The aim of this essay is to characterize Dewey's attempts to put "broken" experience back together as an inquiry into the nature of subject matter. In a syllabus for "Introduction to Philosophy," a course taught at the University of Michigan in 1892, John Dewey worked on a problematic that was to continue to engage him right down to his collaborative work with Arthur F. Bentley, which culminated in the essays published as Knowing and the Known in 1949. Beginning with a "General Statement of Nature of Experience" in the 1892 syllabus, Dewey pointed out that "our experience is simply what we do." In the doing of an infant, "there is simply the experiencing." Here, Dewey continues, "there is no distinction of a me and not-me . . . This practice constitutes at first both self and world of reality. There is no distinction." In going on to ask how the original experience gets to be broken into two parts, "How does the distinction arise between things which are experienced and a subject which has these experiences; between an external and an internal?", Dewey was embarking on a journey of investigation that never arrived at its destination, for exactly what constitutes the "practice," or the "experiencing" itself, came to be continually reworked so that, near the end of his life, Dewey was prepared to substitute "culture" for "experience" in a projected revision of Experience and Nature. As we shall see, Dewey's journey of investigation was not satisfied with asking how the original experience "gets to be broken," but also tried to determine how we could put it back together.
Chambliss, J. J.
"Subject Matter in John Dewey: Making Objects of Knowledge,"
Education and Culture: Vol. 11
, Article 3.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol11/iss1/art3