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Growth, Experience and Nature in Dewey’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy

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Growth is an important concept in Dewey’s philosophy, and, indeed, its ultimate focus. It is not, however, an easy task to posit growth as an ethical ideal, for here Dewey immediately faces a metaphysical dilemma: whether to offer us an objective standard of growth, which becomes a type of absolutism, or to inevitably fall into relativism. This paper explores how Dewey avoids this dilemma with his concept of experience, which is interrogated through the relationship between human beings and nature. Still, human growth in nature involves the cultivation of virtuosities (de 德) in accordance with the rhythm of nature, and requires a completely different way of life other than our technological one. For this reason, I use Chinese philosophy, specifically ideas from the Yijing, to show how growth can be illustrated through the interaction between humans and the natural world.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa


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