The following is from the Dewey list I had referred to before. I read it and I thought both how it illustrates the point I was attempting to make about meaning in an earlier post better than I ever could.
Interestingly enough I think it points to how close Dewey and Vygotsky can be in some situations. Compare this rumination of Mordecai Kaplan (which I think is pure Dewey) with Vygotsky's writings in his Thought and Word chapter, specifically the part about the drunk in the street.
A third thing, it also suggests some issues about morality and "situatedness" that I believe Carol McDonald was asking about a while ago.
All in all a very interesting post I think.
Speaking of morality, I hope this is legal (I guess it depends on the situation). My apologies to Mel Scult.
From: John Dewey Discussion List on behalf of MEL SCULT
Sent: Wed 8/25/2004 9:48 AM
Subject: Situationalism or "come here " John Dewey.
The following is from the diary of Mordecai Kaplan a devoted follower of Dewey. I think we are all acquainted with situational ethics but this little story makes me realize how revolutionary the concept might be if we took it seriously and applied it not only to ethics but to other fields as well. Would Dewey's major concepts [ growth, democracy etc.] change significantly in different situations so that we might find outselves being very much in opposition instead of support.....or am I worrying too much....
From the diary of Mordecai M. Kaplan
December 22, 1943 As I recall Dewey's pragmatism, I believe that its main message is to emphasize the meaninglessness of any idea apart from the context of some life situation. In any event, I have been hunting for an apt illustration to bring home to the average person who is untrained in philosophic thought that all the talk we hear so much about God, religion, idealism and what not is sheer verbiage, unless considered in relation to some definite social context. I think I have finally come across one that clicks in the following story given in the Readers' Digest of Jan.1944: A theatrical manager found himself in a dilemma. The daughter of a friend of his to whom he was under great obligation asked for a part in a new play, although she had had no theatrical experience. The manager said to her, "I will give you a part if you can say two words to my satisfaction." "I am sure I can do that," said the young lady. "What are the words?" "The two words are 'Come here.' !
to say them three times. The first time you are to imagine you are a young girl of excitable disposition very much in love. You have quarrelled with your young man and told him to leave you forever. As he goes to the door, head bowed, you notice the outline of a revolver in his hip pocket. You think he is going to end his life. Suddenly you realize he means everything to you. You are overwhelmed with remorse and you say to him 'come here.!'
"Then you are to imagine that you are the mother of a little boy. He is four years old and you have dressed him in his Sunday suit and told him to sit on the front porch and not to leave it. He disobeys you and goes out to the street. Suddenly a truck comes around the corner. He is almost run over and he is lying in the street, his pretty suit is covered with mud. You are shaken with terror. You are overcome with gratitude to God that he is still alive. You are angry that he disobeyed you and this suit is ruined - all that I want to hear from you when you say 'come here.'
"And finally you are to be the wife of a banker in a small village. The bank has failed. Outside your house is a mob of ruined depositors ready to tear your husband to pieces. But he has just put a bullet through his heart and is lying dead on the living-room floor. You open the front door, and I want to hear you say to the leader of the mob, 'come here.'"
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