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 - Explains John Dewey’s visionary series of essays in Education and Experience.

Dickie (2001) says that Dewey sets forth an expression theory of artwithout any supporting argument. Lumping Dewey with Collingwood, hethinks such theorists place art in the same domain with the growl of adog with a bone. They make the creation of art like the bowerbird'sproduction of bowers, i.e., a result of innate natures without a planin mind. For Dickie, expression of emotion is neither sufficient nornecessary for defining art. He thinks these theories wrongly hold thatpsychological mechanisms in human nature are sufficient for theproduction of art, as if the production of artworks is teleologicallydetermined by psychological mechanisms.

Novitz (1992), who approves of Dewey's ideas that art derives fromexperiences of everyday life and that the artistic process infuses ourdaily lives, questions the idea that fine art always embodiesconsummatory or unified experiences. He thinks Dewey has an idealizedview of art that borrows from the very aestheticist theories hecriticizes, and that Dewey does not sufficiently question theboundaries of art.

As mentioned earlier, many attacks on Dewey focused on his views onexpression. Although Hospers (1946) does not specifically criticizehim, and Bouwsma (1954) does not mention him, their attacks onexpression theory can be taken to be indirectly against Dewey. Tormey(1986) fills this gap. He chides Dewey for assuming that an artist isalways expressing something and that the expressive qualities in thework are the result of that act. He thinks that Dewey wrongly abandonsthe distinction between voluntary and involuntary expression, and indoing so, undermines paradigmatic examples of expressive behavior. Awork of art may possess expressive qualities of sadness but this isnot necessarily the intended consequence of the productive activity ofthe artist. For Tormey, the artist is not expressing him or herself:he/she is simply making an expressive object. Mitias (1992) defendsDewey against these criticisms.

The notation is expressed in Arabic numerals in the case of the Dewey Decimal System.

Typical of his overall approach to science is his statement that "Ultimately and philosophically, science is the organ of general social progress." According to Dewey, only the scientific method allows for maximum possible comprehensiveness, is the only one compatible with the democratic way of life, lends itself to public scrutiny, and is the method of intelligence.

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We find Dewey in the 20’s and 30’s, for example, arguing that the creation of a genuine public arena, one capable of precluding the rise of an artificial chasm between sociality and individuality—or, rather, one capable of precluding the rise of an artificial chasm between notions of sociality and individuality—had itself been forestalled by an inherited, outdated, but nonetheless dominant custom called individualism....

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In this essay, we will discuss what these ends are, and how they compare with the “ends” of John Dewey.

Dewey also favors poet Robert Browning's view of the relation betweenthe individual and the universal. Nature manifests continuity, i.e.,endurance through change. The critic must be sensitive to the signs ofchange. Although the critic is an individual and hence has his or herown bias, he should transform this bias into a means of sensitiveperception and insight while not allowing it to harden. He should alsorecognize that there are a multitude of other qualities in the worldworthy of art. He may then help others to have a fuller appreciationof the objective properties of artworks. Critical judgment depends ondeepening the perception of others. Its business is not to evaluatebut to re-educate perception, the perfection of perception being themoral purpose of art. We only fully understand the meaning of a workwhen we have gone through the processes the artist went through, andthe critic promotes this experience.

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Dewey believes that although there are no standards for criticaljudgment there are criteria of judgment. Previous discussions of therelation of form and matter, and of the role of medium in art, haveaddressed this point. These criteria are not rules but rather means ofdiscovering what the work of art is as an experience. Thebusiness of criticism is to deepen experience for othersthrough re-educating perception. We fully understand the work onlywhen we go through the same processes the artist went through whenproducing it, and the critic shares in promoting this process.


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Dewey holds that there are no infallible touchstones in criticism. Infact, it is harmful to think that there are such. This can be seen inthe blunders of the judicial critic, for example the attacks onpostimpressionists in the 1913 Armory show. In general, judicialcriticism confuses a particular technique with aesthetic form. This isnot to say, however, that judgment is arbitrary. Rather, good judgmentrequires a rich background, disciplined insight, and the capacity todiscriminate and to unify. Judicial criticism fails because it cannothandle new movements in art which, by their nature, express somethingnew in human experience.

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Dewey's thirteenth chapter addresses the nature of criticism. ForDewey, judgment is an act of intelligence performed on perception forthe purpose of more adequate perception. It is development in themedium of thought of deeply realized experience. He rejects thereforejudicial criticism in which the verdict is central. Such criticism isproduced out a desire for authority on the side of critics, and forprotection on the part of the audience.

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Dewey then turns to various traditional theories of art. Plato, as henoted earlier, unconsciously borrows his idea of essence from thearts. When Croce sees essence as the object of intuition andidentifies this with expression he is just imposing his priorphilosophical speculations on aesthetic experience. Dewey rejectsCroce's idea that the only real existence is mind and that the work ofart is a state of mind. (This comment led to Croce's published reviewof Dewey and to the ongoing reception of Dewey's book mentioned in theintroduction and elaborated in the last section of this article.)Schopenhauer is also dismissed as just a dialectical development ofKant. Dewey objects specifically to Schopenhauer's ruling charm out ofaesthetic experience and even more to his fixed hierarchies of beautyand of the arts. Dewey's main purpose in these attacks is to show thatphilosophy also involves imagination and that art controls theimaginative adventures of philosophy through integrating opposites andovercoming isolation in thought.