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Title: The origins and development of evolutionary ideas in the writings of John Dewey between 1882 and 1910.
Author: Harris, D. C.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3533 3073
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1974
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The aim of this study is to trace the origins and development of evolutionary ideas in Dewey's writings prior to 1910. The impact of Darwinian theories of biological evolution on the development of American pragmatism is fairly well understood. What is much less clear is precisely how and in what form evolutionary ideas came to play a major role in the development of Dewey's instrumentalism. This thesis attacks the conventional view that Dewey's intellectual career followed a progressive pattern from intuitionism through Hegelianism, to a type of Darwinian evolutionary instrumentalism. It is argued that before the emergence of instrumentalism in the mid-1890s and its development over the next fifteen years or so, Dewey held a variety of Darwinian and pre- Darwinian evolutionary points of view. The evidence is that Dewey's attempts to reconcile an evolutionary tradition stemming mainly from seventeenth and eighteenth century historicist conceptions of continuity, growth and change with nineteenth century experimental developments in the natural sciences, particularly in physiology, dominated much of his early work in psychology, epistemology and ethics during the 1880s and early 1890s. It is argued that Dewey's instrumentalism did not develop as a reaction against pre-Darwinian evolutionary theories, but as an attempt to reconcile teleological and historicist evolutionary points of view with the mechanistic evolutionary presuppositions of nineteenth century physiological psychologists. The evidence is, moreover, that pre-Darwinian historicist assumptions continued to influence the mature development of Dewey's instrumentalist theories. The difficulties and contradictions that this gave rise to is of special interest in this study, particularly as it affected Dewey's educational ideas. Dewey's basic inability to disentangle historicist teleological assumptions from Darwin's theory of speciation, which emphasised the essential fallibility, contingency and temporalism of biological change, raise certain doubts about certain aspects of Dewey's pedagogical theories with which this thesis is concerned.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available