ENDS AND SOCIAL IMAGINATION
1. As end-in-view (where view means the overview
of the whole course of action as imaginatively completed), the
ideal or projected possibility is not merely contemplated from
afar; it is desired or prized. Ends-in-view are objects
of desire. They have emotional appeal. What gives them their emotional
appeal (what makes them motives) is that they picture something
lacking and missed (desired) in the present situation; they suggest
a possible wholeness or completeness or unity of actual conditions.(1)
This projected unity enlightens choice of means and provides guidance
for overt manipulation or rearrangement of actual conditions;
in other words, a view of possible order helps order or realign
cooperative, as well as conflicting, moving energies (conditions).
As proposed resolutions of perplexing or troublesome situations,
ends-in-view are "agreeable" (fitting) insofar as they fit not
only external conditions, but also the desires and hopes of those
projecting them.(2) Their consistency
with predisposing habits and desires, their agreement with the
momentum of activity, constitutes interest. In fact, interest
and aim are but two aspects of the same unified activity.
The person has a stake in what is going on; how things turn out
makes a difference, because the moving facts of the situation,
including their direction of movement, affect his movement and
activity; they matter to him. That forces or energies head in
the right direction, one consistent with one's present or desired
heading,(3) is viewed as important.
Interest means that the individual is a participant(4),
not merely a spectator, in the flow of events. The person cares.
This care extends both to actual conditions (perceived as obstacles
or resources) and to imagined outcomes (proposed resolutions);
the person is moved, both by actual events (facts) and possible
consequences (ideas). Thus, desired ends-in-view "move" because
they are part of an ongoing interaction with objects selectively
engaged as part of the environment. This selectivity makes ends-in-view
individualized, unique, and personal.(5)
2. The unseen yet imagined end moves (or rather redirects
what is already moving) because it is desired and prized. It is
valued. But, as Dewey often points out, the desired and
the desirable, the valued and the valuable
are not the same. Dreams remain idle fantasies unless they fit
the facts. Wishes do not become purposes until they are appraised,
thought through in terms of real conditions and consequences (including
social consequences). Value-judgment involves the reciprocal weighing
of facts and ideas, not in a snap-judgment but in a judgment that
"takes care" and takes time. Prizing as mere liking may be immediate;
reflection as appraising entails "mediation" or postponement of
direct action. This postponement of overt action is matched by
increased mental or inward activity (reflection); this activity
includes evaluation of facts (determining their role as obstacles
or resources) in the light of the end-view and evaluation of the
end-view in terms of the "objective" weight and bearing (momentum
and configuration) of the facts. The end-in-view is a means alongside
other means within activity. It brings into clear but imaginative
"view" or focus the unseen, yet anticipated, chain of conditions
and consequences of a chosen course of action. The longer the
imagined chain, the fuller is the deliberation. Thus, what is
unseen and absent guides and regulates handling and undergoing
what is seen and present. The end-in-view, which is nothing other
than the whole possible course of action culminating in a favorable
outcome, gives an overall view, a "perspective." The end-in-view
influences the selection and interpretation of means along the
way; it gives objects or processes their meaning as means,
interprets them in terms of the plan, in their relation to the
desired outcome. Conditions are judged for their worth as means
(resources). In turn, examination and reexamination of the facts
at hand test and adjust the quality and value of the end foreseen.
In terms of present obstacles, it may not be worth it. In terms
of present resources, it may not be possible. In this way, ends-in-view
are revised, accepted, discarded, or replaced. Wishes are judged
to be idle fancies or castles in the air only when they are brought
before the tribunal of facts, where honest observation and knowledge
hold sway. Thus, ideals serve to modify facts; and facts serve
to modify ideals.
3. This regulation of fact in terms of idea and idea
in terms of fact, where neither is considered "superior," but
where both are regarded as interdependent, Dewey refers to as
judgment. Furthermore, this back and forth of ideas and facts
(deliberation or reflection) does not stop with the initiation
of overt action. Every step taken, an actual result which changes
conditions and legitimizes or discredits, however slightly, the
original purpose or plan, calls for a revaluation of both end
and means. How things have turned out thus far calls for a new
honest appraisal (reflection); undergoing or suffering the real
effects of actions undertaken,(6)
unless habit has overtaken reflection, changes one's perspective.
The value placed upon resources and ends is continually readjusted.
Furthermore, once an end is anticipated, focus turns from the
imagined end to acts heretofore viewed as means and cherishes
or enjoys these acts for their own sake. Each step is savored
or valued for its immediate quality as well as the possibilities
it suggests. Each step is regarded as a fulfillment or a failure.
Each step is itself an end and a transition. In other words, selective
focus upon particular phases of the whole course of action envisioned
(including both actualities and possibilities) produces alternative
perspectives for judging the relevance of other facts and ideas.
4. Human conduct requires the successful cooperation
between stubbornly real present facts and acts and imaginatively
ideal absent consequences and possibilities, between the observable
"here and now" and the imaginable "big picture." The interplay
of fact and idea is at the same time an interplay of the "this"
and the "overall," the local and the universal, the particular
and the general. The ideal is the meaning of the real, its connectedness
with a larger whole envisioned by imagination. For Dewey, limited
facts are not inferior to imagined wholes. Yet projection of imagined
wholes, whole systems of conditions and consequences relevant
to the problem at hand, is a means for judging the value of a
particular act. The "big picture" is a view of things in their
relations and associations, how they fit in and where they lead;
it is the scope or breadth of actual and possible experience (overview
of the continuity or connection between events), as well as its
depth (appreciation of the unique quality of individuals or events).
To understand how things are linked or are related is the business
of thinking. Conversely, the failure to see acts or ends in context
-- that is, to see relations between events, to see connections
between conditions and consequences -- amounts to a failure to
think at all. Action which attaches to the disconnected and the
isolated, which does not look far and wide before it leaps, is
thoughtless. Action which is thoughtful, on the other hand, puts
things in a past-to-future context of knowledge, observation,
5. The general or the universal has at least two senses
for Dewey.(7) In its first sense,
it refers to detachment from individual quality or what makes
things "incomparable." It means description of quantifiable relations,
regularities or similarities in operation, selected or emphasized
in view of a purpose. In this sense, universal statements are
rules for dealing with individual cases or events. They are not
unalterable laws. Universal principles (hypotheses) and generic
concepts (kinds or classes) are more or less effective tools,
that aid in understanding and controlling the movement of energies;
their usefulness as tools requires that they be continually tested
and reworked in the light of actual consequences. They are true,
not because they correspond to some "ultimate reality" or because
they are "ingredients" within things, but because they work,(8)
because they have a successful working relation with the actual
movement of energies.
6. It is important to stress that general notions exist
only as ideas (possibilities); they are "ideal." What are actual
are processes wherein unique (but not isolated) qualities emerge
and interact in more or less regular, more or less surprising
ways. Nature exhibits regularity and consistency, but not "uniformity"
in the sense of repeated occurrence of the same "forms." Neither
Aristotle's fixed classes nor Newton's fixed mechanical laws truly
represent the only relative constancy within change shown in natural
events. There are no eternal unchanging forms or essences.(9)
Each individual existence or event (taken in its qualitative immediacy)
is sui generis. Individuals do not have an identical or
repeating essence or underlying "nature." For Dewey, the essential
refers to the "gist" of things, their likeness from the standpoint
of a particular purpose or intended operation. An essence is an
intellectual abstraction, not a metaphysical type. Given a particular
interest or purpose, one notes those similar characteristics (derived
from past experience) which are relevant to the situation at hand,
those "patterns" which help clarify or organize present conditions.
The "gist" of a thing varies depending upon the selective interest
or the needs of the situation involved. The "essence" or "gist"
of cadmium red differs for the artist and the scientist.(10)
"Boiled down" essences can be as numerous as the collective and
particular interests of individuals. Abstraction is not the grasping
of a universal form really existing (as an ingredient) in diverse
individuals; it is the glossing over of individuality, the smoothing
over of real differences, the ignoring of unique qualities, which
go to the heart of the individuality of the individual. In fact,
abstraction is the ignoring of form.(11)
In nature and in human affairs, there is similarity, but not sameness.
In a word, only individuals exist (not isolated, but associated)(12);
the general (generic), as applicable to a wide range of individuals,
is purely conceptual and ideal.(13)
In reality, no situation repeats itself, yet situations do have
things "in common." They exhibit similar patterns of conditions
and consequences (if-then relations), which thought seizes upon
to give guidance in the unique handling of a particular situation.
Observation looks for recurrent patterns and ignores unique twists.
The belief in pre-existent general types is explained by the tendency
of thought to simplify the unique complexity of actual affairs
in order to have a more or less stable approach and method of
dealing with changing conditions. When thought forgets the instrumental
role of ideas, it tends to reify and deify the simple ideal essences
it has isolated from complex experience. Actual regularity in
the interaction of similar conditions is the source of the framing
and testing of general hypotheses, which are applicable only so
long as they help in clearing up uncertainties and solving problems.
7. Thus, the very strength of general concepts is equally
their weakness. They apply to many individuals insofar as they
ignore the uniqueness of individuals. Thought sticks to its proper
business as long as it is mindful that abstraction and generalization
are tools for modifying conditions and not ways of "peeking" beyond
appearances to superempirical essences. Even at that, abstraction
should be concerned with dynamic recurrent relations between individuals
and patterns of conditions operating to produce particular forms,
rather than with static classification of individuals into "kinds."
According to Dewey, the physical and biological sciences would
not have advanced far had they stuck to merely looking at nature.
8. But there is a second important meaning given by Dewey
to the word general. The general means the common,
the shared, the inclusive (in a sense that does not detach from
individual quality). The universal means individuals taken together,
a wide-range of unique existences associated with and interacting
with one another.(14) It means
individuals in their associations or interactions. The
universal or general (the common) is that which includes a great
number of individuals (plurality), as well as their manners of
associating. It indicates not a form transcending and ordering
individuals as instances of a class, but the full or inclusive
range of individuals as unique and irreplaceable. In this sense,
the overall means the inclusive, that which gathers together individuals
in their individuality, at the same time as it notes regularities
in their relations. Thus, as we shall see, the common good
is not a separately existing entity floating above particular
goods; it is particular goods working together, or particular
goods shared by individuals planning together and working together.
This sense of the universal, as inclusive of individuals in their
individuality as well as their relatedness to and likeness with
one another, is its concrete social sense.
9. Imagination has the advantage of linking the indefinite
range and applicability of ideas with the concrete and vivid appreciation
of individual qualities. Ends-in-view projected by imagination
are idealized wholes which remain close to the facts they picture
in a unified way. Images have a wide range of applicability yet
are always individualized; they can mean many things, yet they
retain the solid feel and appeal of individual existence. For
example, an imagined social whole (which guides moral deliberation)
is ineffective unless it is peopled by clear pictures of distinctive
individuals. One is not stirred to action by a bin full of faceless
identical and uniform essences.(15)
Whether the individuals of imagination truly represent or correspond
to individuals in their existential individuality is the problem
of constantly referring ideas to facts and vice versa.
10. What counts ultimately, according to Dewey, is the
local and the particular (seen in its broader relations). In almost
Hegelian fashion, he often states that the local is the universal.
As every situation is unique, so also the good, the course
of action which resolves the problematic situation, is unique
in every situation. In addition, the actual end, the genuine outcome
of conditions acting together, the "happy" or "unhappy" ending,
is also unique. The terminal quality of an object or situation
is symmetry within movement, emergence of eventual unity (form),
which is immediately felt or experienced. Situations appear to
come together, with and without our effort, or they appear to
fall apart. The ones that come together are treasured in memory
as objects desired in future striving. Yet new fulfillments are
never exact copies of old fulfillments.
11. The good of the situation, the untying of the knot
of actual conditions to release energy, is a unique good,
a resolution which is incomparable with the unique good
of any other situation. Experience of past goods helps to identify
future goods, but the uniqueness of the new situation requires
the intervention of judgment. Judging or evaluation requires taking
stock of the situation, noting what is similar and dissimilar
to past conditions. Judgment, like the framing of ends, is individualized.
Value-judgment, the valuation of the quality of purposes as purposes,
as well as of means as means, is situational. The situation is
the "from which" and the "for which" of thought; it is a self-contained
whole for both practical deliberation and scientific research.
The clearing up of "this uncertainty" or the harmonizing of this
set of conditions is a unique resolution of a unique problem by
means of a unique action. Even the free play of imagination is
"reined in" or limited to those suggestions relevant to the facts
at hand. Practical wisdom means reflection upon things(16)
at hand, steering through actual obstacles and "steering of" (transitive
sense of "guiding") actual resources given here and now.(17)
12. Ends, as desired resolutions of existing conditions,
are always particular. Ends-in-view, to be practicable, should
be individualized in accordance with the actual and possible movement
of real conditions. It is important to realize that this work
of individualizing ends, or projecting particular resolutions,
falls to imagination.(18) An image
is an idea that refers to a possible or actual individual event.
Both the pictured resolution and real fulfillment are particular
and thus unique events. What is pictured is not "justice," but
a unique coordination of actual persons and events in a particular
satisfactory form. What is imaginatively projected is something
in particular. There is no such existing thing as "justice" in
general (as a "noun"), except as idea or ideal. "Justice" is adjectival
or adverbial; it is a quality of acts and ends. There are only
just acts and just causes, events that are important for their
bearings and relations, but not by virtue of having a "common
13. Dewey suggests that there is then a diversity of
real goods and a plurality of purposes framed and means chosen
to establish these goods. There is, if you will, a democracy of
ends and goods, each of which must be taken seriously and evaluated
on its own account, none of which can be subordinated to some
absolute good or "end-in-itself." For Dewey, there is no "metaphysical"
hierarchy of ends and goods, where individual ends are lorded
over by a summum bonum. Faithfulness to the here
and now, concern with the particular course of action which fits
existing conditions, replaces broad-based search for the summum
bonum or the "end-in-itself." The "final end" of a situation
is the last object decided upon, the last desire intelligently
formed. The person chooses from imagined alternatives that way
of acting which in his best judgment seems to fit the needs of
the situation, to resolve the problem. He does what is best, not
in any metaphysical sense, but what is thought to be best (later
tested by action) for that particular situation.(20)
Good, better, and best pertain only to the evaluation of alternatives
within the process of deliberation. Comparing ends and courses
of action is but a method for arriving at the act which fits the
situation. Thus, the good of any situation is a "custom-fitted"
good, patterned upon generalization from past experience perhaps,
but all the same having a unique unrepeatable quality of its own.
14. The end or good of one situation can not be judged
in terms of the end or good of another situation. As unique responses
to unique conditions, they are what they are. The qualitative
equality of ends is underlined by Dewey. To be right is to be
"right for" (present demands). One situation may call for physical
exercise; another may call for financial reckoning; a third may
call for philosophical reflection; and a fourth may require a
town meeting to get priorities straight. What is right within
one situation cannot be compared to what is right within another
situation.(21) One possible implication
of this view is that of tolerance, refraining from judging the
achievements or failures of others in terms of fixed ends imported
from outside their uniquely problematic situation.
15. The question arises: Are there standards for conduct
and for framing ends which go beyond the local situation? According
to Dewey, there are such criteria. Nevertheless, these standards
are not imported magically from some supersensible realm. They
emerge from collective and personal experience (custom and habit).
One can speak of standards as principles derived from past experience.
But there is also a "formal" way (itself arising from experience)
to evaluate ends-in-view and to test standards derived from custom
or habit. No good and no end exists in isolation, even within
the situation. What one has achieved must be interpreted in connection
with antecedent opportunities and conditions (including effort
and reflection). It must also be seen in relation to future possible
consequences (which can be manifold). The "whence" and the "whither"
of an end achieved give it its moral quality. Not where a person
stands, but the direction of his activity, is the point. Where
he comes from and where he is headed, the "axis" of his conduct,
is the issue. Fulfillments are themselves conditions leading toward
or away from new fulfillments; they are, once achieved, obstacles
or resources in a new situation. One can encounter the same landmark
whether one walks east or west; but if the desirable heading is
east, then finding such a landmark can be a great disappointment
if it indicates one is heading the wrong way. Ends projected and
chosen indicate a change in direction as much as they indicate
an object sought. The basic direction of activity, as growth or
decline, has a positive or negative quality. What can be evaluated
are overall directions of growth and progress. In this sense,
justice, kindness, health, learning, and the like denote directions
or qualities of movement rather than fixed results. They are more
like compass directions than actual positions. The overall end
(the direction of a process rather than the attainment of a result)
that guides the determination of particular ends is the end of
16. If we understand what Dewey means by growth, we begin
to understand the standard that can be applied to the framing
of ends and the direction of conduct. Growth means expansion of
the range of thought and activity to include more and more diverse
and distinctive elements and to bring them together in working
harmony.(22) Growth means movement
from conflict to unity, from unity or harmony which includes some
moving energies to unity or harmony which includes more diverse,
numerous, and varied energies. Growth means integrity challenged
and recovered, expanded and deepened. There is no standing still.
Every endeavor means either growth or decline, moving forward
and expanding or slipping backward and contracting. Viewed in
moral terms, growth means outwardness, expansion of give and take
(deepening and extending transactions) with the environment:(23)
17. Unity of thought and desire, the single-minded and
wholehearted thrust of tendencies acting jointly as will, is mirrored
in the projection of ends which are unified, reinforcing, and
compatible. Purity of heart may not mean to will one thing, but
rather to will many things which are compatible with one another.
The working together of impulse, habit, and reflection results
in the imaginative projection of ends which work together, which
are not "dead ends" (exclusive ends).(24)
Conversely, the framing of unified and inclusive ends acts to
reconcile relatively competing preferences and habits. Thus, one
way of judging ends is to ask whether they are compatible with
other ends and whether they serve to unify or harmonize a wide
or narrow range of interests and energies. Increased dynamic harmony
within expansion of the range of activity is an indicator of growth.
18. For Dewey, the direction of growth means overall
expansion rather than contraction, though there are moments where
contraction or holding back is called for. There are two kinds
of contraction and expansion -- expansion or contraction of overt
"physical" activity, actual engagement with the environment, and
expansion or contraction in mental activity, involvement with
ideas. The former type welcomes or shuns, meets or backs away
from, external involvement. The latter type opens or closes the
mind. Generally speaking, the inhibition of external movement
and expansion -- a contraction of physical energies (meeting obstacles)
-- is often compensated for by increased stimulus to think. In
that event, physical contraction of movement results in mental
expansion of possibilities; the meaning-horizon opens up, and
mental space is created. Wishes emerge; plans are made; alternatives
are weighed. The expansion of this meaning-horizon reveals opportunities
or "openings" for action once again, opening up the previously
confining situation. Thus, opportunities for overt participation
in external affairs increase. The expansion of the meaning-horizon,
initiated by an initial perplexity, finds more and more possibility
within actuality. Expansion of overt activity, in turn, leads
to more and more opportunities to "stop and think," to learn,
to expand the meaning-horizon. The alternatives to mutually expanding
activity and thought are timidity in the face of new and troubling
facts, idle speculating and castle building, and thoughtless and
mechanical activity, to name a few.
19. If a craving is immediately satisfied or if a habit
is slavishly and mechanically obeyed, with no postponement by
thought, no space is opened up either physically or mentally.
No options are discovered in evaluation of the whole field of
obstacles and resources. No purposes are framed. No picture of
a continuity of acts appears. There is no "breathing-room" of
possibilities, only the "close-quarters" of rigid actualities.
The meaning-horizon remains narrow and compressed. Meanings are
the "whence" and "whither," the conditions and consequences of
acts. Action without meaning is action without memory and foresight;
chiefly, it is action without purpose. Since human conduct means
purposeful conduct, conduct that looks ahead, conduct illumined
by the look ahead, then purely mechanical action, action disconnected
from ends intrinsic to action, is inhuman (as much assembly-line
work). The expansion of the meaning-horizon is what is meant by
learning or education. This expansion can occur despite, even
by virtue of, failures to harmonize external conditions. External
conditions are not entirely within our control, but imaginative
reflection which gathers an act up in its history and sees where
it leads adds to any activity a sense of a rich and undivided
whole. This whole or meaning-horizon combines acute appreciation
of individual distinctions with an overall view of order and harmony.
20. It should be noted that the standard of growth as
increased harmony within expansion is a standard that is meaningless
without full inspection of the unique history of the individual
and the situation he finds himself in. Analysis of discrete factors
in their rich complexity leading up to the present, as well as
the direction of these conditions separately or working together,
and anticipation of what the present movement of affairs makes
possible or makes impossible, are the preconditions for judging
oneself or others.(25)
21. Because growth is ongoing, good ends are not dead
ends; they go somewhere; they generate further diversified activity.
The end of one situation must be seen as a positive lead to a
new situation. The end which is gradually worked out is seen as
a means, a transition point. The pause to enjoy a satisfactorily
completed situation, to appreciate the terminal quality of the
unique good, turns to a need to go on, to see the new achievement
as an opportunity, a means, a new condition. A good end is one
that becomes a means for expanding opportunities. A good end increases
rather than decreases possibilities. Framing ends frees activity.
Framing good ends enables activity to expand in variety.
22. Thus, Dewey distinguishes between ends desired and
ends desirable, between prized and appraised goods. What is prized
is an object in its immediate quality; what is appraised (reflected
upon) is an object in its relation to other objects, its conditions
and consequences. Imagination leaps beyond the thing sought to
the "What next?" Knowledge of past connections and relations informs
this conjecture. Foresight becomes "far-sighted," as opposed to
the "near-sightedness" of deliberation cut short by intense craving.
Dewey calls this far-sightedness prudence (another term for practical
wisdom). The end is pictured in relation to a wider system of
interacting factors. It is seen in an imaginative context. Ends
which grow into one another and reinforce one another, rather
than those which are divided sharply from one another and compete
with one another, are ends which present a unified appeal and
coherent guide to conduct. Growing out of real conditions (both
positively and negatively charged, having deficits and strengths),
these ends "work together" among themselves and with activity,
without sacrificing their uniquely satisfying quality. Not only
must facts be taken seriously, each for what it is; but projected
ends of growing healthy, learning, fixing the car, helping out
the unemployed friend, and the like, must be regarded within their
situations as irreplaceable and important in themselves, while
at the same time reinforcing and mutually enhancing in the broader
23. Thus, unity(26) is
possible within the diversity of ends as well as within overt
action and experience. In one sense, ends are incomparable and
unique; they are projected unique outcomes of uniquely related
conditions. In another sense, ends can be said to work together,
to fit together, to reinforce one another. Ends can be compatible
or conflicting, mutually reinforcing or mutually warring. Ends
can be projected in perspective, as leading to or thwarting other
ends, as promoting or resisting other ends. Or ends can be imagined
in relative isolation, with limited sense of their "whence and
whither," their connections. One can take a short-range or long-range,
narrow or broad view of the territory traversed by the "axis of
conduct." This scope or breadth is a matter of the ability of
imagination to stretch to include an extensive reach of possible
consequences. It is another word for perspective, and it gives
us a further clue to the notion of the ideal. An ideal
has emotional and inspirational value as well as "generality."
By general, once again, Dewey means the generous,
the inclusive and expansive as opposed to the exclusive and contractive.
Ideals are nought but inclusive and expansive "aims." An ideal
is an inclusive end, one that accounts for growth or progress
in a wide range of diverse activities and conditions. Wisdom is
the sense of moving in the right direction, in the midst of manifold
unique goods and particular acts enjoyed in themselves, yet connected
and influencing one another.
24. An end projected ties together a whole series of
acts in a single continuity. The model for evaluating particular
ends is the inclusive end which gathers together a diversity of
acts both spatially and temporally. The inclusive end is not "above"
particular acts; it is the thread of continuity that ties together
these acts. It is the overall resolution of a wide range of distinct
problems in their relation with one another, the direction or
quality of a thrust of unified energies linking together numerous
acts and reconciling a variety of interests. The truly inclusive
end is the social good, which is not something over and
above individual goods, but is the mutual enhancement and reinforcement
and harmonization of individual goods in association with one
another. The common good describes the unique fulfillment of individuals
in their individuality, in a way which is inclusive of the fulfillment
of others, which is cooperative rather than exclusive and divisive.
An expansion of concern and interest in a wider range of consequences
necessarily includes consequences of concern to others. In fact,
this only builds upon the fact that the affairs of individuals
are already associated; "climbing a tree" to get a better look
includes the imaginative vision of the interdependence of human
beings and the widespread repercussions of their acts. Framing
an end which ignores social consequences runs the risk of leading
to fracture rather than harmony; foresight requires examination
of social conditions. Within the narrow focus of attention, some
energies may be coordinated, while others go their own way. Only
shortsighted deliberation sees consequences for oneself divorced
from consequences for others. Thus, an imaginative vision which
includes the interests and possible fulfillments of others, which
is interested in their interests, is the overall view which provides
the basis for judging the framing of particular aims. Each situation
is conceived, at least potentially, as a social situation. In
other words, growth means growth together.(27)
25. Facing the facts entails facing the fact of the interconnectedness
of human activities. Some of the conditions "out there" that affect
the outcomes of our actions are conditions moved and directed
by other individuals in their striving. Some conditions are the
result of joint effort. As humans breathe the same air, they also
breathe the same ethos or social "atmosphere," of shared
(therefore "common") conditions and opportunities, as well as
obstacles and impediments. People and their fortunes are inextricably
bound together. The fundamental fact of both human and non-human
natural existence is that of unique individuality worked out in
association with and linked to the working out of other unique
individualities. Harmony -- in this case social harmony -- is
a quality of this association whereby the reciprocal improvement
of individualities is achieved. Awareness of interdependency makes
consciousness social. According to Dewey, every act has potential
social bearing. Imagination of the possible connection of one's
own acts with the acts of others constitutes imagination which
is social. The dramatic rehearsal of deliberation includes the
imaginative portrayal of other actors. We rehearse the effect
of our actions on others and the effect of their actions or reactions
on us. Thus, harmony of our own energies and external conditions
is seen to be connected with harmony of relation or association
with others. Social harmony means harmony within and among individuals.
26. But social harmony -- the common good -- does not
mean uniformity or conformity. We return to the notion of the
general as the generous. Society is its individuals
in their mode of association with one another. The common good
is the good of individuals, achieved in coordinated effort, so
that the consequences of their acts will be resources rather than
obstacles for themselves and others.
27. Regard for the common good, truly general or generous
thought, is sympathy. Sympathy means imaginative projection
of widespread connections; this imaginative projection is based
upon felt and experienced unity between persons. It develops gradually
or grows through the give and take of mutual action and reaction.
28. The absence of sympathy indicates an absence of adequate
reflection; it is focus upon the part without reference to the
whole, upon an isolated object without reference to further consequences
and relations. Thus, thought which does not take account of others
is diminished thought; for thought means consideration of things
in their relations. Focus on the completely isolated is not thought
at all. The selfish and egoistic person is "provincial." He voluntarily
limits the horizon of his interests in a way which is unrealistic
and dangerous to himself as well as to others. The compatibility
of his ends and interests with those of others is purely accidental;
without forethought of social consequences, his action is relatively
blind. His thought does not go far enough. It stops short;
it is not "wide-angled." The development of individuality means
the development of interests which are inclusive and comprehensive.(28)
The greatest or most "liberal" humanity would consist in a tendency
to include in foresight and concern the widest possible range
of interests and activities -- and this means also the interests
and activities of others, as real and as consequential as one's
own. This "humanity" is an achievement of conscious cultivation;
it is not an inborn given. The human as humane means the inclusive;
the inhumane means the exclusive. The human and humane framing
of ends means the framing of ends which are associated with and
implicate a variety of other ends, including those of others.
The development of individual humanity means increased sense of
co-humanity. Similarly, thinking at its best is social thinking
or social consciousness (if thinking means consideration of distinctions
29. It should be noted, however, that not all shortsightedness
is due to selfishness. There are limits to generosity and sympathy
set by actual limits of observation and imagination. In The
Public and Its Problems, Dewey calls attention to these limitations
in order to show that the rule of law is needed to intervene where
foresight leaves off. Generosity and sympathy extend, in the main,
to one's family, friends, and neighbors -- those who can be made
most vividly present in imagination, because of long attachment
and vitally shared interest. We will see later that the local
trails off into a penumbra of imagined consequences and connections,
but it is the local (as face-to-face community) which constitutes
the focus within the overall fringe.(29)
The limits of social imagination are set largely by the images
that can be projected on the basis of concrete face-to-face experience.
30. The interest in the common good or the projection
of social ends indicates an interest in the interests and the
purposes of others. Correlative to this interest is a standard
for judging or evaluating possible courses of action. The common
good is the good sought (harmony of diversity of interests) and,
at the same time, the criterion for judging particular acts undertaken.
According to Dewey, ends and standards have different origins
and different roles in the process of deliberation.(30)
Ends-in-view are forward looking. Standards are appraisals after
the fact. The origin of standards is social; what one does meets
with social approval or disapproval. In imagining a standard,
one imagines the course of action as if it were already completed
and anticipates the reaction of others.(31)
Their possible approval (or disapproval) gives a stamp of approval
(or disapproval) to an end projected. In other words, one imaginatively
takes the standpoint of others and their interests and judges
from that standpoint. An act is seen as approvable only if it
is seen as at the same time good for oneself and good for others.
31. The social standpoint as criterion for judging acts
and ends is further idealized by imagination as the standpoint
of an impartial and sympathetic observer. We perceive the interests
of others as qualitatively equal to our own and deserving of equal
consideration. From this standpoint, we do not judge our own acts
from the standpoint of others; and we do not judge their acts
from our own standpoint. Rather we assume an imaginary standpoint,
as far as this is possible, which judges all acts equally and
objectively. This standpoint is not "above" particular standpoints;
it is rather an attitude of calm appraisal which "cools off" the
heat of private craving and imagines a wider scope of interests.
This projected standpoint provides check and balance to personal
bias and impulse. It postpones action until a larger social view
can be projected. Thus, the standard of the common good is an
instrument for expanding the range of activity and thought and
for improving the quality of deliberation within a situation.
This standard for the impartial viewing of consequences, for suspending
satisfactions which are quick and for extending concerns which
are sluggishly parochial, resembles the Kantian imperative. Note
that for Dewey it is the isolation of the plea for exceptionality,
its disregard for social consequences, that is questionable. He
does not subscribe to the Kantian notion of universality as uniformity;
rather he intends universality to mean inclusive of a wide range
of consequences. The impartial, for Dewey, is not what is devoid
of interest, but rather what accounts for a plurality of interests.
It is interest in the interests of others.
32. The imaginative projection of an objective critic
who surveys the whole contracts the force of impulse and expands
the scope of imagination. Constriction of present activity makes
possible freedom of movement in imagination. Possible connections
and relations value or devalue the thing directly desired. What
makes the desired desirable is its place or setting in
a larger whole, partially supplied by observation, but largely
completed by imagination. Objectivity is not a superior point
of view; it is a point of view which takes other points of view
seriously, because it diminishes the intensity of one's own claims.
It is not an attitude of disinterest (contra Kant and the
Stoics), but a weaning of interest (an education of interest)
from what is private, isolated, and exclusive to what is common,
shared, and inclusive.(32)
33. Thus, for Dewey, "what is good for one" and "what
is good for one's neighbor" may not be the same, but they are
nevertheless inseparable and interdependent. They are unique goods
which have positive bearing upon one another, which contribute
to the enhancement of one another. This bearing adds to their
value. The criterion for framing ends within particular situations
is the social end or the common good (the good of many together).
The social standard goes even further. It extends to positive
social intervention to redirect conditions which empower other
individuals to enlarge their own capacities and powers. More important
than seeking ends which are compatible with the aims of others
is seeking ends which spring loose the creative activities of
others, ends that serve as means in the untying of the knotted
and confusing situations faced by others. Only they can feel directly
the pinch of their situation, and only they can frame purposes
and freely initiate action to unify the energies on hand; but
the socially interested and imaginative individual can imagine
the pinch and figure ways to remove obstacles and add to available
resources. Dewey describes such intervention from a social point
of view. The adjustment or accommodation of ends in this way is
not a diminishment but an enhancement of their quality. Recasting
ends-in-view so that they will be consistent with social demands,
so that courses of action will work out better with respect to
the concurrent activities of others, strengthens rather than weakens
these ends. In other words, cooperation works better than competition.
An end framed with social conditions in mind is more practicable
than an end dreamed up in isolation from all social facts. The
value of an end is its effectiveness in directing and bettering
actual conditions. Thus, the value of an end includes its social
bearing; an isolated end may appear in the short run to be appealing,
but in the long run may prove to be contradictory and self-defeating.
In this way, the pursuit of private profit without regard for
social consequences in a pecuniary culture is thought to be "worthwhile";
but the social consequences of this pursuit often pay back the
pursuer with an environment which is inhospitable and which eventually
countermands even the pursuit of private profit.(33)
It does not "pay" to forget that one is connected. It does "pay"
to envision and to work towards improved connections.
34. One should keep in mind that the adaptation of ends-in-view
is not only in terms of actual social conditions, but also in
terms of their ideal possible improvement. We align our ends not
only in terms of what others are, but in terms of what they can
be, what they can become. The axis of our conduct points to their
future as well as to our own. It also points to a future possible
joint undertaking of common struggle for common ends, such as
the uniquely individualized end of straightening out this community
or this nation (such as a better Boston or a better America).
In fact, the common good, as the harmonious interaction of a plurality
of endeavors, may be a particular end framed and engaged in by
individuals together. The social end or ideal is the possible
or imagined harmony of particular ends in a larger whole. It is
the cooperation of individuals actively pursuing ends uniquely
and distinctly important, some personal and some shared, yet compatible
with one another and mutually reinforcing. As in Plato's ideal
city, each person contributes to the whole by fulfilling his particular
capacity. Unlike Plato's city, there are for Dewey no ascending
degrees or hierarchies of places; and the standard for judging
is an imaginary projection based on actual experience, not an
absolute rule transcending space and time.
35. Still, for both Dewey and Plato, justice is
central. Justice is a matter of social harmony, of social unity,
a unity which includes diversity and cooperation. Every situation
has social meaning. The purpose of imagination, once again, is
to supply the sense of the whole, to extend the range of the seen
to the unseen, to widen present observations to include conditions
and persons absent yet potentially affecting and affected by action
here and now. Note that memory and imagination set
this stage and locate the particular. The connection between ideal
and fact is that between scope and focus, the general and the
particular, the "universal" and the local. The local, in perspective,
is the universal. This may serve to distinguish the "good local"
from the "bad local."
36. Inclusive ends are not "common denominators" extracted
from diverse individual ends; they are qualities of diverse or
plural ends adapted and adjusted to work together (reinforce one
another) rather than conflict (wear each other down), so that
each might be more fully and distinctively realized. The common
good is a plurality of goods in harmonious interaction. The social
ideal is a family of ideals, whose common thread is unity or harmony
-- the cooperation of unique elements in the making of a unique
whole. Another term for this inclusive end and criterion is the
idea or ideal of community (the ideal of democracy).
1. What is basic is desire for harmony,
equilibrium, and unity in experience (see Chapter Two). The appeal
is enhanced to the extent that possible unifying outcomes take
the form of vivid imagery.
2. They are seen to cooperate with
external conditions, as well as with internal dispositions.
3. New situations and new ends-in-view
call for constant readjustment or change of direction. The direction
of one's activity is itself a consequence of one's interactions
with actual conditions and focus upon ideal possibilities.
4. One both undertakes and undergoes,
gives and receives, with balance and equilibrium.
5. This is why ends externally imposed
are rarely effective. Ends, like situations, must be "individualized."
Since there are no "generic" situations, so-called generic purposes
have to be adapted to actual conditions.
6. Learning through experience (experiment).
7. The following parenthetical account
is this author's interpretation of some aspects of the relation
between the universal (or general) and the particular for Dewey,
as it bears upon the meaning of the social as universal and inclusive.
A fuller account of the problems involved goes beyond the intent
of the present thesis.
8. It is Dewey's contention that
the purpose of science is not to grasp ultimate reality (in the
sense of a static or unchanging structure), but to understand
how things work so that their behavior may be effectively controlled.
In fact, things are the way they work, the way they function or
operate; they are processes or events, not substances (in the
9. It could be objected that Dewey
was not open enough to the possibility of unchanging mathematical
or scientific structures. However, one must keep in mind that
Dewey's purposes were primarily humanistic and social. From his
standpoint, belief that nature (non-human or human) is rigid and
unchanging leads to undesirable social consequences.
10. Some "essences" prove to be
more useful for sustained inquiry and have broader value for a
wider range of applications, however.
11. Conceived of as functional
unity having unique quality.
12. Individuals are outcomes of
complex and interconnected movements of energies (processes).
13. One can, however, also speak
of generalizations as general ways or methods of handling things.
Insofar as generalities are operative, they constitute actual
regularities alongside other regularities in nature. Methods are
actual ways of intervening in natural affairs.
14. This includes also their "generalized"
ways of acting together and of acting upon physical conditions.
15. The utilitarian concept of
a quantitative whole is problematic from this point of view. Equally
problematic is the Kantian bloodless "end-in-itself." Expanding
experience of and attachment to diverse individuals is the basis
of accurate picturing of the "common good." Face-to-face associations
of family, friends, and neighbors are the material of the imaginative
projection of social wholes.
16. See the Confucian Analects,
19:6 and elsewhere.
17. See Heraclitus, "Wisdom means
knowing true judgment, with regard to how all things are steered
18. Images combine the indefinite
reference of thought with the particularity of existence.
19. Ideals are adverbial and adjectival;
they are qualities of conduct, rather than "freestanding" nouns
apart from conduct.
20. Insofar as the situation is
resolved, what was thought to be best becomes an assured good.
21. In other words, selective emphasis
of what situations have in common, though this comparison is external
and quantitative, is useful for changing conditions, but does
not point to some metaphysically identical "good."
22. One thinks of Platonic order
and arrangement, except that Dewey believes order and arrangement
are things to be brought about, not things already in existence
in a super-mundane realm.
23. Without a doubt, there is on
the part of Dewey a decided preference for the outgoing as opposed
to the "in-staying." Dewey believes that distinctively individual
character is built by cultivating rather than avoiding associations.
24. No consequence, strictly speaking,
is a dead end. Every consequence leads to further consequences,
including consequences for the character and disposition of the
25. This puts a great burden on
teachers, who must understand as far as possible where their students
are coming from and where they are headed, rather than relying
solely upon measurement of isolated achievements.
26. Dewey refers to this as ideal
or teleological unity.
27. It is important to note that
genuine individual growth (which necessarily includes growth in
social consciousness and social imagination) is inseparable from
28. Quite simply, for Dewey, the
good is the inclusive, the expansive, and the harmonious; the
bad is the exclusive, contractive (withdrawing from the world),
and the conflicting. Conflicts are incentives to improvement,
but not desirable in themselves. William James makes a similar
distinction between the exclusive and the inclusive in his account
of sympathy: "This Stoic fashion, though efficacious and heroic
enough in its place and time, is, it must be confessed, only possible
as an habitual mood of the soul to narrow and unsympathetic characters.
It proceeds altogether by exclusion. If I am a Stoic, the goods
I cannot appropriate cease to be my goods, and the temptation
lies very near to deny that they are goods at all. We find this
mode of protecting the Self by exclusion and denial very common
among persons who are in other respects not Stoics. All narrow
people intrench their Me, they retract it, -- from
the region of what they cannot securely possess.... Sympathetic
people, on the contrary, proceed by the entirely opposite way
of expansion and inclusion. The outline of their self often gets
uncertain enough, but for this the spread of its content more
than atones. Nil humani a me alienum. Let them despise
this little person of mine, and treat me like a dog, I
shall not negate them so long as I still have a soul in
my body. They are realities as much as I am. What positive good
is in them shall be mine too, etc., etc. The magnanimity of these
expansive natures is often touching indeed." William James, Principles
of Psychology, Vol. I, pp. 312 - 313.
29. This is especially interesting
in comparison with Confucian principles, which pay highest regard
to family and friends and fellow villagers. Face-to-face immediate
attachments take precedence over remote and "cosmopolitan" loyalties.
30. Yet, note that interest in
the common good is inseparable from the common good as criterion.
31. One thinks of the origin of
conscience in praise or blame, honor and shame. We see here intimations
of the weight of social approval and disapproval, codified in
custom, effective in Chinese culture.
32. From this point of view, Kant's
disinterested point of view makes no sense. There are all kinds
of interests, some laudable and worth furthering, some reprehensible
and in need of thwarting. Worthwhile interests are those that
take both oneself and others into account.
33. The payback may not be immediate;
one's children or grandchildren may have to pay the price for
one's shortsightedness. In any case, no one acts in a vacuum.
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Copyright © 1992
-1999 Gordon L. Ziniewicz
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