Summation – part 1

This sums up the pages on this website and suggests what Alexander teachers might do about Dewey in the future.

There are a few topics I have only touched on, such as Dewey’s magazine articles whipping up the American public to enter World War I, his support of Prohibition, and his conception of man as nothing but a collection of habits (in spite of Alexander), but I think I’ve made my point in this website.  Dewey is a philosopher no one knows.  You must read a lot of Dewey to see what his words really mean.  And many of you, I’m sure, would hate to be associated with most of what he says.

The following passage reveals the soul of John Dewey, what makes him tick, the mainspring of his outlook on life.  Dewey, after saying that  “perfecting an ‘inner’ personality”  leads to  “social divisions,”  continues:

What is called inner is simply that which does not connect with others — which is not capable of free and full communication.  What is termed spiritual culture has usually been futile, with something rotten about it, just because it has been conceived as a thing which a man might have internally — and therefore exclusively.  What one is as a person is what one is as associated with others ... .(Democracy and Education, 1916, page 143.)

Dewey says nothing here, or elsewhere in his many similar statements, of you valuing another person for yourself — that would be inner and selfish and ... rotten.

Dewey’s life-theme was to destroy in men’s minds the idea of the individual.  Working towards that goal, he promoted the kind of education that would create docile men easily ruled, and he promoted the kind of government that would do the ruling — a statist government where any “recalcitrant minority” would be dealt with by violence.  He called the destruction of the individual “new individualism,” his homogenizing educational theory “progressive education,” and his ideal socialist/fascist government variously “democracy,” “socialism,” and “democratic socialism.”

He meant it.  He praised all these things in the early years of the Soviet Union.  He didn’t mind the carnage either, although he had his limits in that line.

Justifying all this requires a total eclipse of the mind.  Dewey found it in Hegel, and later in William James’ philosophy of Pragmatism.  According to Pragmatism, the mind and reality are secondary.  What matters is action, overt action, physical force.  Not recognizing any principles, you are to experiment each moment at whim, and what works is what’s true.  Forget about categorizing ideas one dependent on another.  (In his book Reconstruction in Philosophy, Dewey says a hierarchy of knowledge is “feudalistic” and therefore bad.)  Forget about logic.  (Logic, Dewey says, is a cultural convention).  Forget about honesty, it’s relative too.  (“What truth-telling, what honesty, ... are, changes ... with every added insight into the relations of men and things.” *)  At times Dewey uses the language of liberty, practicality, individuality, freedom, truth, experience, justice — but read enough and what you get is a perversion of those ideas.  Dewey is not what he might appear to be.  The practice of Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy is to negate the human mind, turn society into an ant-hill, and do it by starting with children.  He stands convicted out of his own mouth.

This covers the first of two reasons why Alexander teachers should reject Dewey as a representative for the Alexander Technique.  He is simply a contemptible person from whom to have an endorsement about anything.

* Dewey in The Philosophy of John Dewey, page 317.

part 2  >>