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Reconstruction in Philosophy [Paperback]

John Dewey
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 11 2004
The esteemed psychologist and thinker John Dewey headed for previously unexplored philosophical territory with this influential work. Written shortly after World War I, it embodies Dewey's system of pragmatic humanism and maintains that individuals can attain "a more ordered and intelligent happiness" by reconsidering the ultimate effects of their deepest beliefs and feelings. With its promise of achieving an understanding of the past and attaining a brighter future, Reconstruction in Philosophy remains ever relevant. "A modern classic." — Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

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For those of us trying to make sense of the world and the institutions we devise to cope with it, John Dewey's Reconstruction in Philosophy offers tremendous insight. Writing a few years after World War I, the highly regarded American philosopher chose to embrace the modern sense of scientific optimism and apply it to the search for truth. He argued forcefully that our philosophical constructions are not based in reason, but only use higher thinking to justify themselves, and that we might find better ways of living if we examine our deepest beliefs and feelings with an eye toward their ultimate effects on us and others. This experimental philosophy, pragmatism, took several steps beyond the previous century's utilitarianism and was both hailed and reviled as a subsumption of philosophy and ethics into science.

Written as lectures, Reconstruction in Philosophy is marginally less dry than other philosophical tracts, but for readers new to the jargon, some sections can be slow-going. The pleasure of Dewey's works, though, comes from the intellectual stimulation of following a brilliant mind into then-uncharted epistemological territory. The last chapter, "Reconstruction As Affecting Social Philosophy," foreshadows so much 20th-century political thinking--from across the spectrum--that it ought to be required reading in high school civics classes. Did pragmatism change our lives for the better? The very fact that we can ask such a question is Dewey's legacy; the answer must remain an open question. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"It was with this book that Dewey fully launched his campaign for experimental philosophy." - The New Republic --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
John Dewey, as I've heard, was never comfortable with labels. Throughout his career he shifted from and to many rubrics: pragmatism, interactionism, instrumentalism, transactionism, experimentalism. Truth be told, all of these are present in "Reconstruction in Philosophy" and partly because of that, this is probably the best intro to Dewey available.
Dewy has a bone to pick with traditional philosophy. Not only has it lost track with real, as opposed to academic, problems (anyone walking down the street can tell us this) but it never really was that good at depicting real questions and descriptions anyway. Take comcepts like Plato's ideal forms and Kant's a priori. Neither of these are teneble in any realm of experience; rather, they were a misguided quest to explain the permanance and stability of the world.
Dewey's book is an attempt to pull the carpet out from under their feet; science and inquiry using its methods shows us that the world changes and if anything, stability is something that is felt by us - not inherent in the world. Thus a prioris, ideal forms, seperation of the noumenal and phenouminal amongst other current 'problems' in philosophy - all based on the idea of permanant/transitory dichotomy - are not only wearing thin, but are fast showing to be irrelevant. From this, he builds the groundwork of a philosophy in between rationalism and empiricism. Taking from rationalism an admiration and recognition of reason's power to direct action and combining it with empiricims fascination with experience, Dewey creates a philosophy that puts the spotlight not on one or the other, but on both as leading to and taking from eachother.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any student in philosophy April 14 2003
By A Customer
Reconstruction in Philosophy presents a program for just that: a radical re-building of western philosophy. Dewey criticizes the current state of affairs as being tied to the past in ways that are no longer relevent to the current world. He traces the creation of various social institutions, then shows how these actions of ancient times, such as creation of ancient philosophical traditions (such as the idea of a split between "higher" and "lower" reality cf. Plato), which although useful in their time, now [slows] intellectual progress. Dewey puts forth the argument that much of modern philosophy (and human thought in general) is concerned with the same problems that the ancients were concerned with, although those problems are no longer relevent. Rather, philosophy should concern itself with current issues of social, economic, or political importance, and ask what can be done to improve them? Dewey's method is concerned with concrete solutions to concrete problems. Rather than over-broad generalizations about "the State" or "Life", we must ask think of answers to problems concerning this individual state, or that individual person. Likewise, he advocates dropping the notion of the Universal having more importance than the Particular; doing so, he claims, leads to intellectual laziness, and a denial that problems exist (extreme optimism). Rather, human intelligence must be focused on particular problems, with an eye towards improving that particular situation.
This often-overlooked book is the perfect antidote to the image of the philosopher as an out-of-touch abstract intellectual,
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By A Customer
John Dewey's "Reconstruction of Philosophy" is a work of enormous importance in its analysis of the origins and development of the western philosophical tradition. Dewey takes an instrumentalist approach to the problem of how human experience can give rise to its imaginative reconstruction in memory. It is, Dewey says, in this realm of memory and imagination that ritual, religion, and ultimately, philosophy develop. Further, he relates the classical and medieval world views--still remarkably influential in the modern world--to the structure of classical society. Dewey provides the reader with a challenging exposition of the sources of many weaknesses and flaws in western philosophy and suggests remedies for them.
Some readers may find Dewey's prose awkward and occasionally difficult, but for those interested in a history of philosophy which is more than a chronological recounting of philosophical systems, "Reconstruction" is well worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to Dewey's philosophy. April 25 1998
By Rahul
It is an excellent book to initiate a novice to the Deweian way of thinking. A pre-requisite to books such as "Experience and Nature". The ease and accessibility of the matterial provided alone, makes it worthwhile. A must for an Educational Foundation student.
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By A Customer
John Dewey presents us with his Pragmatic Humanistic look at life which seeks for growth and improvement rather than a reliance on tradition. His aim is to apply the principles of science and inquiry to more aspects of life such as morals. I highly recommend this book.
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