When John Dewey died in 1952, he was memorialized as America's most famous philosopher, revered by liberal educators and deplored by conservatives, but universally acknowledged as his country's intellectual voice. Many things conspired to give Dewey an extraordinary intellectual eminence: He was immensely long-lived and immensely prolific; he died in his 93rd year, and his intellectual productivity hardly slackened until his 80s.
Professor Alan Ryan offers new insights into Dewey's many achievements, his character, and the era in which his scholarship had a remarkable impact. He investigates the question of what an American audience wanted from a public philosopher - from an intellectual figure whose credentials came from his academic standing as a philosopher, but whose audience was much wider than an academic one.
Ran argues that Dewey's "religious" outlook illuminates his politics much more vividly than it does the politics of religion as ordinarily conceived. He examines how Dewey fit into the American radical tradition, how he was and was not like his transatlantic contemporaries, why he could for so long practice a form of philosophical inquiry that became unfashionable in England after 1914 at the latest.
©1995 Alan Ryan (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
This is a very well-written biography that works nicely as an audiobook for those who take some interest in Dewey. Robert Westbrook's biography, John Dewey and American Democracy, is probably more authoritative, but Ryan's book moves along more briskly, is reasonably comprehensive, and is pleasing to listen to. Ryan is British, and it's interesting to hear Dewey discussed in relation to developments in the UK, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, and European thinkers on social democracy. I'm listening to it at the same time as Jonathan Sperber's book on Marx, and although the biographical strategies are very different, the contrast between the two men's lives and thoughts are illuminating.
Summerer's voice is pleasant and his narration is generally unobtrusive, but I can' figure out why no audiobook narrators (or editors) can figure out how to pronounce names like Weber and Foucault. It's jarring. There are a couple of editing errors, like pauses or repetitions, that should be taken care of, but it's not a huge problem.
Although written some years back, this book is still an immensely valuable resource on Dewy, but more importantly on the entire intellectual and some of the political zeitgeist of that interest period of time before and after the first world war.
The author does and admirable job laying a context for and then explaining Dewy's ideas, but goes beyond that to give very thoughtful opinions about how Dewy's ideas were received and even how they stand up today (in the author's day).
The narration is impressive and all one could ask for in a book such as this. Summerer is one of the best out there!
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