His earliest attempts to create a “new psychology” (aimed at merging experimental psychology with idealism) sought a method by which experience could be understood as integrated and whole.As a result, Dewey’s early approach was a modified, English absolute idealism.
Dewey’s pragmatism—or, “cultural naturalism”, which he favored over “pragmatism” and “instrumentalism”—may be understood as a critique and reconstruction of philosophy within the larger ambit of a Darwinian worldview (Lamont 1961; MW4: 3).
Following James’ lead, Dewey argued that philosophy had become an overly technical and intellectualistic discipline, divorced from assessing the social conditions and values dominating everyday life (, LW5: 157–58).
Dewey’s main graduate school influences—Neo-Hegelian idealism, Darwinian biology, and Wundtian experimental psychology—created a tension, which he sought to resolve.
Was the world fundamentally biological, functional, and material or was it, rather, inherently creative and spiritual?
John Dewey (1859–1952) was one of American pragmatism’s early founders, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, and arguably the most prominent American intellectual for the first half of the twentieth century.
Dewey’s educational theories and experiments had a global reach, his psychological theories had a sizable influence in that growing science, and his writings about democratic theory and practice deeply influenced debates in academic and practical quarters for decades.
At Michigan, Dewey developed long-term professional relationships with James Hayden Tufts and George Herbert Mead.
In 1886, Dewey married Harriet Alice Chipman; they had six children and adopted one.
He sought to reconnect philosophy with the mission of education-for-living (philosophy as “the general theory of education”), a form of social criticism at the most general level, or “criticism of criticisms” (, MW9: 338).
Set within the larger picture of Darwinian evolutionary theory, philosophy should be seen as an activity undertaken by interdependent organisms-in-environments.