DEMOCRACY AND IMAGINATION: THE PRACTICAL IDEALISM OF JOHN DEWEY
 

CHAPTER THREE: ENDS AND SOCIAL IMAGINATION

by Gordon L. Ziniewicz

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, and imagination.

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 essence."(19)

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 growth.

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 scheme.

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 and relations).

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).

Notes:

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 traditional sense).

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 through all."

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 doer.

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 social progress.

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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