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Deweyan Faith and Agonistic Politics: Implications for Moral Education

John Dewey has often been treated as a defender of a secular ideal in democratic politics. Meanwhile, critics of secularism, such as William Connolly, persuasively argue that the secular ideal perpetuates divisions between people that work against a healthy democratic pluralism. Is Dewey guilty of these critiques?

The short answer is “no.” On the contrary, his empirical naturalism leads him to an understanding of “faith” as a function of experience, which reveals instead the crucial role that religious, or spiritual, ideals play in political life.

Through an examination of A Common Faith, I argue that the implications of Dewey’s understanding of faith makes for a fruitful convergence with Connolly’s “agonistic” view of politics. By explicitly bringing contemporary reflection on agonism to bear on Dewey’s work, we can begin to reconstruct a view of democratic moral education in this light.

Alexander Kardjian Elnabli
Fordham University
United States

 

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