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Introduction: Dewey, Pirsig, and the Primacy of Lived Experience

  • David A. Granger

Abstract

The basic idea for this book was conceived over the course of several years. It has as its origins my deep interest, as an educator and enthusiast of the arts, in the increased scholarly attention given to John Dewey’s aesthetics since the mid 1980s. Looking back from today, it appears that this increase provided the impetus for a subtle but important shift in Dewey scholarship, one that regularly places aesthetics more at the center of his thinking. Indeed, some writers have strongly insinuated (if not suggested outright) a discernable “aesthetic turn” in the general orientation of Dewey’s later philosophy. In response to these developments, many prominent journals in philosophy and education have of late been seeing articles that look to accentuate Dewey’s aesthetics while often either downplaying or modifying his more “scientistic” rhetoric. Drawing principally from Dewey’s landmark text Art as Experience, books such as Joseph Kupfer’s Experience as Art (1983), Thomas Alexander’s John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience and, Nature (1987), and Richard Shusterman’s Pragmatist Aesthetics (1992/2000) have furnished the stimulus for much of this scholarship.1 And two recent books by noted educators, Jim Garrison’s Dewey and Eros (1997) and Philip W. Jackson’s John Dewey and the Lessons of Art (1998), explore some of the ways in which the fruits of Dewey’s more poetic affinities might be used to augment and enhance his writings on education.2

Keywords

Aesthetic Experience Literary Text Bike Maintenance Academic Philosophy Good Philosopher 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Joseph H. Kupfer, Experience as Art: Aesthetics in Everyday Life (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  2. Thomas M. Alexander, John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience & Nature: The Horizons of Feeling (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  3. Richard Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art, 2nd edition (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1992/2000). After their initial appearance in each chapter of this book, citations of Dewey’s writings (The Southern Illinois Press Collected Works edition) will be given in the text in standard form, consisting of initials representing the set (e.g., EW, MW, and LW for Early Works, Middle Works, and Later Works respectively), the volume number, and the page number.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Jim Garrison, Dewey and Erōs: Wisdom and Desire in the Art of Teaching (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  5. Philip W. Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), vi.Google Scholar
  7. Art as Experience was, on the other hand, well received by many artists of the day. See Stewart Buettner, “John Dewey and the Visual Arts in America,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33, 4 (1975): 383–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 7.
    Thomas M. Alexander, “The Human Eros” in Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture: Pragmatic Essays after Dewey, John J. Stuhr, ed. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 203–222. Combining the usages of Dewey and Stanley Cavell, I mean to denote the “everyday” (or at times the “ordinary,” “quotidian,” and “commonplace”) in three distinct but interrelated ways: First, I will generally contrast the everyday with the more reductionist accounts of the lived world characteristic of much analytic philosophy and positivism, on the one hand, and the transcendental or absolutist perspectives of traditional metaphysics on the other. Second, I will frequently distinguish everyday from aesthetic, religious, or mystical experience in qualitative terms. And third, I will also speak of everyday objects and events as among those things we typically encounter in our workaday lives, yet rarely attend to in a complete way. For Cavell’s take on the everyday, see Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990) and This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein (Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 19Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Martha Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 7.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Mark Edmundson, Literature against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defense of Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 19.
    Arthur Danto, The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 7.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    William James, A Pluralistic Universe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977/1909), 14–15.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1968/1953), 20e. This book will be referred to as Investigations with page numbers in the text for all subsequent citations.Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965/1958), 17.Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    This particular formulation was drawn largely from David Schalkwyk’s “Fiction as ‘Grammatical’ Investigation: A Wittgensteinian Account,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53, 3 (1995): 287–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 29.
    This suggests that the idea of a private language is as dubious to Dewey as it is to Wittgenstein, an observation first made by WV. Quine in “Ontological Relativity,” Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 26–68. See also on this issue Dewey’s Democracy and Education, 1916, MW 9: 19, 34 and Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, 1938, LW 12: 59, both written before the appearance of Philosophical Investigations.Google Scholar
  17. 31.
    See Giles Gunn, The Culture of Criticism and the Criticism of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 73–74.Google Scholar

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© David A. Granger 2006

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  • David A. Granger

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