Yesterday began with Ruth Anna Putnam on "Dewey's Faith," continuing the discussion from last night by Larry Hickman. Overall, the conversation convinced me that I need to read and take more seriously Dewey's A Common Faith.
Putnam started with a general description of Dewey's naturalism:
- No appeal to supernatural entities could play a role in solving philosophical problem.
- Belief in a supernatural being had pernicious effects on one's ability to deal with personal and social problems.
Then she argued that Dewey, following James, thought that experiences appropriately called "religious" are found in all communities. Such experience is valuable, and would be moreso if free from traditional religion & the supernaturalism, which simply hinder what is valuable in genuine religious experience and religious practice.
What is valuable about the religious experience? Not its cause or quality, but its effects. It leads to positive readjustment in one's attitude to life. Such an adjustment is very important. One sees the things one values forming a unified whole, in terms of a unified and unifying ideal. Such ideals, Dewey was always keen to argue, have important effects in concrete life, by which we judge them.
Examples of the "religious life," in Dewey's sense, can be found in art, science, and good citizenship. That's because all of these ways of life are guided by ideal ends. Dewey wrote A Common Faith to make explicit the implicit "religious" values (ideal ends) in science and our common life, especially democracy. We seek truth, beauty, justice, a common good. We have faith in the world's amenability to scientific inquiry; we have faith in the power of democracy. We learn these faiths, not blindly, but slowly, given their value as organizing principles in out lives.
Next up, I'll talk about the panel sessions...