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Human Nature and Conduct (Serapis Classics) von Dewey, John (eBook)

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Human Nature and Conduct (Serapis Classics)

John Dewey (1859-1952) is an American philosopher and psychologist most notably remembered for his theories on progressive education. He grew up in the rapidly industrializing town of Burlington, Vermont, where he was able to witness increasing social and economic division of the classes. Although he displayed little vivacity or imagination as a child, he was immensely analytical and spent years teaching and writing on a wide range of philosophical ideas. Of his twenty-one books and countless articles, 'Human Nature and Conduct' is one of his best-known; it draws from Dewey's West Memorial Foundation lectures at Stanford University. This work criticizes the morality of the past as being too abstract and reliant on arbitrary rules rather than on a scientific understanding of human nature. Dewey argues that truth changes over time, and therefore life must be based on human experiences and utilizing one's knowledge in coping with those experiences.

Produktinformationen

    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: none
    Seitenzahl: 115
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9783962559267
    Verlag: Serapis Classics
    Größe: 769 kBytes
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Human Nature and Conduct (Serapis Classics)

PART ONE: THE PLACE OF HABIT IN CONDUCT

I

Habits may be profitably compared to physiological functions, like breathing, digesting. The latter are, to be sure, involuntary, while habits are acquired. But important as is this difference for many purposes it should not conceal the fact that habits are like functions in many respects, and especially in requiring the cooperation of organism and environment. Breathing is an affair of the air as truly as of the lungs; digesting an affair of food as truly as of tissues of stomach. Seeing involves light just as certainly as it does the eye and optic nerve. Walking implicates the ground as well as the legs; speech demands physical air and human companionship and audience as well as vocal organs. We may shift from the biological to the mathematical use of the word function, and say that natural operations like breathing and digesting, acquired ones like speech and honesty, are functions of the surroundings as truly as of a person. They are things done by the environment by means of organic structures or acquired dispositions. The same air that under certain conditions ruffles the pool or wrecks buildings, under other conditions purifies the blood and conveys thought. The outcome depends upon what air acts upon. The social environment acts through native impulses and speech and moral habitudes manifest themselves. There are specific good reasons for the usual attribution of acts to the person from whom they immediately proceed. But to convert this special reference into a belief of exclusive ownership is as misleading as to suppose that breathing and digesting are complete within the human body. To get a rational basis for moral discussion we must begin with recognizing that functions and habits are ways of using and incorporating the environment in which the latter has its say as surely as the former.

We may borrow words from a context less technical than that of biology, and convey the same idea by saying that habits are arts. They involve skill of sensory and motor organs, cunning or craft, and objective materials. They assimilate objective energies, and eventuate in command of environment. They require order, discipline, and manifest technique. They have a beginning, middle and end. Each stage marks progress in dealing with materials and tools, advance in converting material to active use. We should laugh at any one who said that he was master of stone working, but that the art was cooped up within himself and in no wise dependent upon support from objects and assistance from tools.

In morals we are however quite accustomed to such a fatuity. Moral dispositions are thought of as belonging exclusively to a self. The self is thereby isolated from natural and social surroundings. A whole school of morals flourishes upon capital drawn from restricting morals to character and then separating character from conduct, motives from actual deeds. Recognition of the analogy of moral action with functions and arts uproots the causes which have made morals subjective and "individualistic." It brings morals to earth, and if they still aspire to heaven it is to the heavens of the earth, and not to another world. Honesty, chastity, malice, peevishness, courage, triviality, industry, irresponsibility are not private possessions of a person. They are working adaptations of personal capacities with environing forces. All virtues and vices are habits which incorporate objective forces. They are interactions of elements contributed by the make-up of an individual with elements supplied by the out-door world. They can be studied as objectively as physiological functions, and they can be modified by change of either personal or social elements.

If an individual were alone in the world, he would form his habits (assuming the impossible, namely, that he would be able to form them) in a moral vacuum. They would belong to him alo

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