The Gospel According to John Dewey Part II

The Gospel According to John Dewey Part II <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By David A. Noebel
"In building naturalistic alternatives to religion, we need to focus on exemplary models in history:  [secular] humanist heroes and heroines…among these are [John] Dewey and [Bertrand] Russell."  Paul Kurtz, Free Inquiry, August/September 2006.
11.      "Dewey was profoundly influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau…Some have even hailed Dewey's Democracy and Education (1916) as 'the most notable contribution to pedagogy since Rousseau's Emile.'  Dewey shares Rousseau's optimistic view that human beings are basically benevolent and human nature is easily molded, and he believes with Rousseau that moral education designed to subdue human nature by overcoming vices is harmful to students."  Ibid. 8.
12.      "Rousseau's reputation during his lifetime, and his influence after his death, raise disturbing questions about human gullibility, and indeed about the human propensity to reject evidence it does not wish to admit.  The acceptability of what Rousseau wrote depended in great part on his strident claim to be not merely virtuous but the most virtuous man of his time.  Why did not this claim collapse in ridicule and ignominy when his weaknesses and vices became not merely public knowledge but the subject of international debate?  After all the people who assailed him were not strangers or political opponents but former friends and associates who had gone out of their way to assist him.  Their charges were serious and the collective indictment devastating.  [David] Hume, who had once thought him 'gentle, modest, affectionate, disinterested and exquisitely sensitive', decided, from more extensive experience, that he was 'a monster who saw himself as the only important being in the universe.'  Diderot, after long acquaintance, summed him up as 'deceitful, vain as Satan, ungrateful, cruel, hypocritical and full of malice'.  To Voltaire, 'a monster of vanity and vileness'.  One modern academic lists Rousseau's shortcomings as follows:  he was a 'masochist, exhibitionist, neurasthenic, hypochondriac, onanist, latent homosexual afflicted by the typical urge for repeated displacements, incapable of normal or parental affection [Rousseau placed all five of his illegitimate babies, unnamed and uncared for in an orphanage], incipient paranoiac, narcissistic introvert rendered unsocial by his illness, filled with guilt feelings, pathologically timid, a kleptomaniac, infantilist, irritable and miserly.'" Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (New York, NY:  Harper Perennial, 1990), 21, 26.
13. "Both Rousseau and Dewey depreciate the importance of books   
for students, in Rousseau's case at least until well into              adolescence.  With Dewey, it is not clear when or if books should ever become a primary component of a student's education.  Rousseau urges that his students learn a useful trade; Dewey also emphasizes vocational education." Edmondson <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />III, 9.
14.  Dewey's educational philosophy "is not that difficult to understand if one is willing to accept the obvious-namely, that his arguments are ideologically charge and philosophically vague.  Dewey subordinated his philosophy to his politics [socialism].  I know this sounds harsh, but it is true, and it is the key to unlocking the purported difficulties of his thought."  Ibid. 11.
15. "For Dewey 'all morality is social,'…ethics for Dewey is exclusively a social matter [since there is no God determining the boundaries of good and evil various societies do so hence moral or social relativism]."  Ibid. 13.
16.  "If there is meaning in life, Dewey argues, it is to be found fully in the material world and our experience thereof." Ibid. 14.
17. "The only real guidance available to human beings is the observation of experience and the ongoing attempt to find and verify hypotheses to explain it.  Hence, he explains that his book [Experience and Nature (19 25)] is about 'empirical naturalism' or 'naturalistic [atheistic] empiricism'--the reader may take his pick." Ibid.14. 
18. "The Quest for Certainty is also one of Dewey's books in which his attack on religion and tradition is especially salient." Ibid. 15.
19. Dewey's Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920) "is his wholesale rejection of existing philosophical and religious movements in favor of his conception of naturalism [atheism]." Ibid. 15, 16.
20. "Dewey's unrelenting attack on religion and traditional education is a conspicuous feature of his educational philosophy.  It is surprising, however, how easily Dewey has been forgiven for his hostility to tradition, a prejudice that startles any open-minded reader." Ibid. 20.
21. "Dewey makes little attempt to veil his hostility to Christianity in particular. He writes, 'For Christendom as a whole, morality has been connected with supernatural commands, rewards and penalties.'"  Ibid. 19, 20.
22.  "Given these view, it is no surprise that Dewey signed the famous Humanist Manifesto in 1933, a secularist call to arms that emphatically rejects religious faith, insisting that man face his difficulties and pursue his dreams 'alone,' without seeing consolation in, or assistance from, 'supernaturalism.'" Ibid. 20.
23. "Dewey not only rejects conventional religion, he seeks to create a kind of alternative faith.  In Our Common Faith (1934), he redefines the essence of religious experience as nothing more than a kind of shared democratic faith guided by science.  He heralds the opportunity to free religion from supernaturalism…Elsewhere, he makes nature into a kind of deity or else conflates nature with God.  For example, he says, 'Nature is both beneficent and truth its work; it retains all the properties of the Supreme Being.'" Ibid. 21.

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