Tag Archives: Dewey

Dewey and Lewin: A Neglected Relationship and its Current Relevance to Psychology

A forthcoming article in Theory & Psychology, now available online ahead of print, explores the relationship between John Dewey and Kurt Lewin.  Full details below.

“Dewey and Lewin: A Neglected Relationship and its Current Relevance to Psychology,” by Francesco Paolo Colucci and Monica Colombo. Abstract:

In this paper, we explore the neglected relationship between Dewey and Lewin. Adopting a historical and theoretical perspective, we offer an interpretative framework for explaining why both scholars and their legacies may have been insufficiently recognized or misunderstood within psychology. Their relationship is discussed with particular reference to a common theoretical basis and conception of activity. The connections of their work with the Cultural Historical School and with Gramsci’s thinking are suggested. We hold that from this perspective, Dewey and Lewin can be seen to contribute to contemporary psychology—action research in particular—by furthering its “emancipatory social relevance.”

Happy 150th Birthday John Dewey!

150 years ago today influential American philosopher, educator, and psychologist John Dewey was born. Over the course of his 92 years, Dewey made significant contributions to a number of fields. Dewey’s predominant philosophical and psychological concern was the relationship between the individual and society. This interest led Dewey, in the late-nineteenth century, to advocate educational reform and open the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago,  a venue where his education theories could be tested firsthand. Dewey was also a significant contributor to the philosophical system of pragmatism. In 1896, Dewey published what is now identified as the founding article of the functionalist school of psychology, “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology.” More information on Dewey’s life and work can be found here and here. John Dewey died on June 1, 1952.

Online: Evolution: A Journal of Nature, 1927-38

The full contents of the short lived journal Evolution: A Journal of Nature, have been made available online by Joe Cain, Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, at University College London. Evolution was established by American supporters of evolution following the Scopes trial in 1925. The aim of the periodical was to promote the teaching of evolution in American schools, while providing educators with the means of responding to creationist arguments. Reprinted in the fifth issue of the first volume of the journal is a letter of support for the endeavor from psychologist and philosopher John Dewey:

Permit me to offer my congratulations on your periodical, Evolution. They apply both to the idea and its execution. The present state of the public mind and of discussion as well of projected legislation make it highly important that there should be issued statements regarding the various aspects of the evolutionary controversy which can be widely read and understood. You have been fortunate in enlisting as writers persons of unquestioned competency and having a clear style. I am impressed with the fact that the Journal is scientific as well as popular. You are rendering a public service and I wish you every success.

Among the contents of the each issue of the journal are political cartoons, like that pictured to the right. The evolution of the human mind and its distinctness from that of apes is also a periodic topic within the journal’s pages.

Video: Origins of American Psychology

Chris Green, president of Division 26 of the American Psychological Association (and AHP collaborator), has produced a second short teaser on the history of American functionalist psychology. 

He describes this video as follows:

A short history of the origins of American Functionalist Psychology, from Chauncey Wright, through William James and John Dewey, to James Rowland Angell (~1870 to ~1910).

It is the much abridged version of A School of their Own (part 2), below. Continue reading Video: Origins of American Psychology

W.R. Harper’s vision for the University of Chicago

Harper with John D. Rockefeller in 1901In a recent issue of History of Education Quarterly, 48(4), Michael Lee discusses William Rainey Harper’s role in the founding of — the second — University of Chicago in 1891 and what the recognition of his explicitly religious approach means for the standard secular histories of higher education.

Harper’s conception of the relationship between scholarly research and Christianity challenges and complicates the dominant history of the development of universities in America. Whereas most mid- and late nineteenth-century university presidents in America gently reassured a nervous public that the Christian religion had nothing to fear from research and scholarly freedom, Harper trumpeted a different message: the research university would save Christianity. (pp. 510-511)

Harper’s approach distinguished him from the other visionary administrators of his time, while at the same time connecting him to an earlier tradition.

American colleges, like Harvard and Yale, were originally little more than boarding schools for young boys training for the ministry. Professors strove to instill godly character and knowledge of the Bible by recitation, rhetoric, and simple mathematics. They were seldom expected to research or discover new knowledge. In the mid- and late nineteenth century, educational leaders such as Henry Phillip Tappan of the University of Michigan, Noah Porter of Yale, Daniel Coit Gilman of Johns Hopkins University, G. Stanley Hall of Clark University, and Seth Low of Columbia College hoped to elevate the level of scholarship in the United States, and the German universities served as their ideal. In this regard, Harper was like many of the first generation of university presidents. However, this article argues that Harper’s vision of a university made him unique among his peers. (p. 510)

The results of this difference shaped the specific character of the early University of Chicago—and the institutional context that greeted John Dewey upon his arrival from the University of Michigan in 1894. Continue reading W.R. Harper’s vision for the University of Chicago

Conflating the ideas of Dewey and Spencer

Robin ZebrowskiIn a recent issue of Educational Theory, 58(3), Robin Zebrowski (pictured right) details some of the areas typically conflated in comparing the ideas of John Dewey with those of Herbert Spencer.

In educational scholarship, a number of comparisons have been made between the work of John Dewey and Herbert Spencer, many claiming that Spencer’s influence is unmistakable in Dewey’s theories or even that Dewey is derivative of Spencer. However, one must look beyond the surface similarities of Dewey and Spencer and recognize the drastically divergent views that each held on those very foundational notions upon which each built his educational program. In this essay, Robin Zebrowksi examines the theories of evolution, the directionality of organism and environment interaction, the agency of the individual, and the conceptualizations of progress in the respective works of Dewey and Spencer. Their underlying beliefs about the world and how it operates show that their philosophies cannot be reconciled. The educational theories that follow from these discrepancies, Zebrowski concludes, have incompatible and distinct implications for the classroom.

It is worth noting that Zebrowski’s criticism is directed primarily at Kieran Egan‘s book of 2002, Getting It Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget.  (My own comments on this work can be found in the article I published last summer in Perspectives on Science.) Continue reading Conflating the ideas of Dewey and Spencer

Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

James McKeen CattellIt was on this day in 1886 James McKeen Cattell passed his doctoral examinations at the University of Leipzig. Cattell was the first American to graduate under Wilhelm Wundt’s supervision. G. Stanley Hall, however, had earlier spent time learning and working in the famed experimental psychology research laboratory — the first of its kind in the world — after earning a PhD at Harvard under William James. Ironically, Cattell had begun his graduate work under Hall’s supervision at Johns Hopkins, but left Baltimore for Leipzig after a dispute with Hall over his fellowship, which had been withdrawn and given to another Johns Hopkins student, John Dewey. Continue reading Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

Pragmatism in History

Sami PihlströmIn the Spring 2008 issue of Perspectives on Science, 16(1), Finish philosopher Sami Pihlström raises an interesting question: How many disagreements result solely from a different perspective of what counts as real? He uses the history of pragmatism as a case to make his point.

Pragmatism, originating with Charles Peirce’s writings on the pragmatic maxim in the 1870s, is a background both for scientific realism and, via the views of William James and John Dewey, for the relativist and/or constructivist forms of neopragmatism that have often been seen as challenging the very ideas of scientific rationality and objectivity. The paper shows how the issue of realism arises in pragmatist philosophy of science and how some pragmatists, classical and modern, have attempted to deal with it…. It is argued that the pragmatist tradition cannot avoid these tensions but is largely constituted by them.

This presents not only an interesting perspective on an aspect of what is typically included in our discipline’s history, but it also suggests some interesting ways to think about how we do history: Continue reading Pragmatism in History