Dewey's Moral Philosophy

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  • In his 1930 foreword to Human Nature and Conduct, Dewey wrote: “In the eighteenth century, the word Morals was used in English literature with a meaning of broad sweep. It included all the subjects of distinctly humane import, all of the social disciplines as far as they are intimately connected with the life of man and as they bear upon the interests of humanity ... Were it not for one consideration [this] volume might be said to be an essay in continuing the tradition of David Hume.”1 Dewey’s contemporaries saw Hume as a skeptic whose moral inquiries were meant to explain away rather than explain our knowledge of moral values and principles. To Dewey, Hume’s intent was instead to provide a new and improved grounding for moral knowledge and principles, by demonstrating that moral phenomena are natural phenomena, susceptible to methods of inquiry commensurate with those of the natural sciences. This for Dewey was the “inexpungable element of truth in his teachings.”2

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    This material has been published in The Cambridge Companion to Dewey edited by M. Cochran. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © 2010 Cambridge University Press.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Welchman, J. (2010). Dewey's Moral Philosophy. In M. Cochran (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Dewey (pp. 166-186). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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