John Dewey Ethics Dewey A Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

This paradox becomes significantly elucidated by the fact that Dewey asserts that individuals are part of the group which projects a moral influence on its members, and that the values which the group follows is not set by some outsider but by a sharing of notions of morality that are respected by numerous individuals. Numerous individuals, of course, collectively become a group. This position of Dewey's is a slight difference from that of Nietzsche's conception of the herd, for the simple fact that Nietzsche widely regards the herd mentality as an external source which encompasses solitary people and forces them to adhere to it. Dewey's perspective is noticeably different than that of the German philosopher in this regard, for the simple fact that the former views the individual as having more of a determination in what the collective moral values are that he or she chooses to align him or herself with.

Additionally, it important to understand the degree of influence with which Dewey views that the individual has upon the collective morality which largely governs society. The author emphasize the amount of sharing that takes place between the individual's emotions and that of the collective to reinforce the notion that group and its ethical views is just an aggregate of disparate individuals. Furthermore, from a purely collective perspective, Dewey asserts that the commonalities shared between the group as a whole are fairly reflective of the values of individuals, which the following quotation makes perfectly clear. "The gregarious instinct may be the most elemental of the impulses which bind the group together, but it is reinforced by sympathies and sentiments growing out of common life, common work, common danger, common religion" (Dewey 35). This quotation may be considered somewhat similar to Nietzsche's perspective in regards to a herd mentality due to the fact that Dewey describes it as being a fairly primal reaction of mankind, but the similarities of the commonalities described in the "sympathies and sentiments" are unabashedly positive and somewhat even optimistic in the author's positing.

Chapter V

It would actually be extremely interesting to hear any form of commentary that Aristotle would offer upon Dewey's notion that there are "four…tendencies towards self-assertion" (Dewey 82). There are certain aspects of what Dewey contends are the purposes of these psychological agencies that Aristotle would agree with. More than likely, he would concur with the objective of these tendencies towards self-assertion. But, in all likelihood, he would probably express disapprobation at a number of the central tenets which Dewey expresses as being important in the process of asserting oneself against the forces exerted by the surrounding environment, society, and the world.

The basic premise of Dewey's psychological agencies is that there are specific human responses to immutable, external forces, which a person must summon in order to establish his or her own respective individuality. To that end, the four tendencies that comprise the majority of the psychological agencies can be regarded in a hierarchical fashion; they typically require completion in sequence in order for a person to fully establish his or her identity as an individual. The sex instinct is the first of these tendencies, which is followed by the demand for possession and private property. The third of these tendencies is the struggle for mastery or liberty, while the fourth of these is referred to as the desire for honor or for self-esteem (Dewey 85-86).

However, it should be noted that there is an inherent contradiction within these tendencies towards self-assertion and Aristotles' conception of ethics. In Aristotelian thought, the highest form of ethical or moral behavior derives from a particular entity performing the function which it was created for. When this concept is applied to mankind, it implies that the primary distinction between man and beast is man's capacity to reason. Therefore, Aristotle viewed that the highest ethical behavior that man could engage in would be as the life of a philosopher -- which is a life of contemplation, spent in rumination and in the exercise of his upper capacity to reason. Aristotelian ethics is largely unconcerned with, for example, the pursuit of private property or of possessions. In many ways, Aristotle would contend that such pursuits are unworthy of him and of others who adhere to his ethical viewpoint.

On an even more fundamental level, Aristotle would more than likely be highly opposed to the fairly basic, rudimentary level of impulse which these proclivities outlined by Dewey operate upon. Impulse, instinct, and other reactionary tendencies may be facets which guide lower forms of life such as animals or insects -- in which case Aristotle would approve of them following such compulsions, since by doing so they would be fulfilling the purpose for which they were conceived of. But Aristotle was a firm believer in the fact that ethically, man's purpose was to use his capacity for reason. Therefore, he would certainly issue his disapproval for many of the basic instincts that Dewey proffers in his tendencies towards self-assertion.

Still, Aristotle would more than likely approve of the goal of these psychological agencies, which is to allow man to assert his individuality so that he could engage in a life of quiet thought. It may even be possible that the fourth of Dewey's tendencies towards self-assertion, the desire for honor or self-esteem, could best be achieved by following the Aristotelian notion of a contemplative life of intellectual issues. In that respect, Aristotle might be in favor of this particular psychological agency, since it could be used to further what he regards as the principle aim of his own moralistic behavior. But he would more than likely attempt to correct Dewey for considering primal instinct or compulsions as part of moralistic or ethical behavior for mankind.

Works Cited

Dewey, John., Hayden, James. Ethics. Google Books. 1908. Web. http://books.google.com/books?id=-VUJAQAAMAAJ&pg=PR7&lpg=PR7&dq=John+Dewey,+James+Tufts+Ethics+table+of+contents&source=bl&ots=g7dbLU2vWH&sig=aEMgtxc53jRG2jEuaPljpJsTTAo&hl=en&ei=L3ndTpCgOojBtgevn_y0Bg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

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