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The Problem of Dewey's "Metaphysics" and the "Generic Traits of Existence"

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Dewey’s metaphysics is a contested subject, especially over his definition of metaphysics as the description of the “generic traits of existence as existence” to provide a “map” for philosophy as criticism. I review this problem, focusing on the analyses of Raymond Boisvert and James Garrison. Boisvert argues that Dewey should have focused instead on primary instances (or “prototypes”) of existence (e.g., the field nature of events or inherent complexity). Garrison analyses the generic traits as functions of inquiry and so as logical, not ontological, entities, i.e., they are possibilities. I argue that traits must be generic to function as ways of connecting fields of experience and that logic cannot be cut off from ontology—the traits are of primary experience and so of existence. Existence (nature) for Dewey includes the domain of the possible as well as actual.


Thomas Alexander    
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
United States


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