John Dewey and Moral Imagination

John Dewey and Moral Imagination

Pragmatism in Ethics
Steven Fesmire
Distribution: World
Publication date: 8/14/2003
ISBN: 978-0-253-11066-4
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Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2005)
While examining the important role of imagination in making moral judgments, John Dewey and Moral Imagination focuses new attention on the relationship between American pragmatism and ethics. Steven Fesmire takes up threads of Dewey’s thought that have been largely unexplored and elaborates pragmatism’s distinctive contribution to understandings of moral experience, inquiry, and judgment. Building on two Deweyan notions—that moral character, belief, and reasoning are part of a social and historical context and that moral deliberation is an imaginative, dramatic rehearsal of possibilities—Fesmire shows that moral imagination can be conceived as a process of aesthetic perception and artistic creativity. Fesmire’s original readings of Dewey shed new light on the imaginative process, human emotional make-up and expression, and the nature of moral judgment. This original book presents a robust and distinctly pragmatic approach to ethics, politics, moral education, and moral conduct.

Author Bio

Steven Fesmire teaches philosophy and is chair of environmental studies at Green Mountain College in Vermont.


"[J]ohn Dewey and Moral Imagination is a most welcome addition to the scholarship of Dewey's moral philosophy." —Journal of Speculative Philosophy

"[P]rovides a rich reading of the ethical implications of philosophical pragmatism . . . Highly recommended." —Choice

"[F]esmire's book is not only successful, but it also represents a very important addition to the burgeoning field of pragmatist ethics. His emphasis on the importance of moral imagination is a much-needed corrective, given its neglect in the scholarship. Fesmire is to be commended for offering us this fine book." —Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"This is an important book that provides a superb treatment of the moral imagination. It should be welcome both as a catalyst for the revitalization of ethics and as a needed clarification of Dewey's moral philosophy. It will be useful to a diverse group of scholars and intellectuals, including philosophers, teachers, politicians, sociologists, cognitive scientists and all those who are concerned with enhancing our opportunities for forging more satisfying communities." —Journal of Moral Education

"John Dewey and Moral Imagination sets forth an opportunity for teachers of so-called practical ethics. Fesmire is in effect asking us to find ways to use Dewey’s rich account of moral imagination as a tool for the discovery of more intelligent solutions to the specific morally problematic situations we inevitably encounter in the course of experience." —Ethics

"[L]ucid, succinct, and a joy to read. . . . [A] breath of fresh air in the vast literature on traditional ethical theorizing which can be stifling to individuals trying to become moral individuals." —Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Preliminary :

List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Revitalizing Ethics
Part 1. Character, Belief, and Intelligence in Classical Pragmatism
1. Habit and Character
2. The Pragmatic Turn
3. Pragmatism's Reconstruction of Reason
Part 2. Moral Imagination
4. Imagination in Pragmatist Ethics
5. Dramatic Rehearsal
6. The Deweyan Ideal
7. The Moral Artist