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Reconstruction in Philosophy
by John Dewey
ISBN 0807015857 / 9780807015858 / 0-8070-1585-7
Publisher Beacon Press
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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 [via]