Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Dewey

American Teacher, Educator, Philosopher and Pragmatist

"A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of actual experience by environing conditions, but that they also recognize in the concrete what surroundings, physical and social, that exist so as to extract from them all that they have to contribute to building up experiences that are worthwhile."

"Education as growth or maturity should be an ever-present process."

"Genuine intellectual integrity is found in experimental knowing. Until this lesson is fully learned, it is not safe to dissociate knowledge from experiment nor experiment from experience."

"Happiness is fundamental in morals only because happiness is not something to be sought for, but is something now attained, even in the midst of pain and trouble, whenever recognition of our ties with nature and with fellow-men releases and informs our action."

"Moral principles that exalt themselves by degrading human nature are in effect committing suicide."

"Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active, and elaborate technique of inquiry... Pure reasoning as a means of arriving at truth is like the spider who spins a web out of himself. The web is orderly and elaborate, but is s only a trap."

"Search for a single, inclusive good is doomed to failure. Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situation of experience its own full and unique meaning."

"The dominant vocation of all human beings at all times is living - intellectual and moral growth."

"The essential problem of freedom, it seems to me, is the problem of the relation of choice and unimpeded effective action to each other... There is an intrinsic connection between choice as freedom and power of action as freedom. A choice which intelligently manifests individuality enlarges the range of action, and this enlargement in turn confers upon our desires greater insight and foresight, and makes choice more intelligent."

"The whole history of science, art and morals proves that the mind that appears in individuals, is not as such individual mind. The former is in itself a system of belief, recognitions, and ignorances, of acceptances and rejections, of expectancies and appraisals of meanings which have been instituted under the influence of custom and tradition."

"To assume that anything can be known in isolation from its connections with other things is to identify knowing with merely having some object before perception or in , and is thus to lose the key to the traits that distinguish an object as known... The more connections and interactions we ascertain, the more we know the object in question."

"What is sometimes called an act of self-expression might better be termed one of self-exposure; it discloses character - or lack of character - to others. In itself, it is only a spewing forth."

"Character is the interpenetration of habits."

"To be being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present like a halo."

"We always live at the time we live and not at some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future. This is the only preparation which in the long run amounts to anything."

"Change as change is mere flux and lapse; it insults intelligence. Genuinely to know is to grasp a permanent end that realizes itself through changes."

"A laxity due to decadence of old habits cannot be corrected by exhortations to restore old habits in their former rigidity. Even though it were abstractly desirable it is impossible. And it is not desirable because the inflexibility of old habits is precisely the chief cause of their decay and disintegration."

""Faith is tendency toward action." According to such a view, faith is the matrix of formulated creeds and the inspiration of endeavor... Faith in its newer sense signifies that experience itself is the sole ultimate authority."

"Every serious-minded person knows that a large part of the effort required in moral discipline consists in the courage needed to acknowledge the unpleasant consequences of one's past and present acts."

"For the highest task of intelligence is to grasp and recognize genuine opportunity, possibility."

"Genuine ignorance is... profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish water-proof to new ideas."

"I believe that... education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living... all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race... Every thinker puts one portion of an apparently stable world in peril."

"In the traditional method, the child must say something that he has merely learned. There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something."

"Education is a social process... Education is growth... Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself."

"Intellectually, religious emotions are not creative but conservative. They attach themselves readily to the current view of the world and consecrate it."

"Intelligence is not something possessed once for all. It is in constant process of forming, and its retention requires constant alertness in observing consequences, an open-minded will to learn and courage in re-adjustment."

"It is in education more than anywhere else that we have sincerely striven to carry into execution "the Great American Dream": the vision of a longer and fuller life for the ordinary man, a life of widened freedom, of equal opportunity for each to make of himself all that he is capable of becoming."

"It is our American habit if we find the foundations of our educational structure unsatisfactory to add another story or wing. We find it easier to add a new study or course or kind of school than to recognize existing conditions so as to meet the need."

"Love of certainty is a demand for guarantees in advance of action."

"Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid."

"Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory but that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise."

"Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply ingrained attitudes of aversion and preference."

"Since changes are going on any way, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized and directed."

"The aim of education should be to teach the child to think, not what to think."

"The educational process has no end beyond itself; it is its own end."

"The fundamental defect in the present state of democracy is the assumption that political and economic freedom can be achieved without first freeing the mind. Freedom of mind is not something that spontaneously happens. It is not achieved by mere absence of obvious restraints. It is a product of constant unremitting nurture of right habits of observation and reflection."

"The future of religion is connected with the possibility of developing a faith in the possibilities of human experience and human relationships that will create a vital sense of the solidarity of human interests and inspire action to make that sense a reality."

"The more horrible a depersonalized scientific mass war becomes, the more necessary it is to find universal ideal motives to justify it."

"The only way to abolish war (is) to make peace heroic."

"The result of the educative process is capacity for further education."

"This which marks the difference between bestiality and humanity, between culture and merely physical nature, is because man remembers, preserving and recording his experiences."

"To suppose there is some one unchanging native force which generates war is as naive as the usual assumption that our enemy is actuated solely by the meaner of the tendencies named and we only by the nobler."

"We are weak today in ideal matters because intelligence is divorced from aspiration. The bare force of circumstance compels us onwards in the daily detail of our beliefs and acts, but our deeper thoughts and desires turn backwards. When philosophy shall have co-operated with the course of events and made clear and coherent the meaning of the daily detail, science and emotion will interpenetrate, practice and imagination will embrace. Poetry and religious feeling will be the unforced flowers of life. To further this articulation and revelation of the meanings of the current course of events is the task and problem of philosophy in days of transition."

"We cannot have jobs and opportunities if we surrender our freedom to Government control... We can have both opportunity and security within the framework of a free society."

"We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique."

"Every great advance in science has been issued from a new audacity of imagination."

"Blame is most readily averted by being so much like everybody else that one passes unnoticed."

"Philosophy has the task and the opportunity of helping banish the concept that human destiny here and now is of slight importance in comparison with some supernatural destiny."

"Ideas or hypotheses are tested by the consequences which they produce when they are acted upon."

"The best and the deepest moral training is that which one gets by having to enter into proper relationships with others… Present educational systems, so far as they destroy or neglect this unity, render it difficult or impossible to get any genuine, regular moral training."