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John Dewey & Art as Experience

As a late nineteenth American philosopher, John Dewey reflected the pragmatism of his lineage of several generations of Vermont farmers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who had earned their living connected to the earthiness of New England. His father, Rich Dewey, was a grocer and owner of a cigar and tobacco shop (Biography 1). Out of this practicality arose Dewey's thoughtful philosophies and their importance for intelligent living in a democracy. It is the thesis of this paper, that in particular, his philosophy regarding the importance of arts is as timely today as it was when he wrote Art as Experience in 1934.

Dewey, as a nineteenth century American, was influenced by the philosophy of John Locke, who had a philosophy of freedom. These ideas permeated western thought. Dewey was also influenced by the Congregationalist church and his study under John Peirce. He greatly revered the ideas of Hegel. During his long life he witnessed the development of the electric light, telephone, television, cars, airplanes, an the atom bomb (Stuhr 431). The simplicity of his nineteenth century background gave him a respect for first-hand experience, although he did recognize that life and society around him were becoming increasingly complex and industrialized. A consequence of such specialization is that the arts get separated away from the center of normal existence, creating a situation where people "are often content to look upon the fruits of these arts as adornments of culture rather than as things in whose enjoyment all should partake" (Dewey and Edman 25).

Dewey thought of art as a part of democracy, as the domain of all, anyone who could have an aesthetic ideal and a communion with higher meanings. This included everyone. Dewey was passionate about the development of the individual, and he carried out his philosophies in his work. For example, with his first wife, Alice Freeman Dewey, he founded an experimental sch...

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John Dewey & Art as Experience. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:07, May 25, 2020, from