Theses Doctoral

The Concept of Temporality in John Dewey's Early Works

Macleod, Ruairidh James

It is well understood that a concept of temporality is central to Dewey’s later work, finding its culmination in his essay “Time and Individuality” (1938). What has not been either acknowledged or established is the fact that a detailed and sophisticated concept of temporality, one which is fully in accord with his later work, was already present in Dewey’s early work, particularly in his essay “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” (1896). This thesis therefore seeks to demonstrate not only that such a concept of temporality exists in Dewey’s early work, but also the nuanced nature of that concept of temporality, particularly in its function as a central, grounding component of the preconditions required for Dewey’s concept of experience. The nature of Dewey’s concept of temporality will be explicated through close analysis of Dewey’s texts, particularly his Reflex Arc essay, his central statements on education contained in Democracy and Education (1916), and the comprehensive statement of his mature philosophy found in Experience and Nature (1925). With the nature of Dewey’s early concept of temporality established, this thesis argues that it in fact constitutes a key contribution to a tradition of philosophy of temporality which starts with the work of Henri Bergson, continues with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger (most saliently with Being and Time), and finds its full contemporary statement in Gilles Deleuze’s work on time, based on his concept of ‘the virtual.’ The fact that Dewey’s concept of temporality, as with that of Deleuze, is based on a sophisticated understanding of contemporary scientific findings is also explored, with the argument made that possessing such a foundation in scientific thought allows Dewey’s concept of temporality to become fully compatible to current research in psychology, particularly as it concerns educational psychology.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy and Education
Thesis Advisors
Hansen, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 13, 2015