John Dewey's pragmatic reconstruction of subjectivity

Mark H Van Hollebeke, Fordham University


A full articulation of John Dewey's pragmatic critique of transcendental philosophy—particularly his criticism of the “transcendental turn” in modern philosophical theories of human subjectivity—requires a pragmatic reconstruction of subjectivity. This dissertation offers an account of that reconstruction. Inspired by Dewey's critique and his positive philosophy of transactional experience, it also moves beyond it. ^ Dewey did not, strictly speaking, offer a positive theory of subjectivity; indeed, many contemporary pragmatists would say that such a project is wrong-headed or impossible in a naturalist pragmatic framework. I disagree. I argue that Dewey is offering a determinate negation of transcendental subjectivity in his move to transactional experience, emergentist metaphysics and operational logic. I employ his account of the “operational a priori” in order to offer a full-bodied reconstruction of the transcendental self, one that does not rely on transcendental underpinning. ^ More specifically, I juxtapose Dewey's naturalism with the transcendental methodology of Jürgen Habermas and Bernard Lonergan to show that Dewey's historical and social account of subjectivity complements and enhances contemporary transcendental thinking. I also contend that these schools can offer contemporary Deweyans a way to put flesh on Dewey's rather skeletal account of the self. ^ The purpose of my dissertation is to promote Dewey's project of returning to (and enriching) lived experience via a fallible and experimental model of moral inquiry and critical social theory predicated on a naturalist and pragmatic conception of human subjectivity. ^

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Recommended Citation

Van Hollebeke, Mark H, "John Dewey's pragmatic reconstruction of subjectivity" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3140905.