David I. Seiple

(D. Seiple)



     Dewey's Art as Experience should be read as a sustained rejection of "Compartmentalism" in art -- i.e., of the notion that because art and ordinary life have little direct pertinence to each other, interpretation and exhibition of art objects should occur irrespective of practical context (a claim I label `the Significance-for-Praxis Thesis' (SPT)).  Dewey however does not make explicit any real argument for the rejection of Compartmentalism.  Accordingly, {1} my first general aim is to reconstruct that argument by indicating how praxis is relevant to aesthetics, and I do this by making essential use of the concepts of `organic unity', `immediacy', `fusion', `critical control', and `expression'.  I argue in Chapter I that aesthetic experience has significance for the practice of artistic creativity, and in Chapter III (against the Disinterestedness Thesis (DT)) that practical interests have significance for aesthetic experience.

     {2} My second general aim is to show why this argument retains any current interest for us.  This involves showing {a} how for Dewey aesthetics is relevant to praxis -- specifically, to moral deliberation, and {b} how this claim fits into contemporary discussion.  I do this by demonstrating how certain other key terms are applicable to Dewey's account ‑‑ `intentionality', `activity', `method', `context-sensitivity', `virtue', `vitality', `representation' and `the end of art'.  In Chapter II I show that Dewey provides a plausible account of moral deliberation that exhibits a structure similar to the process of artistic creativity, and in Chapter IV I indicate how Dewey's understanding of the social function of art provides an intriguing story about the educative use of art criticism in the development of a unified self.

     My reading of Dewey takes as central a broad notion of "intelligence" as a univocal concept defined in terms of the qualitative end-states it promotes, and this calls into question some prominent interpretations of Dewey -- especially the reading offered by Richard Rorty.  Rorty regards Dewey as a proto-deconstructionist, and if my argument here is correct, that is a seriously misleading view.