John Dewey’s role as a “public philosopher” is well-documented; his political activism, however, has not received much attention from philosophers. While Dewey is well remembered as a philosopher who escaped the walls of the academy to speak to and write for general audiences, he also lent his name, status, and intellectual energy to political organizations and movements in American politics. In the first part of the paper, I provide an introduction to Dewey’s activism and its relation to the philosophical project of “democratization.” I consider present-day parallels between Dewey’s diagnosis of America’s political problems and the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, as well as the structural and methodological challenges facing a Deweyan progressive politics. I conclude by advocating for a new conception of “public pragmatism” that reflects lessons learned and contemporary conditions for political activism by philosophers seeking to follow in Dewey’s footsteps.
Contemporary Pragmatism – Brill
Published: May 17, 2019