When a friend saw me using this photo of an elderly man on my Facebook page, he first thought the man was a typewriter repairman. It is actually John Dewey, near the end of his life. He lived from 1859 to 1952. He used the two-finger way of typing.
When Ayn Rand arrived in America in 1926, Dewey had been the dominant voice in American philosophy for about 15 years; he would continue to have that place for another 20 years. His writings ranged over all major areas of philosophy and more. He was a public intellectual and produced many books for the general educated public concerning philosophy (all areas), culture, and education. His works have been meticulously collected in chronological order into a 37-volume set, which required 20 years to accomplish (1967-87).
For several months, I’ve been developing a couple of essays comparing Rand and Dewey in epistemology and philosophy of logic. Those essays are serial ones I keep adding to—all at the posting site titled Objectivism Online. So far I’ve ended up acquiring 19 of those 37 Dewey volumes in my progress to comprehend his philosophy across its development.
Leonard Peikoff made remarks on Dewey in his taped lectures on the history of modern philosophy back in the early 1970’s, which I heard in those years in Chicago. Peikoff’s dissertation advisor at NYU was Sidney Hook, the preeminent champion of John Dewey’s thought. Peikoff used Dewey’s important work Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938) in his dissertation (1964). By 1960 or so Rand could learn a lot from Peikoff concerning Dewey.
I don’t know which, if any, of Dewey’s books Rand had read prior to or after her association with Peikoff while in his graduate studies. Prior to her Peikoff association, we have the following, however. On 26 July 1945, Rand wrote a letter to Isabelle Patterson, which included mention of Rand’s ambition to write a nonfiction book on the moral basis of individualism. Rand had come to realize that she needed to start farther back conceptually than her theme in THE FOUNTAINHEAD. She needed to start “with the first axioms of existence.” / “I am reading a long, detailed history of philosophy [by B. A. G. Fuller].” (Identification of the history of phi book is by Michael Berliner, who edited and compiled these letters.)
Fuller 1945 has 3.5 pages on Dewey, and they are not bad. From those pages alone, Rand could learn of Dewey taking experience as leading idea where she would take existence and correspondingly of his sleight of metaphysics and his primacy of epistemology. I don’t know if she looked into any of the following well-known works of Dewey in her exposures to philosophy in the 1940’s and ’50’s, but perhaps.
How We Think (1910) / A Common Faith (1934) / Art as Experience (1934) / Human Nature and Conduct (1922) / Experience and Nature (1925) / The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action (1929) / Individualism, Old and New (1930) / Liberalism and Social Action (1935)
Also, edited by Joseph Ratner: Intelligence in the Modern World — John Dewey’s Philosophy (1939)
There is considerable concord between what Dewey and Rand had to say in philosophy and psychology. Over time, I’ll try to share those in posts under this one. I’ll also remark on the serious differences between Rand and Dewey, as well as the representations of Dewey by Rand and by Peikoff. Thoughts from anyone on any of this quite welcome.
There is a reference to Dewey in Rand’s marginalia in the first edition of Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action (1949). The editor of Rand’s marginalia did not state when her jottings in Human Action were made, and perhaps he did not know. Mises had written: “[Man] does not enter the world in general as such, but a definite environment . . . .” To which Rand wrote: “Is this Dewey and the anti-abstraction premise? Is it improper to conceive of his ‘entering the world’ and of conditions that would exist in ANY environment?” (I’d say Right, some likeness to Dewey here.)
By the time of Rand’s learned Peikoff association, Edward Moore’s American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, and Dewey had issued from Columbia (1961). Rand had this book around, we may surmise from her Forward of “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” (1966).