Hugh McDonald

Dewey’s Holism

Dewey lived a long life, published a great deal and often incorporated new elements into his work. These novelties may also mark stages in his development, i.e. his thinking may have changed over the course of time. The early works, such as Ethics and the "Logic of Judgments of Practice," show more of the influence of idealism including the ethics of self-development or self-realization.[1] The middle works include Reconstruction in Philosophy, Human Nature and Conduct and the Quest for Certainty. These present Dewey’s more mature statements on ethics and value theory, and possibly a reformulation of the ethics of development into an organic ethic of growth. Finally, the late works, including "Theory of Valuation" and an article on value published in 1949[2] are more critical, rather than presenting a full-blown theory of value. Whether they represent a departure from the middle works in certain respects in an open question.[3]

The questions this paper will address will center around whether Dewey’s ethics forms a coherent whole, or changed over the course of his lifetime. Specifically, there are both consequentialist and holistic elements in his ethic. Holmes and Tiles[4] for example, have argued that Dewey’s ethic is consequentialist. How can this consequentialism be reconciled with the more holistic approach in Dewey? On a related point, Honneth[5] has argued that Dewey evolved from an ethics of self-realization[6] in his early period to a more "procedural" ethic, similar to Kant’s,[7] in his later period. Can the early and later approaches be reconciled or are they two distinct ethics, as it were? Further, with his holistic approach, (intrinsic) value and even moral standing do not necessarily involve corresponding obligations. The repudiation of foundationalism in the relation of intrinsic value to moral standing is also a repudiation of the foundational model for ethics, i.e. of obligation as grounded in intrinsic value,[8] a point which I will examine below. What then is the relation of obligation to value? Can obligations be derived using Dewey’s approach? Another issue is whether Dewey’s ethics is primarily individualistic, as some have argued, or more social. Which view is correct?

Dewey believed that changing conditions in the modern world called for a new approach to morality.[9] He wished to direct moral thought away from an individual basis. The exclusive concentration on individuals isolated humans from each other,[10] to speak nothing of nature. Morals have an affect on the individual of course, reflecting social forces. This is the social environment. Morality originally reflected folkways and customs, but when these come into question, as they often have in the modern world, morals must be treated critically. It is the task of philosophy to replace customs with rational ends.[11]

Dewey is critical of the separation of theory and practice, of knowing and doing by most of the philosophical tradition,[12] and the separation of morals from the rest of practice.

Instead of being extended to cover all forms of action by means of which all the values of life are extended and rendered more secure, including the diffusion of the fine arts and the cultivation of taste…and all activities which are concerned with rendering human relationships more significant and worthy, the meaning of ‘practical’ is limited to matters of ease, comfort, riches, bodily security…things which in their isolation from other goods can only lay claim to restricted and narrow value.[13]

Practice should rightly cover all activity; practice is coextensive with morals. Morals are concerned with "all activity into which alternative possibilities enter," i.e. where "a difference between better and worse arises." Dewey argues that this includes "potentially…every act" within the scope of morals insofar as better and worse alternatives for action present themselves, i.e. almost always.[14] The need for morals originates in the conflict of different ends, rights and duties, and the office of morals is to reflect upon and help resolve such conflicts over better and worse alternatives. Morality, then is not a special kind of action, as its scope may take in all of action. Moral theory is an inquiry with the objective of expanding what makes life worthwhile, the good, throughout all human relationships. It is meliorist in the attempt to improve life through expanding the good.[15]

Dewey calls his method in moral theory "experimental." "It implies that reflective morality demands observation of particular situations, rather that fixed adherence to a priori principles…for trying different measures so that their effects may be capable of observation and of comparison."[16] Close analysis of situations is emphasized over fixed principles in this method, a point Dewey will emphasize again and again.[17] Trial and error are also used to determine effects or results, such that these can be evaluated. In short, it involves tests for moral notions similar to those in science involving the treatment of theories as hypotheses, experiments and close observation of consequences. Dewey views such tests as both practically worthwhile and as a guard against stifling dogma, which precludes inquiry into moral questions.[18] Moral principles are not rejected, however; they are used as tools to help deal with the situation. The correct role of principles, rules and other moral maxims is as instruments for either understanding the situation better or helping resolve a problem perceived in it.[19] Legitimate principles embody past experience; the appeal to extra-temporal, immutable principles and ends are "without support."

I. Elements in the Value Situation

In order to make a case for the coherence of Dewey’s ethics, I will first examine its elements. Dewey analyzes the concrete situation in which valuations arise in some detail. The elements in this analysis will be treated distinctly below.[20] However, their essential continuity and interconnections should be kept in mind. It should not be inferred from the analysis of elements of a valuing situation that the elements are somehow isolated from one another. The latter would be precisely the opposite of Dewey’s analysis as he frequently stresses both the continuity and the interrelations of these elements. The first element is a problematic situation itself. "Valuation takes place only when there is something the matter…some…privation to be made good…by means of changing conditions."

[21] Normally, activity can take place based on the routine of habit and occasional impulse. Habits may reflect training, character and established social conventions. However, problems may arise to upset this routine, some "trouble in the existing situation." Moral reflection arises in a problematic situation. Until a disturbing situation arises, there is "no need, no desire, no valuation." Such disturbances cause a temporary unease, but in the long run may have a beneficial effect. "In fact, situations into which change and the unexpected enter are a challenge to intelligence to create new principles."[22] Disturbances in routine in the form of problematic situations create the opportunity for growth, the primary end. They may also provide new connections and meanings, further constituents in valuation. Thus Dewey can speak in one passage of the "good of the situation." The situation is not limited to that faced by an isolated individual, but includes social conditions as well, the social situation in which the individual must operate. These may also be problematic and require novel solutions. Dewey calls for remaking "social conditions so that they will…support fuller and more enduring values." What should be emphasized is that the problematic situation does not simply involve a subject but a social milieu and outer conditions.

Dewey contrasts different methods for dealing with problematic situations, especially his preferred "experimental" method to dogmatic ones. The experimental method applied to morality "demands observation of particular situations, rather than fixed adherence to a priori principles…."

[23] The situation is not subsumed under the principle but is examined on its own to determine what is uniquely problematic about it. Dewey rejects the idea that there could be any a priori standard for determining solutions to a problematic situation. He calls instead for a "hypothetical solution" which, in parallel with the experimental method, poses a hypothesis as an answer which testing in practice will resolve as correct or incorrect. Such a solution "performs the function of resolution of a problem for the sake of which it is adopted…" An a priori method will not necessarily fit a novel and unique situation, a change in circumstances. The warrant for this rejection of any a priori method is the unique element of any situation, a point Dewey repeatedly emphasizes. Since a problematic situation is generally novel, and thus is not covered by traditional answers or customs, it may require experimental solutions. Failure to study such unique features is an ongoing problem in philosophy, which Dewey even labels as a "common philosophical fallacy." This is the mistake of assuming that "whatever is found true under certain conditions may forthwith be asserted universally or without limits and conditions."[24] Dewey argues that it is "forgotten that success is a success of a specific effort and satisfaction the fulfillment of a specific demand."[25] The uniqueness of the circumstance is the starting point of appraisal of any value situation. Failure to study such situations closely will invariably end with bad results. Dewey, however, always qualifies the role of any one element of a problematic situation, and the situation itself is no exception. The situation "never completely dominates" due to the presence of habit; there is a fund of experience the individual can draw on so that they are not overwhelmed by any situation. However, routines which seem non-moral in isolation can "derive moral significance from the ends to which they lead." Thus moral considerations can be "present" in habitual actions.[26]

The next element in a value situation is desire, which may include interest, liking and the other synonyms familiar from Prall and the interest theory for a conative theory of value. Dewey submits the interest theory to a sustained critique without entirely jettisoning it: desire is incorporated as one element in valuation. Desire is created in a problematic situation, i.e. it arises in a concrete context. "We change character from worse to better only by changing conditions…The stimulation of desire and effort is one preliminary in the change of surroundings."

[27] Desire includes a striving or urge to act, not a mere feeling of lack or a wish. However, desire is transformed in accordance with the principles outlined above, viz. close attention to the circumstances of the problematic situation and to the hypothetical method of dealing with such situations. The latter in particular involves critical scrutiny of desire or interest to determine its adequacy to both the situation and to overall values such as growth and life. Social conditions are also overlooked by the interest theory, which neglects "the role of cultural conditions and institutions in the shaping of desires and ends and thereby of valuations."[28] Desires are not entirely autonomous in a subject but may reflect a social situation by which they have been formed.

The problematic situation creates a desire to resolve a problem, a perceived lack which generates the formulation of a need relative to the situation.

[29] Just as success is tied to specific circumstances, so is the projected end: "in fact we envisage the good in specific terms that are relative to existing needs."[30] The object needed or desired is projected as good, in that it will resolve the problematic situation.

Dewey argues against the long tradition of deploring desires that desires have a positive function since they often specify an object which will resolve a problem. They are a desire for something which is lacking. Dewey is perhaps more careful than the advocates of the interest theory in distinguishing the object of desire from the desire for such an object. Dewey speaks of "the actual emergence of desire and its object (and the value-property ascribed to the latter)."

[31] Objects are identified with goals, a distinct element in the value situation. Desires and interests may include "foreseen consequences" as well as signs of means needed to "bring the ends into existence." "The end-in-view of desire is that object which, if it were present, would secure a re-unification of activity and the restoration of its ongoing unity…link into an organized whole."[32] This passage introduces several new elements into the value situation, e.g. end-in-view, unity of activity and their relation to the organized whole. The latter involves a relation to overall values, e.g. growth. The problematic situation disrupts normal activity; restoration of activity to the unity of a process is the goal of an end-in-view. The object of desire is that which would accomplish this task, but not as a transcendent goal. It must be present: it is not the end or goal but the condition of achieving the end. Reaching a goal does not bring quiescence or an end to all desires; rather, it reunifies activity. Thus objects of desire must be evaluated with respect to their place in the whole process of life, i.e. to multiple ends, viewed sequentially. "Discrimination…is made precisely on the ground of whether the object of a given desire is viewed as, in turn, itself a conditioning means of further consequences."[33]

Evaluation of desires is important both in consideration of suitability for the specific circumstances of the problem, and in terms of the connection to the whole process. Dewey believed that the interest theory overlooked this element in the formation of desires. The distinction is characterized by the use of ‘desirable’ by contrast with what is simply desired. The desirable is what emerges from reflection upon and evaluation of what is desired in terms of the problematic situation and the overall process.

[34] What is desired is a matter of fact, not of value, even in the sense of value facts. It is not reflective of the method of experiment nor of reflection upon desire in terms of overall goals. "All growth in maturity consists in not immediately giving way to such tendencies…" i.e. to impulsive desires but "remaking them" in terms of consequences, i.e. evaluating them. Giving in to impulses, or unreflective desires, is a mark of immaturity, of a lack of character. Desires alone are not enough to decide a course of action. "Desires and interests must themselves be evaluated as means in their interaction with external or environing conditions."[35] A context is needed to differentiate desires and to compare them to the problematic situation in order to "measure the worth of different valuations in comparison with one another."[36] Evaluation of desires as better or worse results in a judgment of what is desirable.

Is the desirable one desire among others, which has been evaluated worthy or a transformation of desires into something else? In order to answer this question the relation of desire to value must be examined. Dewey states that "desire and valuation of objects proposed as ends are inherently connected…." Desire is spoken of as "producing valuations," and the role of "emotion and desire in the framing of means and ends" is mentioned.

[37] Since valuation is connected primarily with activity, which involves action as a means to an end, desire can help in the formulation of such an end of activity by providing a possible object as an end-in-view. Thus it may generate activity which moves in a new direction away from the problematic situation towards its resolution. As means are appraised as part of ends in view for Dewey, a point which will be discussed below, desires can generate means as well. Dewey argues that "valuation of desire and interest, as means correlated with other means, is the sole condition for valid appraisal of objects as ends." However, such ends in view are not one unreflective desire among others which have been evaluated more worthy. "The occurrence of a desire related to an end-in-view is a transformation of a prior impulse or routine habit. It is only in such cases that valuation occurs."[38] Desire is transformed into the desirable through deliberation on means and ends.

Another aspect of the situation is that desires are formed contextually, in terms of and in reaction to the concrete situation in which they arise. They are not mere random impulses, but the product of the problematic situation itself, particularly the desire to resolve the problem. It is in this respect that Dewey speaks of "the desire actually formed and hence the valuation actually made."

[39] The desire formed is the one which has a relation to the valuation made. Dewey is too subtle not to recognize that in some situations, at least, a desire may be evaluated desirable. Since each end-in-view is properly evaluated with respect to a situation, a desire generated by that situation may well be appropriate. However, it must still pass the critical tests which are involved in formation of ends-in-view. Thus some texts speak of desire in relation to ends-in-view rather than the desirable, as this situation is feasible. So long as the process of formation of desires in a situation is kept in mind, the evaluation of one desire among others as desirable is consistent.

The end in view is, as I noted above, the object or objective which will resolve the problematic situation, thus is desirable. Both elements are required for valuation, as "desirable" alone without an object would be blind, but is a condition of both striving or activity and evaluation of ends-in-view. "Wherever there are desires, there are ends-in-view, not simply effects produced as in the case of sheer impulse, appetite and routine habit. Ends-in-view as anticipated results reacting upon a given desire are ideational by definition."

[40] They are ideas of what will resolve the problematic situation: the object which has been evaluated desirable or the objective. Ends-in-view are constituted as working ends for further activity but should not be confused with consequences. They are hypothetical ideas which will hopefully resolve the problematic situation. The actual outcome may not correspond to the hoped for one; the end-in-view is an idea for action, but may turn out badly. Dewey is careful to separate the end as a goal from the end as a consequence,[41] an ambiguity which is likely to cause confusion.

In terms of the problematic situation, the results which may be brought about, the end-in-view, may require care, i.e. activity to preserve what is prized. This is a consideration in bringing it about: is it worth the care it will require to preserve or maintain it? A new house may be a desire on one level, but will require maintenance. The care it will require is a consideration in the decision to make or purchase one. However, if an immediate object is considered good, its preservation may also be judged good.[42] The care required is one consideration, not the only one.

What is the relation of satisfaction of desire to value? Dewey explicitly states that he agrees with the Utilitarians that the moral good, and indeed every good, "consists in a satisfaction of the forces of human nature, in welfare, happiness."

[43] The problem with the Utilitarian view is that it is too future oriented and thus tends to delay present satisfaction, a point which was discussed above. The point here is that satisfaction of desire can be good. Enjoyments are values "in and of themselves." Humans "form purposes, strive for the realization of ends" because "they believe these ends have an intrinsic value of their own; they are good satisfactory."[44] Further, as Gouinlock stressed, such satisfactions can be "consummations" of an overall process in which an initially problematic situation is resolved.[45] Intrinsic values in the form of consummations of a process of activity are another consideration, then. Humans value such consummations and will pursue them. Enhancing such values may be a factor in evaluating alternative courses of action. However, they are not the only consideration, nor the foundation of the process, a point which will be covered below.

It was mentioned above that habit is disrupted by a problematic situation. Is there any role for habit or blind impulse as elements in the value situation? Dewey argues that action can have an end-in-view or it can be habitual: "action may take place with or without an end-in-view." In the latter case, "there is overt action with no intermediate valuation: a vital impulse or settled habit."

[46] Settled habit and instinctive impulse are alternative sources of action, which prevent the actor from being overwhelmed by a situation. Getting out of the way of danger is sometimes instinctive or automatic, for if deliberation were to take place, it might take too long to prevent bad consequences. Dewey states that an experienced adult knows more "with their habits, not with their ‘consciousness’…."[47] Habit is fixed routine of activity which normally predominates, e.g. in exercising a skill. It is manifested in behavior in which consciousness may play only a token role: it is not deliberative. Dewey notes that "in fact, ends or consequences are still determined by fixed habit and the force of circumstance." It is only if a problematic situation arises that habit is disrupted and impulse proves inadequate. However, impulses may be the root of desires, as was noted above. Thus the problematic situation involving valuation may be exceptional. This does not mean, however, that habit and impulse are beyond the scope of values. On the contrary, Dewey argues that their value is indispensable for normal activity. Caring for and prizing may involve forms of habit.

Another element in a value situation is the role of intelligence. Intelligence has a crucial double role in deliberation and the formation of ends.[48] "Intelligence is concerned with foreseeing the future so that action may have order and direction." Along with imagination, intelligence is involved in study of conditions, articulating ends or goals, in connecting them with means and in anticipating probable consequences of action. Without intelligence as an instrument, the unique conditions of the problematic situation could not be analyzed, distinguished and compared. Further, hypotheses as means of resolving the problematic situation are formulated by intelligence, based in part on past experience. Intelligence is not "cold;" it is indispensable in mediating desire and the object of desire. By the latter is meant "the things which figure as in imagination their goals." The objective also requires imagining what will satisfy a duly recognized desire. In sum, values are "identical with goods that are the fruit of intelligently directed activity." Intelligence and imagination are indispensable tools for resolving problematic situations by giving activity a positive direction.

A further role of intelligence is in relation to the meaning of activity: intelligence creates the connections which constitute meaning for Dewey. "An activity has meaning in the degree in which it establishes and acknowledges variety and intimacy of connections."

[49] In a sense this is a requirement involved in the distinction between immediate and ultimate good in Dewey’s theory of value. Immediate goods may not be connected with long-term well being. There are further connections to be made, however, such as situation to means, means to ends, ends-in-view to consequences, consequences to the social and non-social environment, resolution to personal habits and experiences, etc. The richness of such connections and relations is one general measure of the value of a proposed solution. Dewey notes the role of meaning in the deliberative process. "The next step is to identify the sought for good with the meaning of our impulses and our habits, and the specific moral good or virtue with learning this meaning."[50] The end-in-view should have a positive relation to our overall person, as manifested in our habits, as well as a moral lesson for character. Meaning is central for Dewey, since his theory is holistic, and the various connections of the parts to the whole constitute meanings.

The other role of intelligence is in actually constituting ends-in-view. "There is present an intellectual factor—a factor of inquiry—whenever there is valuation, for the end-in-view is formed and projected as that which, if acted upon, will supply the existing need or lack and resolve the existing conflict." The role of intelligence is to articulate this objective, formulate it from the fund of experience, connect it with suitable means and so on, based on an inquiry into the actual situation and judgments as to the suitability of ends. The latter are thus constituted by the situation as proposals to meet the specificity of the situation: "ends in view having the value that justifies their adoption on the ground of the problem."  Mere desire is not enough in determining goals: an intelligent study of conditions is required to yield "practicality and constitute it a working end."

Intelligent judgment is required in evaluation as well.

[51] Evaluation consists in weighing different competing ends to decide which is better under the circumstances, i.e. which is valuable, desirable or worth pursuing. The only way to compare values is "to measure the worth of different valuations in comparison with one another," as a priori standards are rejected by Dewey as a point of comparison. "The ‘value’ of different ends that suggest themselves is estimated or measured by the capacity they exhibit to guide action in making good, satisfying…existing lacks."[52] Different possible ends must be compared to determine which best resolves the problematic situation, especially with respect to restoring unified activity: which will involve a melioristic direction of growth. In this respect, general ideas of value can function as useful tools for evaluation: "rules for evaluation of particular desires and ends…."[53] This may also involve classification of the kind of value at issue, e.g. health, economic values, etc.; classification may be another tool. Desire does not confer value on objects, as ends are at least somewhat independent of contexts, due to the connections to overall values, social life, etc. Another factor in evaluation besides intelligence, general notions of value, and the problematic situation itself is the social setting. "The great bulwark of wisdom in judging values is a just and noble social order."[54]

Dewey states that "the problem of valuation in general as well as in particular cases concerns things that sustain to one another the relation of means-ends." Consideration of means is not only another element in the value situation, but is central, as Dewey’s modification or transformation of it is crucial in understanding his theory of value. As L.D. Willard has noted, means and ends form a continuum, whose value is as a whole.[55] What should be stressed in this context is that consideration of means no less than ends, and as inseparably connected with ends, is an important element in valuation. It is important in the first place as the condition of the end, of resolving the problem. "The needful or required is that which is existentially necessary if an end-in-view is to be brought into actual existence." Thus there is a necessary connection between means and ends: means are required for ends and thus must be considered in formulating ends, a point Dewey stresses in his critique of autonomous ends. Another point is that means have to do with facts, viz. what is existentially required. This places means in principle within the purview of the scientific or experimental method and constitutes an implicit critique of non-cognitivism: means are knowable and can be publicly compared. Theories, principles and rules are not ruled out however: they are intellectual means which can be utilized as appropriate. The role of theory is in investigating or inquiring into the "things sustaining the relation of ends-means." The results of such an investigation can be brought to bear on the formation of ends, due to the necessary relation of means and ends. 

Means are a form of activity; action is the most common agency of effecting ends, i.e. the means as a causative factor. These can be evaluated, since Dewey refers to the "value of various courses of action." Activity seems to be a larger word encompassing action as well as the associated factors in the situation; it may also include habitual or impulsive actions. Bringing something into existence to satisfy a lack is not named but can be referred to as ‘actualization,’ by contrast with potential existence: what has actually been brought about. Intelligence again has a role to play in the study of methods of acting to enhance values, deliberation. "The chief consideration in achieving concrete security of values lies in the perfecting of methods of action."

[56] Thus action is directly connected with the overall activity of melioration, i.e. it is instrumental to a positive direction for activity which will increase the sum of good. Dewey argues that the separation of theory from practice in much of the tradition has not tended to render the values conducive to a good life secure. Practice consists in the actual methods of action which are in use, particularly within a particular society or culture. The practical problem is the integration of intelligent sources of value into existing behavior, i.e. improving behavior in a positive direction. Dewey refers to the project in which "prizing and appraising unite in the direction of action,"[57] and thus are integrated into activity as a whole.

The connection to overall values is that action as means contributes or is instrumental to sustaining life. It is clear that Dewey has a notion of an overall value: an "inclusive" or "comprehensive" good.[58] An overall or "inclusive" value is "maintained in adverse circumstances," that is in spite of them and it must endure through such changes, i.e. over immediate circumstances and the ends connected with them. Thus it is not the direct end of desire, which would be contingent upon immediate circumstances. It belongs to the self apart from circumstances as a state of one’s character.

[59] It is inclusive, as all immediate values must harmonize with it to some degree; it includes these situational values in an inclusive relation. Such inclusive values include happiness, [60] growth

[61] and life itself. An inclusive end harmonizes immediate, situational and particular ends.

In Dewey’s later works, growth is emphasized as the overall or inclusive end,[62] a point which was noted previously. "The end is growth itself. To make an end a final goal is but to arrest growth." The condition of betterment, whether improvement of character, of a problematic situation or some other goal, is growth. Since growth remains the goal in spite of particular circumstances, it can be characterized as an overall, inclusive end, like happiness. Indeed, Dewey argues that the various ends tied to particular circumstances aim at growth. In turn, growth is tied to self-fulfillment.[63] To grow is to develop; fulfillment is the culmination of growth. However, Dewey argues that "continuity of growth" is the "alternative to fixity of principles and aims." Growth must not stop if any one end is achieved, but continue. Nor is growth future oriented, which an end as goal might imply. Dewey urges that we prize opportunities for present growth. In sum, he advances a "practical idealism" in which the ideal of continuous development is tied to concrete conditions for growth. Practicable idealism is found only in a fulfillment, a consumption which is a replenishing, growth, renewal of mind and body. Harmony of social interests is found in widespread sharing of activities significant in themselves.


 As immediate ends ideally incorporate growth and a positive direction of change, they are compatible with it. The means-ends continuum would make little sense if it did not make some reference to larger ends and goals. However, Dewey’s insistence upon the importance of considering circumstances in the problematic situation provides a balance for the claims of overall goals.On the other hand, there is the notion of longer-term goals as regulative over more immediate goals, given requisite qualifications such as relevance to a situation, etc. These include life, growth, progress and development as well as, perhaps, happiness. The importance of these longer-term or overall ends is stressed in a passage in which Dewey criticizes Utilitarian calculations of advantage. "The thing actually at stake in any serious deliberation is not a difference of quantity, but what kind of person one is to become, what sort of self is in the making, what kind of a world is making."

[65] These factors bring the choice involved in the immediate situation in relation to other factors: character, self, world. Such relations are part of the meaning of the activity and may be decisive in evaluation of one option over another. There is also the instrumental role of ideals, which, properly utilized, can be valuable tools for analyzing the problematic situation. Ideals are identified with the highest good by Dewey.[66] He does not deny intrinsic qualities, although even these involve a relation of a quality to an activity or thing, but argues that these have relations to overall goals or more inclusive goods.[67] The latter are not fixed, transcendent, etc. but are "stable" or endure from situation to situation. Included would be the life of the organism which encounters situations, its growth processes, etc., in short natural elements of a living organism. The relation of the short-term in time to the long-term in time constitutes some of the meaning of the situation. In sum, inclusive goods are one consideration in a problematic situation, and regulate immediate satisfactions. However, they are not foundational. Overall or inclusive values such as happiness, growth and life are holistic values which harmonize individual acts in terms of character, or overall development taken as a whole.

The final element of the situation which shall be considered in this section is its resolution or outcome, the achievement of the goal, the result or consequence. Since consequences are included in the original definition of pragmatism, it is to be expected that they will play some important role in resolution of the problematic situation and evaluation of the solution. This is indeed the case; ends-in-view are judged less in terms of their intrinsic value than in terms of their consequences. Consequences are ends of action and so ends of a type, but as I noted above, Dewey distinguishes ends-in-view or goals from ends as results. The latter is "existential" rather than an idea and is the ground of the value of the former. "Valuation of ends-in-view is tested by consequences that actually ensue."

[68] If the goal is not achieved, something about the proposed resolution is defective. Thus means, as necessarily connected with ends, are also judged by consequences, by efficacy in actually improving the situation. It might seem as though Dewey were offering a consequentialist theory of value as it were, i.e. that value be defined in terms of successful consequences. However, this would be misleading, as the outcome is only one element in the situation. Consequences are indeed important in evaluation of the end-means, but the activity also has connection to the overall processes of life and growth. Thus consequentialism is qualified by positive direction of growth or at least the long-term consequences have priority over immediate ones.[69] The consequences themselves can be evaluated from the perspective of overall values and activities. "Positive attainment, actual enrichment of meaning and powers opens new vistas and sets new tasks, creates new aims and stimulates new efforts."[70] The activity has a place in the life as a whole with its many different kinds of activities. A successful outcome involves the furtherance of this harmonic organization by the organism. "It is to resolve entanglements in existing activity, restore continuity, recover harmony, utilize loose impulse and redirect habit."[71]  Further, the consequence is not a final end, but the end of a determinate activity which may lead to others.

In this section I have outlined the elements which Dewey identifies in the problematic moral or value situation. These include particular problematic circumstances, desire and its satisfaction, habit and impulse, the construction of ends-in-view, the role of intelligence and evaluation, the use of means and action, caring, consummations of experience and inclusive ends, and the actual outcome or consequences. These elements, it must be stressed, are united as one activity with a specific context and result. However, they may sometimes be temporally separated as stages in a process.  I will examine consequences in more detail in the next section.

II. The Relation of Value and Obligation

Just as one would expect from a pragmatist, Dewey is primarily a consequentialist in ethics, i.e. moral obligations are determined and judged in terms of consequences.[72] Ends as consequences are the justification for means and obligation is defined in terms of such ends. Dewey endorses this connection: "ends, in the sense of actual consequences, provide the warrant for means employed—a correct position…."[73] The means to consequences relation is identical with the cause to effect relation; in this Dewey agrees with Aristotle and much of the tradition. However, this is not the end of the matter, for there are important qualifications to be made in the case of Dewey’s consequentialism. As I noted in the first section, morality is primarily social. Thus moral acts are concerned with social consequences or the social context of consequences. The consequences for society create or entail obligations or right. This is not a severe limitation, as for Dewey this includes almost all acts. "Potentially, therefore every and any act is within the scope of morals, being a candidate for possible judgment with respect to its better or worse quality."[74] As in the realm of value in general, morals are primarily regulative over actions. Secondly, morals also include self-development or self-realization, which has social consequences also, but is primarily concerned with development of self. For Dewey, of course, the self does not develop in isolation from society, but reflects and is dependent upon a supportive social framework and environment.[75] Nevertheless, this element of morality is distinct from social consequences in some respects. Thirdly, the present meaning of the act is of equal or greater weight than remote future consequences. One might say that immediate or temporally proximate consequences outweigh remote ones, but this is a qualification of the problematic of moral consequentialism as traditionally understood, e.g. in Mill and Moore.[76] Fourthly, the overall consequences for life and growth are another consequence to consider. Overall or inclusive values are not merely morally considerable in relation to a situation, but considered as consequences. Finally, Dewey’s consequentialism is not foundational, in the sense that intrinsic value or a summum bonum provides the entire warrant for obligation. Thus Dewey transformed "consequentialism" and provided a new model in which consequences are one important factor in moral justification, but not foundational.

Dewey notes that of two factors that "limit and define" a moral situation, "one is that consequences fix the moral quality of an act."[77] This answers the question of how the means is validated if not in terms of the end in the sense of the projected goal alone, for it is consequences which validate the means, with qualifications.[78] Moral means are included, i.e. acting according to principles, rules and the like. The validity of morals as an instrument lies in its suitability to achieve consequences which will resolve the problematic situation. Resolving this situation is the central focus, which may involve use of the experimental method in morals. Dewey calls for the use of inquiry and discovery in morals, not just in science. "Validation, demonstration become experimental, a matter of consequences."[79] However, moral consequences are distinct from other consequences as judgments and outcomes which are better or worse are involved, i.e. valued or disvalued.[80]

Dewey’s model for the relation of morals to value follows the traditional model of consequentialism, i.e. obligation is derived from good, although this is qualified in terms of what goods are considered good. However, Dewey’s consequentialism is not foundational, unlike that of Mill and Moore. That is, consequences are not conceived of as intrinsically valuable, and in turn, intrinsic value as fixed, intuited and singular. Dewey has presented a new model for consequentialism which is not foundational in structure. His philosophy is a critique of intrinsic values as a warrant for action apart from the many consequences of the action, in a sense a consequentialist critique of previous models of consequentialism.[81]

Dewey argues that "error comes into theories when the moral goods are separated from their consequences…."[82] Dewey rejects the separation of morals and valued consequences, as when the ends justify the means. Morals are also instrumental in connecting the immediate problematic situation to larger, overall goals. Their regulative function ensures some connection to growth, some larger meaning. Dewey’s consequentialism is not conceived as a series of discrete acts, as there are always relations to larger factors. "Morality is a continuing process, not a fixed achievement. Morals means growth of conduct in meaning…that kind of expansion in meaning which is consequent upon observations of the conditions and outcome of conduct."[83] Growth is not a fixed end point, but an ongoing process. Morals connect present activity to this ongoing process as a present meaning. "The good, satisfaction, ‘end’ of growth of present action in shades and scope of meaning is the only good within our control, and the only one, accordingly, for which responsibility exists."[84] Consequences for growth as a process involve immediate or present consequences taken as part of a larger whole. Dewey’s approach to consequentialism constitutes a rejection of mere calculation of future advantage, as in Utilitarianism. There is no gap between present means and future benefits, or between present activity and future consequences. As future consequences are difficult to predict exactly, or to control, Dewey regards moral judgments as hypothetical or "experimental," and "subject to revision" if they prove to be erroneous.

Consistent with his experimental approach, Dewey regards moral rules, principles and maxims as instruments in the problematic situation. They do not have a priori status as commands to be followed to the letter but they are not mere emotive expressions. They represent generalizations based on past experience[85] of how to handle certain kinds of situations. "Principles, criteria, laws are intellectual instruments for analyzing individual or unique situations."[86] In this role they can be valuable instruments, but must be used with caution. A close examination of the situation must be made to determine if it comes under the rule, if the rule is actually helpful or appropriate in the given situation. Dewey rejects the method of deduction from fixed principles as ignoring the unique features of the situation. Rules and principles which were helpful in the past are not necessarily of relevance for the unique problems of a novel circumstance, and cannot always be relied upon. "Each moral situation is unique and…consequently, general moral principles are instrumental to developing the individualized meaning of situations…."[87] The principles are instrumental, that is, not only to connecting the problematic situation to overall goals and connecting means to ends, but also to determining the uniqueness of the situation, the individual features of the situation. The situation is decisive in defining the problem; Dewey notes that the assertion of the individuality of cases goes against the treatment of moral situations in terms of universal laws and subordination of the particular case to principles in what he calls the generality/exception model.[88]

Further, changes in situations may call for corresponding changes in morals. "Morals must be a growing science if it is to be a science at all…because life is moving affair in which old moral truth ceases to apply."[89] The changes in a life must be reflected in morals: morality must change with circumstances. However, he also notes the omnipresence of rules in defining, regulating and constituting human relations. "Every recurrent form of activity, in the arts and professions, develops rules as to the best way in which to accomplish the ends in view."[90] Thus Dewey’s ethic is not a strict situation ethic, for the situation is determined with the help of principles, and brought into relation with larger goals and meaning.

The challenge for a consequentialist ethics is to demonstrate convincingly that obligation can be derived from valued consequences, i.e. that in light of some good or bad consequence that we are obliged to pursue it/avoid it, not merely that it would be desirable to do so.[91] Dewey argues that there is a sense of "requiredness" about moral consequences, while other goods permit more freedom in the sense of latitude. "Ends-in-view are appraised or valued as good or bad on the ground of the serviceability…right or wrong on the ground of being required for this end."[92] Right is defined as "inherently connected with that which is needed, required, in the maintenance of a course of activity."[93] Moral norms are appraised as requisite to achieve an end, not merely as desirable. In their reference to future consequences, they refer more to what "should happen" much more than what will happen. Obligation or right is distinguished from the good in the "sense of a condition to be conformed to in definite forms of future action."[94] Thus Dewey argues that value should be connected only with likings and desires that judgment has approved, which have a claim on our attitude and conduct. Not just any desire is to be pursued, but those which are morally acceptable.

Although the morals of present activity are instrumental, they are not inferior in worth to the end, for they help determine the end, i.e. judgments of better or worse actions to better or worse consequences. This is one important qualification of Dewey’s consequentialism: morals are not simply derived from some fixed end, but help determine the end. Consequences are deliberated, not fixed. Indeed, Dewey argues that movement toward a goal, positive direction of change, is more important than possession of it. The "process of evolution" is more important for freedom and happiness than the "ulterior goal."[95] As an ongoing process, morality has the consequence of continuing growth. This is an educational process; "morals is education. It is learning the meaning of what we are about and employing that meaning in action."[96] Education does not end after formal schooling, for self-discovery is a continuous process of growth in which decisions reveal who we are and in turn influence new problematics.

Since consequences are not determined in relation to a fixed end, the question arises of which consequences are to be regulative? How are consequences to be gauged? Dewey would answer in terms of superior solutions to problematic situations, ones which mark a positive direction of change. As was noted above, Dewey rejects the notion that any single consequence is paramount. Picking out one end, the basis of traditional morals in the form of a summum bonum, is arbitrary. Many consequences have to be considered. This includes moral consequences as well, that is, consequences for society and social relations, for betterment of the world and self. Thus Dewey’s consequentialism, like the others, involves calculation of the social consequences of a considered action.[97] Moral rules are instrumental, but social consequences are part of the calculation of ends-in-view. Dewey’s form of consequentialism, like Prall’s, includes morals in the form of society as an element in considering consequences. Morals are not merely instrumental, for the social consequences of an act are among the factors to be considered. There are other elements as well in relating an action to consequences.  The positive direction of change which is a mark of growth brings the act into relation with an ongoing process; the consequences for present growth are another important factor. Growth is a character of life, so the consequences for life are an overall consideration. Dewey argues that the question of the ultimate warrant or source of authority for morals cannot be answered, but in another sense "the authority is that of life."[98] Clearly, consequences detrimental to life, one’s own or others’, would ultimately end growth, the possibility of improvement, etc., in other words all goods. "Considerations of right are claims originating not outside of life but within it." These considerations involve "actualities of existence," not ends or ideals independent of concrete actualities.

In general, morals are generic for all the particular kinds of social goods but extend secondarily as a good into individual character and self-development. The origin of morals lies in social customs; mores "did not originate to serve conscious ends," that is they were not originally designed.[99] Although customs are generally adopted to conditions, they are in any case moral standards, i.e. "active demands for certain ways of acting." Such demands are the basis for right, which is at first socially defined. "Right is only an abstract name for the multitude of concrete demands which others impress upon us, and of which we are obliged, if we would live, to take some account."[100] Thus for Dewey "morals are social. The question of ought, should be, is a question of better or worse in social affairs."[101] From this point of view, character is an effect or consequence of a good society, while equal opportunity of self-development is a mark of a good society. Dewey argues that right as subordinate to good has merit if social pressures are also good, i.e. enlightened and reasonable. The good is in relation to life, rather than just social utility: the social life of individuals in a community.

Dewey’s consequentialism is not confined to social consequences, however. Positive direction of change includes a positive direction for self in the form of character. The effects of a proposed solution upon character are another factor in evaluation. A central group of problems in morals lies in disharmonies and conflicts which arise naturally, e.g. in a conflict between desires and intelligence. Choosing in such a conflict has to do with character, both its formation and its consequences. Indeed, such choices are a good example of the problematic situation in that past choices have revealed one’s character as a result and this result is instrumental in resolving further conflicts. Character is formed as a process in which past ends become instrumental to further ends. Change of character also involves reference to conditions: "we change character from worse to better only by changing conditions."[102] In this respect Dewey can speak of "values which should be regulative of human conduct" on the basis of "actual conditions and operations by which alone values can be actualized."[103] The moral values which mark character regulate conduct; these require conditions of actualization as much as any other values. Thus formation of character requires certain conditions which are requisite for its cultivation: the morally required. They are required if good character is to result: a standard or socially approved character.[104] Dewey ties obligation to the inculcation of such standards of character in conduct. "Wherever standard values figure in any way, the function of should or ought comes in, so that the office and intent of influencing, directing subsequent behavior is clearly in evidence."[105] Obligations direct behavior to socially approved standards which, as habits, mark a moral character. Moral development is the perfection of character.[106]

It would be misleading to view character solely in terms of social approbation. Dewey is aware that there is a connection between character and growth in the form of self-development. Still another moral consequence to be considered in any evaluation is the consequence for self and growth of self. To grow is to develop, as I noted above; a positive direction of change is a development located in an individual self. Dewey argues that this is fundamental: moral criteria attach more value to "what men and women are capable of becoming" than actual attainments; to "possibilities, not possessions." Development means, "what they can grow into."[107] Dewey cautions, of course, against setting up self-realization as a transcendent ideal or a single fixed end. Potentialities of development never stop, and Dewey thinks that we are always potentially able to improve. In a sense, Dewey’s is an extreme form of self-development, for development and growth never cease. This provides a test of the value of social institutions, which, as we saw above, are decisive conditions of character formation. "The test of their value is the extent to which they educate every individual into the full stature of his possibility."[108] Social obligation is reciprocal in that just as the individual must take social consequences into account in decisions, society owes members equal opportunity for full development of potential.[109]

Morality grew out of the natural goods of life such as art and science, but is also a part of them, a holistic relation of mutual reinforcement. Dewey calls for "doing away with" the traditional distinction between moral goods, such as the virtues, and the other goods of life. Morals as social permeate the other goods insofar as they are social products or reflect social conditions. Dewey adamantly opposes treating morals as a "separate compartment of life," as if, for example, economics or politics should not take morals into consideration. Moral goods in the narrow sense not only ignore conditions and consequences but most of life as well. The result is that "a moral moratorium prevails for everyday affairs."[110] Dewey’s alternative model makes morals generic for all the goods of life, considered with respect to their improvement. "Morals are at home wherever considerations of the worse and better are involved…."[111] This applies to all the goods of life, e.g. whether an economic policy shall be implemented or not, as this can be judged to better or worsen economic conditions. Dewey believes a careful examination of conditions, past economic practices and principles can be used instrumentally to improve conditions. Experimentation may be involved, just as in scientific method, but will have better or worse consequences, and thus is under the generic province of morals. "The experimental logic when carried into morals makes every quality that is judged to be good according as it contributes to amelioration of existing ills."[112]

The richness of Dewey’s pluralistic version of consequentialism should be apparent from this brief summary. By rejecting a single fixed end, Dewey can incorporate consequences for life, growth, self-development and character, and society while sticking to the solution to a problematic situation. Behavior is defined normatively as character, not a mere stimulus and response. But conduct takes place in a social and natural setting or environment. The life, growth and development of the organism is as much a consequence of moral concern as consequences for others. All of these factors must be considered in evaluating decisions in any problematic situation. Dewey has opened up the potentialities of consequentialism by breaking with the notion of fixed ends.

III. Holistic Moral Justification

Dewey has a different model of the relation of value to morality than that of many in the tradition, such as Mill.[113] Specifically, Dewey rejects "fundamental" or "foundational" grounding of morals in intrinsic value. Morality is not based on intrinsic value, although intrinsic value is part of naturalistic processes. Thus Dewey would reject the model of basing moral obligation on intrinsic value and with it a foundational model for consequentialism.[114] Dewey argues that the latter model is not the only way to justify ethics. [115]

The scope of morals is wide for Dewey and includes all acts. Moral considerability, however, is not grounded in acts alone, but involves consideration of a number of elements. These include, firstly, a problematic situation, a perceived condition which is considered to be disturbing, bad, defective, in need of change, etc. Second is the formation of valuations, desires and ends-in-view. These include the role of intelligence and evaluation in mediating impulses, i.e. in deliberation upon whether impulses, including desires, should be acted upon. Intelligent action is required to resolve any problematic situation. The function of intelligence in this regard is the gathering of information, including past solutions, for use as a tool in determining the best course of action. This may include experimental possibilities which are novel solutions to novel situations, echoing scientific experimentalism. Trial and error may be among the possible options of intelligent action. Evaluation of possible solutions for overall superiority is part of intelligent deliberation. Evaluation of desires includes a normative element, which transforms the idea of what is desired in terms of the desirable. Fourth is consideration of means, whether they are suitable, moral, etc. Another consideration, closely related to deliberation about means, is that the proposed solution will generate new activities and require prizing and caring for what is prized. A positive direction of change is fifth, whether a proposed act will actually improve the problematic situation in a melioristic direction and restore harmony and include valued consummations of experience as factors. Sixth, there is overall value in terms of life and growth as a factor regulative of immediate good. Finally, whether or not the outcome of the proposed action actually has the consequences which were aimed for is the test of the proposed solution, and another element to consider. Above all, the relations of all these factors in time and space, as an ongoing process in the web of relations must be considered.

Dewey still has a strong consequentialist element in his moral thought and this element, combined with the other elements of moral consideration, provide an alternative model for the moral justification. Consequences provide a basis or reason for acting morally according to Dewey. Obligations are what is required for carefully evaluated ends in the sense of consequences, i.e. ends which have been intelligently considered and incorporate all the factors of moral deliberation, not just intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is included in moral consideration, but is not the ultimate basis for all the other elements. Moral obligation, then, is consequentialist in the narrow sense, but morally justified only if the consequences have been carefully considered in terms of all the elements in relation. Consistent with Dewey’s rejection of foundationalism in ethics, the culmination does not justify all of the rest. On the contrary, each of the many factors and relations involved in problematic situations, which were analyzed in the first section, has its own role to play. Dewey’s "consequentialism" places consequences among the many elements which must be considered in any problematic situation. Consequences are of considerable importance, but not privileged.

The question which was raised at the beginning of whether Dewey’s early ethics was later replaced is that the two are consistent. Self-development or self-realization is a form of "growth" and the latter remains the overall value in the later works. Development is connected with an organic view in which an organism develops in certain natural ways in the growth process.[116] Development in a certain direction is considered favorable or virtuous. Thus the ethics of self-realization is a form of character ethics, the ethics of perfection of character or virtue. In neither the early nor the late works of Dewey is individual development the sole focus of ethics, however. Social consequences are morally considerable in both periods. Character is situated within a cultural milieu of "folkways" or customs. Dewey was well aware that character involved a social element in that character is developed by social forces and within a social environment. Obligation is also based on consequences in the early and later works. What changes is the emphasis.

The answer to Honneth’s argument[117] that there is an "unresolved conflict" in Dewey’s ethics is that Dewey is not a foundationalist. He does not base justification upon value alone, whether situational goods, individual goods, overall goods such as happiness or "inclusive" goods. Nor is it based upon consequences alone, important as these are. Dewey in effect has proposed a novel thesis of moral considerability, in which the many factors which must be considered in any problematic situation are all relevant to moral decisions. Since they must all be considered, they are all morally considerable. This is a holistic theory in which all of the elements considered in a problematic situation are within the scope of morals. Dewey’s theory is not an alternative foundationalism in which obligation is based on instrumental value instead of intrinsic value. Rather, both intrinsic and instrumental values are morally considerable elements among others. Moral justification is not based on intrinsic value, or just the situation or inclusive ends or even the consequences, but all the morally significant elements in relation. As in Lewis, Dewey’s "proceduralism" is not deontological, for obligation is based on consequences. But Dewey is not a consequentialist in the Utilitarian sense either: both consequences and rules are morally considerable. His ethic is not a shift from character ethics to rule-governed ethics or consequentialism, as he incorporates elements of all these approaches and thus expands moral considerability to include self, society and circumstances. Moral obligation is based on moral considerability in the holistic sense. Thus desire is an element but is qualified by circumstances and the desirable.[118] Rationality has reference to desire. Instrumentality, i.e. means are relative to circumstances; deliberation is upon means at hand, etc. Situational needs generate desires, which are evaluated for what ought to be prized, which become ends, the cause of deliberation upon means at hand, evaluated in terms of consequences, which when achieved may generate new needs, and so on. Overall or inclusive values are a check on the immediately valued. Consequences provide a test but are not foundational. They are modified by what is prized or desirable.[119] Even situations are subject to the experimental method, and modified by a fund of habits of character. These elements form their own web of relations in deliberation just as natural elements form a web of relations in an environment. "Procedures" in Dewey are not mere rules but include the entire process of moral deliberation in which the elements are all considered in their relations.

Dewey is holistic and no one element is more important than the whole web of relations in moral deliberation. "Life as a whole" and life as an "ongoing system of activities"[120] are holistic formulas for integrating values. Holism is present in the rejection of foundationalism in which moral justification is based solely on a relation to individual subjective states. Dewey has attempted to overcome such dualisms as that of subject and object. There are a plurality of goods in relation to one another which are factors in all moral deliberation. This relation of the many factors is like a relation of parts to a whole in an organism.[121] As all factors together must be considered, including intrinsic value and consequences, moral justification cannot be reduced to an ultimate foundation. Again, Dewey’s consequentialism involves the relation of right and good, but these are not the only factors in moral deliberation. The system of relations and meanings includes all the relevant elements which are deliberated upon in the problematic situation. 

IV. Summary and Conclusion

Dewey accepts many ideas of traditional ethics, including the universal scope or application of morals, the strong incorporation of values, the relation of means and ends in some form, and the important role of rationality. However, Dewey’s criticisms of traditional ethics have the ironic result of actually expanding the role of morals. For Dewey is an acute critic of the narrowing of ethics which has been the trend especially of modern thought. Morality grew out of the natural goods of life such as art and science, but is also a part of them, a holistic relation of mutual reinforcement. Dewey calls for "doing away with" the traditional distinction between moral goods, such as the virtues, and the other goods of life. Morals as social permeate the other goods insofar as they are social products or reflect social conditions. Dewey’s critique of foundationalism in ethics is also a critique of the ethics of perfection of character, which is now known by the unfortunate rubric "virtue ethics." For Aristotle, character is grounded in the natural fixed ends defined by human nature as a "state of being."  Dewey introduces a new theory of character as active habits defined in relation to the overall process of growth as change.  As Pappas has noted,[122] this undermines the dualism of act-centered views (the "ethics of doing") and character centered views (the "ethics of being") by incorporating growth and development, consideration of consequences and other elements into a larger whole, where all the elements are considered. Character is revealed in action, i.e. in habits of action.

The major modifications introduced by Dewey are his acute and careful analysis of the elements involved in resolution of the problematic situation and their interrelation. Further, Dewey contributed to moral philosophy by his emphasis on the uniqueness of the concrete situation as the most important element in the resolving the situation as problematic, his emphasis on the mediating role of intelligence in deliberation and evaluation and his location of primary value in activity, not subjective states or objects. His views can be considered a naturalistic critique of the subjective, inward turn taken by modern ethics. The introduction of the experimental methods of science into moral deliberation, was a new approach to a classic issue; his criticism of the separation of ends from means is more consistent with the use of certain ends as means in the tradition.[123] Finally, Dewey took consequentialism seriously, and emphasized both the role of consequences in modifying future activity, their didactic role; and also the regulative role they ought to have over activity, their ethical role. Ends are reincorporated into practice as ends-in-view and results in Dewey’s critique of transcendent, fixed ends.

The relation of Dewey’s experimentalism to his holism is that they are complementary. Dewey thought that his method or version of holistic justification was experimental. It follows scientific procedure by careful analysis of problems, comparison with past situations, deliberation about possible solutions, etc.[124] Just as we do not doubt everything in science, but only selective parts of our knowledge which seem problematic, so we do not throw all customs and values overboard in a problematic situation. Dewey’s ethics is experimental in outlook, but not skeptical. We experiment in novel circumstances in which past solutions seem to provide little guidance. Habit, custom and social consensus may be adequate for routine circumstances.

Justification for Dewey is not foundational but holistic. There is no appeal to a timeless, static, fixed "given" value or end. Indeed, means may be justified as much by circumstances and results as by their relation to an end. Ends are not denied either in the sense of goals or in the sense of consequences. However, the justification of ends is neither their intrinsic value nor a summum bonum, but a whole circle of features and elements brought to bear on the circumstances in order to resolve a problematic situation. Dewey is careful to relate these to one another in a mutually reinforcing way. Thus circumstances are not the ultimate test, for their resolution is in terms of a positive direction of change, which includes both values, inclusive, overall goods and reference to consequences. Results are justified by conformity to projected ends, which form a kind of test or standard for them. The end-in-view is not some ultimate standard for it must be in relation to the circumstances. In sum, each of the elements in the problematic situation has meaningful connections to the others and thus is not ultimate. Justification follows an organic model in which a whole of the problematic situation is analyzed in terms of its parts as elements. The situation and consequences are perhaps central. However, they are incorporated into the overall activity of the organism by intelligence, trial and error, etc.

The method of intelligence involves a whole circle of justification: a new, anti-foundational model.[125] Dewey has moved from a foundational model based on intrinsic value[126] to activity as a process, incorporating many elements in various relations. Right is defined in relation to good, i.e. consequentially. In moral deliberation consequences are one factor among others and the basis of right. Ethics does concern both the right and the good for Dewey. The right is not reducible to the good, however, nor is Dewey a consequentialist in the foundational sense of utilitarianism.[127] Dewey is an organic holist, although the organic analogy can be overdrawn. The emphasis on circumstances describes the situation of the organism in the environment. His value theory incorporates conative elements and the means-end relation into a larger, contextual whole of the ongoing actions of an organism. "Improved valuation must grow out of existing valuations, subjected to critical methods of investigation that bring them into systematic relations with one another."[128] The means-end relation is conceived in terms of a more holistic continuum.


I will cite the following works of Dewey, which will be referred to by initial date of publication:

Dewey, John, Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1908, 1932 revision) co-authored with J. Tufts.

----------, Reconstruction in Philosophy (Boston: Beacon, 1920, 1972).

----------, Human Nature and Conduct (New York: Modern Library, 1922, 1957).

----------, Experience and Nature (New York: Dover, 1929a, (1958).

----------, The Quest for Certainty, A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action (New York: Capricorn/ Putnam, 1929b).

--------, "Theory of Valuation," from the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, Vol. II, #4, 1939).

----------, "The Field of Value," in Lepley, R., ed., Value, a Cooperative Inquiry (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1949) ch. 3, p. 66.

--------, "Experience, Knowledge and Value, a Rejoinder," in Schilpp, P., ed., The Philosophy of John Dewey (N.Y.: Tudor Publ., 1951) pp. 517-608.

See also the essays "Value, Objective Reference and Criticism," Phil. Rev., 34, 1925, 313-332; "The Ambiguity of Intrinsic Good," Journ. Phil., 39,1942, 328-30; "Valuation Judgements and Immediate Quality," Journ. Phil. 40, 1943, 309-317; and "Further as to Valuation as Judgment," Journ. Phil., 40, 1943, 543-52. These are all reprinted in John Dewey, The Later Works, ed. by Boydston, J. (Carbondale: So. Illinois Univ. Press, 1984 and also as Part III of The Problems of Men (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946) along with the essay from Lepley, above).

[1] The development of individual potential in moral growth in Dewey may be based on Aristotle’s analysis of potentiality and actuality; other ethical theories which emphasize self-realization, self-development, and the like trace the ontological model for this ethics back to Aristotle, E.g. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, 1883. (For Aristotle’s view see Meta, IX.) It is clear that Dewey was influenced by Green; this point is developed by Tiles, J.E., Dewey (London: Routledge, 1988) ch. 1). Indeed, the ethics of perfection of character as virtue in Aristotle may be a species of this, as Sahakian has suggested (Sahakian, W.S., Ethics, An Introduction to Theories and Problems, New York: Harper and Row/Barnes and Noble, 1974, ch. 5). For development is from a potential state to an actual state of some desirable character: the development of virtue. Dewey rejects the idea of ultimately final stages of growth, as I will note below. However, the naturalization of ethics as a general project is similar to Aristotle’s Ethics, as well as the use of organic models, i.e. that nature in the sense relevant to morals is biological. Another point of similarity is the inculcation of habits into humans as the agency of morality, although Dewey expands considerably upon the notion of habit by comparison with Aristotle. Still another is the retention of the relationship of means to ends. However, Dewey is particularly critical of the Aristotelian model on this issue, a point which will be covered in some detail below. The point here is that Dewey does not deny the relation; on the contrary he incorporates it after critically qualifying it, i.e. he transforms it. For both Aristotle and Dewey, ends and means are considered and chosen in a process of deliberation. This remains consistent throughout Dewey’s long career. (Cf. 1920, ch. 7, with 1939, sect. 4, p. 405.) There are minor points of similarity of content as well between Aristotle’s ethics and Dewey’s. E.g. the characterization of virtue as a habit (1922, I, 2, p. 19) and the use of happiness in the early ethical writings, e.g. 1908, pp. 214 ff. (Despite Gouinlock’s claim to the contrary, this text has to be used with some caution, as it was "throughout a joint work" and thus it is difficult to separate out Dewey’s views from those of his co-author, J. Tufts. For Gouinlock’s view see The Moral Writings of John Dewey, ed. Gouinlock, New York: Macmillan/Hafner, 1976, ch. 1, p. 22, n. 7). Happiness is not used in later texts to any degree; in any case, Dewey differed from Aristotle on the character of happiness. Another minor point of similarity is that both argue that some material goods are needed for a good life (for Dewey’s view on this point see 1929b ch. 10, p. 270.)

[2] Dewey in Lepley, 1949.

[3] It is at least arguable that Dewey would have liked to abandon "experience" as the framework for considerations of issues of values in favor of behavior although behavior is very widely defined. (My source on this point is Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value (New York: Humanities Press, 1972). Further, he seems to have been accelerating the movement away from the notion of intrinsic value, in the sense of presenting an alternative model for value theory. I will examine the latter point below.

[4] See Holmes, R. L., "John Dewey’s Moral Philosophy in Contemporary Perspective," Rev. Meta., XX: 1, 77, 1966, 42-70, p. 66 where the function of morals is to promote the ends of individual and social growth. Cf. Tiles, 1988, ch. 1, p. 6. Gouinlock and Caspary agree with one of the main theses of this paper, viz. that Dewey is not a consequentialist simple, but holistic. Gouinlock, for example, argues that Dewey’s procedure in ethics integrates all elements of the situation (1972, ch. 3, sect. 2). (For Caspary’s view see Caspary, W., "Judgments of Value in John Dewey’s Theory of Ethics," Educational Theory, 40/2, 1990, pp. 155-169.)

[5] In an interesting paper, Axel Honneth has argued that the notion of an ethics of character or virtue in the early writings was gradually replaced by a "procedural" ethics in the later works, which is similar to Kant’s ethics, that there is an unresolved tension between the two types, and that Dewey never satisfactorily resolves this tension. (For Honneth’s view see "Between Proceduralism and Teleology, an Unresolved Conflict in Dewey’s Moral Theory," Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society," 34:3, 1998, pp. 689-711). For a counterargument, see Caspary, W., 1990, pp. 155-169, who argues that "inclusive resolutions" require freedom and thus involve "human potential, human actualization." Virtue or character is involved in normative moral situations. (Growth and "self-fulfillment" are equated in 1922, III, 9, p. 251.) Cf. also below, n. 117 and 122. Honneth’s view also ignores the role of virtue in Kant’s ethics, which is set out at length in the second part of the Metaphysics of Morals.

[6] See n. 1.

[7] Dewey is if anything more critical of Kant than of Aristotle. He rejects what he takes to be the rationalistic and a priori approach to ethics wholesale, and is an emphatic consequentialist in certain respects. He rejects the notion of the value of transcendent ideals. In general, Dewey accepts Hegel’s criticisms of Kant, whether implicit or explicit. However, there are elements in Dewey which are similar to Kant. The foremost is that the good is "constructed" in judgments of value for Dewey; (cf. 1929b, ch. 10, "The Construction of Good," and 1949 passim. in which good as such is viewed as differing only in degree from judgments of value, not in kind.) This is methodologically similar to the determination of good by the principles of reason in Kant. Good itself is not foundational for either, but derivative and constituted through judgments. Such judgments are reached after deliberation on means and ends for both. Both are critical, like Plato, of the equation of desire with value, and see a mediating role for reason in determinations of the good, or what is desirable as opposed to what is desired. However, this is formed explicitly in terms of consequences for Dewey, not abstract considerations of moral worth without reference to consequences, as in Kant. Dewey’s experimentalism has some similarity to Kant’s "thought experiments" in the Critical Project, although both thinkers would probably not recognize the connection. Dewey’s view of philosophy as primarily a critical project may be an echo of Kant. Finally, Dewey sees both desires and values as conceptually mediated, and not, contrary to White, "given." See below, n. 118.

[8] Dewey was especially critical of Aristotle’s foundationalism, i.e. that knowledge and value are grounded in fixed being, and the derivative notion of intrinsic value (cf. below n. 78, 114 and 125). However, Dewey has much in common with Aristotle on many other points, particularly his naturalism. For a brief list of these similarities see n. 1.

[9] 1920, Introduction. Cf. 1951, where Dewey calls for moral "construction." I completely agree with Gouinlock that the exclusion of Dewey from among the great ethical thinkers of the twentieth century, e.g. in Werkmeister’s Theories of Ethics (Lincoln, Neb.: Johnsen Publ. Co., 1981) is a travesty. Gouinlock has argued that Dewey is less interested in exact proof than in enlightened conduct, practical moral improvement and value for life. For Gouinlock’s view see 1972, ch. 7, sect. 1.

[10] 1922, I, 3, p. 53. Holmes has argued that Dewey in his ethics comes down more on the side of  "personal choice," rather than "conventional moral rules." (1966) This is at best an exaggeration, as a glance at either Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1908, 1932 revision) ch. 10 or, 1922, Part IV, would confirm. In the former, social customs are seen as the source of moral rules and sufficient unless in conflict or if a new, problematic situation arises. (For the relation of moral reflection to custom see 1908, esp. ch. 10, sect. 1 and 5).  As Gouinlock remarked, "morally problematic situations are social in nature" ("Dewey’s Theory of Moral Deliberation," Ethics, 88:3, 1978, pp. 218-228, p. 225; cf. 1972, ch. 5, (a point echoed in the chapter he wrote on "Dewey," ch. 10 of Ethics in the History of Western Philosophy, ed. Cavalier, R., Gouinlock, J. and Sterba, J.P. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989) pp. 306-332, sect. 4 where moral deliberation is described as "social or democratic."). Morality is conceived of as "primarily social" in the latter work (1922) and throughout Dewey’s ethical writings (see also below on the different kinds of consequences which are morally considerable, of which social consequences are primary). Morals are the condition of society for Dewey. The elements of self-development and self-realization, while present, are conditioned by a host of regulative elements, including moral principles as instruments, intelligence, growth and character. Self-development is not a matter of personal choice, as what is realized is character, a standard of a sort which is trans-personal. Gouinlock has also pointed out that, in Dewey’s view, society shapes the individual through customs, culture, the inculcation of habits and character, and other social forces (1972, ch. 2, sect. 3). The atomic individual is not a "given," for Dewey, but a creation of individualistic society. I will cover this point in detail in section II, below. Cf. n. 101.

[11] 1908, ch. 10, p. 171-2. Dewey believed that just as we do not question all truths in science, but only certain particular ideas which have become problematic, so we do not question all social conventions or personal habits at once. Some social conventions are not questioned by even the most intractable social critics, e.g. that everyone driving in the same direction drive on the same side of the road.

[12] 1920, "Introduction," et al.

[13] 1929b, ch. 1, p. 32.

[14] 1922, IV, 1, p. 257-8. This scope is limited by acts done from habit or impulse, thus not all acts are moral in the strict sense. However, even habitual and impulsive acts are morally deliberable or considerable. The relation of habit and impulse in Dewey could command a paper by itself; I will not cover it in this paper.

[15]  1920, p. 177 ff. The phrase "meliorist" has probably been kidnapped from William James.

[16] 1908, p. 364 ff. H. Stuart argued that Dewey did not adequately distinguish the moral method from the experimental method; moral deliberation from thought processes in general. (See "Dewey’s Ethical Theory," in The Philosophy of John Dewey," ed. Schilpp, P., (New York: Tudor Publ., 1939/1951) pp. 293-333.) While there is a close parallel between the experimental and moral methods, since Dewey was concerned to modernize ethics, there are distinct differences. The experimental method "in general" is not concerned with better or worse alternatives, social and individual consequences, or valuations. Morality is concerned with future practical outcomes; the experimental method with practical outcomes only ultimately. Dewey was concerned to expand the sphere of the morally considerable, however, to include for example the economic.

[17] Pepper has defined Dewey as a "contextualist" in Fern, V., ed., A History of Philosophical Systems (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950) et al. and other pragmatists influenced by Dewey have adopted this label (Lepley, 1949) although Dewey himself does not adopt it. Dewey is a contextualist insofar as existing conditions or the present situation is a vital element in defining the problem for value judgment, but not if a situation ethic is meant. Past experience in the form of principles are brought to bear as instruments for resolution of such problems. This point will be covered below.

[18] 1908. Dogma is the appeal to authority, including the supernatural or tradition, over evidence.

[19] Ibid.

28 For parallel analyses of the elements involved in moral deliberation see Gouinlock, 1972, ch. 3; and Caspary, W., 1990. My list differs in a few details from these authors. Gouinlock notes that every situation has certain elements, as part of a process, including a beginning and an end, and a cause and effect (ibid., ch. 2).

[21] 1939, sect. 5, p. 414.

[22] 1922, III, 7, p. 221.

[23] 1908, p. 364. This remains consistent through later texts, e.g. 1929b, p. 258.

[24] 1922, III, 1, p. 165.

[25] Ibid.

[26] 1908, ch. 10, sect. 2, p. 178.

[27] 1922, I, 1, p. 24.

[28] 1939, sect. 8, p. 444.

[29] "The fact that there is something lacking, wanting in the existing situation as it stands, an absence which produces conflict…" (1939, sect. 5, p. 413).

[30] 1922, IV, 1, p. 264. Needs, like desires, have a positive function as their formulation marks the beginning of the process of resolution of the problem.

[31] Ibid.

[32] 1922, III, 8, p. 230.

[33] 1939, sect. 4, p. 406.

[34] 1929b, ch. 10, p. 260. He makes a similar distinction between the enjoyed and enjoyable, the satisfying and satisfactory. Thus the view proposed by E.T. Mitchell that Dewey believed that "choice is ultimately impulsive," is untenable. (For Mitchell’s view see "Dewey’s Theory of Valuation," Ethics, July 1945, LV, pp. 287-97). Cf. below on the role of intelligence in evaluation and choice.

[35] 1939, sect. 7, p. 433.

[36] Ibid., sect. 3, p. 396.

[37] Ibid., sect. 8, p. 446. As Gouinlock (1972, ch. 3) notes, Dewey sometimes uses ambiguous phrasing or his meaning is unclear. Desire is sometimes used to mean unreflective impulse, sometimes a desire constituted through a situation and sometimes used to mean desirable. Often the context indicates which of these is meant, but there are problematic passages. Usually desire means what is constituted through a situation, the second meaning.

[38] Ibid., sect. 5, p. 414.

[39] Ibid., sect. 7, p. 433. I believe he is thinking of desire as desirable here; cf. n. 37.

[40] Ibid., p. 432. Nissen’s argument that Dewey confuses ends and plans to achieve ends, ignores the clear distinction of ends-in-view from ends in the sense of consequences made by Dewey. (For Nissen’s view see "John Dewey on Means and Ends," Phil. Res. Archives, 3, 1977, 709-738). His argument that for Dewey we must "always appraise an end in terms of the means on which it rests," (ibid., p. 729) is true, but ignores the relation of means and ends to other elements in the problematic situation.

[41] 1939, sect. 6, p. 428.

[42] Experience and Nature (New York: Dover, 1929a, (1958) hereafter 1929a, ch. 3, p. 108.

[43] 1922, III, 5, p. 197. 

[44] This and other texts support the view of Gouinlock, Caspary and myself against the view of Beardsley and others that Dewey "killed" the notion of intrinsic value (see n. 126). This issue is beyond the scope of this paper; for my treatment see "Dewey’s Instrumentalism," under review, and "Dewey’s Theory of Values" in progress.

[45] Values as consummations of experience are stressed especially in 1929a, passim. (For Gouinlock’s view see 1972, ch. 3, p. 125.)

[46] Ibid., sect. 5, p. 415.

[47] 1922, III, 2, p. 172. He argues further that "the latter (consciousness) is eventual not a source."

[48] Gouinlock in 1972, ch. 7 particularly stresses the central role of intelligence in Dewey’s concept of "value in nature."

[49] Ibid., IV, 1, p. 270.

[50] Ibid., p. 268. Moral progress is shown in the significance of the activity "within experience."

[51] The relation of evaluation to intelligence is not clear in Dewey’s writings, i.e. whether evaluation is a species of intelligence, distinct from intelligence, or distinct but involving intelligence. The latter is probably the case, as evaluation involves judgment between competing desires and ends in the formulation of an end-in-view. Dewey may have taken it as not worth mentioning that one capacity or function of intelligence is comparison.

[52] 1939, sect. 6, p. 426.

[53] Ibid., p. 425.

[54] 1908, p. 229.

[55] "Intrinsic Value in Dewey," Phil. Res. Archives, I, 1975, 54-77, p. 64-5.

[56] Ibid., ch. 2, p. 36.

[57] 1939, sect. 8, p. 445.

[58] 1908, ch. 11, p. 198. The problem immediately arises whether an overall end can justify subordination of "lower" ends, i.e. whether a hierarchy of ends is in fact involved in the notion of overall ends, Platonic style. The question arises of whether such an end contradicts Dewey’s professed aversion to transcendent, fixed, unitary ends. Is the overall end of growth legitimate in view of the means-end continuum? There is the further question: is overall value a hidden summum bonum? Is the notion of an overall end a hidden summum bonum theory and thus a reversion to the traditional model for ethics? This question is beyond the scope of this paper; I have addressed it in detail in another paper, "Dewey’s Instrumentalism," which is under review. If growth or value for life are viewed as a "highest good," it is a major transformation of the model. For both growth and life are marked by change in which the decision over which they are partly regulative marks a change in the life or growth themselves of the agent. In either case, Dewey’s notion of overall value is not supreme over all other considerations in deliberation and evaluation.

[59] Ibid.

[60] In the early works this is conceived as happiness. Happiness is not defined in terms of pleasure but, in a nod to Plato and Aristotle, in terms of "harmony" and "content of character." True happiness "issues from objects which are enjoyable in themselves but which also reinforce and enlarge the other desires and tendencies which are sources of happiness" (1908, ch. 10, p. 215). Holmes argues that happiness is not defined (1966, p. 60 ff.). Like his similar claim that "Dewey nowhere explicitly defines moral terms," (ibid., p. 45), this claim will not hold up to even a cursory acquaintance with the moral writings. Happiness is explicitly defined in the above text; ‘will’ in ibid., sect. 4, p. 187 as well as in 1922; "end-in-view" in ibid., ch. 11, p. 199, inter alia; ‘obligation’ in 1922, P. IV; life in 1929a, ch. 1, p. 9 and a "tool" in ibid., ch. 4, p. 123, to give a sample of Dewey’s definitions. Dewey is very careful to note that he does not use terms in their traditional or ordinary sense (1949) and almost always notes his own meaning where it deviates in this manner.

[61] In turn, growth is tied to self-fulfillment, evidence for Sahakian’s contention that Dewey’s ethic is an ethic of self-development or self-realization (see n. 1). To grow is to develop; fulfillment is the culmination of growth. However, Dewey argues that "continuity of growth" is the "alternative to fixity of principles and aims" (1922, III, 9, p. 251). Growth must not stop if any one end is achieved, but continue. Nor is growth future oriented, which an end as goal might imply. Dewey urges that we prize opportunities for present growth.

Self-realization must be in harmony with other considerations. As Pappas has argued, Dewey’s is not a new version of character or agent centered ethics. For Dewey is seeking a unity of the moral self and its acts. (For Pappas view see Pappas, G.F., "To Be or to Do, John Dewey and the Great Divide in Ethics," Hist. Phil. Quart., 14:4, 1997, 447-472)

[62] Happiness is discussed mainly in the early works, esp. 1908. In the middle works, it is replaced by growth, and in the late works by prizing, caring for and a positive direction of change. Whether this represents a shift in emphasis, doctrine, or treatment is unclear, but there is some continuity. Both happiness and growth are characterized by harmony (cf. ibid. with 1922, III, 9, p. 251). The intrinsic value of satisfactions and enjoyments is maintained in the middle and later works, and these are synonyms for happiness. Since ‘happiness’ was preserved in the 1932 revision of 1908, i.e. in the middle period, the shift to ‘growth’ may have been a shift in emphasis more than of doctrine. Growth as "the end" is also maintained in 1908, thus it occurs in the early period as well. Growth in happiness may be an important aspect of their relation. Further, growth may represent the inclusive good from the naturalistic perspective, while happiness represents a more personal perspective. Holmes has remarked that, "by growth or freedom he means the opportunity to seek happiness according to one’s specific abilities…" (1966, p. 65).

The later works are more critical and Dewey may have considered that he had already presented his views in the middle works and did not need to repeat himself. For a view in which this change marks a complete change in outlook see Honneth, A., "Between Proceduralism and Teleology, an Unresolved Conflict in Dewey’s Moral Theory," Trans. of the Charles S. Peirce Society,34:3, 1998, 689-711. For a counterargument see Caspary, W., "Judgements of Value in John Dewey’s Theory of Ethics," Educ. Theory, 40:2, 1990, 155-169. Also, see next note.

[63] 1922, III, 9, p. 251. The ethics of self-development or self-realization was articulated first by Green and then became a common element in late nineteenth century British idealism. Dewey’s naturalistic modification of it may represent a tribute to his youthful Hegelianism. The moral equality of the individual is defined by him in terms of equal opportunity for full development. The ‘self’ of self-development is both the locus of development and the "standard" of value according to Dewey, i.e. the "end of our conduct" (1908, p. 341-2). This is not an alternative theory of overall value, as growth is growth of a self, or a self-development. Growth and "self-fulfillment" are equated in 1922, III, 9, p. 251. Moral growth is seen as a process of development in 1908, Introduction, p. 6. Cf. ch. 10 sect. 3, where Dewey speaks of "moral development." This may seem like evidence for Sahakian’s contention that Dewey’s ethic is an ethic of self-development or self-realization (Sahakian, 1974.) However, as I will argue below (p. 26), character and self-development are only one factor for moral consideration. Self-realization must be in harmony with other considerations. As Pappas has argued, Dewey’s is not a new version of character or agent centered ethics. For Dewey is seeking a unity of the moral self and its acts (Pappas, 1997).

[64] 1922, III, 9, p. 251.

[65] 1922, III, 5, p. 202.

[66] 1929, ch. 1.

[67] In the tradition, intrinsic value and the highest good have often been equated, but they are distinct. While the highest good requires a notion of intrinsic value, the reverse is not true, for there can be a multitude of intrinsically valuable items without any one of them forming the highest one. Aristotle’s argument that something can be an end of a process or a "final cause" but also a means to higher ends contains a tension which Dewey seems to have noticed. For in his treatment of each situation as unique and as of equal value, he is following out the logic of intrinsic value, even if he rejects such language. If something is of intrinsic value, its value cannot derive from a higher value, for then it would be extrinsic. It would derive from the higher value, not itself. Thus I would submit that his de-emphasis of intrinsic value is due to his emphasis on relations and connections.

[68] Ibid., sect. 7, p. 433. Cf. 1922, IV, 2: "the quality of these consequences determines the question of better and worse." Thus Dewey consistently maintains this position from earlier to later works.

[69] "The attained end or consequence is always an organization of activities…coordination of activities…" (ibid., (1939) sect. 6, p. 428). Gouinlock has argued that no ultimate justification of the value of the satisfactory situation is needed for Dewey; that each situation has its own. "There is no need to introduce some further norm that presumably justifies this fulfillment." (Gouinlock, 1989, p. 308). If Gouinlock is pointing to Dewey’s critique of foundationalism in this passage he is correct. However, the passage fails to note the role of inclusive goods in harmonizing various situational values. Dewey emphatically does not present a situation ethic.

[70] 1922, IV, 1, p. 265-6.

[71] Ibid., III, 4, p. 249. Many of these goals have a Platonic flavor, e.g. recovering harmony. However, harmony is more dynamic for Dewey than for Plato.

[72] Loc. cit., 1939, sect. 1, p. 382. In a sense, pragmatism in general is an extension of moral consequentialism to all of philosophy. Dewey argues that every situation is marked by consequences (1929a, ch. 3, p. 101).

[73] 1939, sect. 6, p. 422.

[74] Ibid., IV, 1, p. 258.

[75] As Gouinlock has noted (1972, ch. 6, sect. 2) there is no dichotomy of individual and social good in Dewey. The latter would be egoistic and based on a false psychology of the isolated subject. Thus despite elements of self-realizationism in his ethics, the self is not foundational in either the moral or epistemological sense. Cf. n. 61 and Pappas’ argument that Dewey attempted to overcome the character/action ethical dichotomy.

[76] Dewey argues that morals should be limited to "foreseen and desired consequences" in 1908, ch. 10, sect. 4, p. 184. Cf. 1929a, ch. 1, p. 21 and ch. 2, p. 43. This does not differ significantly from Moore’s view on consideration of consequences and the problem of unintended consequences.

[77] Ibid., I, 3, p. 43.

[78] One important qualification is that Dewey’s consequentialism is not foundational, unlike that of Mill and Moore. This point will be addressed in the next paragraph. Also, cf. n. 8, 114 and 125.

[79] 1920, ch. 7, p. 174.

[80] 1922, IV, 1, p. 257.

[81] This point will be addressed in the next section.

[82] 1922, I, 3, p 46. Dewey also argues that morals should not be too closely identified with consequences either, in the same section.

[83] Ibid., IV, 1, p. 259.

[84] Ibid.

[85] 1939, sect. 4, p. 404.

[86] 1920, ch. 7, p. 162-3. Cf. 1929, ch. 10, p. 276 ff.

[87] 1923, III, 7, p. 225. Altman contends that Dewey rejects "universal moral norms" (in "John Dewey and Contemporary Normative Ethics," Metaphilosophy, 13:2, 1982, 149-60). Similarly, Honneth (1998, p. 703) argues that it is impossible using Dewey’s ethics to "justify the universalist content of the moral point of view." Dewey does not rule out such norms, only their a priori, unconditional status. Such norms must be relevant to the situation at hand.

[88] 1920, ch. 7, p. 163.

[89] 1922, III, 7, p. 221.

[90] 1939, sect 4, p. 401.

[91] I am indebted to Copleston, F., A History of Philosophy, Garden City: Doubleday/Image 1946 (1962); esp. Vol. 1 and 8;

and Frankena, W., Ethics, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1963 on this point.

[92] 1939, sect. 6, p. 427. Gouinlock’s contention (in 1972, ch. 7, p. 311) that moral judgments are concerned with means and consequences, not oughts or value judgments, is, I believe, mistaken. Obligations are clearly based on ends, as the attached quote indicates. Moral judgments can indeed be concerned with "oughts" or obligation.

[93] Ibid., (1939) sect. 8, p. 437.

[94] Ibid., sect. 4, p. 401. Cf. 1920, ch. 10, p. 265.

[95] 1908, p. 340-1. This is consistent with Dewey’s argument that the present significance of activity is more important than the remote future. Cf. 1922, III, 9, p. 244 where "happiness, reasonableness, virtue and perfecting" are parts of "the present significance of present action."

[96] 1922, IV, 1, p. 259.

[97] Honneth (1998) argues both that for Dewey there is no universal obligation to respect human beings and that Dewey brings in a "social element" by arguing that the question of what is morally right is presumed in every rational process of deliberation (p. 702). These arguments contradict one another, since if a social element is presumed in every process of deliberation, it is obligatory, and as involved in every such process is universal. That society is primarily human society Dewey makes clear in "The Ethics of Animal Experimentation," Atlantic Monthly, 138, Sept. 1926, pp. 343-6; reprinted in John Dewey, The Later Works, ed. by Boydston, J., Carbondale: So. Illinois Univ. Press, 1984, pp. 98-103.

[98] 1922, III, 5, p. 75. A limit to consequences is that acts must be in our control, thus "still to be performed" (ibid., I, 1, p. 21). This answers Altman’s contention that if murder were to enhance growth, it might be justified in Dewey’s ethics (op. cit., 1982, p. 158). Altman’s argument also ignores the holistic relations to which growth as an overall end is part. Growth is not foundational for Dewey, a point which will be discussed in the next section.

[99] 1922, I, 5, p. 74 ff. As morals had their origin in social customs, i.e. "specific empirical facts," Dewey rejects any supernatural origin (ibid., IV, 2, p. 271.) Dewey argues that this is not to subordinate morals to facts, which would separate ideal standards from customs. However, he notes that the rules of language also grew unintentionally from "unintelligent babblings." He argues that "morality resides not in perception of fact, but in the use made of its perception." By being known, facts have changed context, as they have entered a "context of foresight and judgment of better and worse" (ibid., p. 274). In a sense facts are derived from morals for Dewey as what is brought into existence, deeds or facts in the original sense, is regulated by morals.

[100] Ibid., IV, 4, p. 298. Dewey also regarded right or obligation as being necessary to the end, not simply desirable for it (see above, n. 92-3). Given an end, obligation is required for such an end: it is a required means to the end.

[101] Ibid., p. 291. As Gouinlock has remarked, "social problems are moral problems" for Dewey (1978, p. 225). Cf. n. 10 and 75 above and 104 below. Thus the contention that Dewey’s ethical theory is relativistic, individualistic or the like ignores the primarily social consequences involved in moral deliberation. Vivas’ argument that Dewey acknowledged a social element in 1908, but that the "Theory of Valuation" contains Dewey’s mature views, and that the latter work has an inadequate notion of obligation ignores the primarily axiological focus and critical character of the latter work. Morals are treated at length in 1908 and 1922. (For Vivas' view see The Moral Life and the Ethical Life (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1950), ch. 6, p. 108 ff.)

Dewey argues the point that subjective ethics is anti-social in 1922, IV, 1, p. 269. "We can’t help being individual selves" but this should not result in subordination of the common good to private. Thus Stevenson’s charge that Dewey’s ethic is "individualistic," is unjustified. Morality is social, and ethical warrant is not based on subjective individual states, individual values or consequences for individuals.

[102] Ibid., I, 1, p. 22.

[103] 1929b, ch. 10, p. 281. Cf. 1939, sect. 1, p. 383.

[104] This point is echoed by Gouinlock, 1972, ch. 2, sect. 3 where he notes that for Dewey society shapes the individual character. Cf. 1929a, ch. 6, pp. 208 ff. where the individual personality is seen as an emergent character, rather than "given."

[105] 1949, p. 76. Dewey wonders whether character formation could not be given scientific precision by a careful study of the conditions of character formation in 1939, sect. 1, p. 382.

[106] For the details of formation of character and its relation to morals, see 1908, ch. 10, sect. 3.

[107] 1908, p. 387. Growth and "self-fulfillment" are equated in 1922, III, 9, p. 251.

[108] 1920, ch. 7, p. 186.

[109] 1908 p. 384 ff. This involves a relation of the whole (society) to its members and of the members (part) to the whole.

[110] Ibid., 1, p. 258.

[111] Ibid.

[112] 1920, ch. 7, p. 172.

[113] In Utilitarianism, Mill grounds obligation in happiness or pleasure. 

[114] The model was even adopted by non-Utilitarians such as Prall. But can duty be based on value? There is no logical basis: one cannot deduce obligations from value, a point Kant noticed. The alternative is to define obligation as intrinsically valuable, the strategy of Perry and Lemos; or to define it solely in terms of intrinsic value, the strategy of Mill and Moore. (Cf. n. 8, 78 and 125). A further question is whether morals should conform to a basically ontological model (Aristotle) rather than one of agency as in Dewey. Dewey’s view represents a certain amount of liberation of morals from ontology.

[115] 1908, ch. 10, sect. 4, p. 184, where consequentialism is judged "one sided." Cf. ch. 11 in which the main consequentialist theories are criticized.

[116] This aspect of Dewey’s ethics reflects the influence of Aristotle, T.H. Green and Darwin. Of course, Dewey is thoroughly modern and does not accept the Aristotelian notion of natural telos. He absorbed and incorporated Darwin, and thus rejects fixed species or essential forms, for example. Dewey is tied to modernism; in his own mind he is almost pre-modern. He states that "the genuinely modern has still to be brought into existence." (1920, Intro., p. xxxv). Gouinlock has noted the importance of Darwin’s model of life as "functions of processes, inclusive of organisms and environment" on Dewey’s thinking (in 1989, p. 308).

[117] See n. 5. Holmes, 1966 argues that growth is dual as it concerns both self-development and concern for others. Thus it bridges "utilitarian" and self-realization ethics. However, growth, as I argued above, is not foundational, not a summum bonum, but one element in moral consideration. Dewey does indeed bridge consequentialism and self-realization or character ethics, but not based on a summum bonum of growth. Cf. the "Summary and Conclusion," below.

[118] In a much discussed paper, Morton White argued that Dewey tried to derive an ought from an is in his relation of desired and desirable. (For White’s view see, "Value and Obligation in Dewey and Lewis," Philosophical Review, LVIII, July 1949, p. 322.)

This is clearly not true for Dewey, since he criticizes Mill for the same move, argues against an empirical, "given" or impulsive view of ‘desire’, and does not equate desirable with obligation. Desire is characterized as an "idea of an object" as opposed to an impulse in 1908, ch. 10, p. 199. Cf. 1929a, ch. 10, p. 403 et al. where Dewey notes the conflict of the "given" and the "ultimate" good and the latter is ultimately identified with the desirable. Cf. ibid., ch. 3, p. 107 where the "given" is contrasted with "the deliberately constructed," and ch. 1, p. 9 and 13 where starting from subjective experience as "given" is characterized as a "non-empirical method," by contrast with Dewey’s own method.

For a critique of White’s argument from several  other perspectives see Gouinlock 1972, ch. 3 and 1978, pp. 220 ff.; Holmes, 1966, p. 68 ff.; Hook, S., "The Ethical Theory of  John Dewey," pp. 49-70 of The Quest for Being and Other Studies in Naturalism and Humanism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961) and Hurley, Paul E., "Dewey on Desires: The Lost Argument," Trans. of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 24:3, 1988, 509-519. Gouinlock argues that Dewey was "not concerned to provide an operational definition of what ought to be desired," either, i.e. of the desirable (see Gouinlock, 1978, p. 220). Holmes correctly argues that, "on Dewey’s view all  moral judgments are, broadly speaking, judgments of value in the sense that their normative function sets them apart from factual assertions (1966, p. 68) although he misinterprets Dewey by stating that desires are "phenomena" which are part of human nature which implies that they are "given" (ibid., p. 55) He also points out, however, that a "genuine judgment of value" is never purely descriptive (p. 50). Hurley, in an excellent article, argues that Dewey undercuts both rationalism and empiricism by reformulating the relation of reason and desire in his critique of desire as "given."

[119] 1908, ch. 10, p. 186.

[120] 1922, III, 8, p. 231. Another holistic formulation is conduct described as binding together acts into a whole (1908, ch. 10, p. 181).

[121] The use of organic models may also reflect the influence of Hegel and Darwin. A comparison of Dewey to Hegel is beyond the scope of this paper. However, because of the probably decisive influence which Hegel had on Dewey, certain points can be noted. There are holistic elements in Dewey which probably reflect the influence of Hegel. Dewey accepts the critique of Kantian abstractions in favor of the concrete: the notion not the concept. Ethics is conceived as social in Dewey (1922, P. IV) as in Hegel, although Dewey develops individual ethics to a much greater degree. Dewey was extremely critical of Hegel’s absolutism, however. Like the left-Hegelians, he used the notion of need to mean value. Gouinlock has remarked on the influence of Hegel’s denial of dualisms on Dewey (1989, p. 308) while Tiles has argued that unlike Moore and Russell, Dewey never quite escaped the influence of idealist thought (1988, ch. 1).

[122] Pappas (1997, p. 447 & 452) also characterizes this divide as the "following of rules" as opposed to the "cultivation of traits." For a counterargument see n. 5; and cf. above my answer to Honneth at the end of the last section and n. 117.

[123] By attenuating the distinction of ends and means, Dewey argued convincingly for the instrumental role of ends. Ends, principles and past experiences are instrumental in the unique value situation. More, Dewey revalued means as worthy of greater consideration, an extension of value, since means are not considered subordinate in value or of inferior worth in his analysis. I have argued this point in more detail in another paper, "Dewey’s Instrumentalism."

[124] Gouinlock, 1972, ch. 2, sect. 1 has noted that for Dewey science can also aid in determining the conditions for the occurrence of prized, but sometimes precarious value-qualities.

[125] This is despite foundational elements and occasional expressions which seem to point away from holism, e.g. his use of experience and empirical, as in British empiricism; induction from circumstances to generality, etc. In general, these are incorporated into his more holistic analysis. Dewey argues that his non-foundational model of justification does not involve an infinite regress (1939, sect. 6, p. 425 ff.), an objection which can be traced back to Aristotle. For the circle of justification is finite, not infinite and is ultimately defined with reference to the situation. Cf. n. 8, 78 and 114.

[126] Dewey has often been misread as doing away with intrinsic value, e.g. by Beardsley, M., "Intrinsic Value," Phil. and Phenomenological Research, 26, 1965, p. 6 ff.; and Nissen, B., "John Dewey on Means and Ends," Philosophy Research Archives, 3, 1977, pp. 709-738, inter alia. Gouinlock has gone to some length to document the error of this view (in 1972, passim.) which has been a persistent myth and hard to kill. One reason readers may have been mislead about Dewey’s treatment of intrinsic value is his holism. Intrinsic value is morally considerable but not foundational for Dewey. No one factor can be the whole warrant in moral decisions without consideration of all. Thus Dewey’s holism is both a rejection of foundationalism in ethics, and thereby consequentialism, since the former is closely connected with the latter.

[127] In 1908, ch. 10, p. 184 consequentialist ethics is rejected as "one-sided."

[128] Ibid., sect. 8, p. 440.