Human Nature and Conduct

Human Nature and ConductHuman Nature and Conduct by John Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book came recommended by Steven Jackson when he visited UMD last year. I’m a fan of Jackson’s work on repair, and was curious about how his ideas connected back to Dewey’s Human Nature and Conduct.

I’ve been slowly reading it, savoring each chapter on my bus rides to work since then. It’s a lovely & wise book. Some of the language puts you back into 1920s, but the ideas are fresh and still so relevant. I’m not going to try to summarize it here. You may have noticed I’ve posted some quotes here. Let’s just say it is a very hopeful book and provides a very clear and yet generous view of the human enterprise.

I don’t know if I was imagining it, but I seemed to see a lot of parallels between it and some reading I’m doing about Buddhism. I noticed over at Wikipedia that Dewey spent some time in China and Japan just prior to delivering these lectures. So maybe it’s not so far fetched a connection.

I checked it out of the library, but I need to buy a copy of my own so I can re-read it. You can find a copy at Internet Archive for your ebook reader too.

Method and Materials

Now it is a wholesome thing for any one to be made aware that thoughtless, self-centered action on his part exposes him to the indignation and dislike of others. There is no one who can be safely trusted to be exempt from immediate reactions of criticism, and there are few who do not need to be braced by occasional expressions of approval. But these influences are immensely overdone in comparison with the assistance that might be given by the influence of social judgments which operate without accompaniments of praise and blame; which enable an individual to see for himself what he is doing, and which put him in command of a method of analyzing the obscure and usually unavowed forces which move him to act. We need a permeation of judgments on conduct by the method and materials of a science of human nature. Without such enlightenment even the best-intentioned attempts at the moral guidance and improvement of others often eventuate in tragedies of misunderstanding and division, as is so often seen in the relations of parents and children.

John Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct (p. 321)

Something Horrible

There is something horrible, something that makes one fear for civilization, in denunciations of class-differences and class struggles which proceed from a class in power, one that is seizing every means, even to a monopoly of moral ideals, to carry on its struggle for class-power.

John Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct (p. 301)