Quote of the Week: Dewey on Social Judgements

The evils in current social judgments of ends and policies arise […] from importations of judgments of value from outside inquiry. The evils spring from the fact that the values employed are not determined in and by the process of inquiry […].

-John Dewey, Late Works Volume 12, p. 496

The quote illustrates Dewey’s emphasis on the epistemic endeavour of inquiry. The values which lead our social judgements should arise out of this endeavour, at least as far as Dewey is concerned.

The quote also reveals how moralising Dewey can be concerning social judgments. He does not merely accuse the judgements of being bad, he accuses them of being evil. I find this moralising aspect of his theory the hardest to justify. In the end, I do not see how he can defend it without contradicting himself or accepting a fundamental revision to this theory.

If you want, you can add here the usual paragraph about defending the value of inquiry/science/truth in the age of alternative facts.

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Quote of the Week: Misak on Peirce and Peirce on Doubt and Action

In Peirce’s view, what is wrong with the state of doubt is not that is uncomfortable, although it is in fact uncomfortable. What is wrong with doubt is that it leads to a paralysis of action.

-Cheryl Misak, The American Pragmatists, p. 33

I consider Misak one of the best current scholars of pragmatism and in this quote she captures a distinctive feature of pragmatist thought. Many philosopher have produced theories about belief and knowing, but the pragmatists have their own theory of doubt, which they turned against the Cartesian scepticism.

Misak’s quote points out the strong connection between doubt and action, or rather paralysis of action. I wonder, however, whether we should say that causing paralysis of action is wrong. Is it not the function of doubt to stop action? And in many situations such a pause to action in light of doubt might be advisable. If in doubt whether the bridge will carry the weight of my car, I should stop in front of it.

However, the pragmatists seem to think that the paralysis is always something to be overcome. At least until the end of the universe, action has primacy. Doubt plays a role in redirecting the action, giving it a secondary role.

Where to Begin with a Blog?

Where to begin? G. W. F. Hegel, 19th century German Idealist philosopher, put a lot of emphasis on finding the right beginning for his books. He seems to assume that starting at the wrong point would botch the project. Partially this might have to do with Hegel’s method of not applying a method to an object of research (Sache), but rather to follow its internal conceptual development. This is the point where a number of difficult questions arise. What conceptual development is Hegel writing about? Does Hegel have a method or does he not? Nonetheless one thing should be clear: This is not an answer to the question of how to begin a blog.

Portrait of G. W. F. Hegel
G. W. F. Hegel

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