First Advisor

Albert R. Spencer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Philosophy and University Honors




John Dewey (1859-1952) -- Criticism and interpretation, Inquiry (Theory of knowledge), Instrumentalism (Philosophy), Techne (Philosophy)




John Dewey’s theory of inquiry, or instrumentalism, was conceived in response to certain orthodox philosophies. Dewey claims the knowledge we attain from inquiry is a tool for further inquiry. As such, philosophy is inquiry into the cultural conditions of how instruments are derived. John Dewey’s philosophy as a history of technology, as well as a tool for critiquing culture, is evidenced by his theory of inquiry. He finds artificial distinctions, as instruments to inquiry, to become necessary components to experience in several philosophies. Likewise, inquiries into the conditions of education, utilizing artificial models, corrupt the full potential within experience. Such inquiries, such as recent education reformations as motivated by a culture of efficiency, becomes ever more distant from the actual conditions in schools and the pressing concerns of the students, teachers, parents. This paper argues John Dewey, as the philosopher with an unfaltering faith in the potential for growth of every person, considers control of the environment to be the human interaction within inquiry. As will be presented, technē is direction via instruments and erōs is authenticity to one’s self. Therefore, the realization of conditions proper for flourishing of one and all becomes the standard of action. The purpose in Dewey’s conceptualizing his theory of instrumentalism to eliminate the obstacles to inquiry present in his culture can be similarly utilized to clarify the impositions from our culture hindering the inquiry into the proper conditions for education. The product of controlling the transformation of the conditions of education with erōs and technē is the creating and imagining of democratic solutions.


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