1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dewey V

An (The?) End in Itself

I well remember Aristotle's insistence that in the moral life, happiness is paramount. It is also an end after which we seek no further end. Once one is happy, satisfied, blessed -- the journey, in a sense, comes to an end.

Dewey's insistence on growth as good when it leads to more growth, which leads to still more growth made me think of Aristotle. Think of The Philosopher in this sense: What Would Aristotle Think (or WHUT)? I don't know what he'd think of Dewey's ideas about education, but I don't think he'd like his ambiguity.

Biology and Teleology

For Aristotle the moral life has a clear end - happiness; for Dewey, education has no end beyond vaguely differentiated, on-going (infinite?) growth. With Dewey's materialism, he surely recognized that life runs up against its terminus in death. So it seems the life Dewey envisions goes something like this: Growth, growth, growth, annihilation. You, me, everybody.

Here we find yet another case of "bad infinity," where the need for the infinite gets projected onto finite realities. In focusing on growth the way he does, Dewey is at odds with himself, for how can life (existence) come to an end but growth never come to an end?
Question: Did Dewey ever confront this riddle?

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