John Dewy Ethics Essay

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John Dewey Ethics

Ethics: John Dewey

Introduction to Ethics

Other than Aristotle, John Dewey has been called the greatest philosopher who ever lived. His beliefs on ethics, though, are somewhat different than other philosophers and not always in line with what individuals such as Aristotle and Nietzsche discussed. Dewey was introduced to ethics early in life, and is considered by some to be a psychologist and by others to be more of a philosopher. In reality, he was both. He focused on the theory of pragmatism, and helped to found functional psychology. He was also a strong part of the progressive populist and progressive schools of thought. He was best known for publications he created that were concerned with education, but ethics, nature, logic, democracy, inquiry, and art were also subject areas in which Dewey's influence could be seen.

Dewey started out in ethics and social theory by addressing the theory of knowledge and the conceptual framework that belongs to that theory. It has a very naturalist type of standpoint to which Dewey took a strong interest. The social dimensions of the theory were part of what Dewey found fascinating about the theory itself. From that, Dewey created his own theory of inquiry. While it is a strong theory, it would not be as easily understood if it could not be related to values and social aims, and to other theories that address those same issues. For Dewey, social aims and values were absolutely central to social and ethical theories to which he subscribed and created.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on John Dewy Ethics Assignment

While working to create his own theories on various ethical issues, he also focused on the theories of others and considered them in order to determine if they fit in with what he needed and what mattered to him. He analyzed society and people, and considered why they did the things they did. He maintained that human beings are social creatures, and that they have always been that way - so it was logical for them to be interested in social constructs. However, he also rejected Hobbes' social contract theory because he felt that human beings can only have experiences that are meaningful to them when they can see how those experiences fit or are accepted from a social standpoint.

Dewey was very concerned with the moral and social problems that were being faced by society, and he believed that these were issues that were being "solved" with ideas that were simplistic and dogmatic. By using those kinds of principles, human beings were deeply limiting themselves and what they were able to do, because they were not looking for all kinds of ways to solve the problems that they had. Instead, they were only looking for simplistic ways to solve their problems, and those ways were not enough to address the deeper aspects of the difficulties that were being seen in humanity. As society moved forward and changed, it became more complex and more difficult to easily correct - and these were issues of which Dewey was keenly aware.

One of the issues Dewey addressed was the life satisfaction of individual members of society. What made a satisfying life? That could depend on the person, of course, because some people found specific things satisfying, and those things might not matter to someone else. However, there were certain things that Dewey believed would be satisfying overall, and those things had to do with what each person thought that society wanted them to do or society would accept in some way. In other words, life satisfaction was not completely a singular experience, and was more of a societal experience. Whether that was indeed the case would depend, however, on what each person believed about society and about themselves. Harmonizing experience in the individual and in society at the same time is one of the ways in which individuals can find peace.

Rationalizing and Socializing Agencies

Dewey understood both rationalizing and socializing agencies. For example, all people perform tasks that are either rational or social. Sometimes, the tasks meet both criteria. Other times, they meet only one criterion. Rationalizing agencies are those that have to be done, and that people find rational reasons to engage in - such as work. When a person is very young, he or she may not worry so much about work, because there are many other pursuits in which to engage. His or her parents often pay for everything, and work is not necessary. At least, the kind of work for which a person would draw a paycheck is not required. As that person gets older, however, he or she sees that work is necessary in order to make money, so he or she rationalizes what has to be done and finds a way to feel good about the work that is being done in order to support a family.

Other rationalizing agencies include war, as well as arts and crafts. While it might seem odd that these would belong under that category, they are rationalized in much the same way as work. People need to find reasons for something that they want to do or something they want to create. In addition, these same people have to find reasons to go out and defend something from others or take something they want from people who are prepared to fight to keep what they already have. If there is no real reason for people to keep what they have, or no reason for others to attempt to take it from them, there will be no war because there will be nothing over which to fight. Still, many people find reasons to go to war and fight about things, even if they do not want what others have. With arts and crafts, there is a deep need in many people to create something, but they are often not sure why they wish to create something. If they can find a rational reason to do so, they can justify what they are doing and continue on with it in a way that makes sense to them.

Socializing agencies also include arts and crafts, work, and war - but for very different reasons. When people are able to work together for the common good, it gives them a feeling of importance and something on which to focus. As they are able to focus on doing things for others and for society, they rationalize what they are doing and they socialize in such a way that they become committed to helping themselves and other people. Comrades in arms, for example, is a common phrase that is used in war. People who are involved in a war together often become very focused on helping one another and they develop a deep commitment to the war and to the people with which they are working to defeat an enemy - either real or perceived. They can develop a similar mindset when they work for a company that is very competitive within a particular market.

In a work situation, socializing takes two forms - socializing for fun, such as gossiping around the water cooler, and socializing for a common goal, such as sales figures or defeating a rival company or department. To that extent, socialization at work is a good thing. The more people who work together know and like one another, the more likely they are to ensure that they stand up for one another and work as a cohesive unit. That can be extremely helpful to the company, since people who focus on one another and the good of the company get more done, overall. Dewey realized how important it was for people to work together, and how deeply social individuals really are. With the art world, socialization is also often seen - especially between artists who work in a particular kind of genre. Painters are more likely to identify with other painters, sculptors with sculptors, etc. that does not mean that they will not "cross lines" or join together with other artists to defend or protect something in which they all believe, however, which just shows once again how accurate Dewey was in stating that socializing was often the most important issue for people.

Dewey's Notion of Group Standards

Another philosopher, Nietzsche, believed in the notion or concept of the Herd. This was a group mentality whereby people were thought to be like sheep in that they would herd together and follow a particular leader, or simply mill around with no real direction of there was no leader available. It implied that they were very social, but also that they had trouble thinking for themselves and were not capable of forging strong identities that were not really part of the group mentality. Dewey also saw this issue, but he addressed many of the reasons behind it and was less focused on the "herd" mentality. Instead, he considered that people stayed more attached to one another and worked more as a collective because of morals, rules, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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John Dewy Ethics.  (2011, December 5).  Retrieved September 17, 2021, from

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"John Dewy Ethics."  December 5, 2011.  Accessed September 17, 2021.