CODE:  DP-6
WHAT WOULD DEWEY SAY ABOUT HOPE?

Abstract

Living in a time when it is difficult to maintain hope that we can extend democracy and more equitably distribute our material and cultural goods, I turn to Dewey for guidance because, throughout his long career, he never abandoned his hopefulness about the possibility of social reform.  Unfortunately, Dewey never explicitly discusses hope.  The purpose of this paper is to construct a theory of hope for him.  I divide my discussion into two parts.  In the first, I attempt to answer four questions for Dewey: (1) What is the nature of hope? (2) What are the conditions of hope? (3) What are the barriers to hope? (4) What is the proper object of hope?  In the second part, I consider passages in Dewey which suggest that "a peace which passes understanding" is possible, and I try to reconcile the apparent tensions between this suggestion and Dewey's empirical naturalism.

We live at a time when it is difficult to be hopeful that we can make the world a better place for future generations.  The gap between rich and poor grows wider.  Ethnic and class wars show no signs of abating, and the prospects for improved ecological conservation remain dim.  In the past I have profited by turning to Dewey when faced with major life challenges, so it seems natural to turn to him now for ideas about how to remain hopeful in our present dark times.

Dewey maintained his confidence that he could help bring about a better future despite the many personal and public setbacks he himself experienced.  However, when one turns to Dewey, one finds no systematic or explicit discussion of hope in all of his voluminous work.  The purpose of this paper is to construct a theory of hope for Dewey based upon my reading of a number of his major works, especially Democracy and Education (1916), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), Art as Experience (1934), and A Common Faith (1934).  (For a discussion of hope as it relates to American pragmatism in general, see Shade.)

I divide my discussion into two parts.  In the first, I attempt to construct Deweyan answers to four questions about hope.  These are

  1. What is hope?
  2. What are the conditions of hope?
  3. What are the barriers to hope?
  4. What should we hope for?

In the second part of my paper, I explore Dewey's discussions of the religious dimension of experience, enduring adjustments, and what he calls "the enveloping whole."   Although many scholars have commented on Dewey's view of religion and the religious (See Eldridge; Garrett; Grean; Rockefeller), none, so far as I know, does what I attempt.   Specifically, in the second part of my paper, I relate Dewey's notion of religious experience to hope, and I begin to develop a roadmap so that I might experience what Dewey did when he felt what he describes as a peace which passes understanding.

PART ONE: DEWEYAN ANSWERS TO FOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT HOPE

What is the Nature of Hope?

Although, as I have said, Dewey does not explicitly discuss hope, he does reveal something about his views of its nature in his account of a hypothetical interview between a job applicant and a potential employer (LW 10:49-50).1  Dewey tells us that, from the start of the interview, the applicant is either hopeful or despairing.  The applicant's emotions are constantly changing, adjusting with every word or physical gesture of the potential employer.  When the applicant senses that things are going well, her hope rises and her despair declines.  By contrast, if the interviewer's questions and answers seem routine or perfunctory, the applicant's hope declines and her despair rises.

Using this example as a base, I speculate that, for Dewey, hope is an emotion that accompanies our efforts to achieve sought after results.  It is a complex emotion that is always mixed with its opposite and loses and gains strength depending upon the agent's sense of possible success or failure.  This view of the nature of hope puts Dewey in the camp of David Hume.  In both A Treatise of Human Nature and his "Dissertation on the Passions," Hume's treatment of hope is in line with Dewey's discussion of the hypothetical interview.  However, although Dewey and Hume agree that hope is an emotion on a seesaw with other emotions, I note that they disagree about the primary object of hope.  Whereas for Hume our primary goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, for Dewey, it is to establish expanding adjustments with one's social and natural environment.  (For a summary of the work of those who disagree with the view that hope is an emotion, see Day.)

Another way to talk about the nature of hope from a Deweyan perspective is to draw upon his conceptions of "adjustment," "accommodation," and "adaptation."  Employing these concepts, I believe Dewey would say that hopeful people are confident that they can "adapt" or change the environment to achieve their goals in ways that lead to their own growth.  Since, according to Dewey, we can accomplish nothing on our own, adaptations leading to growth require "social intelligence" (LW 13:47).  They depend upon transactions with both one's culture and physical nature that lead to wider interests and a more sensitive social self.  By contrast, people who act hopelessly continue to live by "accommodating" the environment, passively accepting the status quo.  Their transactions lead not to growth but to what Dewey calls "equilibrium," and their behavior indicates that they are struggling simply to cope with life.  They display nothing of the vitality and interest that marks the actions of hopeful people, those who have developed the habits, as well as understand the conditions, of growth (MW 6:359-361, 364-366; MW 12:128; LW 9:12-13; LW 10:20).

I draw a sharp contrast between hopeful and hopeless persons--between those who adapt and those who accommodate--in order to make the distinction clear.  However, I add that, for Dewey, this distinction would be one of degree.  Hopeful people, on occasion, certainly accommodate themselves to circumstances they cannot alter, and, conversely, hopeless people no doubt succeed on occasion in adapting circumstances to better meet their needs.  However, Dewey would also say that hopeful people, because they understand the conditions of growth, achieve it intelligently, whereas hopeless people come upon it, if they do, by accident.

What Are the Conditions of Hope?

I believe Dewey would respond to this second question by naming at least three conditions of hope: (1) disciplined planning, (2) fulfilling work, and (3) social piety.

Disciplined Planning

Regarding planning, I speculate that Dewey would say that people who become discouraged or lose confidence that they can achieve their goals are often poor planners.  In chapter 10 of Democracy and Education, Dewey says that successful people are as disciplined and careful about their plans as they are about their goals.  They are also flexible enough to adjust their plans in light of what they learn from their initial efforts to achieve what they desire.

A major problem for poor planners is, in Deweyan terms, acting too impulsively.  It is not that impulse and desire are unimportant.  To the contrary, impulse and desire are the starting point, the impetus, for goal-directed behavior.  However, unless intelligence--that is, foresight, imagination, and keen observation--are conjoined with impulse, poor planners are liable to spend their energy ineffectively.  This ineffectiveness is likely to mean that their hope will eventually be replaced by despair.  The need to integrate impulse and thought is succinctly stated by Dewey when he tells us, "impulse must be wedded to its fellows" (MW 14:178).

Fulfilling Work

Dewey, also in Democracy and Education, makes plain his concern that efficiency in the marketplace is often very inefficient regarding human growth and hopefulness.  Workers are not allowed to be creative or experience the satisfaction of seeing their labor contribute to an integrated process over which they exercise some control.  The result is that our culture, in general, suffers from the separation of production and consumption.  That is, according to Dewey, laborers' work hours are robbed of meaning and fulfillment.  And their leisure hours are not much better since they often involve consumption of recreational goods that require little of their own creative effort.  Thus, I believe Dewey would say that it is difficult for people in our capitalist culture to be hopeful about leading satisfying lives because their work is often boringly routine.  Put more positively, Dewey would say that a condition of being hopeful about leading a fulfilling life is finding work that is educative and promotes one's creative abilities.  In fact, Dewey goes so far as to say that the major problem of U.S. capitalism is not poverty but people's lack of calling, their inability to find work that engages them wholeheartedly (MW 9:326-27).  He believes that if we could reduce our culture's emphasis on private pecuniary profit and place more emphasis on increasing the fullness and richness of experience, people might accept lower paying jobs for the high rewards these jobs provide in personal satisfaction and companionship.

Social Piety

For Dewey, hopeful people are not only good planners who are engaged in meaningful work, I believe he would say that they are also people who do not feel alone in what they seek.  Their hopes for success are buoyed by their sense that their goals are shared by others.  Not only do other people become important as allies as we work toward our goals--as Dewey tells us, we can accomplish nothing on our own--but membership in a community is rewarding in and of itself.  As Dewey says, democracy is another name for community life, and the hallmark of democracy is conjoint communicated experience (LW 2:328; MW 9:93).  Another way to put this is to say that, for Dewey, there is no greater cause of happiness in life than shared experience and communication.

Dewey not only points to community as a condition of hopefulness, he also suggest how we might, in what he considers an overly selfish and egotistical culture, develop a concern for community.  In a sentence I consider among the most powerful in all his work--his remark that "there is sound sense in the old pagan saying 'gratitude is the root of all virtue'" (MW 14:19)--I take Dewey to be encouraging what I call "social piety."  If we recognize that the things we find excellent in life are the result of the labor of those who have preceded us, we may become less self-centered and more focused on contributing to the common-wealth.  That is, we will be more inclined to work with others to pass on what we find good in our society in better and more widely available form to future generations.

What Are the Barriers to Hope?

To answer this third question, I discuss what I take to be three conditions that Dewey would consider impediments to a hopeful attitude about achieving our goals.  These are (1) overgeneralizing failure, (2) overemphasizing the future, and (3) adopting overly utopian goals.

Overgeneralizing Failure

Following in the pragmatic tradition, failures for Dewey are never a total loss or waste of time if we learn from them.  They are a vital part of all intelligent planning, specifically the ability to adjust behavior in light of the undergoings or consequences of our actions.  However, some people diagnosed by psychologists as hopeless suffer because they overgeneralize their failures (see Snyder, ch. 2).  That is, they expect that they should be able to fully foresee the results of their actions, and, thus, they blame themselves when things go awry and conclude either that the world is against them or they lack the skills necessary to influence their fate or both.

In response to such cases of hopelessness, I believe Dewey would say that people in this position need to take a more balanced approach to failure.  He would say that some instances of defeat are a sign of inadequate planning or foresight, but some are not.  There are cases of failure that could not have been avoided.  Put another way, Dewey might say that those who are defeated by failure have a flawed view of the world.  Contrary to the Enlightenment assumptions of people like Condorcet and Laplace, Dewey believes that the world is not fully clear, regular, or predictable.  To the contrary, Dewey recognizes that the world and our life in it is a profound mixture.  Laced throughout nature, including ourselves, are fortune and misfortune, necessity and chance, regularity and mystery.  That is, one stumbling block to hopefulness from a Deweyan perspective is an inability to contextualize failure, to recognize that despite our best laid plans, life is marked by mystery and surprise.  As a result, I believe Dewey would advise those who are defeated by their failures not to overgeneralize them, not to conclude that their failures are a sign of the total indifference of the world to their desires.  Instead, they should learn from their defeats, anticipating possible failure at every step of their journey toward what they seek.

Overemphasizing the Future

As I read Dewey, a second barrier to hopefulness is overemphasis on the future.  Daydreaming, as Dewey acknowledges, is a common indulgence of even the most disciplined person (MW 14:83).  However, it can become a serious impediment to the realization of our desires when it leads us to ignore the possibilities for fulfillment in the present moment.  This may happen, according to Dewey, because, as I have already noted, our culture tends to separate work and consumption.  This separation leads people to accept daily routines that are boring or disconnected while daydreaming about future fulfillments on the horizon.  For example, many individuals put up with unsatisfying school experiences for the sake of a future job that they imagine will be rewarding.  When their chosen vocation turns out to be unrewarding, they then endure routine work for a future retirement that they hope will yield the long sought happiness.  When this sort of postponed satisfaction becomes an inflexible habit, people can become hopeless when they realize that they are running out of time and the fulfillments they have been daydreaming will never arrive.

I believe Dewey's antidote to this form of despair is especially powerful.  Echoing an important aspect of the Buddhist tradition, Dewey reminds us that the true function of our goals is to help us become alive and fully engrossed in present experience.  When thoughts of the future take our attention off present activity, they impede fulfillment.  By contrast, the future fulfills its proper function, for Dewey, when it helps us become fully alert to the present moment, when it, to borrow Dewey's language, becomes the "for-what" that gives us the "to-what" to which we must attend in our present activities (LW 17:269-283; see also Fromm 7).

Adopting Overly Utopian Goals

It is a commonplace that many people in Western culture have as their ultimate goal eternal bliss and complete peace of mind.  Dewey himself acknowledges that in a life he calls "uncertain, unstable, uncannily unstable" people naturally hope for surcease from peril and pain (LW 1:43).  Unfortunately, however, as my grandmother would say, "if it's not one thing, it's another," or, in Deweyan terms, we always face the process of achieving new adjustments in our changing situations.  In other words, in this present life, one marked by constant change, we are unable to extend our harmonious and growth-filled moments indefinitely.  In fact, as Dewey says, to attempt to do so is to withdraw from this world (LW 10:23).  Thus, one of the major causes of hopelessness occurs when people who seek eternal peace realize that it is not possible in a world characterized by change.

As an antidote to hopelessness caused by such disillusion, I believe Dewey would counsel that much of what we most treasure in life--creative, collaborative response to unending challenges--is the result of the very situation that the disillusioned abhor.  That is, Dewey would remind the disillusioned that our intelligence, foresight, and ability to communicate only exist because we live in a world that not only challenges us but also often allows us to respond in very rewarding and fulfilling ways.  As he says, only in a living world is there death (LW 1:47;  LW 10:227).  In other words, those who are hopeless because eternal bliss is unavailable should recognize that what they hope for and life itself are incompatible.

What Should We Hope For?

In attempting to answer my fourth question, one about the proper objects of hope, I focus on ultimate or profound hopes rather than particular ones, what Gabriel Marcel has called "esperance" rather than "espoirs."  That is, I assume Dewey would recognize that we hope for many things.  Some of these are particular hopes: good weather for the family picnic, good seats at the ballgame, a passing grade on a final exam.  By contrast, ultimate or profound hopes, the ones I want to focus on in this section, are broader in scope.  Traditional examples include happiness, peace of mind, and eternal bliss or communion with God.

As should be evident from what I have said in the previous section, Dewey believes that eternal bliss is not a proper object of profound hope.  Dewey, as someone who denies the existence of a supernatural, transcendent divinity, rejects the idea that eternal salvation or escape from an endless cycle of reincarnations is possible.  (For discussions of God as the ultimate goal of hope, see Aquinas; Godfrey; Marcel; Pieper; Muyskens.)  Nor does Dewey believe, despite the popularity of hedonistic theories, that maximizing pleasure and reducing pain is the appropriate object of fundamental hope.

Instead, the object of ultimate hope for Dewey is meaningful physical and social adjustment, activities he describes more specifically as personal growth, discovery of one's calling, preservation of what is excellent in one's society, constant reconstruction of one's self and one's experience, and cooperative communication (MW 9:93, 182, 318-19; MW 12:181; LW 9:37-38).  All of these Deweyan values are different ways of talking about meaningful experience.  By meaningful experience, Dewey has in mind moments in which the connections we see between present, past, and future activities enable us to be fully mindful of what we are doing.  These moments are what Erich Fromm calls "this-worldly resurrections" (18), and, as Dewey notes, they lead to the sort of personal reconstruction that makes us more sensitive to our social and natural environments, more capable of extracting meaning from future activities.  Alternatively put, Dewey's ultimate hope is not focused on inner transformation or purification.  In fact, in Democracy and Education, he writes, "What is termed spiritual culture has usually been futile, with something rotten about it, just because it has been conceived as a thing which man might have internally--and therefore exclusively" (MW 9:129).  To the contrary, the rich, full experiences that Dewey hopes for and identifies with growth require going out and engaging the world.  Further, such growth can only be achieved, for Dewey, in cooperation with others, in collaborative pursuit of the social ideal that he calls "democracy."

In sum, Dewey believes our hopes should focus on what nature gives us.  It does not give us all that we might hope for, namely, a life without worry or doubt.  Yet Dewey points out that the moments we cherish most, the moments when we are most alive, are those made possible by the very challenges and problems that we sometimes wish would go away.  Thus, he would tell us that instead of hoping for a life of never ending pleasure or one, as the Stoics or Buddhists might want, free of desire and fear, we should substitute, as more deserving of our most profound hopes, a life of challenge, creativity, and cooperative inquiry.

PART TWO: RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, "THE ENVELOPING WHOLE," AND HOPE

In the preceding section, I claim that since Dewey says nature allows us moments of intelligent response that sometimes yield fulfillment, the best we can hope for is to better understand the conditions of such fulfillment so we might make these moments more available for ourselves and others.  However, there are significant passages in Dewey's work that suggest it might be reasonable to hope for more.  For example, in two 1927 letters to Scudder Klyce, a philosopher with whom Dewey carried on a thirteen-year correspondence, he talks about experiencing a "peace which passes understanding" (letters 04749 and 04751; see also MW 14:181).

Along similar lines, in A Common Faith, Dewey says it is possible to achieve adjustments of our deepest being, adjustments that are akin to religious experience.  These harmonies, and their resulting peace of mind, are so powerful, Dewey claims, that they endure for those who achieve them even through the darkest times.  He writes,

These deep adjustments relate not to this and that want in relation to this and that condition of our surroundings, but pertain to our being in its entirety.  Because of their scope, this modification of ourselves is enduring.  It lasts through any amount of vicissitude of circumstances, internal and external (LW 9:12).

In these adjustments we experience what is, for Dewey, the religious quality of life.  These adjustments unify all aspects of ourselves and integrate us with "the enveloping whole" in which we live.  They introduce us to "a world beyond the world which is nevertheless the deeper reality of the world in which we live in our ordinary experience" (LW 10:199).  Their memory, Dewey says, is "the rock" upon which human life is founded (LW 10:23.)  The language Dewey uses to describe our enduring adjustments recalls for me Santayana's account of mystical experience: feelings of "primordial assurances and rudimentary joys" that emerge from the background of consciousness to "liberate and relieve the spirit" (279).

I find these and similar passages in Dewey's work, at least on the surface, to be in tension with his empirical naturalism, his view that the world is marked as much by mystery, disorder, and constant peril as by uniformity, order, and good fortune.  I say that these are in tension because it seems that to hope for enduring unifications is a will-o-the-wisp in a world in which, as Dewey claims, it is dangerous to extend achieved harmonies beyond their naturally limited duration (LW 10:23).

Further, and compounding the apparent inconsistencies I note, is Dewey's claim that the experience of enduring harmony and the enveloping whole is non-cognitive and difficult to describe.  In fact, he says, we cannot even point to it (MW 14: 181).  This vagueness about enduring peace and how we might achieve it seems in conflict with Dewey's method of intelligence and his claim that all inquiry should provide a trail that others can follow to verify the inquirer's findings.  I am left feeling that Dewey has experienced something very important, something that I want to experience too.  However, I am also left feeling frustrated, abandoned with the unsaved goats with no instructions about how to join the saved sheep.

Nevertheless, and despite my doubts and frustrations, I want to follow as best I can the few hints that Dewey does provide about ways to achieve this enduring harmony.  I do this in case the tensions I feel are the result not of Dewey's inconsistencies but, rather, of my own inflexibility.  It may be that I simply fail to appreciate the radical pluralism and infinite possibilities in the natural world that Dewey is at pains to describe.  I begin by setting out a partial roadmap based upon the hints Dewey offers about how we might experience an enduring unification with the world.

Deweyan Roadmap to Enduring Adjustment and the Security of "The Enveloping Whole"

Dewey says, as I have noted, that the enveloping whole in which we find peace is difficult to describe.  It is something we sense, a sensation highly charged with emotion that is "ineffable" and "undefinable" (MW 14:181).  However, Dewey does give some clues about the conditions leading to an experience of this unifying wholeness.  In one of his 1927 letters to Scudder Klyce, Dewey responds to Klyce's question about how Dewey achieved a peace beyond understanding.  He tells Klyce that it comes from certain experiences he has had but also "from hard work," from his lifelong effort to "resolve certain dualisms" (letter 04751).  In A Common Faith, written some seven years after this letter to Klyce, Dewey comments further on conditions leading to enduring peace, saying that religious experiences yielding lasting and harmonious adjustments can come about three ways: (1) devotion to a cause, (2) poetry, and (3) philosophic reflection (LW 9:11).  In what follows, I do not discuss the first of these routes to peace, namely, devotion to a cause, focusing instead on routes 2 and 3, although in reverse order.

Philosophic Reflection as a Path to Enduring Peace and the Security of "The Enveloping Whole"

If we take at face value what Dewey says about resolving certain dualisms, then we might understand his entire philosophic journey as a roadmap to the experience of an enduring harmony and a sense of a reassuring, enveloping whole.  I assume that amongst the dualisms that Dewey attempts to reconcile are the universal and individual, the infinite and finite, the living and dead.  Thus, although I hear in Dewey that the world is always changing, that all of our steps into the future are full of foreboding and peril, perhaps I overemphasize the unstable aspects of the world.  Alongside change and peril, Dewey apparently senses the infinite, reassuring, and unchanging.  It may be that my inability to entertain the sort of "negative capability" that Dewey applauds in Keats is what prevents me from using philosophic reflection to reconcile dualisms in a Deweyan manner, to experience the peace that Dewey finds in our complex world (LW 10:39).  That is, I may lack the ability to hold in balance what appear to be incompatible qualities: infinite and particular, reassuring and perilous.  Instead, I focus on the particular and perilous, and this leads me to neglect the contrary aspects, the infinite and reassuring, the enveloping whole which Dewey says, "claims us," as "we claim [it]" (MW 14:227).

What might Dewey mean by this mutual claiming?  I speculate that, for Dewey, our lives make no sense unless we accept that there is something universal in our particularity.  It is as if we are a holograph of the entire universe, the world in a grain of sand, as Blake puts it.  The world claims us insofar as our particular story is part of the world's story.  And we claim the world insofar as our finite history holds within it the world's history.  This may explain why Dewey says that when we experience the enveloping whole, "we live in the universal" and "put off mortality" (MW 14:227).  In a way that shows the radical nature of Dewey's thinking, the radical possibility of reconciling dualisms--and this point is still difficult for me to follow--each of us has an individualized sense of the whole (MW 14:226).  Our experiences can be both of the whole and yet unique.  That is, the individual and finite and the universal and infinite can be one.

Another way in which Dewey may reconcile the universal and the particular, and explain their mutual "claiming," is through his view of change.  Rather than speak about "interactions" between individuals and the world, he speaks about "transactions."  This is because, for Dewey, neither the world nor its parts are complete in and of themselves.  In other words, when you and I do something, we change the world, and it changes us.  Dewey rejects the term "interactions" because it suggests that we and the world affect each other, but not essentially.  It suggests that we are what we are apart from our interactions.  By contrast, "transactions" indicates that we and the world affect each other essentially.  This is another way of saying that, for Dewey, we cannot tell our story without telling the story of the world and vice versa.

There is also a suggestion on Dewey's part that what humans consider good is also good for the universe and will endure.  We are, he says, the world's "manifest destiny" (LW 1:315).  When we work for ideals, he says, we "carry the universe forward" and can be sure that "our lot is one with whatever is good in the universe" (LW 1:314).  Dewey also tells us that our work is significant for the whole, and we can achieve "a unity with the universe that is to be preserved" (LW 1:113-114), a "permanent reshaping of the world" (MW 14:19).  In effect, Dewey seems to be reassuring us that our efforts, as late products of evolution, are especially significant.  He seems to suggest that nature smiles with favor on what humans bring to evolution.  That is, we bring a consciousness to animal life that enables us to intentionally shape conditions that our animal ancestors could only shallowly experience and by chance (LW 10:35).

Dewey's talk of humans and human consciousness as part of the manifest destiny of nature hints of a teleology that, at least at first blush, as I have said, is in tension with his empirical naturalism.  However, it is certainly possible that my thinking is, once again, a sign that I am short on negative capability, not good at tolerating competing and apparently contradictory ideas.  I may simply have trouble accepting that nature has no favorites but also has favorites.

Poetry as a Path to Enduring Peace and the Security of "The Enveloping Whole"

In addition to philosophic reflection, Dewey tells us that poetry can also lead to unifying experiences that promote enduring life adjustments.  This is true of art in general, for Dewey, because, when successful, artistic objects have organic unity, a pervasive emotion that infuses all of a work's parts.  Just as each of us may be a holograph of the universe, so each part of an artistic work may reflect the whole.  According to Dewey, at times the highly emotionally charged sensations associated with aesthetic intuition are so intense that they resemble religious, mystical experiences of communion (LW 10:35).

Such highly charged sensations and intuitions of unification can also be brought about by nature.  Dewey quotes an artist named William Henry Hudson who has had aesthetic experiences in the presence of trees and birds akin to ecstatic religious communion.  Dewey also refers to Emerson who said that on crossing a common at twilight he enjoyed "a perfect exhilaration" that made him "glad to the brink of fear" (LW 10:35).

Perhaps an even clearer example of unification with nature, of overcoming the dualism of individual and world, is from this 1838 journal entry by Emerson.  It is not one that Dewey cites but one that I believe is in the spirit of Dewey's references to Hudson's and Emerson's unifying experiences.  Emerson writes,

Every man that goes into the woods seems to be the first man that ever went into a wood.  His sensations and his world are new.  You really think that nothing can be said about morning and evening, and the fact is morning and evening have not yet begun to be described.  When I see them. . . I am cheered with the moist warm, glittering budding and melodious hour that takes down the narrow walls of my soul and extends its pulsation and life to the very horizon.  That is Morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the world (ctd. in Edward Waldo Emerson 61).

What I hear in this journal entry is Emerson's view, one I believe shared by Dewey, that we are not just in the universe, looking at it from a very limited perspective.  Rather, at certain times we sense that we are the universe and it is us.

Unlike the path to the enveloping whole through philosophic reflection, art and nature lead us there through immediate experience.  Whereas the reasons I have trouble following Dewey's philosophic route to enduring peace is my lack of negative capability, I believe my inability to follow his route through poetry and nature stems from my inattention to things non-cognitive.  I suspect I have a tendency to discount my intuitions and the information my emotions provide since these are, as Dewey acknowledges, so difficult to describe.  In a way, Dewey is telling me that I need to attend to and value the intuitions that undergird my discursive, left-brained thinking.  As he says, thinking is but a cup of water on a sea of emotion (Williams 127).  As he also says, consecutive reasoning is less a guide to wisdom than are imagination and sensitivity to the ineffable (LW 10:41).  It seems clear, then, that if I want to reconcile the tensions I find in Dewey, if I want to follow his map to achieve the hope he holds out for a peace that passes understanding, I need, first, to better comprehend the ways he reconciles the dualisms he finds in our world and, second, to be more sensitive to what my body and my imaginative intuitions tell me about the ineffable background of my focal experience.

In conclusion, turning to Dewey for guidance about hope leaves me with new insights and new tasks.  The Dewey I would like to call my "familiar" Dewey tells me that the proper object of my profoundest hopes should be what the everchanging world gives me: perpetual challenges that I can sometimes meet creatively, imaginatively, and cooperatively.  That is, the best I can hope for are moments in which I am vitally alive and fully engrossed, moments of harmony that are limited in duration but help make the possibility of such future moments, both for myself and others, more widely available.  However, the Dewey that is, for me, an "unfamiliar" Dewey, speaks about peace beyond understanding, about a sense of the enveloping whole that is akin to the religious ecstacy of communion.  This is a relatively new Dewey to me, an aspect of him that I did not get to know when I initially encountered him in Democracy and Education and Reconstruction in Philosophy.  However, despite the tension I feel between the familiar and the unfamiliar Dewey, I want to live enough in his spirit to take seriously the idea that this new Dewey will be as valuable to me as the old if I accept his invitation to expand my sensibilities, both philosophic and poetic.

Endnotes

1.  I will use the definitive edition of Dewey's works, edited by JoAnn Boydston and published by Southern Illinois University Press between 1969 and 1990 in three sets titled Early Works, Middle Works, and Later Works.  The books most relevant to my themes are Democracy and Education (MW 9), Human Nature and Conduct (MW 14), Experience and Nature (LW 1), A Common Faith (LW 9:3-58), and Art as Experience (LW 10).  I also cite the following works: "Contributions to Cyclopedia of Education" (MW 6:359-467), Reconstruction in Philosophy (MW 12:77-201), The Public and its Problems (LW 2:235-372), Experience and Education (LW 13:1-62), and "Educational Lectures before Brigham Young Academy" (LW 17:211-348).

WORKS CITED

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