" Méthode ou métaphysique ? L'empirisme pragmatique de John Dewey "

Abstract : This paper aims at taking position in the debate about the possible existence of a metaphysics of experience in Dewey's works, notably in Experience and Nature (1929). Such a project is criticized by Rorty on pragmatist ground: pragmatism should not only emancipate itself from all metaphysical temptation of describing the "generic features of reality" but should cease to take the experience as its material of reflection or else it would fall into the myth of the given and the myth of the private. My position is that Rorty is right in saying that pragmatism should not be founded on a metaphysics of experience but is wrong in believing that such was Dewey's project. I give historical and theoretical reasons to justify why Dewey never really gave up the notion of experience despite its obvious difficulties, so that we should see its pragmatism as a new empiricism instead of seeing empiricism as the infant disease of pragmatism as Rorty suggests it. The main thesis is that experience does not denote any original stuff from what all the rest would be derived of but a method to solve or dissolve problems, like the experimental method in sciences. If Dewey is forced to talk about experience and its nature, it is because such a method has not yet been entrenched in philosophical practice in contrast with sciences where nobody talks about experience in general but refers only to particular experiences. The reason why it is still necessary to do so is that the very idea of experience inherited from the traditional empiricists and their adversaries is useless and obsolete, so that we need first to reconstruct it, just like we must repair a flawed instrument in order to use it effectively. Dewey's general theory about experience is thus instrumental: the philosophy of experience is subordinated to the reconstruction of the method and is accomplished with the effective use of it. In conclusion, we show that Dewey's reconstruction of the concept of experience in terms of action allows him to be free of the myths of the given and the private that could only be applied to the old concept of experience inherited from the classical empiricists and taken over by the logical empiricism that was the real target of Rorty's criticism.
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Contributor : Stéphane Madelrieux <>
Submitted on : Monday, December 16, 2013 - 5:54:33 PM
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Stéphane Madelrieux. " Méthode ou métaphysique ? L'empirisme pragmatique de John Dewey ". Critique. Revue générale des publications françaises et étrangères, 2012, décembre 2012 (n° 787), pp. 1043-1058. ⟨hal-00919460⟩

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