view presupposes that values pre-exist the process of moral inquiry and that the process of moral inquiry merely consists in establishing a preference ranking

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


among “a catalogue or ontological schema of accepted values” (Ralston 2009: 227). Ralston points out that, on the Deweyan account of valuation, the picture is far more dynamic: “Logic is always prior to ontology. Since logic is a theory of inquiry, any shared values must first undergo collective investigation and experimentation before being settled ‘over and above board’, that is, as the products of social inquiry” (Ralston 2009: 227). In other words, for Dewey, the process of inquiry is existentially prior to any ontological claim about the existence of values or about their incommensurability and incompatibility. This means that it is not so much the case that Dewey is committed to the notion that all values will definitely be rendered fully harmonious; it is rather the case that he is committed to the idea that we must pursue such harmony to the extent that we can through the process of inquiry. (This is a similar point to the point I made in response to the worry about failing to make sense of the possibility of moral tragedy.) Ralston concludes from this that “Deweyan democracy does not offer a ‘comprehensive worldview’ or unitary system of values, but rather a way, among many others, to reconcile different and often-times conflicting value orientations into a ‘mode of associative living’” (2009: 227). This entails two things: (i)  Deweyan democracy does not claim to offer a final picture of the moral world towards which we ought to strive; and (ii) Deweyan democracy is a method for negotiating conflicts of value that emerge from within the flow of human life. b. The Lens of Rawlsian Reasonable Pluralism Ralston then turns to Talisse’s use of Rawls: Talisse filters Deweyan democracy through Rawls’s notion of reasonable pluralism at the expense of ignoring Dewey’s analogous, though comparably richer, principle of growth. Instead of an overlapping consensus between otherwise divergent worldviews, the ethical principle of growth recommends that individuals and groups cultivate those experiences that will liberate their potentialities. (Ralston 2009: 228–229) If to Talisse this principle of growth is overly constraining, Ralston explains that it is nothing more than a principle of problem solving, according to which “citizens should become increasingly adept at individual and group problem solving” (2009: 229) by developing their capacities for problem solving—whatever they may be. In other words, Deweyan democracy is, at its heart, an injunction to become better problem-solvers. The only clear specifications made by Dewey about how we might go about following such an injunction consist in


Part III

pointing out that education (in the widest sense of the word) and the actual practice of collective problem solving are good hypotheses. The outcomes of the process of problem solving are left undetermined by Dewey. Or, as Festenstein (1997: 93) puts it: The precise form in which this ideal is to take political shape is up to the individuals themselves, in the specific circumstances in which they live. Dewey is explicitly agnostic about the forms which the ideal might take: what is ultimately required for the formation of a democratic public is “a kind of knowledge which does not yet exist” (LW 2: 339), and, in its absence, “it would be the height of absurdity to try to tell you what it would be like if it existed.” To underline the open-ended nature of his ideal, Dewey further writes that “[d]emocracy 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” (LW 14: 228–229). Ralston explains that this seems a far cry from advancing a statesponsored world view; “[i]nstead, it is merely to restate the fact that humans are naturally problem-solvers; to observe that humans who are citizens of democracies confront common problems; and then to infer from the fact and observation that the challenge for democratic citizens is to become better collaborative problem-solvers” (2009: 229). Ralston adds that in comparison, Rawls’ demand that all democratic deliberation be made in the language of (or in a language translatable into) public reason is far more stringent than Deweyan democratic deliberation, where “fair procedures [. . .] permit reasonable citizens, distinct groups and state agents [. . .] to disagree without resorting to violence” (Ralston 2009: 230). Ralston goes on to articulate what he sees as Dewey’s deliberative standard of inclusion in deliberation. Ralston contends that Dewey offers two criteria: “the first pertains to the plurality of interests held in common by different groups. [.  .  .] The second question concerns whether groups are open to readjusting their ways of associating” (2009: 231). Thus, for Dewey, the process of problem solving necessarily involves two steps: first, the individuals who form part of a group must identify shared interests; and, second, they must “propose novel and flexible ways of associating in order to address their shared problems” (Ralston 2009: 232). Deweyan democracy thus only demands that citizens be prepared to revise the forms of association in which they participate for the sake of finding improved forms of communal living. Thus, Ralston writes, “Dewey’s procedure for addressing the fact of pluralism might be called the ‘mutual interest and associative flexibility standard of inclusion’” (2009: 231). This, Ralston claims, is a method for resolving social problems, not a “state-sponsored worldview—a procedure for negotiating, though not permanently resolving, the deeply divisive and sometimes intractable

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


differences between peoples and groups beholden to competing forms of life” (2009: 232). I concur with Ralston: Dewey does indeed offer his own pluralist procedure for addressing pluralism. Moreover, I agree that Deweyan democracy is a method for solving social problems, not a comprehensive conception of the good with the ambition of taking control of the state apparatus. Moreover, I am sympathetic to the force of Ralston’s refusal to interpret Dewey through a Rawlsian filter. However, Talisse’s project demands, rightly or wrongly, that pragmatism make itself more ‘pragmatically’ relevant by dialogically engaging with contemporary arguments in political philosophy. In order to respond to Talisse on his own term, and hopefully convince him of the error of his ways, it behooves us Deweyan democrats to thoroughly consider Deweyan democracy through the Rawlsian filter. My contention is that, even from this perspective, Deweyan democracy meets the challenge posed by the fact of reasonable pluralism, since it relies on a thin and not a full conception of the good.

8.3. Rawls Revisited: Deweyan Democracy as Political Liberalism Pragmatism [. . .] means open air and possibilities of nature, as against dogma, artificiality, and the pretence of finality in truth. At the same time, it does not stand for any special results. It is a method only. (James 1977: 379)

In both TJ and PL, Rawls relies on a distinction between ‘full’ and ‘thin’ theories of the good. ‘Full’ theories of the good consist in fully worked out accounts of conceptions of the good life, while ‘thin’ theories of the good consist in accounts of what moral agents minimally require in order to entertain thick conceptions of the good. Or, as Samuel Freeman puts it, a full theory of the good “incorporates the idea of final ends that are worth pursuing for their own sake” (2007: 471), while a thin theory of the good “does not set forth any specific ends as rational to pursue for their own sake” (2007: 472). Thus, a full theory of the good responds to the question: “What is the ultimate goal of human life?” While a thin theory of the good responds to the question: “What ends is it rational to pursue no matter what we believe to be the ultimate goal of human life?” According to Rawls, a political conception of justice comprises a thin conception of the good but stops short of embracing any full theory of the good, since such full theories of the good are not appropriate objects for an overlapping consensus among reasonable citizens under the conditions of reasonable pluralism. Nevertheless, Samuel Freeman (2007: 299) explains: As Rawls uses these terms, interests can be ‘supremely regulative’ or ‘fundamental’ and of ‘highest order’ without being final ends, pursued for their own sake. For example, our interest in self-preservation


Part III is of the ‘highest order’, according to Hobbes, but that does not mean that self-preservation is one of the final ends we pursue and which give our lives meaning. It means rather that it is an essential interest that must be fulfilled if any of our final ends and pursuits are to be realized. It is in this sense that it is an essential good.

Thus, one might say that Rawls’ thin conception of the good points to goods that are of the highest value, without seeking to articulate any final moral good (summum bonum). That is to say, thin theories of the good identify goods that are of the highest value in the same sense that Rawls speaks of certain interests being of the ‘highest order’ (CP: 312); these are worthy of pursuit whatever other goals we may hold. In order for Talisse to have shown that Deweyan democracy is reasonably rejectable and that it therefore fails to countenance the fact of reasonable pluralism, he needs to have shown that Deweyan democracy is irrevocably wedded to a full and not a thin conception of the good. I contend that he fails to do so and that a more accurate interpretation of Deweyan democracy will demonstrate that it only requires a thin theory of the good that identifies goods of the ‘highest value’ in the Rawlsian sense. As mentioned previously, Deweyan democracy is wedded to a specific conception of the good called ‘growth’. Once the distinction between thin and full conceptions of the good is established, all I need to show is that growth is a thin not a full conception of the good. In other words, I need to show that growth establishes general ends that are rational to pursue no matter what our more specific life goals might be and remains largely agnostic about what final or ultimate life goals we ought to adopt. If I can show this, it then follows that Deweyan democracy is capable of countenancing the fact of reasonable pluralism. But to do this, I need to explain precisely what Deweyan growth involves. According to James S. Johnston (2006: 106–107), Deweyan growth has three broad meanings: first, growth is the continued life and development of a biological organism; second, growth is the capacity to make intelligent judgements; and third, growth is the capacity to develop intelligent habits of action by learning from past experiences and judgements and adapting ensuing actions in light of such a process of learning. This means that ‘growth’ is defined by the development of certain capacities that serve one’s more general capacity to solve problems. In other words, the development of capacities that enable intelligent problem solving ought to be understood as being of primarily instrumental value, since they are of ultimate value in their enabling the solving of problems. This last sentence, however, might seem rather contentious even to the most ardent Deweyan. Why? Because Dewey offered a rather complex account of the relationship between means and ends. Indeed, he does not draw a staunch ontological separation between the two, claiming that “means and ends are two names for the same reality” (MW 14: 28).

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


Yet, this is not to say we cannot distinguish means from ends. Rather, as Naoko Saito (2005: 75–76) puts it: In Dewey’s view, a distinction between means and ends is not metaphysical, but functional. [. . .] Ends function as a means by serving as the perspective from which we anticipate the next act. In turn, a means is the name for the next immediate action to be taken as temporary end (MW 9: 113). “Means are means; they are intermediates, middle terms” (MW 14: 28). Ends are being reconstructed at each moment of action. ‘Ends grow.’ They are not static points, and cannot be “located at one place only” (LW 10: 63). Rather, ends are ‘ends-in-view’ that represent a whole series of acts (MW 14: 155; LW 1: 88): “the terminal outcome when anticipated [.  .  .] becomes an end-in-view, an aim, purpose, a prediction usable as a plan in shaping the course of events” (LW 1: 86). [. . .] Thus, paradoxically “[e]nds are literally endless” (MW 14: 159); ends are open-ended. [. . .] As Dewey says, “travelling is a constant arriving” (MW 14: 195). Moreover, since Dewey stresses that “it is not the satisfactoriness of [an] activity which defines [said activity]; the definition comes from the structure and function of subject-matter” (LW 1: 158), it is this same functional definition that I draw upon to argue that we ought to understand the capacities for intelligent problem solving as being primarily of instrumental value rather than consummatory. In other words, I contend that we must understand ‘growth’ not in relation to its consummatory character (i.e. the satisfaction we derive from developing our capacities to solve problems) but its functional or instrumental capacity to help in the task of solving problems intelligently. Yet, here already the critic beckons: what exactly is meant by ‘intelligent’ problem solving? The intelligent character of problem solving consists in solving present problems in a manner that enables, or at the very least does not impede, future problem solving. Thus, the function of growth on this account is to enable us to develop capacities that not only solve existing problems but that put us in good stead to solve both present and future ones. The upshot of this is that growth cannot point to an ethical finality because “[t]he business of reflection in determining the true good cannot be done once and for all. [. . .] It needs to be done, and done over and over and over again, in terms of the conditions of concrete situations as they arise” (LW 7: 212). Thus, on this account, the process of growth is never fully completed, because it is the nature of the human condition to always encounter new problems. This means that the concrete goals that growth enables us to further are unspecifiable in advance. All Deweyan growth requires of us is that we pursue the development of the habits of action that enable the process of intelligent problem solving, while seeking to avoid those habits that would hinder it. As mentioned


Part III

previously, Dewey remains largely philosophically agnostic about particular solutions to particular problems. In fact, the Deweyan account is even agnostic about the singularity or plurality of ‘good’ solutions to problems. It is also agnostic about whether or not there is a ‘perfect’ solution (that is, one upon which we cannot improve) to any one problem. It allows such specifications to be made a posteriori, leaving it to actual inquirers to ascertain, since it is the iterated process of inquiry—and it alone—which ultimately establishes whether or not a solution to a particular problem can be intelligently improved upon. Therefore, at a general level, Deweyan growth enables us to ascertain that certain habits of thought and action are to be preferred to others for the sake of intelligent problem solving. That is to say, for example, that the general goal of problem solving informs us that truth-telling is preferable to lying, that logical thinking is preferable to wishful thinking, that conscious decision-making is preferable to knee-jerk reaction, etc. Growth therefore does not consist in the furthering of pre-established ends or life goals; it consists in the development of certain capacities that it is rational to want to possess given the fact that intelligently solving problems is necessary, whatever other ultimate goals groups or agents may wish to pursue. Therefore, Deweyan democrats must hold that intelligent problem solving is of the ‘highest order’ in the same sense that—to summon Freeman’s words—“our interest in self-preservation is of the ‘highest order’ [. . .] but that does not mean that self-preservation is one of the final ends we pursue and which give our lives meaning. It means rather that it is an essential interest that must be fulfilled if any of our final ends and pursuits are to be realized” (Freeman 2007: 299—emphasis in original). But the critic may well further ask: does the ‘intelligent’ character of solving problems covertly reintroduce a contentious prescriptive normative agenda? In other words, the critic might worry that, despite my claims to the contrary, intelligent problem solving actually reflects a substantive political project aiming at the development of a reasonably rejectable conception of the good. That would mean that growth secretly aims towards a good beyond itself. However, if we were to ask Dewey, “What is the ultimate goal of growth?” I think Dewey’s answer would be that “growth aims towards growth itself”—meaning that growth aims towards a greater development of our capacities to intelligently solve problems. I therefore think we should follow Ralston in understanding that growth does not “aim at some ultimate end” (Ralston 2011: 360) beyond itself; agents may well pursue further ends beyond growth, but growth is not in the business of identifying what such eventual ends ought to be.6 Rather, as Welchman (1995: 191) puts it: The putative end of human action, the good life [that is, a life of growth], cannot be conceived of as a discrete thing, event, quality,

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


or state. It must be instead conceived of as a series, a series of challenges overcome giving rise to new challenges. Each new end is a new construction, the outcome of a process of investigation and discovery of the materials and opportunities of one’s circumstances, subject to eventual confirmation. The most demanding prescription we can derive from Deweyan growth, I contend, involves a commitment to the pursuit of what Axel Honneth (1998: 701) calls an ‘inclusive good’ which requires that we “foresee consequences in such a way that we form ends which grow into one another and reinforce one another” (LW 7: 210). On my account, this means that a solution to a problem is ‘intelligent’ if and only if that solution both resolves the problem at hand by the lights of those who experience it and does not inhibit future problem solving. My contention is that all reasonable problem-solvers (including Talisse) would agree to this constraint, upon reflection. Thus, if we now return to the Rawlsian conceptual apparatus, it should be clear that growth is a thin conception of the good precisely because it radically under-determines which ultimate ends citizens may wish to pursue. To put it another way: under conditions of reasonable pluralism, in order for Deweyan democracy to be reasonably rejectable, reasonable citizens would have to reject the idea that the capacities that further intelligent problem solving are an essential good, worthy of pursuit no matter what ultimate life goals they hold. Yet, reasonable citizens, in virtue of their very reasonableness, would not reject such an idea. Recall that for Rawls, the object of an overlapping consensus merely requires that all reasonable citizens value a common value, without requiring that they value said value for the same reasons (since those reasons can be derived from their respective comprehensive doctrines). My contention is that growth, and thus Deweyan democracy, requires that all reasonable citizens value intelligently solving problems, not that they all value intelligent problem solving for the same reasons. Therefore, if all reasonable citizens value intelligent problem solving, Deweyan democracy can be the object of reasonable agreement under conditions of reasonable pluralism. In summary, although Deweyan democracy relies on a particular conception of the good (namely, growth), it fails to be reasonably rejectable on the Rawlsian account because growth is a thin and not a full theory of the good. Thus, it only calls for the development of capacities that enable continuous intelligent problem solving. Such a goal is of the highest order only in the sense that it is necessary (in a manner analogous to continued existence) for the furthering of any other human goals. This is consistent with Rawls’ characterisation of political doctrines (which are legitimately used to publically justify) within conditions of reasonable pluralism. It


Part III

therefore follows that Deweyan democracy does not fail to accommodate the fact of reasonable pluralism.

8.4. Some Talissean Replies In response to this argument, I believe that Talisse could emit the following replies: (i) Deweyan growth simply is a perfectionist theory of the good and it is thus reasonably rejectable; (ii) Deweyan growth is reasonably rejectable because it identifies shared experience as the ultimate moral good; and (iii) any version of Deweyan democracy which is not reasonably rejectable fails to be appropriately Deweyan. Moreover, I will address his actual reply to my argument according to which (iv) Deweyan growth is insufficiently thin to be the object of reasonable agreement because it is inextricably linked to Dewey’s holism.

a. The Problem of Perfectionism—Growth as a Teleology Without an End One might worry that Talisse would lend little credence to my argument so far because, on his understanding, Deweyan growth simply is a perfectionist conception of human flourishing and as such it is reasonably rejectable. Now, there are two obvious senses of ‘perfectionism’ we might consider: (i) Rawls’ definition and (ii) a more general understanding of the concept. Let us consider these in turn. (i) Rawls offers a rather narrow and eccentric definition of ‘perfectionism’. Indeed, according to him, perfectionism consists in the belief that we have a duty “to develop human persons of a certain style and aesthetic grace, and to advance the pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of the arts” (TJ: 289). Or, as Freeman puts it, perfectionism consists in “ethical positions which incorporate the principle of perfection, and maintain that the achievement of human excellences in art, science and culture constitutes the human good” (Freeman 2007: 476). Rawls writes that the principle of perfection is “a teleological theory directing society to arrange institutions and to define the duties and obligations of individuals so as to maximize the achievement of human excellence in art, science, and culture. The principle obviously is more demanding the higher the relevant ideal is pitched” (TJ: 285–286).7 According to Rawls, perfectionism cannot form the basis of a political conception of justice because we cannot expect reasonable citizens to agree upon what constitutes human perfection: perfectionist ethical ideals are, by definition, full and not thin. I contend that Dewey’s conception of growth fails to fit Rawls’ definition of perfectionism. Although Dewey is committed to the idea that his conception of growth can direct social institutions and define duties and obligations while also requiring the development of human capacities in

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


the arts, science, and culture, it is not perfectionist because such development does not constitute human flourishing per se; it merely enables it, since human flourishing is ultimately constituted by developing the capacities for intelligent problem solving. To explain further: in order to fulfil Rawls’ definition of perfectionism, Deweyan growth must maintain that the achievement of human excellences in art, science, and culture constitutes the human good. Thus, in order for an ethical theory to be perfectionist in these terms, it must maintain that such human excellences constitute the human good. This is a sufficiency claim: it means that on Rawls’ account a perfectionist theory of human flourishing is subsumed by the development of discrete human excellences in the arts, sciences, and culture. I contend that Dewey’s conception of growth cannot be committed to this view, because, for Dewey, such developments are always seen as being of value because they enable future problem solving. To put it otherwise, although Dewey was one to encourage the development of human capacities in art, science, and culture, and although his conception of growth demands that these capacities be furthered, Dewey does not hold the view that the human good is subsumed by the achievement of human excellence in art, science, and culture. Ultimately, in my view, what constitutes or subsumes the human good for Dewey is a capacity to resolve problems intelligently: the fact that developing human capacities in the arts, science, and culture is a necessary part of developing human capacities to solve problems intelligently is entirely incidental. Therefore, growth is not a perfectionist ethical ideal as specified by Rawls because it does not value the development of a pre-given list of cultural excellences for its own sake; rather it only values them insofar as they enable the development of capacities for intelligent problem solving. Yet, Talisse may well intend to associate Deweyan growth with a wider notion of perfectionism. (ii) A more commonly held view of ethical perfectionism consists in the belief that the realisation of human capacities, broadly construed, constitutes human flourishing—not achieving human excellence in specifically cultural terms (see, for example, Hurka 1996). And this may seem more problematic for my argument, as Deweyan growth certainly requires the development of human capacities. However, it is still the case that for Dewey, the development of human capacities and the fostering of certain types of human relationships are, functionally, primarily necessary means for resolving problems. They do not, in and of themselves, constitute the human good in any other sense than that they are themselves solutions to existing problems. On this instrumentalist account of Deweyan democracy, capacities are valuable only insofar as they resolve existing problems and/or enable solving future problems. To speak somewhat oxymoronically, growth can be understood as a teleology without an end—it affirms the need for humans to develop in certain ways in order to become judicious problem-solvers, but it does not


Part III

specify to what end this process ought to drive other than the preservation and expansion of the process of becoming more capable and judicious problem-solvers itself. It is thus teleological only in that it points to the development of certain capacities, but not truly teleological in that it eschews providing a telos, a final endpoint towards which this development is ultimately supposed to drive. Campbell (1995: 135–136) claims that when Dewey writes, [g]rowth itself is the only moral ‘end’, [h]e is using the term ‘end’ in the following sense: “The end is no longer a terminus or a limit to be reached. It is the active process of transforming the existent situation. Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining, is the aim in living” (MW 12: 181—also see MW 9: 55). [. . .] [G]rowth is not the patterning of life after some “presupposed fixed schema or outline” of what it is to be a person (EW 4: 43). “No individual or group will be judged by whether they come up to or fall short of some fixed result, but by the direction in which they are moving” (MW 12: 180). Moral growth “does not mean, therefore, to act so as to fill up some presupposed ideal self” (EW 4: 49). Writing more generally, Philip Kitcher (2015: 480) addresses the worry that this notion of pragmatic progress might “eschew [.  .  .] teleology at the front door” while letting “it sneak in again through the rear,” by asking: “Can we make sense of the notion of a situation as problematic, without presupposing a goal? After all, to speak of a problem is to recognize a goal, to wit relief from the source of the trouble” (Kitcher 2015: 480). In the last analysis, the reply he proposes consists in insisting on the absence of a fixed or pre-given wished for final goal: The alleged ‘goal’ is local, something that could well cover any number of incompatible alternatives, unranked from the present perspective. Once the goal has been achieved—relief obtained—people will move on to address other difficulties, including, perhaps, problems generated by the solution itself. There is no envisaged final state, but an unpredictable sequence of local adaptations. (Kitcher 2015: 480) Thus, growth does not require valuing the development of capacities either for its own sake or for the sake of achieving some ultimate finality (telos). Growth aims for the development of the methods of intelligent problem solving for the sake of intelligently solving problems. Intelligently solving problems, I maintain, is a goal which reasonable citizens

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


would agree to upon reflection. Or to put it in Rawlsian language, the development of capacities for intelligent problem solving constitutes a thin conception of the good required for—not an impediment to—the pursuit of reasonable full conceptions of the good. b. The Problem of Shared Experience—Associated Living as a Democratic Means At the beginning of this chapter, I ventured that Talisse found two theses associated with Deweyan democracy particularly problematic, namely, the Continuity Thesis (1) and the Perfectionist Thesis (4). But textual evidence also suggests that Talisse might find the Way of Life Thesis (3) problematic in its own right. This thesis consists in the notion that democracy is not simply a kind of state or a mode of government but a way of life. In other words, what Talisse might take to be reasonably rejectable about Deweyan democracy is that it is committed to a conception of growth that identifies ‘shared experience’ (or associated living) as the ultimate moral goal. Indeed, when Talisse goes on to present his positive account of Peircean democracy, he writes: For example, to believe, with Dewey, that “shared experience is the greatest of human goods” (LW 1: 157) is to take it to be true that shared experience is the greatest of human goods, and to take this to be true is to be committed to the idea that the best reasons, arguments and evidence would confirm it. (Talisse 2011: 520) I think we can thus understand Talisse to be committed to the view that Deweyan democracy is reasonably rejectable because it is committed to a conception of growth where ‘shared experience’ is the ultimate moral goal. However, I think this also is a mistaken understanding of Deweyan democracy. To support this claim, let us consider the wider context in which Dewey’s words cited by Talisse first appear. In the relevant passage in Experience and Nature, Dewey writes: Communication is consummatory as well as instrumental. It is a means of establishing cooperation, domination and order. Shared experience is the greatest of human goods. In communication, such conjunction and contact as is characteristic of animals become endearments capable of infinite idealization; they become symbols of the very culmination of nature. [. . .] If scientific discourse is instrumental in function, it also is capable of becoming an enjoyed object


Part III to those concerned in it. Upon the whole, human history shows that thinking in being abstract, remote and technical has been laborious; or at least that the process of attaining such thinking has been rendered painful to most by social circumstances. In view of the importance of such activity and its objects, it is a priceless gain when it becomes an intrinsic delight. Few would philosophize if philosophic discourse did not have its own inhering fascination. Yet it is not the satisfactoriness of the activity which defines science or philosophy; the definition comes from the structure and function of subjectmatter. To say that knowledge as the fruit of intellectual discourse is an end in itself is to say what is esthetically and morally true for some persons, but it conveys nothing about the structure of knowledge; and it does not even hint that its objects are not instrumental. (LW 1: 157–158—emphases added)

Here, Dewey explains that scientific and philosophic discourses can be experienced as ends in themselves but are functionally instruments that help in attaining further goods. Philosophy and science may provide a certain enjoyment (that is their consummatory character), but it is their instrumental capacity to help in responding to problems that provides their functional definition. On my account, the Deweyan democrat ultimately ought to understand shared experiences in the same way that Dewey values artistic and scientific capacities: namely, shared experiences are functionally defined by their instrumental capacity to further intelligent problem solving. Shared experience, according to Dewey, is what enables us to assess which habits of thought and action are more fertile than others because it enables communication, critique, and learning (see, for example, MW 12: 197–198). Yet, shared experience is not itself the goal of rightful action. As we have seen, intelligent problem solving is the goal of rightful action. Shared experience happens to be a necessary condition for the process of valuation, judgement, and learning that enables intelligent problem solving. Thus, in response to Talisse, we should understand the value of ‘shared experience’ as primarily instrumental, since particular types of shared experiences will enable the development of intelligent problem solving better than others. Thus, on this account, Dewey’s claims to the effect that growth or shared experience are the ultimate moral goods come down to claiming that “the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining” (MW 12: 181) our goals and values is the highest value (i.e. one without which valuing other values is impossible) in human life. Consequently, the only general injunction we can derive from Deweyan growth is to develop our capacities for intelligent problem solving for the sake of solving problems intelligently. This is reminiscent of the sentiment found in the phrase Peirce thought should be written on every wall in the city of philosophy:

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


“Do not block the way of inquiry” (Peirce 1931: 135). Moreover, it is a far cry from claiming to have solved the problem of establishing what lies at the end of that path. And yet, Talisse needed to show that growth requires that all reasonable citizens share a common belief in a singular controversial endpoint of human flourishing. Short of such a point of fracture amongst reasonable citizens, Talisse cannot show Deweyan democracy to be anything more than a democratic ideal resting on a thin theory of the good. c. Hollowing Out Deweyan Democracy—Hypotheses In his response to Elizabeth Anderson’s criticisms of his views, Talisse claims that versions of Deweyan democracy that reduce Dewey’s conception of growth to intelligent problem solving fail to preserve anything distinctly Deweyan about Dewey’s democratic ideal. He writes: Perhaps Anderson’s version of Deweyan democracy is even more restrained than I have allowed. She may say that she claims only that democratic communities should address their social problems by pooling information and other cognitive resources from their diverse citizenry in a way that gives a proper hearing and full consideration to all points of view, with the expectation that all collective decisions are but provisional stopping points in a continuous process of self-correction. Again, this view is compelling. But is it distinctively Deweyan? There is nothing here that Madison, Mill, Popper or even Russell would have rejected; furthermore, Cass Sunstein (2001, 2003) endorses precisely this picture, and although he sometimes refers approvingly to Dewey, he is not a Deweyan democrat. Anderson’s more restrained version of Deweyan democracy is not distinctively Deweyan. Can pragmatism offer no distinctive and viable political theory? (Talisse 2011: 519) In other words, Talisse argues that understanding growth as the mere pursuit of ever more intelligent methods of solving problems constitutes an abandonment of the Deweyan project altogether. If I am to read Talisse as charitably as possible, I must take Talisse to understand Dewey’s views on how to actually improve intelligent problem solving in concrete situations (for example, Dewey’s accounts of progressive education, community formation, or democratic industrial relations) to truly constitute Deweyan democracy and to hold that those views are reasonably rejectable. Therefore, to support my argument to the effect that Deweyan democracy essentially consists in intelligent problem solving, I need to account for the more particular and controversial claims about democracy


Part III

occasionally made by Dewey. In short, I think these views are best understood as hypotheses that seek to respond to concrete problems, as attempts at participating in situated intelligent problem solving. To put it in Deweyan terms, they aim to secure ‘ends in view’. Therefore, I do not take them to constitute Dewey’s democratic ideal. Instead, I think Deweyan democracy consists in the wider process of intelligent problem solving itself. Why do I believe this? Because the more particular views expressed by Dewey that Talisse points to as being reasonably rejectable are no more constitutive of Deweyan democracy than Mill’s proposals in favour of public and weighted voting constitute Mill’s democratic ideal. In both cases, we can distinguish the concrete proposals, attempts at offering actionable social or political advice, from a broader ideal. Instead of this broadness being problematic, I contend that it suggests that Deweyan democracy is, at least in principle, capable (as much as any other conception of democracy) of being politically neutral in the manner required by Rawls’ account of political liberalism. d. Thin but Not Thin Enough—Translatability Most recently, Talisse (2017) has offered a brief reply to the core argument I have presented in this chapter. In short, he maintains that while my thin interpretation of Deweyan democracy is “a step in the right direction” (Talisse 2017: 582), my argument still fails because my thin characterisation of growth as the injunction to solve problems intelligently hides a whole host of other commitments “regarding nature, mind, language, reality, and value” (Talisse 2017: 581). Dewey’s holism, on this view, demands that I take his philosophical positions as unavoidably interconnected. Talisse thus wonders how much mileage I can get out of my appeal to problem solving “before having to enter the weeds of philosophical controversy about the underlying pragmatist, naturalist, and experimentalist theory of value” (Talisse 2017: 581–582). He adds that my “thin conception of growth is yet too bloated to go beyond reasonable rejection” (Talisse 2017: 582). To this, I make two short responses: (i) My chief contention is that Deweyan growth, at its core, merely requires that we be committed to solving problems intelligently and that we be committed to doing so while ensuring that our present efforts preserve or expand our abilities to solve problems intelligently in the future. Talisse is yet to have shown that either of these specific commitments are reasonably rejectable. (ii) Even if one were to root one’s public justification for Deweyan democracy in Dewey’s more controversial philosophical views (such as, for example, his metaphysical accounts of the self/community and ends/means), this may not be as problematic as Talisse thinks it to be. Why? Because on Rawls’ final account of public reason, he proposes an important proviso:

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


Reasonable comprehensive doctrines, religious or nonreligious, may be introduced in public political discussion at any time, provided that in due course proper political reasons—and not reasons given solely by comprehensive doctrines—are presented that are sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines introduced are said to support political arguments made in the language of sectarian doctrines (such as those offered by religious or philosophical views) are permissible so long as they are translatable into public reasons. (CP: 591) Leif Wenar (2012: § 3.6) explains this point further: President Lincoln, for instance, could legitimately condemn the evil of slavery using Biblical imagery, since his pronouncements could have been expressed in terms of the public values of freedom and equality. Thus even within its limited range of application, Rawls’s doctrine of public reason is rather permissive concerning what citizens may say and do within the bounds of civility. This means that on the Rawlsian view, even Dewey’s more controversial philosophical views would be permissible in public debate so long as they can be translated into the language of public reason, which understands citizens as free and equal moral persons seeking to live under a stably ordered political order. In other words, the controversial individual views found in Dewey’s extensive writings on democracy do not have to be excluded from public discussion just because they may well be reasonably rejectable. These merely need to be translatable—not actually translated—into the more general language of public reason to be receivable in public discourse. This is what constitutes, in my view, the most significant Rawlsian dimension of my defence of Deweyan democracy: Rawls’ standard of public reason is simply more permissive than Talisse makes it out to be. Ultimately, in order for Talisse to have truly shown that even the most controversial views he associates with Deweyan democracy have no place in civic discourse, he needs to have shown that no such translation can be carried out. Until he has done so, the burden of proof will continue to lay with him.

8.5. Conclusion In sum, I have presented Talisse’s argument according to which Deweyan democracy is reasonably rejectable, because it relies on a controversial conception of the good that could not be the object of reasonable agreement under conditions of reasonable pluralism. I then presented Shane Ralston’s response, according to which Talisse unfairly evaluates Dewey’s pluralist credentials through a Berlinian and a Rawlsian theoretical filter.


Part III

I then went on to argue that, even if we accept the Rawlsian challenge, then we ought to evaluate Deweyan democracy from within the wider Rawlsian framework. Furthermore, I argued that from within this framework, in order to show that Deweyan democracy fails to accommodate the fact of reasonable pluralism, Talisse needed to have shown that it is committed to a full (as opposed to thin) theory of the good. However, I have shown that Deweyan growth is, in fact, a thin conception of the good merely committed to the goal of intelligent problem solving. Since all reasonable citizens can reasonably be expected to be committed to the goal of intelligent problem solving, Deweyan democracy can thus be the object of reasonable agreement within circumstances of reasonable pluralism. I then considered three potential replies and one actual reply: (i) Deweyan growth is a perfectionist ethical ideal; (ii) Deweyan democracy demands that we value shared experience; (iii) in order for Deweyan democracy to remain Deweyan it must be committed to controversial views and is thus unfit for public discussion; and (d) Dewey’s holism makes separating his conception of growth from his wider philosophical commitments unfeasible, as a result it remains reasonably rejectable. In response, I have argued that growth is not a perfectionist ethical ideal—neither as Rawls understands it nor under a broader conception of perfectionism. I then argued that Deweyan growth merely requires that we value shared experience insofar as it enables intelligent problem solving. Furthermore, I argued that Deweyan democracy properly understood does not rely on controversial theses, but only relies on a thin theory of the good that can plausibly be the object of agreement among reasonable citizens under circumstances of reasonable pluralism. Finally, I argued that Dewey’s democratic ideal is indeed distinguishable from more controversial philosophical positions he has adopted and that, on the Rawlsian account, other more controversial views one might associate with Deweyan democracy only need to be translatable into the language of public reason to be permissible within public discourse. Understood within this wider Rawlsian framework, I have shown that Deweyan democracy is not reasonably rejectable.

Notes 1. Reasonably rejectable accounts of Deweyan democracy typically emphasise what is perceived to be the moral goal of democracy (i.e. the development of ‘personality’ as self-realisation) at the expense of the broader goal of solving collective problems. See Ryan (1995), Festenstein (1995: 167—especially when he equates growth with a simple teleology of ‘self-realization’; 1997: 47) and, more recently, Biesta (2016). 2. This is expressive of a shift I think is reflected in Robert Westbrook’s (1991: 286–onwards) account of Dewey’s democratic activities from around the time of the First World War onwards. 3. On the shift from absolutism to experimentalism, see LW 5: 147–160. In this context, I take this experimentalist interpretation of Deweyan democracy to be

Deweyan Democracy and Reasonable Pluralism


5. 6.



largely consistent with those put forward in Putnam (1989–1990), Campbell, (1995), and Bernstein (2010). These interpretations share the view that solving collective problems intelligently is what Deweyan democracy aims towards as its highest goal. See, for example, Festenstein (2009, 2010), van Hollebeke (2009), Koopman (2009), and Bacon (2010). Of course, others also attempt to defend Deweyan democracy on its own terms. See, for example, Eldridge (2005) and Rodgers (2009). Others still raise other problems for Talisse. For example, Sulllivan and Lysaker (2005) worry about the use Talisse makes of crucial concepts relating to pluralism, and Cheryl Misak (2005) claims that Talisse is mistaken to claim that all Deweyans fail to be pluralists. Indeed, in Pluralism and Liberal Politics (2012), Talisse takes issue with Berlinian pluralism and takes issue with its use as a first-order moral lens (see especially Chapters 2 and 4). Furthermore, in seeming anticipation of just this question, Saito (2005: 5) writes: “To the question, ‘What is the criterion of growth?’ [Dewey’s] answer is the ‘principle of the continuity of experience’. This we might call growth without fixed ends.” It is worth noting that this is actually a rather idiosyncratic definition of perfectionism, since most perfectionists do not usually focus on producing “excellence in arts, science, and culture.” They usually prefer to emphasise the more generic importance of realising the capacities of individuals, but not specifically in order to create great artists, scientists, or citizens. I am very grateful to Robert Stern for pointing me to this line of reflection.

Part IV


The Question of Method Deweyan Experimentalism in Political Philosophy

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, as we have just seen, 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: 88–89) We take then our point of departure from the objective fact that human acts have consequences upon others, that some of these consequences are perceived, their perception leads to subsequent effort to control action so as to secure some consequences and avoid others. (LW 2: 243)

9.1. Closing the Circle: Looking Back at Where We Began At the outset of this book, I argued that, in the face of major cultural challenge, political philosophy currently faces an opportunity to meaningfully contribute in the task of civilisational renewal. However, in order to seize this opportunity, political philosophers need to embrace a methodological approach that enables their insights to be meaningfully relevant to actual political deliberations. As we have seen, this requires overcoming the methodological failures of Rawlsian ideal theory. The Rawlsian method presupposes a two-step approach to political philosophy with an ideal, highly abstract moment where moral principles are established by bringing intuitions and rational criticism into dialogue, and then a more practical moment where ideal theory is translated into nonideal recommendations by bringing the findings of the first stage to bear on the social world as it is. As we have seen, dissatisfaction with this view focuses around two facts: (i) it unduly subordinates actual democratic deliberation to the abstract arguments of political philosophers; (ii) it endlessly emphasises the first highly abstract stage and fails to explain how the first stage has any bearing on the second stage of nonideal decision-making.


Part IV

More specifically, however, I drew a list of the shortcomings of Rawlsian ideal theory that any viable alternative will have to respond to: (i) Prioritising the pre-democratic conclusions of philosophers over the political autonomy of democratic citizenries; (ii) Failing to start from real political problems as experienced by actual citizens; (iii) Relying on idealisation (that is, making false assumptions, such as full compliance or taking a cost-blind approach to rights); (iv) Lacking a theory of transition (that is, a theory of how we might go about seeking to implement the recommendations set out in the theory); (v) Failing to seriously consider a diversity of moral considerations in political deliberations; (vi) Ignoring the fact that trade-offs loom large in political deliberations; (vii) Ignoring the role played by power in political action. Moreover, I also argued that we need to ensure that political philosophy continues to meaningfully challenge injustice and that this would therefore require that we articulate a new balance between the degree to which political philosophers are sensitive to empirical facts, actual political deliberations and abstract moral considerations—I called this commitment (j). The hypothesis driving this book has been that John Dewey’s experimentalism, rooted in his pragmatist conceptions of philosophy and democracy, offers a promising vision of what such a balance might look like. Now that I have presented these conceptions in some detail and defended them from general criticisms, it is time for me to make good on my promise to assess the viability of the Deweyan perspective as a methodological outlook for political philosophy. That is why I begin by presenting an account of the essential commitments required by Deweyan experimentalism (9.2); I then argue that the Deweyan methodological outlook appropriately responds to the shortcomings of Rawlsian ideal theory (9.3); and finally I consider the all-important objection that Dewey himself may have failed to go far enough in making his recommendations practically relevant, before replying that, in fact, Dewey did make a great many specific practical recommendations that were significantly informed and enriched by this way of conceiving of political philosophy (9.4).

9.2. Deweyan Experimentalism Applied to Political Philosophy In the broadest sense, [Dewey’s experimentalism] is the experimentalism of the anthropologist, of the student of human institutions and cultures,

The Question of Method


impressed by the fundamental role of habit in men and societies and by manner in which those habits are altered and changed. (Randall 1951: 82)

I have argued that, on Dewey’s account, all of philosophy and all intelligent democratic deliberations are to be understood as experimental endeavours. Since political philosophy deals with the intersection between both, it also ought to be understood primarily through the prism of experimentation. This type of experimentation requires the formulation of hypotheses and it requires such hypotheses to be tested out in practice. The role of political philosophers is thus dual: they are to participate in the formulation and refinement of hypotheses, and they are to help orchestrate the deliberative discussions in which hypotheses will come to be tested out in practice. The exact way in which I interpret this model involves the following commitments: (i) Political philosophy is to be understood as an inherently practical matter. (ii) Political philosophers ought to see themselves as citizens, as members of the political communities to which they are addressing their work. (iii) Political philosophers ought to be clear about whom they are addressing their work to (for example, the community of experts, the community of decision-makers, the community of citizens, or other groups), when they put forward particular hypotheses or raise specific issues.1 (iv) The ultimate goal driving political philosophers ought to be contributing in resolving practical problems. (v) Political philosophy is to be understood as a mode of cultural criticism. (vi) Political philosophy ought to start from actual political, social, and cultural problems. (vii) Political philosophy ought to generate hypotheses that are to be practically tested out in public deliberation. (viii) Political philosophy does not have a uniquely privileged authority in generating hypotheses or in establishing the validity of hypotheses, but it has the potential to be a locus of integration and dialogue between different academic disciplines and between experts and lay people. (ix) Political philosophers ought to perform a function of clarification and imagination at the service of the communities to which they belong. (x) Political philosophers perform this role at their best when they see themselves as chairpersons enabling and participating in practical deliberations with experts and the rest of their community, aiming to communally solve problems experienced in common.


Part IV

(xi) Political philosophers ought to express themselves in clear and understandable language. (xii) Political philosophers ought to help citizens respond to the concerns of their fellow citizens and seek to help citizens express themselves in clear and accessible language such as to be widely understood by others; this should enable citizens to be precise when stipulating what they are agreeing or disagreeing to in response to proposed courses of action. (xiii) Political philosophers ought to be explicit about the empirical assumptions their hypotheses rely on and the degree of epistemic warrant these assumptions benefit from. Accordingly, this calls for political philosophers to work closely with social scientists. (xiv) Although philosophers ought to offer practical hypotheses, they must always, in the last instance, dedicate their efforts to facilitating and enriching democratic deliberations among citizens and never curtail or impoverish such proceedings. (xv) Finally, political philosophers ought to be clear about the practical effects they hope to generate with their work. Of course, political philosophers cannot be reasonably expected to anticipate the effects their work will actually have. But it seems reasonable to demand from political philosophers that they be clear about their intentions. Thus, political philosophers ought to be able to tell us whether they are hoping to, for example, intelligently inform decision-makers about the complexity of an issue, inform grassroots political operators, shed light upon a morally salient aspect of a social problem, raise awareness of the existence of a problem in the first place, shed light upon the full consequences of a problem, raise awareness of potential solutions in legislators or citizens, help operationalise plausible tests for hypothetical solutions in association with other experts, take part in deliberations about the nature of the solution we ought to adopt in response to a given problem, or any number of other important goals. Thus, political philosophers ought to be clear and open about what they are trying to achieve practically, while recognising that they may not succeed in such a task. To be clear, this Deweyan approach relies on a rather inclusive conception of practice, allowing for highly abstract ideas to be said to make a practical difference even if all they achieve is helping citizens or public officials refine and improve their practical deliberations: on this view, helping in the redefinition of a problem is a highly practical matter, since it may be the key development that unlocks a whole host of possible solutions. However, the requirement must be that those putting forward highly abstract ideas do so for the sake of helping and with a reasonable hope of helping in resolving a specific problem. Recall that Dewey

The Question of Method


proposes a test of the value of a philosophy. We are to ask whether it ends in “conclusions which, when they are referred back to ordinary-life experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us, and make our dealings with them more fruitful?” (LW 1: 18). In reply, the patient critic might well say: “This is all well and good, but why should anyone take the Deweyan approach to be an improvement upon Rawlsian ideal theory?” I will now seek to offer this question a compelling answer.

9.3. Overcoming Rawlsian Shortcomings In order to demonstrate that the Deweyan method of doing political philosophy outlined in this book is an improvement upon Rawlsian ideal theory, I now need to show that it overcomes the limitations of Rawlsian ideal theory which motivated our pursuit of another methodological framework in the first place. So that is what I intend to do here. (i) Prioritising the pre-democratic conclusions of philosophers over the political autonomy of democratic citizenries. To Dewey, the notion of privileging philosophy over actual decisionmaking is simply abhorrent. Furthermore, he is clear about the fact that philosophy has no special authority, or privileged vantage point from which it can inform the democratic public of its ‘erroneous ways’. For him, democracy understood as applied social intelligence is the final bestower of warrant upon our moral beliefs. He remarks: 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. (LW 14: 228–229) Crucially, for Dewey, applied social intelligence requires the full participation of an educated democratic citizenry. In other words, on his account, the political autonomy of democratic deliberation takes priority over the insights of philosophers. But it is also the case that philosophers participate in the articulation of this autonomy as equal co-participants, as citizens, not as bearers of pre-given or distinctive truths. In response to Dewey’s claim that “philosophy has no private store of knowledge or of methods for attaining truth” (LW 1: 305), no doubt some will say that without such authority there is little point in doing political philosophy. To this view, Dewey replies that “[p]hilosophy [. . .] is a generalized theory of criticism. Its ultimate value for life-experience is that it continuously provides instruments for the criticism of those


Part IV

values—whether of beliefs, institutions, actions or products—that are found in all aspects of experience” (LW 1: 9). Moreover, he adds that philosophical criticism “traces the beliefs to their generating conditions as far as may be, [. . .] tracks them to their results, [. . .] considers the mutual compatibility of the elements of the total structure of beliefs” (LW 6: 19). (ii) Failing to start from real political problems as experienced by actual citizens. (iii) Relying on ‘idealisation’ (that is, making false assumptions). Michael Eldridge (1998: 120) writes: Many advocates for social justice start with a rationally generated ideal and demand that an existing situation be replaced by one that conforms to their ideal. Dewey, who was not without his ideals, would seem to side with political operatives, the political ‘pragmatists’, in requiring that any suggested change take the existing situation into account and work from there. Thus, the experimentalist method is clear: political philosophy must start from real problems as they are experienced by actual agents and it must result in meaningful improvements for such agents. As a result, it must begin from experienced problems and it cannot therefore start from falsehoods. The experimentalist method demands that we embrace reflection, not as a contemplative, but as an iterative project responding to concrete problems (LW 7: 212). In other words, on this Deweyan view, political philosophy, like all meaningful modes of inquiry, must begin and explicitly respond to problems as they are experienced by actual people, otherwise it will fail to be practically relevant. Moreover, Dewey is explicit about the fact that proposed improvements must be rooted in existing conditions; they therefore cannot be born out of ‘idealisations’. We must start from facts, not from patent falsehoods, in order to meaningfully engage in the task of political critique. These facts, of course, are likely to focus primarily on the values that are already prized and cherished: Moral as well as physical theory requires a body of dependable data, a set of intelligible working hypotheses. [. . .] A genuinely reflective morals will look upon all the codes as possible data; it consider the conditions under which they arose; the methods which consciously or unconsciously determined their formation and acceptance; it will inquire into their applicability in present conditions. It will neither insist dogmatically upon some of them, nor idly throw them all away as of no significance. It will treat them as a storehouse of information and possible indications of what is now right and good. (LW 7: 178–179)

The Question of Method


Thus, on Dewey’s account, morality itself requires that we start from where we are and seek to respond to the needs of the existing situation. (iv) Lacking a theory of transition (that is, a theory of how we might go about seeking to implement the recommendations set out in the theory in a nonideal world). [S]erious inquiries into conduct, individual and collective, must be concerned with an hypothetical and experimental effort to bring new goods into existence, an attempt made necessary by the slipping away of all given determinate goods. (MW 11: 9) To say that Rawlsian ideal theory lacks a theory of transition comes down to saying that, whatever it may tell us about justice in the abstract, it fails to enlighten us about how we might go about using the insights offered by such a theory to help us establish what to do in the here and now. As we have seen, Dewey is deeply scathing of this type of philosophising. He says that when philosophy fails to result in practically valuable insights, it ceases to be philosophy and becomes ‘academic scholarship’ (LW 5: 163). “The charge that is brought against the nonempirical method of philosophizing is not that it depends upon theorizing,” Dewey says, “but that it fails to use refined, secondary products as a path pointing and leading back to something in primary experience” (LW 1: 16–17). The main problem with merely ideal goals, on Dewey’s account, is that they rely on a notion of final or fixed ends. As we have seen, he argues: The doctrine of fixed ends not only diverts attention from examination of consequences and the intelligent creation of purpose [. . .] it also renders men careless in their inspection of existing conditions. [. . .] The result is failure. Discouragement follows. [. . .] Actual life is then thought of as a compromise with the best, an enforced second or third best, a dreary exile from our true home in the ideal, or a temporary period of troubled probation to be followed by a period of unending attainment and peace. (MW 12: 16) Or again: The trouble with ideals of remote ‘perfection’ is that they tend to make us negligent of the significance of the special situations in which we have to act; they are thought of as trivial in comparison with the ideal of perfection. (LW 7: 273)


Part IV

So, instead of focussing on developing these highly abstract ideals, Dewey recommends that we draw upon existing moral practices, cultural norms, social codes, or laws in order to imagine how they might be brought to bear in resolving particular problems. Dewey specifies that “[t]he aims and ideals that move us are generated through imagination. But they are not made out of imaginary stuff. They are made out of the hard stuff of the world of physical and social experience” (LW 9: 33). The exercise through which the ‘hard stuff’ generates ‘aims and ideals’ requires formulating hypotheses about how we might practically adapt certain novel ideas and considerations to the real situations we face. Thus, “[t]he genuine ideal [. . .] is the sense that each [. . .] special situation brings with it its own inexhaustible meaning, that its value reaches far beyond its direct local existence” (LW 7: 273). This means that Dewey’s experimental method presents a rather general theory of transition: we are to move towards the better by establishing not what is best but what is better one step at a time. And we do this by bringing our imagined improvements into dialogue with existing problematic states of affairs, by developing new hypotheses for action that respond to the demands of the initial problematic situation we are seeking to resolve. Indeed, for Dewey, all good moral judgement takes this form: All moral judgment is experimental and subject to revision by its issue. [. . .] Morals mean growth of conduct in meaning [. . .] that kind of expansion in meaning which is consequent upon observations of the conditions and outcome of conduct. It is all one with growing  [.  .  .] morals is education. It is learning the meaning of what we are about and employing that meaning in action. The good, satisfaction, ‘end’, of growth of present action in shades and scope of meaning is the only good within our control, and the only one, accordingly, for which responsibility exists [. . .] we do not require a revelation of some supreme perfection to inform us whether or not we are making headway in present rectification. (MW 14: 194–195) Thus, to put it more generally, according to Dewey, we must pursue the good in specific terms that are relative to existing needs, and [. . .] the attainment of every specific good merges insensibly into a new condition of maladjustment with its need of a new end and a renewed effort. [. . .] Instruction in what to do next can never come from an infinite goal, which for us is bound to be empty. It can be derived only from study of the deficiencies, irregularities and possibilities of the actual situation. (MW 14: 198–199) Then, as Eldridge puts it, “[o]ne moves the current practice toward an ideal, modifying both situation and ideal as needed, through a process of

The Question of Method


deliberative change” (Eldridge 1998: 120). To put it more practically still, I contend that Dewey’s theory of transition involves five steps: • • • • •

First, reckoning with the facts that initially generate cause for concern. Second, studying actual methods and policies used to confront similar facts in other situations. Third, generate related hypotheses regarding what types of action would effectively respond to the challenge. Fourth, subject hypotheses to experimentation via communal deliberation. Fifth, carry out the best hypothesis in action.

Ultimately, for Dewey, political philosophy is a thoroughly practical affair that provides an “outlook upon future possibilities with reference to attaining the better and averting the worse” (MW 10: 38). This is because, for Dewey, political philosophy is a form of “intelligence [understood as] a critical method applied to goods of belief, appreciation and conduct, so as to construct, freer and more secure goods, turning assent and assertion into free communication of shareable meanings, turning feeling into ordered and liberal sense, turning reaction into response” (LW 1: 325). However, the astute critic may still point out that, though Dewey offers a theory of moral transition, he fails to offer a detailed theory of political transition. I will discuss this in the final section (9.4) of this chapter. (v) Failing to seriously consider a diversity of moral considerations in political deliberations. This worry has to do with the notion that Rawlsian ideal theory operates within a theoretical straightjacket where justice takes precedence over all other moral considerations in political philosophy. To put it briefly, the sole emphasis on justice and the demand that moral claims be formulated within the constraints of public reason seem to pre-empt actual moral deliberation and exclude, or at least ignore, a large number of potentially morally significant considerations (such as, for example, the political autonomy of citizens, overall welfare, or culturally parochial values). In contrast, for Dewey, philosophy must be capable of making sense of the entire field of potentially morally salient features of problematic situations, because we cannot take values for granted when engaging in moral problem solving. Dewey recommends a thoroughgoing contextualism, where intelligent interaction with the demands of actual situation we encounter dictates the relative importance of different moral values. As Henry Richardson (2018 § 2.6) summarises it, the paired thoughts, that our practical life is experimental and that we have no firmly fixed conception of what it is for something to ‘work’,


Part IV come to the fore in Dewey’s pragmatist ethics. [.  .  .] This experimentalist conception of strictly moral learning is brought to bear on moral reasoning in Dewey’s eloquent characterizations of ‘practical intelligence’ as involving a creative and flexible approach to figuring out ‘what works’ in a way that is thoroughly open to rethinking our ultimate aims.

Or, as Steven Fesmire (2015: 5) puts it: “All philosophies are transitional.” Thus, Ralston claims that Dewey “does not offer a ‘comprehensive worldview’ or unitary system of values, but rather a way, among many others, to reconcile different and often-times conflicting value orientations into a ‘mode of associative living’” (2009: 227). In the context of this book, we can understand that, on the Deweyan view, the goal of political philosophy is not to establish what is right and proper once and for all, but rather to contribute in the task of developing new visions and defining new horizons of possibility while engaging ever more meaningfully with the facts of the concrete situations whence problems emerge. (vi) Ignoring the fact that trade-offs loom large in political deliberations. We have seen that overly demarcating ideal from nonideal demands makes ideal theories thus developed unable to make sense of the essential feature of political decision-making: namely, making decisions within constraints. In modern advanced democracies, these constraints minimally include scarcity of resources, pre-existing political structures, feasibility, efficiency of available options, the institutional balance of powers (such as garnering enough support for a decision within the appropriate people, committees, and chambers), the media and democratic support (since it is potentially a form of power and thus a constraint upon potential political action). Of course, the claim here is not that political philosophy must always take all of these constraints into account. It is rather that political philosophers ought to develop theories that will be able to make sense in an environment that is defined by the fact that political decisions must be taken within an environment where most decisions will incur a related cost—that is to say, a trade-off. At the very least, it is fair to say that all political decisions incur a cost in terms of opportunity costs: the adoption of any one policy may well stop another more or equally worthy policy from also being adopted, because the necessary resources and/or political capital required for the latter have already been spent on the former.2 It is worth pointing out that since these trade-offs often deal in prospective changes and results, there is a certain amount of risk and uncertainty involved in most political decisions—in this sense, it is not very different to making financial investments.

The Question of Method


For Dewey, it is the role of philosophy to help us make sense of how to think about what to do in precisely this kind of a world, a world marked by limitation, contingency, and uncertainty. To have faith in this type of intelligence, according to him, “is not to indulge in romantic idealization. It is not to assert that intelligence will ever dominate the course of events; it is not even to imply that it will save us from ruin and destruction. The issue is one of choice, and choice is always a question of alternatives” (LW 1: 325–326). As a result, I believe that a Deweyan conception of political philosophy requires that we be open about the fact that political decisions deal in alternatives, many of which are mutually incompatible. To confront facts, however contingent they may be, and yet still emit attempts to chart a course for improvement is the task of intelligence. Criticising and innovating with an understanding of the trade-offs involved in political decision-making is the challenge any appropriately practical and empirical political philosophy must respond to. (vii) Ignoring the role played by power in political action. (j) Ensuring that we effectively respond to injustice. Insofar as (vii) is a charge levelled against Rawlsian ideal theory and (j) is plausibly a virtue of Rawlsian ideal theory, it might seem strange to consider these commitments together. However, the aim of this book precisely consists in articulating a balance between (j) and the other commitments outlined here. Part of this balance requires adjudicating between the need to recognise the importance of power and limitation and the need to resist injustice. As a result, I will respond to the need to overcome (vii) while preserving (j) together. When realists reject Rawlsian ideal theory for failing to take power into account, we might interpret them as ascribing to the project of facing the more brutal nature of politics. In the face of Machiavelli’s analysis that “there cannot be good laws without good arms” (Machiavelli 1965: 47), some realists consider the “provision of order and stability [. . .] a magnificent achievement” (Sleat 2013: 52) and, in so doing, all too often underappreciate the need to challenge existing unjust provisions of order and stability. Thus, while the Deweyan project shares the realist urge to make political philosophy relevant to real politics, it does so while preserving the intent to live up to the commitment (j). While the Deweyan methodological framework can be understood as a form of critical realism (see, for example, Bagg 2016; Festenstein 2016), I prefer to envision Deweyan experimentalism as a via media between ideal theory and realism to underscore the strength of its programmatic, action-orientated, positive agenda. Reflecting this practical bent—returning to the issue of power—on Dewey’s view, paying attention to power relations only serves us insofar as it enables us to ascertain how they might be leveraged such as to


Part IV

effectively address collective problems. After all, on the Deweyan account, political philosophy, like any mode of intelligence, must be put to the service of enabling human development (in the sense discussed in 6.3) of enabling the continued process of human problem solving. This purpose is at once moral and practical. Furthermore, in order for it to respond to real problems, this mode of doing political philosophy must account for the factual or strategic situation to which it seeks to address itself. Recognising that limitations and power exist is not the same as saying that all existing limitations or forms of power must always prevail or that we must always be systematically suspicious of them.3 Instead, this recognition ought to enable political philosophers to propose recommendations and clarifications that could plausibly be of use to political actors who have little choice but to face power in its situational forms—that is, within empirical facts, limitations, and contingency. And, according to Dewey, “[w]e must work on the environment not merely on the hearts of men. To think otherwise is to suppose that flowers can be raised in a desert or motor cars run in a jungle. Both things can happen and without a miracle. But only by first changing jungle and desert” (LW 14: 19–20). Of course, a necessary condition for changing the jungle and the desert is to change the hearts and minds of, at least some, men and women— for without such a change, no decision will be made, and without such a decision no radical change in action will occur. The goal of political deliberation must be solving problems. That is ultimately why political theories must ensure that they have a reasonable idea as to how they might come to have a bearing on practice. However, it should be clear: on my interpretation of the Deweyan account, there is no perfect, pre-established balance between the recognition of facts and the criticism of facts that can be prescribed once and for all. Rather, this balance is to be pursued piecemeal, by political philosophers, as well as political and moral agents doing their epistemic and moral best to respond to the social and political conditions of human suffering. At the end of Experience and Nature, Dewey recognises the less-than-ideal character of this open-ended method, but he claims that there is no better alternative: What the method of intelligence, thoughtful valuation will accomplish, if once it be tried, is for the result of trial to determine. Since it is relative to the intersection in existence of hazard and rule, of contingency and order, faith in a wholesale and final triumph is fantastic. But some procedure has to be tried; for life is itself a sequence of trials. Carelessness and routine, Olympian aloofness, secluded contemplation are themselves choices. To claim that intelligence is a better method than its alternatives, authority, imitation, caprice and ignorance, prejudice and passion, is hardly an excessive claim. These procedures have been tried and have worked their will. The result is

The Question of Method


not such as to make it clear that the method of intelligence, the use of science in criticizing and recreating the casual goods of nature into intentional and conclusive goods of art, the union of knowledge and values in production, is not worth trying. (LW 1: 326) Thus, Dewey writes that what we must provide is a draft drawn upon existing things, an intention to act so as to arrange them in a certain way [. . .] it is the idea itself which is practical (being an intent) and its meaning resides in the existences which, as changed, it intends. While the meaning of an object is the changes it requires in our attitude, the meaning of an idea is that changes it, as our attitude, effects in objects. (MW 4: 102–103) Thus, on this account, political philosophy is a form of knowledge and “[i] f we start from primary experience, occurring as it does chiefly in modes of action and undergoing, it is easy to see what knowledge contributes— namely, the possibility of intelligent administration of the elements of doing and suffering” (LW 1: 29). In my view, this is the ultimate goal towards which political philosophers must strive: increasing the possibility of the intelligent administration of the elements of doing and suffering. Of course, in response, some may worry that, if this is our goal, then this Deweyan model remains overly abstract, since it fails to provide concrete details about how this way of doing political philosophy might actually yield, in actuality, practical improvements. So, I will now seek to address this concern.

9.4. Putting Dewey to the Test of Deweyan Political Philosophy I have been accused more than once and from opposed quarters of an undue, a utopian, faith in the possibilities of intelligence and in education as a correlate of intelligence. (LW 14: 227)

I think it is fair to say that Dewey’s actual method of engaging in political philosophy is the cause of much confusion. Unlike many traditional political philosophers, Dewey mostly steers away from making explicit institutional recommendations as part of his political philosophy. As we have seen, he insists that it is not the role of the political philosopher to pre-empt the deliberations of actual democratic citizens confronted with their own specific problems. Rather, he merely suggests that a certain type


Part IV

of education and a certain type of democratic deliberation are necessary for citizens to bring applied intelligence to bear on social problems. When pressed for specifics about the methods (or ‘technologies’) we should adopt to bring about these changes, Dewey is often enthusiastic, but he is rarely specific. In “Dewey’s Political Technology from and Anthropological Perspective,” Ralston presents the issue by way of the exchange between Dewey and his colleague at Columbia University, John Hermann Randall Jr. Ralston thus begins by presenting Dewey’s views about democratic ends requiring democratic methods: “‘resort to military force’, [Dewey] claims, is unjustified in promoting democracy. Instead, we should employ ‘democratic methods, methods of consultation, persuasion, negotiation, cooperative intelligence’ (LW 13: 367).” Yet, Dewey remains relatively silent as to exactly which democratic methods we ought to adopt. Ralston (2012: 3)asks: If democracy cannot be attained by undemocratic means, then what means, methods and instruments are available to the democrat? What did Dewey mean by intelligent democratic methods? Deliberative forums? Town hall meetings? Campaign finance reform? Transparent and accountable regulatory institutions? To this, Ralston (2012: 3) responds: Unfortunately, Dewey does not specify the requisite democratic means. All we know is that they must be properly adapted to the democratic end: namely, citizens realizing as fully as possible their individual and collective capacities (“the possibilities of human nature”). So, democratic transformation demands diligence and creativity, “the slow day by day adoption and contagious diffusion of every phase of our common life of methods that are identical with the ends to be reached” (LW 13: 187). Unfortunately, Dewey says little more. Thus, instead of offering an institutional response to the problems of politics, Dewey tells us that we must instead “educate institutional change-makers” (Ralston 2012: 4). At first glance, this might seem a far cry from a clear testable hypothesis or a goal that permits the charting of a clear course of action. And this vagueness might undermine the idea that Dewey is a useful guide in responding to the methodological crisis currently affecting political philosophy. The critic might further point out that Dewey’s lack of practical clarity and willingness to specify what his views require of political institutions demonstrate that Dewey himself generated a hopelessly ideal theory, with no chance of it having any bearing on practice. She might conclude by asking: “If Dewey cannot live up to his own recommendations, why should we try to do so?”

The Question of Method


The obvious reply here is that Dewey does in fact provide greater detail than I have suggested so far. Politics is about more than institutions. According to Dewey it is at least also about those who make decisions and shape institutions and those who influence decision-makers in a variety of ways. For Dewey, the locus of political action extends to the entire citizenry. Thus, detailing how we ought to seek to transform the moral and epistemic character of citizens is of crucial significance on his account. Furthermore, much of Dewey’s work in political and social thought and the philosophy of education is directed towards the problem of conceptualising an education that best enables the growth of intelligent problem solving citizens. However, Dewey’s change of emphasis, away from strictly political institutions and toward social and moral ones, is not a denial that political institutions are important—Dewey clearly recognises that they are. It is rather a reframing of the issue of political institutions within the wider issue of human culture. As Ralston (2012: 6) writes, for Dewey, [i]nstitutions consist of beliefs and habits—what organization theorists call ‘organizational culture’—the accretion of which have created objective organizations and agencies that persist in space and time. According to Dewey, “[t]o say [. . . something] is institutionalized is to say that it involves a tough body of customs, ingrained in habits of actions, organized and authorized standards and methods of procedure” (LW 3: 153). So, ideas and ideals do not exhaust political experience; for their meaning to be suitably enriched, they should also manifest in stable political forms. Thus, for Dewey, the goal of political philosophy is to enable the creation and alteration of institutions, understood in this wider, cultural sense. This means that, at its most fundamental, the goal is to help in the task of cultural transformation. Cultural institutions are the locus of this transformation. And so individuals and groups that imagine, generate, and sustain such institutions through their habitual actions are the agential site of change. Moreover, Dewey’s emphasis on the character of individuals and social groups as opposed to detailed analysis of existing political institutions is ultimately explained by his claim that “individuals who are democratic in thought and action, are the sole final warrant for the existence and endurance of democratic institutions” (LW 14: 92). As a result, personal and community agency are the forms of agency he is most interested in. Thus, Dewey provides a conception of how his philosophical work might come to have a bearing in practice, that is, by helping citizens become better citizens and communities become better communities. More specifically, he hopes to do this by clarifying an intelligent process through which social groups through cultural norms, codes, and institutions respond to


Part IV

ever more complex problems. In other words, Dewey’s political philosophy intends to help by explaining the process through which citizens and groups of citizens might come to make better and better decisions. There is a rather unusual feature in Dewey’s political philosophy, namely, it does not define in advance what detailed criteria we ought to use to determine what constitutes ‘better’ rather than ‘worse’ decisions. As we have seen, Dewey insists that only the process of ongoing problem solving, and thus those actively involved in it, have the authority to establish what counts as ‘better’ solutions to particular problems. This is one way in which I read Dewey as providing a vision as to how his political philosophy might come to have effects in practice. However, in response, Randall accepts that this vision of cultural transformation is relevant, but he claims that Dewey ought to be more explicit about the kinds of political skills citizens ought to develop to partake in this vision: Instead of many fine generalities about the “method of cooperative intelligence”, Dewey might well direct attention to the crucial problem of extending political skill. For political skill can itself be taken as a technological problem to which inquiry can hope to bring an answer. [. . .] Thus by rights Dewey’s philosophy should culminate in the earnest consideration of the social techniques for reorganizing beliefs and behaviors—techniques very different from those dealing with natural materials. It should issue in a social engineering, in an applied science of political education—and not merely in the hope that someday we may develop one. (Randall 1951: 90–91) In my view, this comes down to saying that although Dewey does offer a certain vision for change at one level of generality, he fails to offer a more detailed vision of political strategy. In response, Dewey diplomatically concedes: “The fact—which [Randall] points out—that I have myself done little or nothing in this direction does not detract from my recognition that in the concrete the invention of such a technology is the heart of the problem of intelligent action in political matters” (LW 14: 75). In other words, Dewey admits to stopping short of proposing more concrete hypotheses about how to implement his vision. Other than on the topic of education, Dewey remains relatively silent about the problem of political technologies at an intermediate level—save as to exclude the use of violence except in extraordinary circumstances. Ralston argues that this silence on the matter, in the end, is virtuous. Indeed, he argues that, from an institutional perspective, Dewey’s silence stems from his unwillingness to pre-empt actual deliberations and “to foreclose opportunities for genuine experimentation and democratic choice” (2012: 9). Ralston further argues, by drawing on Roger

The Question of Method


Ames, that Dewey’s silence can be explained and justified by the worry that any recommendation he could have made might have been misused and result in the immoral application of context-inappropriate political technology (Ames 2008: 179). First, these points clearly resonate with the goal of overcoming the Rawlsian limitations mentioned previously. I am thus sympathetic to the idea that political philosophers should avoid thwarting actual democratic deliberations by closing down avenues for discussion, and I am also sympathetic to the worry that ideas and recommendations can be dramatically and tragically misused. Second, it is not clear at all that Dewey needs to have more than a general idea of how his vision relates to practice. However, I want to resist the idea that we should conclude from this that political philosophers ought to avoid putting forward honest and fallibilistic arguments of their own about how to address important problems. Although, as we have seen, we cannot expect political philosophers to have any privileged authority on the matter, it is also appropriate for them to contribute hypotheses that constitute “experimental and fallible democratic means” that can inform political practice (Ralston 2012: 9). An important part of what we have to contribute as political philosophers are ideas and visions for social improvement. After all, recall that Dewey tells us that, “we must, as philosophers, go back to the primitive situations of life that antecede and generate these reflective interpretations, so that we re-live former processes of interpretation in a wary manner, with eyes constantly upon the things to which they refer” (LW 1: 386). In addition, he contends that “[t]hinking ends in experiment and experiment is an actual alteration of a physically antecedent situation in those details or respects which called for thought in order to do away with some evil” (MW 10: 339—emphasis in original). This means that we have a responsibility to seek to enlighten the situations that caused us to theorise in the first place; we must seek to address the problems of real men and women, not merely those of philosophers. This requires taking the risk of articulating visions of how any particular philosophical idea might come to bear on the lives of ordinary people. This, I contend, is the heart of the matter for political philosophers wanting to have a bearing on practice: the promise must be that political philosophy will honestly and meaningfully attempt to contribute in the task of improving social arrangements through an actual process of ‘ongoing revision’ (Campbell 1995: 208). This requires enabling discussion and playing the role of liaison officer or chairperson. But it also implies putting forward ideas of our own: risking in the face of uncertainty, imagining in the face of the unknown, attempting to see further afield in the hope of gleaning a better, more meaningful way of solving real problems in the here and now. There is no guarantee that the ideas developed by political philosophers will be any better than those of others. But there is equally no reason to


Part IV

believe that they will be any worse. In other words, any attempt to help might actually help as much as it might hinder. The risk is unavoidable. In the end, I contend that this risk cannot be avoided: political deliberation and decision-making involve risk. However responsible these might be, they still require measured and selective risk. Therefore, there is always a certain degree of risk. Thus, if political philosophers want to play a role in actual deliberation and decision-making, we must embrace the necessity of risk. Dewey recognised that this was the case. But the critic may well ask: does Dewey sufficiently embrace the necessity of risk? Ralston certainly seems to think that Dewey’s risk taking is limited and that it is a good thing at that. In contrast, I think it would be a shame if Dewey had failed to take the risk of specifying, however hypothetically or fallibly, how we ought to seek to bring about his political ideals. Nevertheless, pace Ralston, I do not believe that Dewey failed to encounter risk in this way. In my view, the fact that he refuses to offer a general theory of political transition (or ‘technology’) and instead focuses on developing specific solutions to particular problems is a defensible and reasonable choice. Why? First, because that is what his general theory encourages him to do—as we have seen, it is particularistic and contextualistic rather than universalistic. Second, because leading by example can be a far more effective way of having a bearing on practice than devising a general theory of political technology. In my view, Dewey’s extensive political commentary on issues of public discussion and his political engagement throughout his life are signs of his willingness to bring his ideas to bear on ‘primary experience’. Thus, Dewey did not shy away from applying his own method of intelligence to specific concrete problems: from his early participation in social action (most obviously with Jane Addams in Hull-House) to his involvement in the Trotsky trial, via his outspoken and controversial prise de position in favour the United States’ military intervention in the First World War, his political and intellectual defence of academic freedom, his lifelong commitment to the cause of trade unionism and to racial and sexual equality, his development of the first ‘Laboratory School’ at the University of Chicago, and his repeated and painstaking involvement in debates about the purpose and nature of the curriculum in American schools. More broadly, Caspary (2017: 114–115) summarises the scope of Dewey’s engagement thus: Dewey marched in suffragist protest demonstrations, and supported the suffragist aims in public statements. His biographers also document his active involvement with and support of teachers’ unions, the NAACP, the People’s Lobby, and the League for Industrial Democracy. That Dewey was, himself, an activist, public intellectual, and social critic is incontestable. It should therefore be obvious that Dewey did not shy away from taking public positions and engaging others in intelligent discussion. It

The Question of Method


should therefore also be obvious that he did find ways to translate his ideals into practical action. And this at two levels: first, even a cursory glance at his works of political commentary reveals a clear connection between his philosophical outlook and the way in which he sought to develop political insights; and second, since Dewey’s pragmatism promises to bring us back to practice, it seems appropriate that he himself fulfilled this promise not by devising a mere theory of political action but by engaging in practical political action itself. Of course, it would be unfair to call upon all political philosophers to live a life of engagement equal to Dewey’s: neither are many of us likely to be as gifted as he was, nor are we likely to live as long he did. However, I think it would not be unfair to encourage political philosophers to understand that bridging the gap between theory and practice requires envisioning their thought as part of an experimental process, bound for practical testing out in communal deliberation and resulting in social action. As such, we must see it as part of our responsibilities to engage in actual attempts to convince other experts, citizens, and decision-makers of the value of our insights, theories, and recommendations. This does, minimally, require an effort of imagination: we must envision how our theoretical work might have interesting effects in the wider social world. In my view, this does not require having a fully worked out theory of political action. But it does require an effort of communication, since it requires that political philosophers explain what their views come down to in response to real problems, in such a manner as to be understood by non-philosophers. This means that, at the very least, we must be willing to make clear what we hope to achieve with our theoretical work and how we might imagine our ideas changing the actions of our co-citizens and institutions. Dewey’s willingness to articulate his democratic ideal in theory and to apply the insights it yielded to practical issues demonstrated his willingness to live up to these demands. The question remains: are we prepared to follow suit? I believe many political philosophers are and I hope to have given compelling philosophical reasons as to why we all ought to be. Nevertheless, this experimentalism demands to be put to the test of practice. That is why the final chapter of this book charts connections between this Deweyan outlook and more recent forms of engaged scholarship.

Notes 1. For example, Bernard Williams writes: “It is helpful to consider the idea of the ‘ideal’ or ‘model’ readers of a political text. [Political Moralism] typically takes them to be utopian magistrates or founding fathers, as Plato and Rousseau did, but this is not the most helpful model now. They are better seen as, say, the audience of a pamphlet” (2005: 12). I agree with Williams that it is all too often assumed by political philosophers that their role is to advise those who operate as official decision-makers (that is, legislators, judges, and members of the executive), when perhaps they


Part IV

might generate a whole host of other responses if they addressed themselves explicitly to lay citizens or members of particular interest groups and industries that are distinctively affected by specific issues; stirring up and facilitating debate with those operating at the heart of civil society as citizens or in private and non-governmental organisations (such as campaigning, faith, voluntary groups, and charities) can be an effective way of raising awareness of particular issues and solutions, and more broadly shaping public discourse. On my reading of the Deweyan approach to political philosophy, the whole social world must be considered, at least in principle, and political philosophers must be open and transparent about who they are trying to convince, incite, or merely challenge with their work. 2. As one British parliamentarian once put it to me: “Politics is about picking winners and losers. It’s about deciding who gets what from whom.” 3. To be fair to realists, some actively seek to address this question (Hall 2015; Hall & Sleat 2017). However, I am not yet convinced that they can do so effectively. Moreover, while I cannot show this here, my sense is that Deweyan experimentalism solves this problem better than existing articulations of critical realist political philosophy (such as Geuss 2016; Prinz & Rossi 2017).

10 Experimentalism as a Method for 21st-Century Political Philosophy Democratic Innovation, Participatory Budgeting, and Civic Studies There is an obvious sense in which the ideas animating this book are far from new: many before have emphasised the importance of connecting thought with action in an open and democratic fashion for the sake of generating improved deliberative processes. What is perhaps most distinctive about Dewey’s social and political philosophy is that it places a great deal of importance on the act over which we might be said to have the most agency: that is to say, the act of conceiving of one’s self in a specific manner. Thus, the underlying claim of this book can be understood to be that political philosophers ought to experiment with a new selfconception. Instead of seeing themselves as the discoverers of abstract truths about political philosophy, they ought to experiment with the idea that they are first and foremost democratic citizens. Their role as a political philosopher can only, at its best, enable them to become equivalent to competent chairpersons in the ongoing decision-making process that is cultural renewal. They thus ought to see themselves as translators of abstract knowledge and ideas into more concrete terminology, as well as dreamers whose powerful imaginations might enable them to envision new ways to help solve collective problems. But let us retrace our steps to see how we have arrived here. This book began with an observation: our social, economic, and political lives are occurring in the midst of profound systemic uncertainty. In such an environment, the need for intelligent criticism and social vision that can account for uncertainty and contingency is patently obvious. That is why, I have argued, political philosophy is called upon to become more than a mere ‘compensatory refuge’. I thus went on to present crucial aspects of the ongoing methodological debate between idealists and realists in political philosophy. I have argued that Rawlsian ideal theory suffers from several crucial shortcomings: namely, it prioritises the predemocratic conclusions of philosophers over the political autonomy of democratic citizenries, ignoring real political problems as experienced by actual citizens. Relying on ‘idealisation’, it lacks a theory of transition, it fails to take seriously a diversity of moral considerations in political deliberations, it ignores the fact that trade-offs loom large in political


Part IV

deliberations, and it ignores the role played by power in political action. I went on to insist that any alternative method of doing political philosophy will have to overcome these shortcomings while still holding on to the more Rawlsian notion that political philosophy must retain the capacity to effectively challenge injustice. I thus reject the type of realist political philosophy that insists on separating politics from the wider sphere of morality. In other words, I have interpreted the methodological debate in political philosophy as one hinging on the appropriate balance we ought to strike between actual democratic deliberations, empirical facts, and abstract moral considerations. I have argued that this balance must ultimately satisfy the demands of real politics (conceived of in the widest possible sense) and must therefore be careful to embed itself within social and political contexts that are the sites of real political action. To this end, I have claimed that an attractive potential methodological alternative can be found in John Dewey’s experimentalism. My chief contention has been that Dewey’s experimentalism offers an appealing self-conception for political philosophers. To support this claim, I have articulated Dewey’s experimentalism with reference to his conceptions of philosophy and of democracy: I have argued that we should understand Dewey’s philosophic ideal as the fulfilment of a social role analogous to that of a competent chairperson in a committee meeting rather than that of a wise purveyor of truths unknown to others; and I have argued that his democratic ideal is best understood as a general ideal of inter-personal relationship founded upon terms enabling the free use of collective intelligence in response to communally experienced problems. In the previous chapter, I ultimately articulated a broader methodological ideal for political philosophy and subjected it to the test of overcoming the shortcomings I previously identified with the Rawlsian approach. I have therefore articulated an experimentalist method of doing political philosophy that embraces the need to start from problems as they are experienced, the need to generate hypothetical solutions to such problems, and the need to test such solutions out—first in deliberation and then in action. In the last instance, however, I must be clear about what this proposal amounts to: it remains a hypothesis to be tested in practice. Experimentalism for Dewey, as for me, is the standard by which to judge the value of all theories—including the theory of experimentalism. This means that the ultimate test for the experimentalist methodological approach I have taken pains to reconstruct in the preceding chapters will unavoidably be practical and a posteriori. In other words, although this book has argued that this methodological outlook can reasonably be expected to be an improvement upon the Rawlsian notion of ideal theory, the only ultimate test of its actual capacity to help us better resolve real problems remains experimental. The Deweyan methodology demands to be tested by contemporary political philosophers to judge whether or not it truly does enable them to make better contributions to the domain of

Experimentalism in Practice


actual political deliberation. I thus dedicate this final chapter to showing that recent efforts made by political philosophers and political scientists wishing to have an impact on political practice share many of Deweyan experimentalism’s core commitments. Moreover, I hope to allay the potential worry that Dewey’s ideas are too general to meaningfully address the problems confronted by political actors involved in existing political institutions and social movements.1

10.1. Growing Momentum in Political Philosophy Over the last 20 years, stellar examples of engaged political philosophy have multiplied. Indeed, with growing interest in global justice, climate change, and the ethics of migration, we have been witnessing a renewed focus among political philosophers upon the task of addressing pressing political concerns by weighing both empirical facts and ethical considerations. It is not just the existence of more practically engaged political philosophy which is striking, rather it is the depth of creativity and breadth of analysis this type of academic practice demonstrates that is truly staggering. While excellent works that fall in this category are too numerous to even attempt to draw anything close to an exhaustive list, several extraordinarily impressive examples deserve special mention. In Women and Human Development, Martha Nussbaum (2000) collects and recounts the stories of real women in the developing world and links these to specific debates in the field of development. She also builds on such discussions to construct an anti-relativistic feminism that aims to address everyday injustices experienced by women all over the world. In De-Facing Power, Clarissa Rile Hayward (2000) combines ethnographic methods with philosophical reflection and argumentation to develop a distinctive conception of power. Hayward thus invites the reader to consider her reflections on her experiences as a participantobserver in two public schools based in Connecticut: the school she calls the ‘North End Community School’ is based in an urban, socially mixed area, while the school she calls ‘Fair View Elementary’ is located in an affluent suburban setting. Through detailed descriptions of these spaces and of the subtle norms and boundaries that operate therein, Hayward (2000: 3) makes a case for seeing power “not as an instrument some agents use to alter the independent action of others, but rather as a network of boundaries that delimit, for all, the field of what is socially possible.” Moreover, Hayward delves further into lived social experiences of the communities she studies to chart how “power relations might, to a greater or lesser extent, enable those they position to act in ways that affect their constitutive boundaries,” because, she contends that “[s]tudents of power should consider the extent to which, and investigate the ways in which, particular relations of power enable and promote


Part IV

this social capacity for action upon boundaries to action” (Hayward 2000: 7). In other words, Hayward carefully articulates the conditions within which agency can be best mobilised to effect meaningful change in these two very different schools. Danielle Allen’s Talking to Strangers (2004) begins with an analysis of the context and significance of a singular photograph entitled ‘Elizabeth Eckford Being Cursed by Hazel Bryan in front of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas’, taken on September 4, 1957. This photo, Allen suggests, offers us a glimpse into the new constellation of the American public sphere in the years following the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education which outlawed legally enforced segregation in American schools and thus asserted Elilzabeth Eckford’s right to attend Little Rock’s Central High School regardless of her skin colour. This right was violated when she and eight other African-American students were prevented from entering the school on that day. Allen ventures that the photo captures a moment of major democratic significance, one where the necessity for a new kind of civic accommodation is rendered stridently apparent. What follows in her book is, as one reviewer puts it: part meticulous exegesis of canonical philosophical and literary texts, part elegant formulation of current controversies in liberal and democratic theory, part dramatic narration of school desegregation in the 1950s American South, part astute observation of urban planning in Chicago, part personal reflection on the difficulties of race, place, and citizenship, and part utopian imagination of possibilities for a shared future. (Tambornino 2006: 141) Talking to Strangers makes a compelling case for the cultivation of a special kind of civic relationship—namely, ‘political friendship’—which reconciles deep differences in value-orientation and moral judgements with the democratic need for civic dialogue. This task, Allen argues, is of paramount importance if collective self-rule is to find its fullest expression in the lives of ordinary citizens in a nation as scarred and divided as the United States of America. Leif Wenar’s Blood Oil (2016) draws on testimonials, empirical analysis, legal scholarship, and philosophical argumentation to highlight the immorality and illegality of an unaccountable global supply chain of natural resources, which contributes to causing unspeakable human suffering and intractable conflicts. Wenar thus begins with a diagnosis of a pervasive but largely ignored condition he calls ‘the resource curse’: less developed nations that are heavily dependent on the export of extractive resources (such as oil, natural gas, and diamonds) are disproportionately afflicted by authoritarian modes of government, they suffer a higher risk of civil war and coup attempts, and their economies grow more slowly.

Experimentalism in Practice


People living in oil and mineral rich countries are likely to suffer extreme poverty and immense suffering because those who seize military control of the land enrich themselves and employ armed forces that all too often murder, rape, and enslave those who cannot defend themselves. Worse still, Wenar shows how millions upon millions of democratic-minded, justice-orientated, well-intentioned consumers across the world actively participate in perpetuating this cycle of horror by buying products containing resources emanating from these countries. Furthermore, Wenar contends that international law provides grounds to ban this type of trade. Since the principle that resources in a land belong to the nation that lives there is enshrined in international law, selling such resources without justly compensating the people of that nation is nothing short of theft. Buying stolen goods is already prohibited in international trade, thus Wenar proposes that we adopt ‘clean trade’ policies that would enshrine transparency in supply chains and ensure that products made with resources emanating from countries under authoritarian-rule never make it to market in the democratic world. In Basic Income, Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght (2017) diagnose a growing unease within advanced capitalism and propose a radical solution. They contend that “belief in the cure-all” economic growth is “undermined from three sides” (Van Parijs & Vanderborght 2017: 6) claiming that there are doubts regarding (i) the desirability of future growth (in light of ecological limitations), (ii) the possibility of future growth in mature economies (these may simply be doomed to stagnate), and (iii) whether growth can ever solve unemployment and precarious underemployment. Furthermore, they suggest that rapid technological innovation involving automation is likely to further reduce jobs in advanced economies, causing further social strain. In response, they maintain that the appropriate response should be the institution of a universal or unconditional basic income—that is to say, “a regular income paid in cash to every individual member of a society, irrespective of income from other sources and with no strings attached” (Van Parijs & Vanderborght 2017: 4). This individual basic cash income would replace most other forms of welfare payments (though not all) and would tally to approximately onefourth of a country’s current GDP per capita (this means that, in 2015, in the USA this would have amounted to $1,163 per month; in the UK to $910 per month) (Van Parijs & Vanderborght 2017: 10–11). Their contention is not only that enacting this policy would be ethically justified since it would enhance freedom, but also that it would permit efficiency gains, incentivise the creation of good quality jobs, allow for investment in human capital, and encourage the transition to a saner society where we work and consume less. While acknowledging that the idea of a universal basic income still faces a challenging political environment in most places, the rest of the book pays careful attention to the political viability of its central proposal across a broad range of contexts.


Part IV

Each of these books demonstrates not just the feasibility but also the power and beauty of complex practically orientated political philosophy across a wide range of topics in our field. However, the lion’s share of practically minded scholarship involving discussions of abstract values over the last few decades has arguably coalesced around the central theme of democratic reform and innovation. I therefore pay special attention to contributions made in this domain in the following two sections, before returning to the broader theme of civic agency.

10.2. Participatory Democracy: From Democratic Disaffection to Democratic Innovation America rests in national stalemate, her goals ambiguous and traditionbound when they should be new and far-reaching, her democracy apathetic and manipulated when it should be dynamic and participative. (Students for a Democratic Society 1962: 2)

As early as the 1960s and 1970s, political scientists observed a growing sense of disempowerment, unease with representative government, and civic disengagement among citizens in the United States (Finifter 1970; Miller 1974; Critin et al. 1975). Since then, political scientists have come to identify a profound sense of civic disaffection marked by “a long-term trend of falling turnout, low trust in politicians and dissatisfaction with the political system” (Crick Centre 2016: 1) across a range of advanced democracies (see, for example, Nye, Zelikow & King 1997; Dalton 2008). Indeed, as Archon Fung (2015: 515) puts it, “the bond between citizens and political institutions has weakened in the United States and other industrialized democracies.” While explanations for this phenomenon range widely (from voter apathy to a loss of faith in politics and the media and a sense of powerlessness in the face of globalisation), more systematic diagnoses of the root causes of civic disengagement focus either on the notion of a ‘democratic deficit’ or of a ‘demand gap’. A democratic deficit consists in the difference between a people’s demand for democratic participation and the supply of institutional opportunities for civic engagement (see Hay 2007; Richards & Smith 2015). A demand gap is the difference between a people’s expectations of the overall institutional provision of public goods and a government’s capacity to deliver such goods (see Flinders 2012). While conceptually these explanations differ markedly, the proposed solutions can be divided into three envisioned sites of political change: •

Supply-side approaches suggest that institutional change is required to address civic disengagement. In other words, democratic institutions must adapt such as to better meet the expectations of the

Experimentalism in Practice


citizenry in providing improved opportunities for democratic participation and/or improved access to public goods. Demand-side approaches suggest that civic disengagement must be addressed by dampening the expectations of citizens (for democratic involvement and/or for the delivery of public goods). The combined view holds that aspects of institutional and cultural change are required in order for the expectations of democratic citizenries and institutional capacity to match one another (see Forstenzer 2015).

The ideal of participatory democracy offers a resolutely supply-side solution to the problem of civic disengagement. At its heart lies the notion that participation in democratic deliberation is not only a means to make better decisions (and thus benefit from richer public goods) but also an end which enables the development of civic and human capabilities. This democratic ethos is resonant with Dewey’s ideal and is well captured in the following passage of the Port Huron Statement: As a social system we seek the establishment of a participatory democracy, governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organized to encourage independence in men [sic] and provide the media for their common participation. (Students for a Democratic Society 1962: 30—emphasis in original) The Port Huron Statement was a radical and wildly optimistic document. Recognising the concrete failures of American democracy in the 1960s, it envisioned the possibility of fundamentally reshaping society such that it would foster civic knowledge, skills, and virtues to enable effective direct collective self-rule. However, in the following years, the United States did not become a participatory democracy. Instead, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberal democracy (with all its representative features) became the dominant form of government across the world. And yet, disenchantment within stable, advanced democracies not only endured; it grew. Worse still, structural features of American democracy appear to have shifted so profoundly as to have eroded public trust and faith in its institutions’ capacity to self-correct (for reasons well described by Lappé & Eichen 2017: 27–76). In reaction, more practical proposals to strengthen civic engagement within the structures of representative liberal democracy were developed. Indeed, over the last few decades, political philosophers and political scientists have taken a special interest in conceptualising imaginative new ways for citizens to meaningfully participate in democratic politics.2 As Fung (2003a: 515–516) remarks: “By asking the general question ‘How


Part IV

do associations enhance democracy?’ scholars have brought civil society and groups back into the normative and empirical investigation of democracy.” While Fung is keen to underscore the diversity of democratic ideals at play in these discussions, the term ‘deliberative democracy’ often serves as conceptual umbrella for those seeking to chart a closer relationship between participation and democratic decision-making. In much of the literature, aspects of Dewey’s democratic ideal are often seen as key points of departure. However, instead of purely envisioning associative life or culture as the primary site of democratic transformation, these more recent proposals focus much more on developing and evaluating specific institutional structures designed to enable meaningful participation in collective decision-making within the context of large, technologically advanced democracies. These institutional changes are sometimes called ‘democratic innovations’, ‘mini-publics’, or models of ‘empowered participatory governance’ (Fung & Wright 2003). These are supply-side interventions in the public arena, since they aim to provide greater opportunities for civic engagement via institutional reform. Typically, those who devise these innovations value democratic deliberation, both because it enables greater civic participation (which they identify as an inherently desirable feature of democracy) and because they maintain that participation within the correct institutional set up will enable the provision of greater public goods. The benefits of adopting these types of institutions are thought to include effective problem solving, civic learning, a bolstered sense of equity, and greater popular legitimation.3 In other words, empirical deliberativists aspire to solving both the democratic deficit and the expectation gap in one fell swoop. Fung (2006: 74) writes: Citizens can be the shock troops of democracy. Properly deployed, their local knowledge, wisdom, commitment, authority, even rectitude can address wicked failures of legitimacy, justice, and effectiveness in representative and bureaucratic institutions. Methodologically, Fung and Eric Olin Wright think of these institutional reforms explicitly as ‘experiments’ and identify three guiding principles: (i) Practical orientation: these new institutional models must aim to respond to the concrete concerns of citizens; (ii) Bottom-up participation: proposed reforms must “create new channels for those most affected by targeted problems [.  .  .] to apply their knowledge, intelligence and interest to the formulation of solutions” (Fung & Wright 2003: 16); (iii) Deliberative solution generation: empowered participatory governance requires that participants make collective decisions on the basis of reasons.

Experimentalism in Practice


The key here is that these institutional proposals respond to experienced collective problems by drawing on the civic wisdom of ordinary actors and that resulting decisions be made on the balance of the best reasons by pursuing a broad consensus (though not necessarily full consensus) as opposed to obeying the diktats of experts, aggregating preferences by voting, or resolving disputes via strategic bargaining. According to Carole Pateman (2012: 8), “the central claim of deliberative democratic theorists [is] that individuals should always be prepared to defend their moral and political arguments and claims with reasons, and be prepared to deliberate with others about the reasons they provide.” While the Habermasian ideal of rational communication as non-domination typically plays a role in motivating the deliberativist’s aversion to messier modes of collective decision-making, in a rather Deweyan mood, Fung and Wright (2003: 18) insist that it is the willingness to revise one’s own ends in deliberation rather than the purity of one’s reasons which provides the most fertile grounds for joint problem solving. Moreover, in order for these new institutions to have a chance to thrive, Fung and Wright stipulate that they must devolve power to local units, that such local units must be linked to one another and to supervening levels of state (for coordination, resource allocation, and solution sharing), and that these supervening levels of state must grant participatory institutions the legitimate power to “implement the outcomes of their deliberations” (Fung & Wright 2003: 24). In other words, deliberative institutions cannot be free floating; they must be anchored in wider political institutions and they must be able to exercise a measure of legitimate power. Furthermore, Fung and Wright add that a background enabling condition is a broad equality of power between participants during the process of decision-making. Fung explains that this experimental approach to democratic institutions is rooted in a pragmatic conception of democracy. Crucially, on his account, ‘pragmatic democracy’ is distinguished from conceptions of democracy derived from ideal theory by two features: (i) the pragmatic view “begins in media res—with the social circumstances and especially the governance problems of particular societies as they are”; and (ii) the pragmatic conception is “much more open than ideal conception have been to a wide variety of institutional forms” (Fung 2012: 610). In other words, (ii) motivates the need to experiment (since there is no a priori commitment to specific institutional structures) and (i) points to the milieu within which to conduct democratic experiments (i.e. in actual democratic societies in response to experienced problems). Indeed, the empirical literature on democratic innovations is replete with analyses of specific experiments aimed at fostering meaningful participation. According to Thamy Pogrebinschi, these experiments fall in the following broad categories: •

Deliberative councils: In this setting, citizens, civil society, and often private business interests are called upon to engage in deliberations


Part IV with government entities to seek common agreement. These are typically convened by a branch of government on a regular basis and engagement is usually on invitation. Citizens’ assemblies: These “are arenas mostly composed of ordinary citizens who spontaneously gather together to openly and publicly discuss common issues. Deliberation is usually organized around a specific problem that affects citizens of a given territory [.  .  .] or a common concern that attracts the interests of certain groups or populations (as in youth or health assemblies, for example)” (Pogrebinschi 2018: 7). Deliberative planning: Instead of focussing on immediate problems, these participatory institutions invite citizens, civil society, and government actors to shape a ‘plan’ by engaging in collective policymaking. Multi-level policy deliberation: This involves citizens, civil society, and government actors in policymaking at more than one level of governance. The idea is that the various participatory activities at differing levels of policymaking permit the ‘scaling up’ of the results of deliberation (from local to regional and national). Deliberative tables: These are institutions that have the same participatory structure and function as deliberative councils, but they are narrower in scope and are not permanent bodies and do not hold regular meetings. They exist on an ad hoc basis, typically instantiated by government to address a specific problem (e.g. recycling or health) or further a clear definable goal (e.g. devising a youth or environmental plan). Prior consultation: In the Latin American context, these are “processes of dialogue and negotiation between indigenous people and the government (and often also private stakeholders) for the purpose of arriving at consensus or agreements around actions and decisions that may affect their way of life, territories, or natural resources” (Pogrebinschi 2018: 29). Although prior consultation is a deliberative process, direct voting often plays a role in resolving upon a final decision. It also responds to a requirement of international law requiring consultation of indigenous and tribal people regarding legislation that has a direct impact upon them. In practice, it often functions as a process of conflict resolution and a space to raise historic grievances. Participatory budgeting: This is the most studied and best known type of democratic innovation. Pogrebinschi (2018: 33) explains that participatory budgeting is “a process that engages citizens and [civil society organisations] in the discussion of local projects and priorities, and eventually also in the decision of how much of a public budget [. . .] will be allocated to implement them.”

Other models attempting to generate democratic innovation exist, but a number of these are found wanting. For example, according to Fung,

Experimentalism in Practice


one unsatisfactory model is James Fishkin’s (1995) deliberative polling. In an attempt to approximate ideal deliberation and represent the citizenry accurately, Fishkin proposes that we select a representative sample of the wider public and place members of this sample in a carefully crafted environment with balanced briefing materials, facilitated small group discussions, and access to experts and politicians. After a few days, a detailed poll is submitted to participants and the resulting survey is meant to offer “a representation of considered judgments of the public—the views the entire country would come to if it had the same experience” (Fishkin 1995: 162). In response, Fung points out that while this model guarantees an accurate demographic representation of society, it does so by lowering the stakes of participation, since the group is neither empowered nor connected to wider supervening spheres of power. This means that Fishkin’s deliberative polling is “unlikely to increase the accountability of public officials [. . .], the justice of policies [. . .], or their efficacy” (Fung 2003b: 355). In other words, deliberative polling fails to draw on the civic knowledge in social currency and on the creative potential of recombinant (i.e. institutionally situated within horizontal and vertical governance mechanisms) and empowered deliberative forums. In contrast, Fung maintains that participatory budgeting appropriately empowers a large group of citizens in making decisions on behalf of their political community (2003b: 360–362). In order to explain how participatory budgeting operates and why it lends credence to the notion that Deweyan experimentalism can be an effective methodological framework in political philosophy, I must now consider this institutional innovation and the history of its study in greater detail.

10.3. Participatory Budgeting: A Powerful Example As previously mentioned, the term ‘participatory budgeting’ (henceforth PB) refers to a set of institutional practices where citizens have a direct role in allocating public resources. This process is usually carried out face-to-face, it typically occurs at the municipal level, and any one iteration can involve anywhere between dozens and thousands of citizens. By 2012, estimations range from 1,269 to 2,778 cities having adopted PB practices throughout the world, with training manuals available in over a dozen languages (Goldfrank 2012; Sintomer et al. 2013). Crucially, the practice of PB was widely influenced by the example developed in its first site of implementation, namely, Porto Alegre. This metropolis is the capital of Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil, and is home to approximately 1.4 million people. Shortly after the end of dictatorship, the 1988 Brazilian Constitution established participatory institutions and devolved significant decisional powers to municipalities (Wampler 2007: 47; also see Avritzer 2009). Local activist groups organised to put pressure on mayoral candidates


Part IV

to expand participation and address pressing local issues. In 1989, the left-wing Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party) ascended to the city executive in Porto Alegre as part of a Popular Front, partly on the basis of promises to meaningfully engage social movements and community organisations in the exercise of power. Indeed, Hollie Russon-Gilman summarises the party’s participatory platform as follows: “(1) direct citizen participation in government decision-making processes and oversight; (2) deter corruption through administrative and fiscal transparency; (3) improvements in urban infrastructure and services, especially aiding the indigent; and (4) a renewed political culture in which citizens would serve as democratic agents” ( 2016: 2). PB was the institutional mechanism designed by the party to meet these commitments. In practice, the Porto Alegre version of PB involves three layers. Carole Pateman explains their respective functions in the following manner: •

First, “there are assemblies open to all residents in the neighborhoods of the 16 regions of the city. In one set of assemblies citizens debate and vote on budget priorities, and also elect their representatives to the next levels. In the other set of assemblies, the thematic assemblies (less well studied), citizens consider broader city-wide policies, for example, education, transportation, or health” (Pateman 2012: 10). Second, there are “Regional Budget Forums, open to all citizens to attend as observers, the elected citizen representatives consider the investment priorities developed in the neighborhood assemblies and draw up the priority list for their region (A similar process takes place by the elected representatives in Thematic Budget Forums)” (Pateman 2012: 10–11). Third, we find “the Municipal Budget Council (COP), to which two councilors are elected by each regional forum. The COP, again, open to all citizens to observe, guided by the priorities of the budget forums, conditions in each region, and by information from city officials, decides on the distribution of investment funds across the city. Importantly, there is another vital step; after the mayor has accepted the budget, the COP debates and decides on the distributive rules that will govern the following year’s participatory budget. The COP also helps monitor the implementation of the chosen policies” (Pateman 2012: 11).

While the mayor has the right to veto the budget proposals emitted by the COP “the entire process, until the mayor’s final decision, is in the hands of citizens or citizen representatives elected by themselves” (Pateman 2012: 11). In the following decades, participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre has been heralded as policy success, serving to “relegitimate the state by showing that it could be effective, redistributive, and transparent” (Goldfrank

Experimentalism in Practice


2007: 95). Indeed, this participatory mechanism has engaged thousands of citizens in the task of formulating city policy, educated citizens and elected representatives about the policymaking process, improved transparency, reduced political clientelism (i.e. obtaining political support in exchange for diverting public goods towards specific groups), and improved the perception of legitimacy. Moreover, “[i]n a very significant reversal of the usual pattern of political participation,” Pateman remarks, “poor citizens form a large proportion of participants; usually they are marginalized. In Porto Alegre it is the poorer citizens rather than the better off who participate in PB” (Pateman 2012: 10). Moreover, the civically inclusive and transformative dimension of participatory budgeting is well captured in the words of one experienced activist in 1999, who said: The most important thing is that more and more persons come. Those who come for the first time are welcome, we have a lot patience with them, there is no problem, we let them make demands during technical meetings, they can speak their mind and their anxieties. We have patience for it because we were like that once. And if he has an issue, we set up a meeting for him, create a commission to accompany him. You have the responsibility of not abandoning him, of staying with him. That is the most important thing. (Nino—Interview, 1999, in Baiocchi 2003: 69) By 2005, Gianpaolo Baiocchi (2005: xi) claimed that Porto Alegre is “a city where participatory democracy has become a way of life.” Moreover, participatory budgeting demonstrates the effectiveness of three principles Fung and Wright establish for empowered participatory governance: (i) it is practically orientated (since it aims to solve specific problems in a given community); (ii) participation in it is bottom-up (since citizens who wish to participate can do so at will); and (iii) deliberation, as opposed to negotiation or aggregation, is used to establish group preferences. According to Benjamin Goldfrank, while the Workers’ Party played an important role in popularising participatory budgeting beyond Porto Alegre (especially, but not only, in Brazil), the global expansion of participatory budgeting practices was largely the result of efforts made by international institutions (Goldfrank 2012: 2). The World Bank, in particular, and the United Nations Development Program, more sporadically, heralded its transparency-enhancing and corruption-reducing qualities, hoping that its adoption in other developing nations might create better governance and reduce poverty. In 2012, Goldfrank counted World Bank-supported participatory budgeting projects in the following countries: Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gambia, Honduras, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, Uganda, and Uruguay (Goldfrank 2012: 3).


Part IV

While participatory budgeting processes can and often do take different forms, Russon-Gilman (2016: 3–4) contends that these practices share the following basic traits: (i) Information sessions: “Citizens are given access to information about the cost and effect of different government programs.” (ii) Neighbourhood assemblies: “Citizens articulate local budgetary needs.” (iii) Budget delegates: “Some citizens sign up to directly interact with government officials and draft viable budget proposals.” (iv) Voting: “A larger group of residents votes on which projects to fund.” Although the desire to initiate and expand participatory budgeting practices remains significant in many political quarters, a countervailing scholarly literature has also emerged. Critics of the World Bank accuse it of using participatory budgeting as a mechanism to co-opt activists and civil society for the sake of driving forward neo-liberal reforms (such as, for example, getting citizens to provide public goods instead of the state). For example, Paul Cammack (2004: 190) writes: While the Bank’s commitment to poverty reduction is real, within limits, it is conditional upon, and secondary to, a broader goal. Its principal objective is the systematic transformation of social relations and institutions in the developing world, in order to generalise and facilitate proletariansation and capitalist accumulation on a global scale, and build specifically capitalist hegemony through the promotion of legitimating schemes of community participation and country ownership. Perhaps less radically, Ernesto Ganuza and Baiocchi (2012) argue that conceptual confusion has accompanied participatory budgeting’s diffusion beyond its point of origin. They contend that participatory budgeting travelled in two movements. First, it emerged and travelled in the 1990s, primarily in Latin America, as part of a “comprehensive set of administrative reforms,” which proved to be an effective instrument in making compatible “social justice, good governance, and electoral fortunes for the left” (Ganuza & Baiocchi 2012: 1). Second, in the late 1990s, after attracting attention from international organisations, it became a politically neutral device, promoted as a kind of ‘best practice’ across the world in order to improve “governance and generate trust in government” (Ganuza & Baiocchi 2012: 2). Fung (2015: 7) points out that these two phases demonstrate the decoupling of participatory budgeting as a model of civic engagement from its original social justice-enhancing qualities. Yet, at this point, the reader may well be wondering how exactly the development of participatory budgeting lends support to Deweyan experimentalism as a method for doing practically relevant political philosophy. Beyond the clear resonance with Dewey’s democratic ideal and the

Experimentalism in Practice


fact that it provides evidence that Deweyan democratic ideals can inform the process of constructing real political institutions, the historical development of participatory democracy matches key features of the Deweyan experimentalist picture. In ‘Practice—Thought—Practice’, Jane Mansbridge (2003: 175) explains that our task as theoreticians and as practitioners of democratic innovations is to iteratively move from observing practice to developing theories and back to observing the ways in which practice is affected by our adoption of such theories. Moreover, she adds that the normative ideal of participatory democracy was developed as a direct reaction to the practical problems and experienced malaise evoked in the Port Huron Statement. Crucially, Pateman (2012: 10) adds that “in [Porto Alegre] in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were people in the Workers’ Party and numerous grassroots organizations who supported PB for reasons that echoed the spirit of participatory democracy of the 1960s.” Thus, activists introduced the idea of PB as a way of addressing pervasive urban problems (housing, transport, sanitation, over-investment in the centre of the city at the expense of the periphery) and of quenching a thirst for meaningful civic engagement (see Genro & de Souza 1999). The Workers’ Party took up the idea and made it core to its municipal identity, heralding it as “a role model for the whole world” (Porto Alegre Municipality 2001). Moreover, the PB process in Porto Alegre served as a school of democracy, educating many citizens into the practices of leadership and collective decision-making. Along with this, new ethical and political principles of action emerged (Baierle 1998). Scholars have sought to refine these principles, expand their field of reach, support actors seeking to instigate new experiments in participatory budgeting, and critically reflect upon ensuing practices—perhaps even at times succeeding in providing, as Pateman (2012: 10) suggests, “a yardstick to evaluate the very varied and diverse innovations now called ‘participatory budgeting’.” Thus, the example of PB suggests that experimentalism as I have articulated it can be a successful strategy for doing practically relevant engaged political philosophy, as well as value-driven political science. However, one might worry that these examples of participatory democracy overly focus on the institutional level when Dewey was interested in the democratic promise of cultural change. In response, I contend that the efforts borne by a small but dedicated group of scholars who have been developing an approach to the study of civic life might help in this regard. Their work bears remarkable similarities to Dewey’s original statement of intention and to the formulation I have proposed of his methodological experimentalism. I therefore discuss their work in more detail now.

10.4. Civic Studies or the Art of Intelligent Co-Creation A citizen needs knowledge of rights and wrongs, facts and explanations, and strategies. (Levine 2014: 5—emphasis in original)


Part IV

In 2007, a group of distinguished scholars—heralding from the fields of political science, philosophy, and economics—penned a collaborative statement entitled ‘The New Civic Politics: Civic Theory and Practice for the Future’. In this document, Harry Boyte et al. (2014) set out a vision for a new domain of scholarship, indeed a new discipline that has come to be known as ‘civic studies’. They maintained that “[i]ts work is to understand and strengthen civic politics, civic initiatives, civic capacity, civic society and civic culture. It is emerging in many disciplines and fields of human endeavor” (Boyte et al. 2014: 206). The intention laid out in this framing statement led to the creation of a dedicated academic journal, The Good Society, and to the creation of the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, which is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together scholars, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from a range of countries and fields of study. Most recently, in 2018, Tufts University launched a civic studies major in the School of Arts and Sciences. At its core, this new discipline aims to meet the civic needs identified by Levine in the passage just cited. Yet, more generally, the framers maintained that it requires engaging in the arduous task of articulating a civic ideal. In their view, this ideal builds on a sense of “public spiritedness, or the commitment to the public good” reflected in “a loyalty directed toward political communities” and the notion that citizens are creative agents, “not simply acquiescing in the demands of the political community, but also working to reform and improve it” (Boyte et al. 2014: 206– 207). Ultimately, the stance they advocate requires envisioning “a citizen [as] the co-creator of the worlds to which she or he belongs” (Boyte et al. 2014: 207). The communities of care to which citizens belong are not to be narrowly construed—as tribes, cities, or nations—but rather carefully attended to in their fullest complexities, beginning with the genuine attachment and practical commitment within which citizens already operate (from family and friends, book clubs, and neighbourhood groups to political parties, non-governmental organisations, and international solidarity campaigns). Their co-creative capacities are to be understood as the multiple sites of civic agency within a wider social world overdetermined by powerful external forces. Thus, the founding statement makes a commitment to “understand human action as a human creation, a product of design based on skills, not simply a product of causal structures (e.g. power structures)” and those “skills [as including] the elaboration of ends, not just instrumental rationality” (Boyte et al. 2014: 207). They therefore set out the four following goals: •

To understand and promote civic capacities, civic society, civic culture and collective civic agency. To promote democratic learning in multiple institutional settings. To develop our understanding of the principles for the design and creation of institutions, and more broadly of the structures

Experimentalism in Practice


of power, including the elaboration of ends and the choice of means. To enhance a form of politics that centers around public problem solving, conflict clarification, recognition and clarification of legitimate interests, and the transformation of culture. In pursuing these goals we hope to join civic theory and civic practice, to move theoretical discussions beyond the communitarianliberal debate, and to contribute to an emerging global movement of civic renewal. (Boyte et al. 2014: 210–211)

Taken together, this project’s overarching goal, I contend, is the enhancement of civic agency by improving our understanding of the conditions within which it is most operative. To this end, our methods of scholarship must involve the study of facts, values, and strategies. While this scholarly movement finds inspiration from a broad variety of philosophical influences (including Dewey, Habermas, Hannah Arendt, and Roberto Unger), it also draws extensively on more empirically and practically orientated authors (such as Joel Westheimer, Bent Flyvberg, Saul Aulinsky, and Mansbridge’s early work on deliberative practices). However, perhaps the most significant line of intellectual heritage points back to the Nobel Prize-winning work of Elinor Ostrom on the cooperative management of common-pool resources (such as clean water, wellfunctioning irrigation canals, or fishing grounds). She demonstrates that state action is not always necessary to manage common-pool resources, so long as robust norms of collective decision-making are adhered to. Indeed, she claims: “If those who know the most about local time-andplace information and incentives are given sufficient autonomy to reach and enforce local covenants, they frequently are able to devise rules well tailored to the problems they face” (Ostrom 1996: 26). Her contention is not that common-pool resources could not be depleted or destroyed by failures of collective action—as predicted by the “tragedy of the commons” (Hardin 1968), the prisoner’s dilemma (Hardin 1982), or the logic of collective action (Olson 1965). Rather, her extensive empirical study of specific groups successfully self-managing a common-pool resource shows that they are not always destined to be. Indeed, Ostrom demonstrates that there are predictable conditions within which collective localised decisionmaking enables the preservation of common-pool resources, thus thwarting predictions derived from decision theory. In other words, even in the absence of the prospect of state punishment or strong regulatory mechanisms, groups of individuals across the world choose to engage in trusting relationships with one another in order to preserve a resource which they recognise as being fundamentally valuable to their respective ways of life.4 Two fundamental insights for civic studies can be derived from Ostrom’s work. The first is a practical realisation: civic agency always operates


Part IV

in situ and is enabled as well as constrained by the specific facts of the situation, the values of the participants in a common project, and the strategies available to them. The second is an epistemic insight derived from what is sometimes referred to as ‘Ostrom’s law’, according to which “[a] resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory” (Fennell 2011). Over the course of her life, Ostrom collected empirical examples of successful common-pool resource management and showed that norms of dialogue can build trust and enable accountable behaviour in collective action. Taken to its full conclusion, we might take her work as an invitation to tend carefully to the particularities of our social and political situations, such as to understand under what conditions citizens will self-organise to govern themselves. Beyond the study of resource arrangements, we can take her work to be an invitation to acknowledge that a theory (whether purely predictive or normative) must be changed in light of actual facts, because new facts can sometimes redefine the sphere of conceivability in a much more radical way than what is permitted by our most cherished theories. Taking this insight further, Harry Boyte develops the notions of ‘everyday politics’ and ‘public work’ to articulate how participating in common civic projects permits a deepening sense of civic agency and improves collective problem solving (Boyte 2004). Albert Dzur’s work on ‘democratic professionalism’ (2008) shows that professional classes (lawyers, engineers, medical doctors, teachers, academics, etc.) depend on public trust for their special status and authority and that this authority is premised on the notion that they have special civic obligations. One such obligation, Dzur argues, is to involve lay citizens in their professional deliberative practices—to make decisions with, not merely for, the public. Crucially, he goes on to show that such cross-pollination between experts and lay citizens in civic deliberations makes for improved decision-making in journalism, criminal justice, and bioethics. In We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, Levine carefully charts the potential for civic renewal in the United States, pointing to real civic experiments, helpful organisations, and to the wider civic resources of ‘reengagement and reform’ (Levine 2013: 189) as reasons to undertake this undeniably gargantuan task. More strategically still, Marshall Ganz (2011) contends that developing a ‘public story’ can be a powerful tool to spark collective social change by highlighting the core values of a movement (‘the story of us’), the character of its leaders and members (‘the story of self’), and the nature of the situation which it aims to address (‘the story of now’) (Ganz 2011: 282–283). For the purposes of my present argument, suffice it to say that Ostrom, Boyte, Dzur, Levine, and Ganz’s respective work, as well as the wider growing field of civic studies, serve as powerful examples of real, impactful scholarship which seeks to enable good collective decision-making by attending equally carefully to facts, values, and strategies. In other words,

Experimentalism in Practice


the field of civic studies goes beyond a focus on formal institutions and shows that the Deweyan bent towards deliberation can help citizens generate social movements, collaborative practices, and civic organisations with the potential to reshape the social world. Taken together, civic studies, the study of participatory budgeting, and the study of democratic participation, more generally, demonstrate that the experimentalist commitment to starting with problems as they are experienced by citizens in media res, inquiring into the facts of the situation, and bringing the widest possible values and principles to bear on how we might go about resolving them can be a powerful way of creating new knowledge, deepening and refining our theoretical commitments, as well as developing new strategies to change the world we live in. That is why, ultimately, I contend that existing scholarship lends empirical support to the notion that Deweyan experimentalism ought to be an attractive model for political philosophers wishing to have an influence in real political practice.

10.5. Concluding Thoughts: Hope in the Face of Radical Uncertainty While this final chapter can only hope to show that Deweyan experimentalism is an empirically viable methodological outlook by pointing to scholarship with which it shares a lineage as well as striking similarities, it did so by focussing on the work of people primarily working in the political sciences, as opposed to philosophy (especially in 10.2, 10.3, and 10.4). Although Fung and Levine originally trained as philosophers, and other more philosophically inclined scholars have participated in the fields of study under discussion (see, for example, respectively, Cohen & Rodgers 2003; Bartold 2018), to my mind, drawing on the work of scholars from other disciplines is not a weakness but a strength. I maintain that we, political philosophers, would be well served by paying closer attention to how we might be able to work with social scientists who are interested in engaging in discussions of value. However, it is precisely readers who are more empirically minded who might ask of me the most difficult closing questions. First, in our age of democratic retrenchment, why should political philosophy hitch its fate to democratic practice? Second, as the effects of climate change are felt more and more pressingly across the globe, how can philosophy (which works relatively slowly) help address this urgent issue? I have argued that philosophers can and should play a meaningful role by participating in and enabling conversations about both of these issues in the public sphere, because—simply put—we might be able to help. In the face of the fundamental challenges to democracy presented by electorally ascendant authoritarian leaders in much of the democratic world and looming ecological disaster, I am doubtful that the best efforts of all citizens of good conscience will suffice. And yet, I believe there is little other choice but


Part IV

to try to mobilise our best selves to confront the task at hand. If we are going to have a reasonable chance at successfully defending democratic values and averting ecological catastrophe, we must learn to foster civic resolve. One way of doing so involves actively reimagining how we might live, love, struggle, work, and learn to make decisions together in ever more appealing ways. The scholars I have discussed in this chapter show that this is possible. But, as the dark clouds gather, we must ask whether fostering this possibility will be enough to address the scale of the challenges ahead of us. To that question, I do not have a satisfactory answer. And yet, ultimately, my hope is that Deweyan experimentalism might help give us a better chance by providing an intellectually and practically viable methodological self-conception for political philosophers wishing to lend a hand in the gargantuan collective tasks presently before us.

Notes 1. Many thanks to Christopher Bennett for this helpful line of reasoning. 2. For a good overview of various localised experiments, see Grönlund, Bächtiger and Setälä (2014) and Pogrebinschi (2017). For a more systemic take on the value and challenges of deliberation, see Dryzek (2010), Parkinson and Mansbridge (2012), and Nebol (2015). 3. The word ‘legitimation’ here is not to be confused with the normative concept of ‘legitimacy’. While ‘legitimacy’ usually refers to an ethical standard by which state action can be determined to be sufficiently normatively justified, ‘legitimation’ here refers to the Weberian notion that power is exercised in such a manner as to evoke a sense, feeling, or judgement that it is worthy of practical ascent among those constrained by it. 4. There are, of course, highly specific conditions for this. However, I cannot hope to explain these in the pages available to me here. Instead, I recommend reading Ostrom (1990).


Adams, J. 1856. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, 10 Vols., notes and illustrations by C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown & Co. Adger, W.N., Pulhin, J.M., Barnett, J., Dabelko, G.D., Hovelsrud, G.K., Levy, M., Oswald Spring, Ú., & Vogel, C.H. 2014. ‘Human Security’, in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by C.B. Field, V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, & L.L. White. Cambridge and New York (NY): Cambridge University Press, 755–791. Aeschylus. 1959. Prometheus Bound, in The Complete Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1, edited by D. Grene & R. Lattimore, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Ainsworth, M.D. & Bell, S.M. 1974. ‘Mother-Infant Interaction and the Development of Competence’, in The Growth of Competence, edited by K. Connolly & J. Bruner, New York (NY): Academic Press, 97–118. Alamar, B. & Glantz, S.A. 2006. ‘Effect of Increased Social Unacceptability of Cigarette Smoking on Reduction in Cigarette Consumption’, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 96, No. 8, 1359–1363. Allen, D. 2004. Talking to Strangers, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Almlund, P., Homann Jespersen, P., & Riis, S. 2012. ‘Towards a New Agenda for Climate Change Research’, in their edited volume Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, Farnham: Ashgate, 3–13. Ames, R.T. 2008. ‘Tang Junyi and the Very “Idea” of Confucian Democracy’, in Democracy and Culture: Deweyan Pragmatism in a Globalizing World, edited by S. Tan & J. Whalen-Bridge, Albany: State University of New York Press. Anderson, E. 1999. ‘What Is the Point of Equality?’, Ethics, Vol. 109, No. 2, 287–337. ———. 2006. ‘The Epistemology of Democracy’, Episteme, Vol. 3, No. 1–2, 8–22. Ashton, P. 2007. ‘The Beginning before the Beginning: Hegel and the Activation of Philosophy’, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 2–3, 328–356. Assemblée Nationale Constituante. 1789. Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, Paris: Conseil Constitutionnel. Available at: www.conseil-constitutionnel.



fr/conseil-constitutionnel/francais/la-constitution/la-constitution-du-4-octobre1958/declaration-des-droits-de-l-homme-et-du-citoyen-de-1789.5076.html [Retrieved: 01/07/2012], The English language version is available from fact-index here: citizen.html [Retrieved: 03/07/2012]. Attali, J. 2008. La Crise, Et Après?, Paris: Fayard. Avritzer, L. 2009. Participatory Institutions in Democratic Brazil, Baltimore (MD): Johns Hopkins University Press. Bacon, M. 2010. ‘The Politics of Truth: A Critique of Peircean Deliberative Democracy’, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 36, No. 9, 1075–1091. Bagg, S. 2016. ‘Between Critical and Normative Theory: Predictive Political Theory as a Deweyan Realism’, Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 2, 233–244. Baierle, S.G. 1998. ‘The Explosion of Experience: The Emergence of a New Ethical-Political Principle in Popular Movements in Porto Alegre, Brazil’, in Cultures of Politics, Politics of Cultures: Re-Visioning Latin American Social Movements, edited by S. Alvarez, E. Dagnino, & A. Escobar, Boulder (CO): Westview Press, 118–131. Baiocchi, G. 2003. ‘Participation, Activism, and Politics: The Porto Alegre Experiment’, in Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, edited by A. Fung & E.O. Wright, London: Verso, 45–76. ———. 2005. Militants and Citizens: The Politics of Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre, Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press. Barnett, J. & Adger, W.N. 2007. ‘Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict’, Political Geography, Vol. 26, No. 6, 639–655. Bartold, L.S. 2017. ‘Giving Birth in the Public Square: The Political Relevance of Dialogue’, The Good Society, Vol. 26, No. 2–3, 290–304. Bates, B.C., Kudzewicz, Z.W., Wu, S., & Palutikof, J.P. (eds.). 2008. Climate Change and Water: Technical Paper on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Geneva: IPCC Secretariat. Bauman, Z. 1997. ‘The Making and Unmaking of Strangers’, in Postmodernity and Its Discontents, edited by Z. Bauman, Cambridge: Polity Press, 17–34. ———. 2000. Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press. Berger, S. 2002. ‘Democracy and Social Democracy’, European History Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1, 13–37. Bergstrom, L. 2002. ‘Putnam on the Fact-Value Dichotomy’, Croatian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 5, 117–129. Berlin, I. 1969. ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in his Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 118–150. ———. 2003. ‘The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West’, in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, edited by H. Hardy, London: Pimlico, 20–48. Bernstein, R.J. 1972. Praxis and Action, London: Duckworth. ———. 2010. The Pragmatic Turn, Cambridge: Polity Press. Betz, J. 1980. ‘Dewey and Socrates’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 16, No. 4, 329–356. Biesta, G. 2016. ‘Democracy and Education Revisited: Dewey’s Democratic Deficit’, in John Dewey’s Education and Democracy: A British Tribute, edited by S. Higgins & F. Coffield, London: Institute of Education Press, 149–169. Blake, W. 1991. Songs of Innocence and of Experience, edited by D. Bindman, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.



Boisvert, R.D. 1998. John Dewey: Rethinking Our Time, Albany (NY): State University New York Press. Boltansky, L. & Chiapello, E. 2005. The New Spirit of Capitalism, London: Verso. Boucher, O., Gruber, N., & Blackstock, J. 2011. ‘Summary of the Synthesis Session’, in IPCC Expert Meeting Report on Geoengineering, edited by O. Edenhofer, C. Field, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, T. Stocker, V. Barros, Q. Dahe, J. Minx, K. Mach, G.K. Plattner, S. Schlömer, G. Hansen, & M. Mastrandrea, IPCC Working Group III Technical Support Unit. Potsdam, Germany: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Bourne, R.S. 1964. ‘Twilight of the Idols’, in War and the Intellectuals: Collected Essays, 1915–1919, edited by C. Resek, New York (NY): Harper and Row, 53–64. Boyte, H. 2004. Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life, Philadelphia (PA): University of Pennsylvania Press. Boyte, H., Elkin, S., Levine, P., Mansbridge, J., Ostrom, E., Soltan, K., & Smith, R. 2014. ‘The New Civic Politics: Civic Theory and Practice for the Future’, The Good Society, Vol. 23, No. 2, 206–211. Brennan, G. & Pettit, P. 2005. The Economy of Esteem: An Essay on Civil and Political Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brooke, H. 2011. The Revolution Will Be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War, ebook: Corner Stone Digital. Brooks, D. 2011. The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens, New York (NY): Random House. Brown, L.R. 2008. Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, London: Earth Policy Institute. ———. 2009. ‘Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?’, Scientific American Magazine [Online]. Available at: civilization-food-shortages [Retrieved: 26/04/2009]. ———. 2011. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, New York (NY): Norton. Brown, L.R., Flavin, C., & Postel, S. 1991. Saving the Planet: How to Shape an Environmentally Sustainable Global Economy, New York (NY): Norton. Brynjolfsson, E. & Mcafee, A. 2014. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, New York (NY): Norton. Burkert, W. 1985. Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical, translated by J. Raffan, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Burley, J. 2000. ‘The Price of Eggs: Who Should Bear the Cost of Fertility Treatments?’, in The Future of Human Reproduction, edited by J. Harris & S. Holm, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 127–149. Cammack, P. 2004. ‘What the World Bank Means by Poverty Reduction, and Why It Matters’, New Political Economy, Vol. 9, No. 2, 189–211. Campbell, J. 1995. Understanding John Dewey: Nature and Cooperative Intelligence, Chicago: Open Court. Carlson, E.A. & Sroufe, L.A. 1995. ‘Contribution of Attachment Theory to Developmental Psychology’, in Developmental Psychopathology, Vol. 1: Theory and Methods, edited by D. Cicchetti & D. Cohen, New York: Wiley, 581–617. Caspary, W.R. 2000. Dewey on Democracy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ———. 2017. ‘John Dewey between Participatory Democracy and Direct Action: A Commentary on Jeff Jackson’, Democratic Theory, Vol. 4, No. 1, 109–120.



Cataldo, J.K., Jahan, T.M., & Pongquan, V.L. 2012. ‘Lung Cancer Stigma, Depression, and Quality of Life among Ever and Never Smokers’, European Journal of Oncology Nursing, Vol. 16, No. 3, 264–269. Christakis, N. & Fowler, J. 2010. Connected: The Amazing Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, London: Harper Press. Christman, J. 2009. ‘Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: autonomy-moral/#AutJusDem [Retrieved: 10/10/12]. Cicchetti, D. & Lynch, M. 1993. ‘Toward an Ecological/Transactional Model of Community Violence and Child Maltreatment: Consequences for Children’s Development’, Psychiatry, Vol. 56, No. 1, 96–118. Cicerone, R.J. 2006. ‘Geoengineering: Encouraging Research and Overseeing Implementation’, Climatic Change, Vol. 77, No. 3–4, 221–226. Cieszkowski, A. 1983. ‘Prolegomena to Historiosophie’, in The Young Hegelians: An Anthology, edited and translated by L.S. Stepelevich, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 53–90. Coates, T. 2017. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, New York (NY): One World. Cohen, G.A. 2003. ‘Facts and Principles’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 3, 211–245. Cohen, J. 2003. ‘For a Democratic Society’, in The Cambridge Companion to Rawls, edited by S. Freeman, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 86–138. Cohen, J. & Rodgers, J. 2003. ‘Power and Reason’, in Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, edited by A. Fung & E.O. Wright, London: Verso, 237–255. Constant, B. 1819. ‘De la Liberté des Anciens Comparée a Celle des Modernes’. Available at: [Retrieved: 28/05/2012]. Compston, H. 2009. ‘The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments’, paper prepared for 5th ECPR General Conference, September 10th–12th, Potsdam. Available at: politics%20of%20climate%20policy.pdf [Retrieved: 17/03/2010]. Compston, H. & Bailey, I. (eds.). 2008. Turning Down the Heat: The Politics of Climate Policy in Affluent Democracies, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Crick Centre. 2016. ‘Why Do We Hate Politics?’, Centre Report. Available at: [Retrieved: 03/08/2018]. Critin, J., Mcclosky, H., Merrill Shanks, J., & Sniderman, P.M. 1975. ‘Personal and Political Sources of Political Alienation’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1–31. Cruea, S.M. 2005. ‘Changing Ideals of Womanhood During the Nineteenth Century Woman Movement’, General Studies Writing Faculty Publications, Article 1. Available at: context=gsw_pub [Retrieved: 02/09/2018]. Crutzen, P.J. 2006. ‘Albedo Enhancement by Stratospheric Sulfur Injections: A Contribution to Resolve a Policy Dilemma?’, Climatic Change, Vol. 77, No. 3–4, 211–220. Dalton, R.J. 2008. Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage Publications.



Damico, A. 1978. Individuality and Community, Gainsville: University of Florida Press. ———. 1981. ‘Dewey and Marx: On Partisanship and the Reconstruction of Society’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 75, No. 3, 654–666. de Ruggiero, G. 1927. The History of European Liberalism, translated by R.G. Collingwood, London: Oxford University Press. Descartes, R. 1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol. 1, translated and edited by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, & D. Murdoch, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Descombes, V. 2008. ‘Philosophie du Jugement Politique’, in his Philosophie du Jugement Politique: Debat avec Vincent Descombes, Paris: Editions Points. de-Shalit, A. 2009. ‘Political Philosophy and Empirical Political Science: From Foes to Friends’, European Political Science, Vol. 8, No. 1, 37–46. de Tocqueville, A. 1961. Democracy in America, 2 Vols., translated by H. Reeve, New York: Schoken Books. de Vasconcelos, A. (ed.). 2012. Global Trends 2030: Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World, Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies. Dewey, J. July 2, 1894. ‘John Dewey to Alice Chipman Dewey’, John Dewey Papers, Special Collection, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University. ———. July 14, 1894. ‘John Dewey to Alice Chipman Dewey and Children’, John Dewey Papers, Special Collection, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University. ———. October 10–11, 1894. ‘John Dewey to Alice Chipman Dewey’, John Dewey Papers, Special Collection, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University. ———. 1969–1990. The Collected Works of John Dewey: The Early Works, The Middle Works, The Later Works, 37 Vols., edited by J.A. Boydston, Carbondale (IL): Southern Illinois University Press: Abbreviated in text as EW for The Early Works, MW for The Middles Works and LW for The Later Works. Diggins, J.P. 1970. ‘Ideology and Pragmatism: Philosophy or Passion?’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 64, No. 3, 899–906. ———. 1994. The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Dobbs, R., Madgavkar, A., Barton, D., Labaye, E., Maniyaka, J., Roxborough, C., Lund, S., & Madhav, S. 2012. The World at Work: Jobs, Pay and Skills for 3.5 Billion People, McKinsey Global Institute. Available at: McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/Employment%20and%20Growth/The%20 world%20at%20work/MGI%20Global_labor_Full_Report_June_2012. ashx [Retrieved: 03/06/2017]. Dorling, D. 2014. Inequality and the 1%, London: Verso. Dryzek, J. 2010. Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dubois, W.E.B. 2011. The Souls of Black Folk, New York (NY): Tribeca. Dworkin, R. 1981a. ‘What Is Equality? Part 1: Equality of Welfare’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3, 185–246. ———. 1981b. ‘What Is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 4, 283–345. Dzur, A.W. 2008. Democratic Professionalism: Citizen Participation and the Reconstruction of Professional Ethics, Identity and Practice, University Park (PA): the Pennsylvania State University Press.



Easton, S. 1951. ‘The Decline of Political Theory’, Journal of Politics, Vol. 13, No. 1, 36–58. ———. 1953. The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science, 2nd edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R.A., Shepard, S.A., Murphy, B.C., Guthrie, I.K., Jones, S., Friedman, J., Poulin, R., & Maszk, P. 1997. ‘Contemporaneous and Longitudinal Prediction of Children’s Social Functioning from Regulation and Emotionality’, Child Development, Vol. 68, 642–664. Eldridge, M. 1998. Transforming Experience: John Dewey’s Cultural Instrumentalism, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ———. 2005. ‘Why a Pragmatist May Be a Pluralist’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 41, No. 1, 119–122. Elgin, D. 1993. Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich, New York: William Morrow. Elkin, S.L. 2006. Reconstructing the Commercial Republic: Constitutional Design after Madison, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Engels, F. 1989a. ‘Anti-Dühring’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Vol. 24, London: Lawrence & Wishart. ———. 1989b. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Vol. 24, London: Lawrence & Wishart. Farrelly, C. 2005. ‘Book Review: Making Deliberative Democracy a More Practical Political Ideal’, European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 4, No. 2, 200–208. ———. 2007a. ‘Justice in Ideal Theory: A Refutation’, Political Studies, Vol. 55, No. 4, 844–864. ———. 2007b. Justice, Democracy and Reasonable Agreement, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Fennell, L.A. 2011. ‘Ostrom’s Law: Property Rights in the Commons’, International Journal of the Commons, Vol. 5, No. 1, 9–27. Fesmire, S. 2015. Dewey, New York: Routledge. Festenstein, M. 1995. ‘Pragmatism and Liberalism: Interpreting Dewey’s Political Philosophy’, Res Publica, Vol. 1, No. 2, 163–188. ———. 1997. Pragmatism and Political Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press. ———. 2001. ‘Inquiry as Critique: On the Legacy of Deweyan Pragmatism for Political Theory’, Political Studies, Vol. 49, No. 4, 730–748. ———. 2005. ‘Dewey’s Political Philosophy’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved: 10/10/2012]. ———. 2009. ‘Unravelling the Reasonable: Comment on Talisse’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 45, No. 1, 55–59. ———. 2010. ‘Pragmatism, Inquiry and Political Liberalism’, Contemporary Political Theory, Vol. 9, No. 1, 25–44. ———. 2016. ‘Pragmatism, Realism and Moralism’, Political Studies Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, 39–49. Finifter, A.W. 1970. ‘Dimensions of Political Alienation’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 64, No. 2, 389–410. Fishkin, J. 1995. The Voice of the People, New Haven (CT): Yale University Press. Flinders, M. 2012. Defending Politics: Why Democracy Matters in the TwentyFirst Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Forstenzer, J. 2012. ‘Education, Active Citizenship and Applied Social Intelligence: Some Democratic Tools to Meet the Threat of Climate Change’, in Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, edited by P. Almlund, P. Homann Jespersen, & S. Riis, Farnham: Ashgate, 177–191. ———. 2015. ‘Defending What from Whom? Debating Citizen Disengagement’, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 86, No. 4, 550–554. ———. 2018. Something Has Cracked: Post-Truth Politics and Richard Rorty’s Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism, Cambridge (MA): Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School. Franssen, M., Lokhorst, G.J., & van de Poel, I. 2009. ‘Philosophy of Technology’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: entries/technology/ [Retrieved: 21/11/2011]. Fraser, N. 1997. ‘From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a Post-Socialist Age’, in her Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the ‘PostSocialist’ Condition, London: Routledge, 11–40. Fraser, N. & Honneth, A. 2003. Redistribution or Recognition: A PoliticalPhilosophical Exchange, London: Verso. Freeman, S. 2006. ‘Distributive Justice and the Law of Peoples’, in Rawls’s Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia?, edited by R. Martin & D.A. Reidy, Oxford: Blackwell, 243–260. ———. 2007. Rawls, London: Routledge. Fried, M. & Lindemann, E. 1961. ‘Sociocultural Factors in Mental Health and Illness’, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 31, No. 1, 87–101. Fung, A. 2003a. ‘Associations and Democracy: Between Theories, Hopes and Realities’, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 29, 515–539. ———. 2003b. ‘Survey Article: Recipe for Public Spheres: Eight Institutional Design Choices and Their Consequences’, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 11, No. 3, 338–367. ———. 2006. ‘Varieties of Participation in Complex Governance’, Public Administration Review, Vol. 66, Special Issue: Collaborative Public Management, 66–75. ———. 2012. ‘Continuous Institutional Innovation and the Pragmatic Conception of Democracy’, Polity, Vol. 44, No. 4, 609–624. ———. 2015. ‘Putting the Public Back into Governance: The Challenges of Citizen Participation and its Future’, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75, No. 4, 513–522. Fung, A. & Wright, E.O. 2003. Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, London: Verso. Galston, W. 2010. ‘Realism in Political Theory’, European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 9, No. 4, 385–411. Galvin, W. 2008. ‘Habit’, in American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia, edited by J. Lachs & R. Talisse, New York: Routledge. Ganuza, E. & Baiocchi, G. 2012. ‘The Power of Ambiguity: How Participatory Budgeting Travels the Globe’, Journal of Public Deliberation, Vol. 8, No. 2, Article 8. Available at: cgi?article=1229&context=jpd [Retrieved: 02/07/2018]. Ganz, M. 2011. ‘Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power’, in Accountability through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action, edited by S. Odugbemi & T. Lee, Washington (DC): The World Bank, 273–289.



Gautier, T. 1890. Œuvres de Théophile Gautier—Poésies, Vol. 1, Paris: Lemerre. ———. 1973. Mademoiselle de Maupin, Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio. Genro, T. & de Souza, U. 1999. Orcamento Participativo: A experiência de Porto Alegre, Sao Paolo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo. Gerhardt, S. 2004. Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain, New York: Brunner-Routledge. Geuss, R. 2004. Outside Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2008. Philosophy and Real Politics, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. ———. 2016. Reality and Its Dreams, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Gewertz, K. 2002. ‘Obituary: John Rawls’, Harvard Gazette, December 5th. Available at: [Retrieved: 13/11/2008]. Goldfrank, B. 2007. ‘Lessons from Latin America’s Experience with Participatory Budgeting’, in Participatory Budgeting, edited by A. Shah, Washington (DC): The World Bank, 91–126. ———. 2012. ‘The World Bank and the Globalization of Participatory Budgeting’, Journal of Public Deliberation, Vol. 8, No. 2, Article 7. Available at: www. [Retrieved: 30/08/2018]. Goodin, R.E. 1995. ‘Political Ideals and Political Practice’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 25, No. 1, 37–56. Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, translated and edited by Q. Hoare & G. Nowell Smith, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Grayson, R. 2011. The US Industrial Revolution, North Mankato (MN): Abdo. Grönlund, K., Bächtiger, A., & Setälä, M. 2014. Deliberative Mini-Publics: Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process, Colchester: ECPR Press. Gutman, A. 2003. ‘Rawls and the Relationship between Liberalism and Democracy’, in The Cambridge Companion to Rawls, edited by S. Freeman, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 168–199. Gutman, A. & Thompson, D. 1996. Democracy and Disagreement: Why Moral Conflict Cannot Be Avoided in Politics, and What Should Be Done about It, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Habermas, J. 1973. Theory and Practice, translated by J. Viertel, Boston (MA): Beacon Press. ———. 1994. Between Facts and Norms, translated by W. Rehg, Cambridge (MA): MIT Press. ———. 1995. ‘Reconciliation through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks on John Rawls’ Political Liberalism’, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 92, No. 3, 109–131. Hague, B. 2016. ‘Spanish Newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos Winning over Voters Ahead of Federal Election’, ABC News, June 25th. Available at: www. [Retrieved: 28/11/2016]. Haider, M. 2012. ‘Bangladesh: Climate Refugees’ Green Wall Offsets Carbon Emissions’, UNDP Web Publication. Available at: home/ourwork/environmentandenergy/successstories/bangladesh-climate-refu gees-green-wall-offsets-global-carbon-em.html [Retrieved: 8/12/2012]. Hall, E. 2015. ‘How to Do Realistic Political Theory and Why You Might Want to’, European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 16, No. 3, 283–303.



Hall, E. & Sleat, M. 2017. ‘Ethics, Morality, and the Case for Realist Political Theory’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 3, 278–295. Hampsher-Monk, I. 1992. Modern Political Thought: Major Political Thinkers from Hobbes to Marx, Oxford: Blackwell. Hansen, E., Tadjbakhsh, S., Garlick, M., Franck, M., & Bower, E. 2017. Climate Change and Disaster Displacement: An Overview of UNHCR’s Role, Geneva: UNHCR. Available at: climate-change-disaster-displacement-overview-unhcrs-role.html [Retrieved: 01/09/2018]. Hardimon, M. 1994. Hegel’s Social Philosophy: Project of Reconciliation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hardin, G. 1968. ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859, December 13th, 1243–1248. Hardin, R. 1982. Collective Action, New York: RFF Press. Harrison, J.E. 1991. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. Harvie, C. & Matthew, H.C.G. 2000. Nineteenth Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hausmann, R., Tyson, L.D., & Zahidi, S. 2008. The Global Gender Gap Report 2008, Geneva: World Economic Forum. Hay, C. 2007. Why We Hate Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press. Hay, C. & Payne, A. 2013. The Great Uncertainty, Paper No. 5, Sheffield: Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute. Available at: http://speri.dept. tainty-389KB.pdf [Retrieved: 18/04/2017]. Hayward, C.R. 2000. De-Facing Power, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hegel, G.W.F. 1977. The Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1991. Elements of the Philosophy of Right, translated by H.B. Nibet and edited by A. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hesiod. 1998. ‘Theogony’, in Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica, edited and translated by H.G. Evelyn-White, Electronic Classics Series: Pennsylvania State University. Available at: pdf [Retrieved: 05/09/2011]. Hessel, S. 2008. Citoyen Sans Frontière: Conversations avec Jean-Michel Helvig, Paris: Fayard. Hildreth, R. 2009. ‘Reconstructing Dewey on Power’, Political Theory, Vol. 37, No. 6, 780–807. Homer-Dixon, T. 1999. Environment, Scarcity and Violence, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. ———. 2007. ‘Positive Feedbacks, Dynamic Ice-Sheets, and the Recarbonization of the Global Fuel Supply: The New Sense of Urgency about Global Warming’, in A Globally Integrated Climate Policy for Canada, edited by S. Bernstein, et al., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 37–55. Honig, B. 1993. Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Honneth, A. 1998. ‘Between Proceduralism and Teleology: An Unresolved Conflict in John Dewey’s Moral Theory’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 34, No. 3, 689–711.



Hook, S. 1995. John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait, New York: Prometheus. Hoover, H. 2004. American Individualism, Garden City (NY): The Country Life Press. Hume, D. 1978. A Treatise of Human Nature, 2nd edition, edited by L.A. SelbyBigge, revised by P.H. Nidditch, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hunt, E.K. 2003. Property and Prophets: The Evolution of Economic Institutions and Ideologies, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Hurka, T. 1996. Perfectionism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. International Panel on Climate Change. 2007a. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Geneva: IPCC Secretariat. ———. 2007b. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Geneva: IPCC Secretariat. ———. 2012. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation: A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by C. Field, V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, & D. Dokken, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, & P.M. Midgley, Cambridge and New York (NY): Cambridge University Press. ———. 2017. Chapter Outline of the Working Group III Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), Geneva: IPCC Secretariat. Available at: [Retrieved: 04/02/2018]. Ionesco, D., Mokhnacheva, D., & Gemenne, F. 2016. The Atlas of Environmental Migration, London: Routledge. Jackson, J. 2015. ‘Dividing Deliberative and Participatory Democracy through John Dewey’, Democratic Theory, Vol. 2, No. 1, 63–84. Jackson, T. 2011. Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, London: Earthscan. Jackson, T. & Webster, R. 2016. Limits Revisited: A Review of the Limits to Growth Debate, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth. Available at: http:// [Retrieved: 03/02/2018]. James, W. 1975. The Works of William James, Vol. 1, edited by F.H. Burkhardt, F. Bowers, & I.K. Skrupskelis, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. ———. 1977. The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, edited by J.J. McDermott, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1978. ‘Remarks on Spencer’s Definition of Mind as Correspondence’, in Essays in Philosophy, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. ———. 1981. The Principles of Psychology, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. ———. 1991. Pragmatism, New York: Prometheus. Jamison, A. 2012. ‘Climate Change Knowledge and Social Movement Theory’, in Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, edited by P. Almlund, P. Homann Jespersen, & S. Riis, Farnham: Ashgate, 143–163.



Jefferson, T., et al. 2003. ‘The Declaration of Independence; in Congress, July 4, 1776: The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America’, in The Federalist Papers, by A. Hamilton, J. Madison, & J. Jay, edited by C. Rossiter, New York: Signet, 528–532. Johnston, J.S. 2006. Inquiry and Education: John Dewey and the Quest for Democracy, Albany: State University New York Press. Kant, I. 1997. The Critique of Practical Reason, edited by M.J. Gregor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1999. The Critique of Pure Reason, edited by P. Guyer & A. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kautsky, K. 1971. The Class Struggle, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ———. 1988. The Materialist Conception of History, edited by J. Kautsky, New Haven (CT): Yale University Press. Keeley, B. 2015. ‘Income Inequality: The Gap Between Rich and Poor’, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Available at: [Retrieved: 02/09/2018]. Kim, S.H. 2012. ‘Max Weber’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved: 31/01/2013]. Kitcher, P. 2015. ‘Pragmatism and Progress’, Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. 51, No. 4, 475–494. Koopman, C. 2009. ‘Good Questions and Bad Answers in Talisse’s A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy’, Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. 45, No.1, 60–64. Korsch, K. 1972. Marxism and Philosophy, London: New Left Books. Kraut, R. 2009. ‘Plato’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved: 15/03/2010]. Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C. 1985. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London: Verso. Lanchester, J. 2010. Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, London: Penguin. Lappé, F.M., & Eichen, A. 2017. Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, Boston: Beacon Press. Laslett, P. 1956. Philosophy, Politics and Society, Vol. 1, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Leddy, T. 2011. ‘Dewey’s Aesthetics’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved: 30/04/2012]. Lenin, V.I. 1962. ‘Materialism and Empirio-Criticism’, in his Collected Works, Vol. 14, Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing. Levine, P. 2013. We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2014. ‘The Case for Civic Studies’, in Civic Studies: Approaches to the Emerging Field, edited by P. Levine & K.E. Soltan, Washington (DC): Bringing Theory to Practice, 3–8. Levitsky, S. & Ziblatt, D. 2018. How Democracies Die: What History Reveals about Our Future, New York: Viking. Lipman, M. 2003. Thinking in Education, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lippmann, W. 1925. The Phantom Public, New York: Harcourt.



Locke, J. 1980. Second Treatise on Government, edited by C.B. Macpherson, Indianapolis (IN): Hackett. Lukács, G. 1972. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics, translated by R. Livingstone, Cambridge (MA): MIT Press. Lukes, S. 1982. ‘Marxism, Morality, and Justice’, in Marx and Marxisms, edited by G.H.R. Parkinson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Machiavelli, N. 1965. The Chief Works and Others, 3 Vols., translated by A. Gilbert, Durham: Duke University Press. Macleod, A.M. 2006. ‘Rawls’s Narrow Doctrine of Human Rights’, in Rawls’s Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia?, edited by R. Martin & D.A. Reidy, Oxford: Blackwell, 134–149. Madison, J. 2003a. ‘No.10: The Same Subject Continued’, in The Federalist Papers, by A. Hamilton, J. Madison, & J. Jay, edited by C. Rossiter, New York: Signet, 71–77. ———. 2003b. ‘No. 49: Method of Guarding against the Encroachment of Any One Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a Convention’, in The Federalist Papers, by A. Hamilton, J. Madison, & J. Jay, edited by C. Rossiter, New York: Signet, 310–314. Mandela, N. 1994. Long Walk to Freedom, New York: Little, Brown and Company. Mansbridge, J. 2003. ‘Practice-Thought-Practice’, in Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, edited by A. Fung & E.O. Wright, London: Verso, 175–199. Marmot, M. 2005. Status Syndrome: How Your Social Standing Directly Affects Your Health, London: Bloomsbury. Marmot, M. & Wilkinson, R. (eds.). 2006. Social Determinants of Health, 2nd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Marx, K. 1969. ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers. ———. 1977. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse), Moscow: Progress Publishers. ———. 1987. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, New York: International Publishers. Marx, K. & Engels, F. 1970. The German Ideology, edited by C.J. Arthur, London: Lawrence & Wishart. ———. 1998. Manifesto of the Communist Party, London: Merlin Press. Masten, A.S. & Coatsworth, J.D. 1998. ‘The Development of Competence in Favourable and Unfavourable Environments: Lessons from Research on Successful Children’, American Psychologist, Vol. 53, No. 2, 205–220. McLuhan, M. 1964. Understanding Media, New York: Mentor Book. Menand, L. 2002. The Metaphysical Club, London: Flamingo. Mill, J.S. 1955. An Essay on Government, Indianapolis (IN): Hackett. ———. 1978. On Liberty, edited by E. Rapaport, Indianapolis (IN): Hackett. ———. 1991. On Liberty and Other Essays, New York: Oxford University Press. Miller, A.H. 1974. ‘Political Issues and Trust in Government: 1964–1970’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 68, No. 3, 951–972. Mills, C.W. 2005. ‘Ideal Theory as Ideology’, Hypatia, Vol. 20, No. 3, 165–184. Misak, C. 2005. ‘Pragmatism and Pluralism’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 41, No. 1, 129–135.



Montagu, A. 1986. Touching: Human Significance of the Skin, 3rd edition, New York: Harper Perennial. More, T. 2008. Utopia, Rockville (MD): Arc Manor. Moreno, J.D. & Scott Frey, R. 1985. ‘Dewey’s Critique of Marxism’, The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 26. No. 1, 21–34. Mouffe, C. 1993. The Return of the Political, London: Verso. ———. 1999. ‘Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism?’, Social Research, Vol. 66, No. 3, 745–758. Murphy, L. 2000. Moral Demands in Nonideal Theory, New York: Oxford University Press. Myers, S.L. & Corrie, B.P. (eds.). 2006. Racial and Ethnic Income Inequality: An International Perspective, New York: Peter Lang. Nebol, M. 2015. Deliberative Democracy between Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Novack, G. 1975. Pragmatism versus Marxism: An Appraisal of John Dewey’s Philosophy, New York: Pathfinder Press. ———. 1979. ‘Liberal Morality’, in Their Morals and Ours: The Class Foundations of Moral Practice, edited by L. Trotsky, J. Dewey, & G. Novack, New York: Pathfinder Press, 74–93. Nussbaum, M. 1993. ‘Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach’, in The Quality of Life, edited by M. Nussbaum & A. Sen, New York: Clarendon Press, 242–269. ———. 2000. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nussbaum, M. & Glover, J. (eds.). 1995. Women, Culture & Development: A Study of Human Capabilities, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nussbaum, M. & Sen, A. (eds.). 1993. The Quality of Life, New York: Clarendon Press. Nye, J.S., Jr., Zelikow, P.D., & King, D.C. 1997. Why People Don’t Trust Government, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Okin, S. 1987. ‘Abstraction, Idealization and Ideology in Ethics’, in Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Problems, edited by J.D.G. Evans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 55–69. Ole Bærenholdt, J. 2012. ‘Coping with Climate Change: Social Science and the Case of Multi-Site Living’, in Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, edited by P. Almlund, P. Homann Jespersen, & S. Riis, Farnham: Ashgate, 203–216. Olson, J.S. 2002. Encyclopedia of the Industrial Revolution in America, Westport: Greenwood Press. Olson, M. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. O’Neill, O. 1996. Towards Justice and Virtue: A Constructive Account of Practical Reasoning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1996. ‘Covenants, Collective-Action, and Common-Pool Resources’, in The Constitution of Good Societies, edited by K. Soltan & S.L. Elkin, University Park, (PA): Pennsylvania State University Press, 23–38.



Ovid. 1994–2000. Metamorphoses, translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al., The Internet Classics Archive: MIT Press. Available at: edu//Ovid/metam.html [Retrieved: 05/03/2012]. Pampel, F.C. 2009. Tobacco Industry and Smoking, revised edition, New York: Facts on File. Panitch, L. 2015. ‘Can Jeremy Corbyn Redeem the Labour Party?’, The Jacobin, September 11th. Available at: [Retrieved: 28/11/2016]. Pappas, G.F. 2008. John Dewey’s Ethics: Democracy as Experience, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Parkinson, J. & Mansbridge, J. 2012. Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at Large Scale, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pateman, C. 2012. ‘Participatory Democracy Revisited’, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 10, No. 1, 7–19. Peirce, C.S. 1931. The Collected Works of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol. 1, edited by C. Hartshorne & P. Weiss, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. ———. 1982. ‘The Fixation of Belief’, in Pragmatism: The Classical Writings, edited by H.S. Thayer, Indianapolis (IN): Hackett. Petras, J. 2014. ‘Greece: The Dilemmas of Democratic Socialism’, Global Research, June 17th. Available at: cratic-socialism/5387371 [Retrieved: 28/11/2016]. Philipson, T.J. & Posner, R.A. 1993. Private Choices and Public Health: The AIDS Epidemic in an Economic Perspective, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Phillips, M. 1985. ‘Reflections on the Transition from Ideal to Non-Ideal Theory’, Nous, Vol. 19, No. 4, 551–570. Piketty, T. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, translated by A. Goldhammer, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Plato. 1987. The Republic, revised edition, translated by D. Lee, London: Penguin. ———. 1993. ‘The Apology’, in The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro: The Apology; Crito; Phaedo, edited by H. Tarrant, London: Penguin, 29–68. ———. 2002. Protagoras, translated by C.C.W. Taylor, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Plekhanov, G.V. 1969. Fundamental Problems of Marxism, London: Lawrence & Wishart. ———. 1972. In Defense of Materialism: The Development of the Monist View of History, London: Lawrence & Wishart. Pogge, T. 2001. ‘Priorities of Global Justice’, Metaphilosophy, Vol. 32, No. 1–2, 6–24. Pogrebinschi, T. 2017. ‘Democratic Innovations: Lessons from beyond the West’, in The Governance Report 2017: Democracy, Innovations, Participation, Legitimacy, Indicators, edited by Hertie School of Governance, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 57–72. ———. 2018. ‘Institutional Designs for Deliberation: Chapter 2’, manuscript presented at the Democracy Seminar at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in the Harvard Kennedy School, February 8th, cited with author’s permission. Polanyi, K. 1957. The Great Transformation, Boston (MA): Beacon Press. Posner, R.A. 1987. ‘The Decline of Law as an Autonomous Discipline: 1962–1987’, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, 761–780.



Porto Alegre Municipality. 2001. ‘Participatory Budget: Here Participation Speaks Louder’, Porto Alegre (Brazil): Leaflet of Prefeitura de Porto Alegre, Distributed to the Participants of the First World Social Forum in January2001. Powers, N. 2011. ‘A Threat to Our Right to Protest: The Metropolitan Police’s Crackdown on Student Protesters Seems Part of a Wider Attempt to Suppress Legitimate Dissent’, The Guardian [Online], April 27th. Available at: www. test-rights-students [Retrieved: 12/09/2011]. ———. 2012. ‘The Criminalisation of Protest Is Part of the Elite’s Class War: Trenton Oldfield’s Sentence for Disrupting the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Makes It Clear Which Class Is Being Protected’, The Guardian [Online], October 19th. Available at: [Retrieved: 07/11/2012]. Prinz, J. & Rossi, E. 2017. ‘Political Realism as Ideology Critique’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 3, 348–365. Puech, M. 2010. Développement durable: un avenir à faire soi-même, Paris: Le Pommier. ———. 2012. ‘Sustainability Means Ethics and This Is a Cultural Revolution’, in Rethinking Climate Change Research: Clean Technology, Culture and Communication, edited by P. Almlund, P. Homann Jespersen, & S. Riis, Farnham: Ashgate, 193–201. Putnam, H. 1981. Reason, Truth and History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1989–1990. ‘A Reconsideration of Deweyan Democracy’, Southern California Law Review, Vol. 63, No. 6, 1671–1698. ———. 2002. The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays, Cambridge (MA) and London: Harvard University Press. ———. 2004. Ethics without Ontology, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Ralston, S. 2009. ‘Deweyan Democracy and Pluralism: A Reunion’, Social Philosophy Today, Vol. 25, 223–240. ———. 2011. ‘A More Practical Pedagogical Ideal: Searching for a Criterion of Deweyan Growth’, Educational Theory, Vol. 61, No. 3, 351–364. ———. 2012. ‘Dewey’s Political Technology from an Anthropological Perspective’, prepared for presentation at American Philosophical Association-Pacific Division, SAAP Session 2012. Available via SSRN at: sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1927219 [Retrieved: 03/09/2012]. Randall, J.H. 1951. ‘Dewey’s Interpretations of the History of Philosophy’, in The Philosophy of John Dewey, edited by P.A. Schilpp, New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 77–102. Rawls, J. 1993. Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press. Referred to in text as PL. ———. 1999a. Collected Papers, edited by S. Freeman, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Referred to in text as CP. ———. 1999b. A Theory of Justice, revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Referred to in text as TJ. ———. 2000. Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, edited by B. Herman, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2001. The Law of Peoples, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.



Reinhart, C.M. & Rogoff, K.S. 2011. ‘From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis’, American Economic Review, Vol. 101, No. 5, 1676–1706. Rey, O. 2006. Une Folle Solitude, Paris: Edition du Seuil. Richards, D. & Smith, M.J. 2015. ‘In Defence of British Politics against the British Political Tradition’, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 86, No. 1, 41–51. Richardson, H. 2018. ‘Moral Reasoning’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved 16/01/2019]. Rodgers, B. 1999. ‘Portrait: John Rawls’, Prospect, No. 42. Rodgers, M.L. 2009. ‘Dewey, Pluralism, and Democracy: A Response to Robert Talisse’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 45, No. 1, 75–79. Rorty, R. 1991. Consequences of Pragmatism, London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. ———. 1998. Philosophy and Social Hope, New York (NY): Penguin. Rouyer, M. 2018. American Democracy: For Whom Does the Death Knell Toll, Cambridge (MA): Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Available at: [Retrieved: 01/09/2018]. Russon-Gilman, H. 2016. Engaging Citizens: Participatory Budgeting and the Inclusive Governance Movement within the United States, Ash Center Occasional Papers: Cambridge (MA). Available at: ticipatory-budgeting-paper.pdf?m=1455295224 [Retrieved: 21/08/2018]. Ryan, A. 1995. John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Sagan, C. 1997. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, New York: Ballantine. Saito, N. 2005. The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson, New York: Fordham University Press. Sandel, M. 2009. ‘Lecture 1: Markets and Morals’, Reith Lectures, BBC Radio 4. Transcript. Available at: 09_thereithlectures_marketsandmorals.rtf [Retrieved: 19/01/2013]. Saward, M. 2003. ‘Veil of Influence: The Legacy of John Rawls’, Soundings, Open Research Online, 24, 117–124. SED. 2015. UNFCCC: Report on the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) on the 2013–2015 Review, FCCC/SB/2015/INF.1. Available at: resource/docs/2015/sb/eng/inf01.pdf [Retrieved: 02/02/2018]. Sellars, W. 1962. ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’, in Frontiers of Science and Philosophy, edited by R. Colodny, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 35–78. Sen, A. 1999. Development as Freedom, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2006. ‘What Do We Want from a Theory of Justice?’, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 103, No. 5, 215–238. ———. 2009. The Idea of Justice, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Singer, P. (ed.). 1986. Applied Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Shusterman, R. 1997. ‘Putnam and Cavell on the Ethics of Democracy’, Political Theory, Vol. 25, No. 2, 193–214. ———. 2002. ‘Pragmatism and Criticism: A Response to Three Critics of Pragmatist Aesthetics’, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. 16, No. 1, 26–38.



Sintomer, Y., Herzberg, C., Allegretti, G., Anja, R., & Alves, M. 2013. ‘Learning from the South: Participatory Budgeting Worldwide: An Invitation to Global Cooperation’, Dialog Global, No. 25, Bonn: Global Civic Engagement—Service for Development Initiatives. Available at: folder/table_data/c3164679-c343-4715-b198-576aee3d4ad1/files/dialogglobal.pdf [Retrieved: 30/08/2018]. Sleat, M. 2013. Liberal Realism: A Realist Theory of Liberal Politics, Manchester: Manchester University Press. Sleeper, R.W. 1986. The Necessity of Pragmatism, New Haven: Yale University Press. Smiley, M. 1990. ‘Pragmatic Inquiry and Social Conflict: A Critical Reconstruction of Dewey’s Model of Democracy’, Praxis International, Vol. 9, 365–380. Smith, A. 1999. The Wealth of Nations, Vols. 1–3, edited by A. Skinner, London: Penguin. Smits, K. 2009. Applying Political Theory, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Solomon, C. & Palmieri, T. (eds.). 2011. Springtime: The New Student Rebellions, London: Verso. Statman, D. 2006. ‘Moral Tragedies, Supreme Emergencies and National-Defence’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 23, No. 3, 311–322. Stears, M. 2005. ‘The Vocation of Political Theory: Facts, Principles, and the Politics of Opportunity’, European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 4, No. 4, 325–350. Steele Commanger, H. 1950. The American Mind: An Interpretation of American Thought and Character since the 1880s, New Haven: Yale University Press. Stemplowska, Z. 2008. ‘What’s Ideal about Ideal Theory? One’, Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 34, No. 3, 319–340. Stern, N. 2007. The Economics of Climate Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stern, R. 2009. ‘Hegel’s Doppelsatz: A Neutral Reading’, in his Hegelian Metaphysics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 81–114. Students for a Democratic Society. 1962. The Port Huron Statement. Original draft. Available at: [Retrieved: 28/08/2017]. Stroud, B. 2003. Hume, Basingstoke: Taylor and Francis. Sulllivan, M. & Lysaker, J. 2005. ‘You Talking to Me?’, Transaction of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 41, No. 1, 137–141. Sunderland, M. 2008. The Science of Parenting, London: Dorling Kindersley. Sunstein, C. 2001., Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. ———. 2003. Why Societies Need Dissent, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Swift, A. 2008. ‘The Value of Philosophy in Nonideal Circumstances’, Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 34, No. 3, 363–388. Talisse, R.B. 2007a. A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, London: Routledge. ———. 2007b. ‘A Farewell to Deweyan Democracy: Towards a New Pragmatist Politics’. Available SSRN at: [Retrieved: 05/08/2009]. ———. 2010. ‘Saving Pragmatist Democratic Theory (from Itself)’, Etica & Politica/ Ethics & Politics, Vol. 12, No. 1, 12−27. ———. 2011. ‘A Farewell to Deweyan Democracy’, Political Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3, 509–526.



———. 2012. Pluralism and Liberal Politics, New York: Routledge. ———. 2017. ‘Deweyan Democracy and the Rawlsian Problematic: A Reply to Joshua Forstenzer’, Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. 53, No. 4, 579–583. Tambornino, J. 2006. ‘Book Review: Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown V. Board of Education’, Political Theory, Vol. 34, No. 1, 141–144. Taylor, M. 2010. ‘Twenty-First Century Enlightenment’, in Essay 1 (June), London: Royal Society for the Arts, 1–36. Trabandt, R. 2012. ‘London Riots 2011: Reasons, Role of the Social Media, and Consequences’, Seminar Paper, Staatliche BOS Amberg: Grin Verlang. Trotsky, L. 1979. ‘Their Morals and Ours’, in Their Morals and Ours: The Class Foundations of Moral Practice, by Leon Trostky, John Dewey, & G. Novack, New York: Pathfinder Press, 13–52. Turner, F.J. 1920. The Frontier in American History, New York: Henry Holt & Co. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2015. ‘The Paris Agreement: Main Page’. Available at: php [Retrieved: 12/01/2018]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. Van Hollebeke, M. 2009. ‘Through “Thick” and “Thin”: Concerns about Talisse’s Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 45, No. 1, 80–89. Van Parijs, P. & Vanderborght, Y. 2017. Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. Verovšek, P. 2018. ‘Impure Theorizing in an Imperfect World: Politics, Utopophobia and Critical Theory in Geuss’s Realism’, Philosophy and Social Criticism, 1–19. Available at: 794745?journalCode=pscb [Retrieved: 03/09/2018]. Vincent, A. 2004. The Nature of Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2010. Modern Political Ideologies, 3rd edition, Oxford: Wiley & Blackwell. Wainwright, J. & Man, G. 2018. Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future, London: Verso. Walzer, M. 1973. ‘Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 2, 160–180. Wampler, B. 2007. Participatory Budgeting in Brazil: Contestation, Cooperation, and Accountability, University Park (PA): Pennsylvania State University Press. Weber, M. 1994. ‘The Profession and Vocation of Politics’, in Weber: Political Writings, edited by P. Lassman & R. Speirs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 309–369. Welchman, J. 1995. Dewey’s Ethical Thought, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Wenar, L. 1995. ‘Political Liberalism: An Internal Critique’, Ethics, Vol. 106, No. 1, 32–62. ———. 2012. ‘John Rawls’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: [Retrieved: 15/01/2013].



———. 2016. Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World, Oxford: Oxford University Press. West, C. 1993. Prophetic Reflections: Notes on Race and Power in America, Monroe: Common Courage Press. ———. 2004. Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism, New York (NY): Penguin. ———. 2017. Race Matters, 25th Anniversary edition, Boston: Beacon Press. Westbrook, R. 1991. John Dewey and American Democracy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Whitehead, A.N. 1997. Science and the Modern World, New York: Free Press. Whitmont, E.C. 1982. Return of the Goddess, New York: Crossroad. Wilkinson, R. 2005. The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, London: Routledge. Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. 2009. The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, London: Penguin. Williams, B. 1983. ‘The Minimal State’, in Reading Nozick: Essays on Anarchy, State and Utopia, edited by J. Paul, Oxford: Blackwell, 27–36. ———. 2005. In the Beginning Was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Argument, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Wittner, L. 2016. ‘The Return of Democratic Socialism’, Huffington Post, May 24th. Available at: [Retrieved: 28/11/2016]. Wolfe, J. 2012. ‘Does Pragmatism Have a Theory of Power?’, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 4, No. 1, 120–137. Wolff, J. 1996. An Introduction to Political Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1998. ‘Fairness, Respect and the Egalitarian Ethos’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 27, No. 2, 97–122. ———. 2009. ‘Priority in Practice: A Research Network’. Available at: www. [Retrieved: 25/04/2009]. Wolff, J. & de-Shalit, A. 2007. Disadvantage, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wolin, S. 2008. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. Wood, A. 1972. ‘The Marxian Critique of Justice’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 3, 245–282. World Health Organization. 2005. Alcohol Use and Sexual Risk Behaviour: A Cross-Cultural Study in Eight Countries, Geneva: World Health Organization. Young, I.M. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zinn, H. 1980. A People’s History of the United States, New York (NY): Longman.


Note: Page numbers in italic indicate a figure on the corresponding page. abstract reflection 3 action 3, 9, 29; and civic studies 247–248, 250; and Deweyan democracy 115, 119; direct action 98n4; and engaged political philosophy 235–236; and experimental associative living 162, 164–165, 169, 171–173; and experimentalism 213, 216, 225–226, 228, 233; and freedom 134, 136–137; human action 43–44, 65n6, 198, 248; and individualism 125–126; and objections to Deweyan democracy 180, 183–184; and objection to Dewey’s philosophic ideal 84, 88, 97; and the quest for certainty 47, 49, 52, 56–57, 60, 62; and Rawlsian shortcomings 220–221, 224; and reasonable pluralism 187–188, 190, 192, 196–197, 204; and the role of philosophy 76–77; social 101, 179, 182, 230–231; state 187–188, 190, 249, 252n3; see also political action Addams, Jane 113n3, 230 Aeschylus 67–68 Allen, Danielle 236 Ames, Roger 228–229 Anderson, Elizabeth 172, 205 Aristotle 41–42 art 92–97, 98n10 associated living 94, 158, 175n8, 200, 203–205, 208; see also experimental associative living Athens 97, 116 atomism 123, 126–128, 134, 160 autonomy 72, 87, 90, 138, 142; and experimentalism 221, 249; see also political autonomy

Baiocchi, Gianpaolo 245–246 Bauman, Zygmunt 109–110 Berlin, Isaiah 20, 131; Berlinian thought 2, 192, 217 Bernstein, Richard 50, 146 Blake, William 177n23 body, the 50–52, 65n5 Boisvert, Raymond 50–51, 89–90, 93, 101, 103, 122; on the democratic ideal 145; on freedom 137, 141; on growth 175n11; on social intelligence 157, 166–167; on the state 159 Boltansky, Luc, and Eve Chiapello 109 bourgeoisie 86, 91, 146, 150–153 Boyte, Harry 248–250 Brazil 243–245 Brown, Lester R. 8 Burkert, Walter 115 Cammack, Paul 246 Campbell, James 70, 75, 106, 113n4, 182, 202; and the democratic ideal 131–132, 143–144 Caspary, William 98n4, 171, 230 causal claim 52, 55–57, 62, 180, 248; Dewey’s philosophic ideal 87, 90; and freedom 132–133 certainty see quest for certainty; uncertainty Chiapello, Eve see under Boltansky, Luc child development 174n4 Christakis, Nicholas, and James Fowler 133 Christman, John 16 Churchill, Winston 155 citizenries 1, 16, 34, 109, 143, 157; and experimentalism 214, 217, 233

Index citizenship 157–159, 166–169 civic agency 3, 238, 248–250 civic deliberation i civic studies 3, 247–251 classical liberalism 145–146, 148–151, 153–155, 174n3, 174n6, 176n19; and the democratic ideal 173; and experimental associative living 159–160, 165; and freedom 130–131, 133; and individualism 120–123, 125–127, 128 climate change 7–10, 109, 111, 235, 251 Cohen, G.A. 21 Cohen, Joshua 16–19 collaboration 126–128, 168, 178, 194, 248, 251 collective intelligence 140–142 Commanger, Henry Steele 102 communal problems 2, 167, 169 conflict 7–10, 74–75, 115–116, 131–132, 165–166, 170–171; conflict resolution 157, 166, 171, 184, 242; and objections to Deweyan democracy 178–179, 182–185 conservatism 28, 82, 86–92 Constant, Benjamin 120–121 Continuity Thesis 188, 203 cultural criticism 69, 71–75, 215 Darwin, Charles 51, 125–126, 151 Da Vinci, Leonardo 94–95 decision-making 11, 17, 28–29, 32, 73–74, 82; and civic studies 247, 249–250; decision-makers 12, 34, 135, 215–216, 227, 231; and democratic innovation 240–241; and experimental associative living 157, 161, 165; and experimentalism 230, 233; and freedom 135, 138; and individualism 122; and liberal democracy 150; and objections to Deweyan democracy 183; and participatory budgeting 244; and political philosophy 213; and Rawlsian shortcomings 217, 222–223; and reasonable pluralism 198; and the social ideal 143 deliberation 7, 12–14, 27, 252n2; civic i, 250; and the democratic ideal 134–136, 144, 159, 165, 168, 172; and experimentalism 225, 228–229, 231, 233, 251; and objections to Deweyan democracy 182; and


objection to Dewey’s philosophic ideal 83–84; and participatory budgeting 243, 245; and reasonable pluralism 191; and the role of philosophy 73, 75, 78–80; see also democratic deliberation; political deliberation Delphi 92, 94; Delphic oracle 98n5 democracy 2, 13, 16–17, 34; deliberative 35n5, 240; the democratic ideal 142, 175n13, 176n14, 176n19, 176n20; democratic renewal 102–104, 106, 108, 112, 113; and experimentalism 214, 217, 226, 234; and interpersonal relationships 169–173; and objection to Dewey’s philosophic ideal 97; participatory 3, 149, 238–243, 245, 254; and the role of philosophy 74, 79, 81; see also Deweyan democracy; participatory budgeting denigration 12, 17–19 Deweyan democracy 2, 103, 115–120, 144–145, 173–174, 209n3; the case against 188–192, 208n1; and citizenship 166–169; and experimental associative living 156–157; and idealism 181–185; and inter-personal relationships 169–173; and moral tragedy 179–181; as political liberalism 195–200; and political participation 157–159; Ralston and 192–195; and reasonable pluralism 187–188, 207–208; and the self 178–179; and social intelligence 163–166; Talissean replies to 200–207; and transformational process 159–163 democratic deliberation 2–3, 19, 34, 62, 157–158, 163; and experimentalism 215–217, 226, 234, 239–240; justice over 15–20; and objections to Deweyan democracy 178; and reasonable pluralism 192, 194 democratic ideal 2, 81, 97, 173–174, 175n13; and democratic renewal 101–103, 113; and Deweyan democracy 119; and experimental associative living 162, 166; and experimentalism 231, 234, 240, 246; and freedom 134; and liberal democracy 155–156; and objections



to Deweyan democracy 178, 185; and reasonable pluralism 187–188, 205–206, 208; and the social ideal 142–145 Descartes, René 44, 46, 49–51 de-Shalit, Avner 12–13 Dewey, John 3, 113n3, 113n4, 175n10–11, 176n14, 176n19; and civic studies 247, 249; and democratic innovation 239, 241; and engaged political philosophy 235; and experimental associative living 169, 171–172; and experimentalism 214–216, 230, 232n1, 232n3, 233, 251–252; and freedom 138; and heterogeneity 176n21; historical appeal of 103–113; and J.S. Mill 174n6; and liberal democracy 146, 150; objection to the philosophic ideal of 82–87, 90–93, 98n1, 98n2, 98n4; and participatory budgeting 243; and the problem of method 32, 34; The Quest for Certainty 48, 67; and the quest for certainty 41–47, 57, 65n7; and Rawlsian shortcomings 222; and the role of philosophy 73, 76; see also growth; Deweyan democracy; Early Works, The; Later Works, The; Middle Works, The Dirac, Paul 58 disaffection 238–243 Dworkin, Ronald 27–28 dynamism 35n5, 117–118, 136, 154, 293, 238; in human psychology 126–129; in inter-personal relationships 169–173 Dzur, Albert 250 Early Works, The 52, 115, 126; and experimental associative living 160, 162, 166; and freedom 134; and liberal democracy 149; and reasonable pluralism 202; and the social ideal 142, 144 education 137–140, 166–169, 225–228 Einstein, Albert 59 Eldridge, Michael 185, 218, 220–221 Elkin, Stephen 13–14 empirical study 3, 249 Engels, Friedrich 87–88 entangled vocabulary claim 57–58

ethics 57–58, 77–78, 138–140, 180–181, 190–191, 200–201, 252n3 experimental associative living 156–157; and education 166–169; and the Great Community 159–163; and inter-personal relationships 169–173; and political participation 157–159; and social intelligence 163–166 experimentalism 2–3, 34, 214, 218, 223, 231–232; applied to political philosophy 214–217; and civic studies 247–251; and democratic innovation 238–243; as a method for 21st-century political philosophy 233–238, 251–252; and objections to Deweyan democracy 184–185; and participatory budgeting 243–247; and reasonable pluralism 188, 206, 208–209n3 extremism 31–32 facts 2, 12–13, 49, 32–34, 54, 91; experimentalism and 214, 221–224, 234–235, 249–251; and the role of philosophy 68–69; see also under values false assumptions see idealisation false consciousness 90–92 Farrelly, Colin 16–17, 27–28 fascism 88, 90, 112 Fesmire, Steven 222 Festenstein, Matthew 179, 181, 194; and Dewey’s democratic ideal 134, 140–141, 144, 156, 158 Fishkin, James 243 Fowler, James see under Christakis, Nicholas freedom 86–90, 103–105; and collective intelligence 140–142; and the democratic ideal 120–121, 123–124, 144–145, 158–159, 172–173; as a developmental achievement 136–137; as educational and ethical 138–140; as an exercise in problem solving 135–136; as individuality 130–134; as intelligent choice 134–135; as teleology 137–138 Freeman, Samuel 189, 195–196, 198, 200 Frontier 105–108

Index Fung, Archon 238–243, 246, 251; and Eric Olin Wright 241, 245 futility 25–29 Galvin, William 52 Ganuza, Ernesto 246 Ganz, Marshall 250 Gautier, Théophile 92–93 geoengineering 9 Géricault, Théodore 147, 148 Geuss, Raymond 19, 25–26, 30–32 Goldfrank, Benjamin 245 good, the 2, 10, 16, 23–24, 40–41, 69; and the democratic ideal 127, 161; experimentalism and 220; reasonable pluralism and 187–188, 190–192, 195–196, 198–200, 203, 205, 207–208 Goodin, Robert 31 Gramsci, Antonio 90 Great Community 157, 159–163 greenhouse gases (GHG) 7, 9 growth 2, 175n9, 175n11; and experimental associative living 170–171; and freedom 130, 134, 136–140; and liberal democracy 155; and reasonable pluralism 191–193, 196–206, 209n6; and the social ideal 142 Habermas, Jürgen 16–17, 241, 249 Hall, Edward, and Matt Sleat 33 Hall, Stuart 51 Hare, R.M. 57 Harrison, Jane E. 116 Hay, Colin, and Anthony Payne 109 Hayward, Clarissa Rile 235–236 Hegel, G.W.F. 22, 68, 82–85, 138, 169, 176n21 hegemony 74, 90–92, 246 Hepburn, Cameron 7 Hesiod 76, 81n2 Hessel, Stéphane 183 Hildreth, Roudy 183–185 history 68, 82, 96, 104–105, 151, 204; intellectual 15, 102; Marxism and 87–88, 98n3; of philosophy 10, 40, 45, 91; social 70 Honneth, Axel 135, 199 Hook, Sidney 101 Hookway, Christopher 176n19 Hoover, Herbert 122


hope 48, 71, 80, 83, 86–88, 179–181; and the democratic ideal 115, 119, 171; and radical uncertainty 251–252 human nature 65n5, 175n8, 176n20; and the democratic ideal 121–125, 129, 154–155, 160; experimentalism and 226 Hume, David 53–55, 57, 175n8 Hunt, E.K. 123 idealisation 1, 25, 27–28, 34; and experimentalism 214, 218, 233 idealism 170, 178, 181–185, 233 ideal theory 1, 3, 20–29, 33–34, 102; and democratic innovation 241; and experimentalism 213–214, 226, 233–234; and moral counterproductivity 30–32; shortcomings of 217, 219, 221, 223 ideas 10, 14, 23, 40, 72–73, 229–231 individualism 120–121, 128–130; human nature and 121–125; human psychology and 126–128 individuality 128–130; and collective intelligence 140–142; and developmental achievement 136–137; freedom as 130–134, 138–140; and intelligent choice 134–135; and problem solving 135–136; and teleology 137–138 Industrial Revolution 104, 113n1 injustice 2–3, 21, 25, 29, 31–34, 91; and the democratic ideal 153, 169; and experimentalism 214, 223, 234–235; and objections to Deweyan democracy 178 innovation 237–243, 247 inquiry 40–41, 55–57, 61–64, 68–69, 71–72, 75–76; and the democratic ideal 118–119, 163–168; and objections to Deweyan democracy 180–181; and reasonable pluralism 192–193; social 156, 165, 182–183, 193 intelligence see collective intelligence; intelligent choice; intelligent co-creation; social intelligence intelligent choice 76, 134–135, 137 intelligent co-creation 247–251 International Relations 36n13



Jackson, Jeff 98n4 Jackson, Tim 1, 9–10 James, William 46–47, 51, 64, 65n6, 195 Jefferson, Thomas 121, 146 Johnston, James S. 196 judgement 30–31, 57–59, 61–62, 196; moral 180, 220, 236 justice 15–22, 28–33, 189–190, 218–219 justification 45–48, 60–64, 80–81, 90–91, 188–192; justificatory claim 58–59 Kant, Immanuel 44, 51, 53–55, 77; Kantianism 15, 55 Kautsky, Karl 87 Kitcher, Philip 202 knowledge 9–10, 21–24, 39–46, 48–56, 69–70, 148–149; and democratic innovation 239–240; self-knowledge 127 Korsch, Karl 90 Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe 88–90 Later Works, The 174n5, 176n16; and the body’s organic needs 65n5; and capitalism 176n20; and democratic renewal 110; and Deweyan democracy 116–119; and experience 65n1, 65n9, 65–66n11; and experimental associative living 156–166, 168; and freedom 130–131, 133–137, 139–142; and individualism 120–129; and language 174–175n7; and liberal democracy 151–155; and man’s double nature 65n4; and objections to Deweyan democracy 182, 184, 186n2; and objection to Dewey’s philosophic ideal 88–89, 94–96, 98n9; and political democracy 175n13; and political philosophy 213, 217–221, 223–229; and the public realm 174n3; and the quest for certainty 39, 41–44, 46, 48–50, 53–56, 60–62, 64; and reason 65n10; and reasonable pluralism 194, 197, 199, 203–204; and the role of philosophy 68–70, 72, 74–75, 77, 78–81; and the social ideal 142–143, 145

Leddy, T. 98n10 legitimacy 16, 153–154, 160, 240, 245, 252n3 legitimation 250, 252n3 Lenin, Vladimir 87 Levine, P. 247–248, 250–251 liberal democracy 13, 112, 145–154, 176n14, 239; and experimental associative living 156, 160–161, 165 liberalism see classical liberalism; liberal democracy; neo-liberalism; political liberalism lifeworld 22, 87, 108, 119, 130, 167 Lipman, Mathew 167–168 Lippmann, Walter 157–158 Locke, John 120–121, 123, 174n1 Lukács, György 90 Machiavelli 223 Madison, James 149–150, 205 Man, Geoff see under Wainwright, Joel Mandela, Nelson 140–141 Mansbridge, Jane 247, 249 Marx, Karl 98n1, 98n3; Marxism 86–90, 92, 98n2 McLuhan, Marshall 96 Menand, Louis 123, 172–173, 176n21 method 1–3, 39–42, 45–49, 59–62, 87–88, 184–185; and abstract goals 20; and civic studies 247–251; and the democratic ideal 143–144, 156–157; and Deweyan experimentalism 213–217, 225–231; and futility 25–29; and ideal theory 20–25; and justice 15–20; and moral counterproductivity 30–32; and participatory budgeting 243–247; in political philosophy 7–14, 32–34; in Rawlsian political philosophy 14–15; and Rawlsian shortcomings 217–225; reason as 65n10; and reasonable pluralism 193–195; and the role of philosophy 68–69, 71–72; for 21st-century political philosophy 233–243, 251–252 Middle Works, The 175n8, 175n9, 177n22; and democratic renewal 102, 106; and experimental associative living 156, 159, 162, 164, 166–168, 170; and experimentalism 213, 219–221,

Index 225, 229; and freedom 130–132, 134, 139–140; and individualism 126–129; and objections to Deweyan democracy 179–181, 184, 186n2; and the quest for certainty 39, 48, 51–52, 55, 62–64; and reasonable pluralism 196–197, 202, 204; and the role of philosophy 70–72, 78–79; and the social ideal 142–143 Mill, James 120 Mill, John Stuart 146, 160, 174n6, 190–191, 205 Mills, Charles W. 31, 183 mistrust 17, 19–20 modernity 103–108, 110, 151, 172–173 moral considerations 2, 12, 20, 34, 78, 122; experimentalism and 233–234; political philosophy and 214, 221–222 moral counterproductivity 30–32 moral tragedy 179–181 More, Thomas 12, 35n3 Moreno, J.D., and R. Scott Frey 89, 91 Mouffe, Chantal see under Laclau, Ernesto mythology 77, 81n3, 92–93, 115–116; Prometheus 67–68, 75–76, 81n1 necessity 86–90 neo-liberalism 112–113, 246 nonideal circumstances 2, 21, 24–32, 35n8; experimentalism and 213, 219, 222 Novack, George 98n2 Nussbaum, Martha 235 O’Neill, Onora 27 Ostrom, Elinor 249–250 Pappas, Gregory 187 Paris Climate Agreement 7 Parnassus, Mount 92, 97 participatory budgeting 242–247, 251 Pateman, Carol 241, 244–245, 247 Payne, Anthony see under Hay, Colin Peirce, Charles Sanders 46–47, 59, 62, 65n2, 192, 203–205 perfectionism 187, 192, 200–203, 208, 209n7; Perfectionist Thesis 188, 203 Phillips, Michael 25–26 philosophy 39–98


Plato 10, 39–42, 70, 92, 148–150, 231n1; Apology 98n5; explaining Rawls through 20–25; Platonic presupposition 40–41, 44; Protagoras 75–76; The Republic 23–24, 40, 146–147 Plekhanov, Georgi 87 pluralism see reasonable pluralism; value pluralism Pogrebinschi, Thamy 241–242 Polanyi, Karl 103–106, 108 policymaking 29, 242, 245 political action 2, 30–34, 90; and experimentalism 214, 222–223, 227, 231, 234 political autonomy 1, 16–18, 31–32, 34; and experimentalism 214, 217, 233 political deliberation 2–3, 19–20, 25, 32, 34, 97; experimentalism and 213–214, 224, 230, 235; futility and 29–30; moral considerations and 221–222 political liberalism 195–200, 206 political participation 157–159, 245 political philosophy 1–3, 119, 173, 185, 195; and abstract goals 20; and civic studies 247–251; and climate change 7–10; contemporary 10–14, 34; Deweyan experimentalism in 213–217, 225–231, 232n1; Dewey as a guide for 101–103; and futility 25–29; and ideal theory 20–25; and justice 15–20; method for 21st-century 233–238, 251–252; and moral counterproductivity 30–32; and participatory budgeting 243–247; and participatory democracy 238–243; practically engaged 35n2; Rawlsian 14–15, 32–34, 217–225; realist 232n3 political practice 1, 12–13, 26, 29, 229; experimentalism and 235, 251 political problems 1, 144, 218, 233; method and 13–15, 24–27, 32, 34 political science 12, 247–248, 251 political theory see political philosophy Popper, Karl 59, 205 postmodernity 108–113, 173 power 109–110, 149–153, 234–235, 240–241, 243–245, 248–249;



Deweyan democracy and 183–185, 186n2; ideal theory and 30–31; and legitimation 252n3; in political action 223–225; power relations 30, 169, 223, 235–236 practical content 29, 82, 92–97 practical philosophy 87, 101–103 pragmatism 34, 47–48, 52, 63, 98n2, 101; and objections to Deweyan democracy 183, 185; political philosophy and 214, 222, 231; reasonable pluralism and 195, 205–206 praxis 42 Prinz, Janosch, and Enzo Rossi 32 problems see communal problems; political problems; problem solving; solutions problem solving 2, 12, 26, 68–71, 75, 118; and experimental associative living 158–159, 161, 164, 166–167; experimentalism and 240–241, 250; and freedom 133, 135–137, 141; and objections to Deweyan democracy 84, 86, 97, 179, 181–182, 185; political philosophy and 221, 224, 227–228; reasonable pluralism and 193–194, 196–199, 201–206, 208; and the social ideal 143, 145 psychology 125–128 Putnam, Hilary 45, 55, 57–64, 65n7, 68, 119–120 quest for certainty 2, 39–42, 46, 48, 67; and democratic renewal 101; and freedom 133; and objection to Dewey’s philosophic ideal 88, 97 quietism 32–33, 153–155 Ralston, Shane 2, 188, 198, 207, 222, 226–230; on Talisse 192–195 Randall, John Herman 215, 226, 228 rationality 64, 85, 144, 248 Rawls, John 1–3, 11, 13–14; and abstract goals 20; Collected Papers 196, 207; and deliberative democracy 35n5; and experimentalism 229; influence of 35n4; and justice 15–20; overcoming the shortcomings of 217–225; Political Liberalism 18,

24, 187, 189, 195; and political liberalism 195–200; political philosophy of 14–15; and reasonable pluralism 187–195, 200–201, 203, 206–208; A Theory of Justice 14–17, 19, 21–22, 26, 35n4, 195, 200; and Williams 35n6; see also ideal theory realism 1–2, 33, 36n13, 223, 232n3, 233–234 reality 40–41, 44–45, 69–70, 79–80; and Absolute Experience 66n11; and the causal claim 55–57; and the entangled vocabulary claim 57–58; and the fact/value dichotomy 53–55, 60–64; and the justificatory claim 58–59; reason and 65n10 reason 16, 40–41, 189; public 17–19, 206–208, 221 reasonable pluralism 2, 187–188, 192–195, 207–208; and Deweyan democracy 188–192; and political liberalism 195–200; and Talisse 200–207 reflection see abstract reflection relationships 2, 159–160, 179–173, 174n4 Richardson, Henry 221–222 Rodgers, B. 35n4 Rorty, Richard 40–41, 44, 60, 111–112, 178 Rossi, Enzo see under Prinz, Janosch Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 21, 146 Russon-Gilman, Hollie 244, 246 Ryan, Alan 11, 67, 101, 103, 119 Sagan, Carl 1 Saito, Naoko 197, 209n6 Sandel, Michael 10–11 science 41–42, 53–55, 63–64, 69–70, 118–119, 200–201; birth of modern 43–48 Scott Frey, R. see under Moreno, J.D. self, the 126–134, 136–142, 159–161, 205–206; Dewey’s conception of 178 – 179; human nature and 121 –125; and the mind/body split 50–52; self-conception 2, 11, 80, 140, 234, 252; self-preservation 109, 126, 195–196, 198; selfrealisation 128, 130, 136–137, 140–141, 175n11, 208n1

Index Sellars, Wilfred 40 Sen, Amartya 26, 29, 31 shared experience see associated living Shusterman, Richard 139, 141 Sleat, Matt see under Hall, Edward Sleeper, Ralph 61–62 Smith, Adam 120 social action 101, 179, 182, 230–231 social ideal 142–145, 191 social inquiry see under inquiry social intelligence 155, 157, 163–166, 171, 217 social science 13, 101, 104 Socrates 10, 23, 39, 91, 98n5 solutions 198–199, 201–202, 237–241; hypothetical 3, 143, 164, 216, 234 sophistry 39–40, 85, 147 subordination, institutional 17, 19 spectator theory 48–53, 64, 67, 94 Statman, Daniel 179–180 Stears, Marc 14 Stern, Robert 82, 84–85, 98n8 strategies 3, 9, 247, 249–251 Students for a Democratic Society 238–239 supply-side 238–240 Talisse, Robert 2, 156, 174; and Deweyan democracy 188–192; and political liberalism 196, 199; Ralston’s response to 192–195; and reasonable pluralism 187–188, 200–208, 209n4 Tambornino, J. 236 Taylor, Matthew 138 teleology 43–44, 130–134, 137–138, 200–205, 208n1 telos 138, 202 theoria 42 Toynbee, Albert 113n1 trade-offs 2, 25, 28, 34, 214, 222–223, 233–234 transformation 9–10, 159–163, 165–168, 226–227; the Great Transformation 103–104; Transformative Thesis 188 transition, theory of 1–2, 25, 34, 214, 219–221 translatability 194, 206–208


truth 40–41, 62–64 Turner, Frederick Jackson 105–106, 108 uncertainty 109–110, 173, 222–223, 233; The Great Uncertainty 109; hope and 251–252 United Nations 111, 182, 245 value pluralism 192–193 values 43–45, 70–72, 85–86, 91–94, 102–103; and the causal claim 55–57; the democratic ideal and 141–142, 160–163; and the entangled vocabulary claim 57–58; epistemic 65n7; experimentalism and 217–218, 220–222, 249–252; the fact/value dichotomy 53–55, 60–64; instrumental 124, 160, 163, 196–197; and the justificatory claim 58–59; moral 33, 43–45, 53, 58, 78, 123, 221; reasonable pluralism and 188–189, 192–194, 196–197, 206–208 Vanderborght, Yannick see under Van Parijs, Philippe Van Parijs, Philippe, and Yannick Vanderborght 237 Verovšek, Peter 33 Vincent, Andrew 14, 19, 87, 90, 121, 174n6 Wainwright, Joel, and Geoff Man 111 Way of Life Thesis 188, 203 Weber, Max 77–78, 252n3 Welchman, Jennifer 180–181, 198–199 Wenar, Leif 207, 236–237 West, Cornel 81n4 Westbrook, Robert 107, 208n2 Whitehead, Alfred 59 Whitmont, Edward 115, 136–137 Wilde, Oscar 93 Williams, Bernard 35n6, 231n1 Wolfe, Joel 183 Wolff, Jonathan 11–12, 27 Wolin, Sheldon 120, 176n16 World Bank 245–246 Wright, Eric Olin see under Fung, Archon