Is John Dewey's Thought "Humanist"?


  • Nathan Snaza University of Richmond


John Dewey Educational philosophy Dehumanism Curriculum Studies Democracy


This paper proposes that John Dewey’s thought is not entirely humanist, and that a dehumanist reconstruction of his philosophy opens curriculum studies toward a pragmatic, democratic engagement with the uncountable nonhumans that share the earth with those who think of themselves as “human.” The essay outlines what is meant by both humanism and dehumanism before analyzing how a cluster of keywords in Deweyan thought—habit, experience, growth, and democracy—can be put to use in ways that are not anthropocentric or exclusively human. By arguing that Dewey’s humanism (which has been taken for granted in much Deweyan scholarship) can be extracted from his potentially nonhumanist conceptualizations of democracy and pedagogy, the essay claims that Dewey’s thought can prove a pragmatic point of departure for dehumanist curriculum studies, and that Deweyan pragmatics offer nonhumanist philosophy a set of concepts for better understanding what a democracy of humans, nonhuman animals, and inhuman objects could be.