First, to mark the moment: I was really into that futbol match yesterday afternoon, right up until the terminal “strike” when it ended in an irresolute and deeply unsatisfying tie. Yuck.
Far more gratifying was my alma mater’s 10th inning 4-3 win Saturday night against Texas, propelling them unambiguously into the finals of the College World Series against Virginia.
But those are only games. I’m here to speak of life.
John Dewey is my second-favorite philosopher, even though I probably agree with him more frequently (were we keeping score) than I do with William James. Critics have objected to Dewey’s scientism, but his democratic version of that mindset is much like Carl Sagan’s and not at all like (say) Alex Rosenberg’s: in a word, it’s humane.
And, it’s right for our time. Only a suitably-scientific form of intellectual honesty can possibly save us from ourselves and our selective approach to the recognition of realities. Yesterday’s Doonesbury spoke nicely to that.
Critics also have objected to Dewey’s prose style, which admittedly can sometimes be workmanlike and stolid. But it soars often enough for me, as in the conclusion of the first book of Dewey’s I ever read cover-to cover back in my first semester of Grad School.
Poetry, art, religion are precious things. They cannot be maintained by lingering in the past and futilely wishing to restore what the movement of events in science, industry and politics has destroyed. They are an out-flowering of thought and desires that unconsciously converge into a disposition of imagination as a result of thousands and thousands of daily episodes and contact. They cannot be willed into existence or coerced into being. The wind of the spirit bloweth where it listeth and the kingdom of God in such things does not come with observation. But while it is impossible to retain and recover by deliberate volition old sources of religion and art that have been discredited, it is possible to expedite the development of the vital sources of a religion and art that are yet to be. Not indeed by action directly aimed at their production, but by substituting faith in the active tendencies of the day for dread and dislike of them, and by the courage of intelligence to follow whither social and scientific changes direct us. We are weak today in ideal matters because intelligence is divorced from aspiration. The bare force of circumstance compels us onwards in the daily detail of our beliefs and acts, but our deeper thoughts and desires turn backwards. When philosophy shall have co-operated with the course of events and made clear and coherent the meaning of the daily detail, science and emotion will interpenetrate, practice and[Pg 213] imagination will embrace. Poetry and religious feeling will be the unforced flowers of life. To further this articulation and revelation of the meanings of the current course of events is the task and problem of philosophy in days of transition. Reconstruction in Philosophy
I have a new hanging plant just before my gaze, out here on the back porch. When I arrive each morning it looks wan and paltry. Then I write a bit. It begins opening to the dawn. Like me.
And then I go walking. On my return it looks like this.
Unforced. Nice metaphor, John Dewey.
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