Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Conscription of Thought

John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American born philosopher, as well as, a psychologist and education reformer. His school of thought fell under the title of pragmatism which is a naturalistic approach to learning where knowledge is acquired from the environment in which the human lives. Dewey’s work was extensive and covered areas from philosophical concerns of the day to the social and political issues of the time.

After the beginning of World War One, a “substantial part of his published output consisted of commentary on current domestic and international politics, and public statements on behalf of many causes.” He was a believer in progressive social change and a supporter of American intervention in the war. Dewey saw the war as a necessary evil. He felt it was something that had to be dealt with and why not use it as an outlet for social reform if the opportunity arose. To quote him directly, “the future of our civilization depends upon the widening spread and deepening hold of the scientific cast of mind.”

“Conscription of Thought” can best be defined as a mandatory uptake of thought not just feeling and acting. The article discusses the argument that social cohesion “is best attained along with intellectual and emotional unity.” However, the effectiveness of the American intervention is “likely to be hampered by lack of those ideas.” Ultimately for Americans to be successful in their intervention, “participation should consist not in money nor in men, but in the final determination of peace policies which is made possible by the contribution of men and money.”

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