PHH 3700  Fall 201Dr. Hauptli


Study Questions for Dewey’s Experience and Nature


     Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli


Overall Questions:


1. On p. 2 Dewey says: “To discover some of these general features of experienced things and to interpret their significance for a philosophic theory of the universe in which we live is the aim of this volume.”  For each Chapter, identify a significant general feature which he discusses, and indicate what the (“philosophical”) significance of this feature is according to him. 


2. On p. 38 Dewey says: “The most serious indictment to be brought against non-empirical philosophies is that they have cast a cloud over the things of ordinary experience.”  Examine several latter chapters and indicate what sort of cloud is cast by non-empirical philosophies. 


3. Clarify what Dewey means when he says (p. 154): “when things are defined as instruments, their value and validity reside in what proceeds from them; consequences not antecedents supply meaning and verity.” 


Questions on Chapter I:


1. On p. 10 Dewey uses medicine and engineering as examples for his “empirical naturalism.”  What are these examples supposed to suggest to or show the reader? 


2. On p. 25 Dewey talks about the fallacy of selective emphasis (and on p. 29 he elaborates).  What is the fallacy, what can we do to avoid it, and what is the (“philosophical”) cost of committing it? 


Questions on Chapter II:


1. What are the seminal features of “nature” according to Dewey? 


2. On p. 49 Dewey attributes a mistake to Aristotle.  What is the mistake, and what are its consequences for the history of western thought? 


3. On p. 69 Dewey claims there is some evidence that there is “contingency” in the world.  What evidence does he find, and how important is the indicated passage in providing argument for his view of nature? 


4. What does he mean when he says on p. 71 that every existence is an event? 


Questions on Chapter III:


1. Clarify what Dewey means when he says on p. 85 that “ every event there is something obdurate, self-sufficient, wholly immediate, neither a relation nor an element in a relational whole, but terminal and exclusive.”  Discuss in the context of the notion of the consummatory. 


2. Examine pp. 81-85 and discuss the relationship between the instrumental and the consummatory. 


3. Distinguish “ends” from “ends-in-view.”  The discussion on pp. 101-104 will be of help. 


4. What does he mean when he says on p. 120 that “nothing in nature is exclusive final?”  What does this mean both in terms of his metaphysics, and his theory of value? 


Questions on Chapter IV:


1. Having clarified the “consummatory” character of experience (and nature) in the previous Chapter, Dewey discusses the “instrumental” character in this one.  Clarify what he is driving at when he uses the metaphor of tools to speak about science and thinking generally in this chapter. 


2. Clarify the “split in Being” which he mentions on p. 124 and discussed throughout the chapter. 


3. Using the discussion on p. 149 as a guide, clarify what he takes to be the mistake of earlier philosophies regarding Being, change, immediacy, and regularity. 


Questions on Chapter V:


1. Clarify the mistake made by modern thinkers who view language and meaning on the “soliloquy” model and the mistake made by classical thinkers who view language and meaning on the “dialectical” model.  Cf., pp 170-174, and the whole chapter. 


2. Clarify how language gets its start according to Dewey, what its purpose is, and how meaning is infused into nature.  His discussion on p. 175 gets you started here. 


3. Clarify what he thinks is wrong with talk of fixed essences and how this is “philosophical mistake” arises according to him from a mistaken understanding of human language.  His discussion on p. 195 may help get you started here. 


Questions on Chapter VI:


1. What does Dewey mean when he contends that the mind is in individuals who are in nature?  Cf., p. 219 to get started. 


2. Clarify what Dewey means when he says it is wrong to naively assume that individuals are separate and in some exclusive sense “own” their experiences.  Cf., pp. 225-232. 


3. Clarify what he means when he says “existentially speaking, a human individual is distinctive opacity of bias and preference conjoined with plasticity and permeability of needs and likings” (p. 242). 


Questions on Chapter VII:


1. What does Dewey mean when he says that “when men ceased to interpret and explain facts in terms of potentiality and actuality, and resorted to that of causality, mind and matter stood over against one another in stark unlikeness; there were no intermediates to shade gradually the black of body into the white of spirit”? [p. 251]. 


2. Clarify the distinctions and similarities between the physical, psycho-physical, and mental according to Dewey.  Cf., p. 261 to get started. 


Questions on Chapter VIII:


1. How does Dewey distinguish “mind” and “consciousness,” what does he take consciousness to be, and how is it related to meaning according to him? 


2. Why does he claim that there is no such thing as “immediate knowledge?” 


3. What is the “double relationship” he discusses on p. 306, and how does it relate to his discussion of consciousness? 


4. Clarify Dewey's claim that we are not (usually) conscious of the familiar (cf., p. 311). 


Questions on Chapter IX:


1. On pp. 358-359 Dewey claims that his discussion of art in this Chapter can serve as a summary of all he has said thus far in the book.  Use his discussion to develop a general summary of your own which summarizes his main contentions about experience, nature, stability, precariousness, needs, consummations, ends-in-view, instrumentality, meanings, minds, the mental, and consciousness.  Note that this could be made a different, or even more complex question if it was phrased in the negative (Dewey did not do this, but could have, I think): use Dewey's discussion of art in this Chapter to indicate what he takes to be wrong with earlier philosophic traditions.  This second question is not as adequately summarized in this Chapter however.  


2. Use the discussion on pp. 358-359 to summarize Dewey's view of art and artistic experience. 


3. Clarify Dewey's discussion of means and ends on pp. 366-367. 


Questions on Chapter X:


1. What does Dewey mean by a “theory of criticism?”  Does it discover values, does it arrange them hierarchically, and does it impose values?  The discussion on pp. 398-399 should help you get started here, but this is the central topic of the whole chapter. 


2. What does the sort of criticizing which Dewey is championing do--what does it accomplish?  What reasons does he provide in favor of adopting this orientation? 


3. Clarify how the discussion on pp. 412-414 provides the “metaphysical” background which clarifies how values arise and why the critical activity is important.


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File revised on 11/04/2014