RE: Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Sun Dec 19 2004 - 14:50:25 PST

I'll see your two points and raise you two points, although there is a third which is the idea that development leads to dualism is not restricted to Dewey. I actually think James, and probably Pierce though he had other fish to fry, would have taken a harder line on this. It is just that Dewey had to struggle more with this because of his direct interest in education I think, and from what I have read James gave him something of a hard time with it.

I think this can easily be reconstructed in pragmatic terms, though. We can
begin with an object (or situation) that is perceived as poorly understood, in
the sense of being experienced as indeterminate or as affording few
opportunities for action, while Point B can be an end-in-view of the object as
better understood, in the sense of being more determinate or having more
affordances. So we move from Point A to Point B as two places within
experience, without any transcendence or dualism, just as we drive from Atlanta
to Chicago without any transcendence or dualism.

But isn't the point that the end in view is not a destination but another step in the journey. Let me put it this way, if I said I was on a journey to discover the soul of America somebody might come up to me and say, "well you know, Chicago is the cross-roads of America" and if you are looking to discover America that is a place you need to go. So Chicago becomes my end in view, but not in terms of moving from point A to point B but as part of the larger whole of solving the problem that I have. I may find out on my journey that I miscalculated and Toledo Ohio was actually the place I needed to go, or I may - hopefully - get to Chicago and see that I have new issues I need to deal with. I'm not sure we are saying very differnt things, but I think the experience view helps avoid a number of metaphysical problems and I also believe that there aren't many developmentalists out there who would consider this a viable explanation of development.

> Now it is important to point out that progess is something different from
> development because progress is solving problems as they occur in order to
> achieve a better life and a better community. In an earlier post Jay
> suggested Pierce may have considered development in terms of evolution, but I
> think Pierce - as well as his band of merry pranksters - was actually
> thinking more in terms of descent with modification - that is things adapt to
> situations but they don't move from point A to point B.

I guess we can develop a special terminology where "development" is the bad
dualist sort and "progress" lacks those connotations, but I guess I don't see
the distinction as embodied in the way we normally use the terms.
Matt, now why do you have to do that? I didn't say "development is the bad dualist sort". It strikes me as trying to frame the debate in terms of political rhetoric. The point I was trying to raise is that the way development is talked about and discussed leads to an inherent assumptions of dualism. I don't think this is a mistake and I do think it is political, and I absolutely think that it is something those who work and study human development (including me by the way) do not question or think about nearly enough (as a matter of fact almost not at all). It is in my opinion a philosophical point with very real world implications. I have an article that was recently published in Educational Theory that really goes into the genesis of concepts of development and progress in the United States, the differences between them, and why it is so important that we recognize those differences.


Take care,




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