John Dewey and the Artful Life

John Dewey and the Artful Life: Pragmatism, Aesthetics, and Morality

Scott R. Stroud
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    John Dewey and the Artful Life
    Book Description:

    Aesthetic experience has had a long and contentious history in the Western intellectual tradition. Following Kant and Hegel, a human’s interaction with nature or art frequently has been conceptualized as separate from issues of practical activity or moral value. This book examines how art can be seen as a way of moral cultivation. Scott Stroud uses the thought of the American pragmatist John Dewey to argue that art and the aesthetic have a close connection to morality. Dewey gives us a way to reconceptualize our ideas of ends, means, and experience so as to locate the moral value of aesthetic experience in the experience of absorption itself, as well as in the experience of reflective attention evoked by an art object.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05548-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 The Problems of Art and Life
    (pp. 1-11)

    Many people complain about the lack of beauty in everyday life. On a cold winter day in Washington, D.C., the world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell tried to do something about it. In the middle of the morning rush hour, he stood, unannounced, in a corner of a bustling metro station and played some of the greatest compositions the Western world has produced. Not only did he play great music, but he also used a legendary instrument to do so—his 1713 Stradivarius, rumored to have been purchased for $3.5 million. What was his purpose in pretending to be a common street...

  5. 2 The Value of Aesthetic Experience
    (pp. 12-34)

    Art may be the object of criminal activity, but one rarely sees art being used to fight crime. Yet this is just what Mexico City did in 2004. After consulting with officials in New York and Tokyo, Mexico City’s administration decided that the way to reduce crime on its crowded subway system was not by hiring more officers, but rather with a program that would distribute seven million free books to subway riders over a two-year period. The director of the subway system, Javier Garza, was optimistic about such an employment of art: "We are convinced that when people read,...

  6. 3 Dewey on Experience, Value, and Ends
    (pp. 35-57)

    The experience of the aesthetic is taken by most scholars to be a particularly valuable occasion. Yet, the devil is in the details when it comes to describing this value. To build an account of aesthetic experience that does justice to its immediate value and enjoyment by an auditor, one can profitably turn to the work of John Dewey. Dewey sets out to defend the qualitative feel of ordinary experience as it is prior to discursive dissection by analysts. He also has a great regard for the intellectual adaptations of humans, and his thought consequently tries to do justice to...

  7. 4 Aesthetic Experience and the Experience of Moral Cultivation
    (pp. 58-92)

    In the previous chapter, I detailed a theory of value based in the work of John Dewey that attempted to do justice to the immediacy and power of the sort of value that is attributed to the aesthetic. A vital part of that account focused on Dewey’s insistence on the fundamental connection between means and ends in action. This chapter will extend the Deweyan reading of value with the addition of the experiential perspective of the subject that figures so prominently in aesthetic experience.

    Aesthetic experience is a special or unique (in degree) experience of some object or event, and...

  8. 5 Reflection and Moral Value in Aesthetic Experience
    (pp. 93-135)

    If my previous arguments are in any way felicitous, one should see a way that all experience can be experienced as aesthetic. While this includes art objects, it definitely minimized the role that such objects play in aesthetic experience, as many created and natural objects fall outside the conventionally defined realm of art objects. In order to do justice to the power of art objects as meaningful entities prized by their surrounding culture, I will refocus my analysis in this chapter on such intentionally created objects. The question becomes, how can art objects be morally cultivating? I have given one...

  9. 6 Orientational Meliorism and the Quest for the Artful Life
    (pp. 136-167)

    Art and morality can and should be connected. Yet not all aesthetic experience should be conceptually tied to fine art as it is traditionally designated. The previous chapters have advanced a sutsanied agrument concerning how experiences can be aesthetic or nonaesthetic depending on a subjective variable. I have alluded to this element as orientation, or a deep-seated way an individual has of approaching and thinking through the objects of experience. Such objects include conventional art objects, but they can also be expanded toanyactivity that one is doing and undergoing. Activity can be aesthetic or artful as a creation...

  10. 7 Practicing the Art of Living: The Case of Artful Communication
    (pp. 168-192)

    I have argued that a Deweyan take on aesthetic experience is an expansive, wide-ranging reading of what is connected to the aesthetic and the artful. I have also claimed that aesthetic experience connects to moral value in immediately being an instance of the absorbed, engaged endpoint of moral cultivation. The previous chapter has introduced the more general project of orientational meliorism, the attempt to improve the quality of our experiences through the adjustment of our orientation toward the world, self, others, and action. While I emphasized the notion of growth in that chapter, the linkages with the aesthetic should be...

  11. 8 Beginning to Live the Artful Life
    (pp. 193-206)

    We have effectively reached the end of this investigation of a Deweyan take on the aesthetic and its connection to life, activity, and moral improvement. Dewey’s reading of aesthetic experience is controversial and fresh, if it is anything. I have attempted to figure out how such a reading could answer the debates concerning art and its connection to moral cultivation, and how Dewey’s analysis could be conceptually grounded in an account different from traditional accounts of intrinsic and instrumental value. Whether my account is ultimately satisfactory to those wishing to pursue these questions in the fashion current in Western intellectual...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-216)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)