Bruno HamnellDoctoral Student
Research areas and keywords
UKÄ subject classification
- History of Ideas
- Robin George Collingwood, John Dewey, Idealism, Experience, Intellectual history
A widespread crisis consciousness caught the imagination of many intellectuals during the early twentieth century. The enlightenment belief in progress and rationality was questioned. So was the positivistic ideal of objectivity and universality. All though new scientific fields emerged and discoveries were made, the immense increase in knowledge did not seem to lead to a better world. While industrialisation and specialisation opened new possibilities, technological innovations were also threatening. As traditional values and beliefs were lost and no consensus existed of what to replace them with, an increasing number turned towards the promises of the totalitarian ideologies.
Independent of each other and on different sides of the Atlantic, the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), and the British historian and philosopher Robin George Collingwood (1889-1943) found society shattered and human life fragmented. They argued for the importance of wholeness and unity; to connect human beings to the world and to break down the divisions between individual and society, mind and matter, faith and reason. Against the tendencies towards specialisation, they argued for the necessity of bringing all forms of knowledge and human experience together in a single view. Against the emerging totalitarian ideologies, they argued for the necessity to rethink the democracy and western civilisation.
This thesis argues that Collingwood and Dewey’s efforts can be interpreted as attempts to defend humanist culture against the various threats the crisis brought with it, whether social, political, cultural, or intellectual. Dewey and Collingwood’s thought is contextualised against the contemporary crisis, political liberalism, and philosophical idealism. To read Dewey and Collingwood side-by-side brings out previously unknown similarities in their thought and gives it new actuality.
Keywords: John Dewey, Robin George Collingwood, liberalism, idealism, practical knowledge, intellectual history, history of philosophy