DEMOCRACY AND IMAGINATION: THE PRACTICAL IDEALISM OF JOHN DEWEY

Chapter Seven: Fraternity, Community, and Communication
(Draft Outline)

1. Quality of individuality and quality of association are interdependent. The achievement of liberty and equality is inseparable from the attainment of fraternity.

2. Growth in individuality depends upon contact with a wide variety of people, ideas, and conditions.

3. Humans need associations, because there is a need to link up with conditions that spring loose one’s capacities and powers. Belonging to authoritarian organizations tends to limit the kind of give and take which allows for the development of freedom and equality. The imbalance makes the fortunate at the top “unfortunate,” because they lack obstacles that promote reflection and growth; and it denies “subordinates” the resources they need to deal intelligently with their problems.

4. Fraternity means cooperation. It is both fact and ideal. In real situations, people must work together to deal with obstacles to their working together. Individuals together must try to figure out what is best (aim or ideal) for individuals taken together, and they must also use imagination to work out possible common ground and possible shared courses of action.

5. Fraternity is association that reaches out to more and more association, that tries to be more and more inclusive. As individuals grow in individuality, so associated individuals grow in the manner and reach of their associations. Exclusiveness limits association and therefore limits the development of individuality.

6. The point is to develop that kind of association which promotes individuality and that kind of individuality which promotes cooperation or willingness to work with others. This means developing both sides of human nature to be mutually reinforcing. With education and experience, human beings can learn to think for themselves (consciousness), while including in their thoughts the needs and interests of others (social consciousness).

7. Only democratic modes of association fulfill this requirement. Non-democratic modes of association tend to “promote” some, while stifling others. They are power plays or competitions for power and influence. They rely on one-sided use of force, rather than cooperative interaction. Authoritarians mistakenly believe they can “make” individuals do their best.

8. People working together have things in common. They try to coordinate their resources and energies and to eliminate the obstacles that get in the way of their shared progress. But this common progress need not be democratic. Individuals marching together toward the same goal may belong to authoritarian organizations (such as assembly-line workers). What distinguishes mere mechanical or forced association from genuine democratic community is not merely having the same end or purpose, but participating or contributing in the framing of that end and in the development of courses of action to realize that end. Democratic individuals work together in the light of shared purposes and shared strategies, which they have worked out together.

9. Human beings in “society” find themselves in common problematic situations or predicaments. In try to figure their way out, they rely on imaginative appreciation of the standpoints of others and overt discussion (public deliberation). Realistically, human beings have to adjust their aims and purposes in the light of social imagination and overt discussion. Realization of even “personal” goals depends upon taking account of the stubborn facts or conditions of living together.

10. Democracy or community requires common ground. Through communication, human beings find old common ground and establish new common ground. Common ground includes shared experience, shared language, and shared cultural meanings (ideas or possible experiences). It also includes knowledge of individual standpoints or differences. [See Paragraph 10 in the notes.]

11. There is a similarity between the inner debate of personal deliberation (reflection) and the outer debate of public discussion and conversation. Democracy requires free discussion or debate and free exchange of information or ideas. [See Paragraph 11 in the notes.]

12. Striving for community does not mean loss of individuality. Rather, it indicates the worth of inclusive rather than isolated individuality. [See Paragraph 12 in the notes.]

13. Communication draws from the fund of common meanings or ideas that constitutes culture. It also adds to or contributes to that fund of common meanings.

14. Each person’s actual experience, when shared, becomes possible experience for others. Communication of meanings frees minds to think new possibilities, gives human reflection new resources and energies. Conversation (even “conversation” with books) multiplies possibilities for thought in ways that private reflection cannot. Development of freedom of thought in individuals requires widespread and “free” communication of ideas.

15. General ideas can be drawn upon by many individuals to guide their thought and action.

16. What binds a society or community together is its culture or tradition, its system of meanings, its meaning-horizon, its fund of accumulated possibilities (ideas). It is this meaning horizon (including language) which makes interpretation of present facts possible. One’s own angle of vision is enriched and increased through dependence on and use of this meaning horizon. Use of shared meanings helps reveal what is distinctively one’s own.

17. Democracy means expansion of the meaning horizon (fund of meanings). The locus of these meanings is primarily works of art and the spoken word. [See Paragraph 17 in the notes.]


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Copyright © 1997 - 1999 Gordon L. Ziniewicz
This page last updated 10/14/12

Please note: These philosophical commentaries, though still in process, are the intellectual property of Gordon L. Ziniewicz. They may be downloaded and freely distributed in electronic form only, provided no alterations are made to the original text. One print copy may be made for personal use, but further reproduction and distribution of printed copies are prohibited without the permission of the author.