John Dewey believed every person is capable of being an artist, living an artful life of social interaction that benefits and thereby beautifies the world. In Art as Experience, Dewey reminds his readers that the second Council of Nicea censored the church’s use of statutes and incense that distracted from prayer. Dewey, in an interesting turnabout, removes dogma from the church, but lauds the sensory details that enable higher understanding of human experience. Dewey evokes a paradox: the appreciation and need for the “experiential” artifact, but art as catalyst to realms beyond the physical. For Dewey, art functions as experience. Processes of inquiry, looking and finding meaning are transformative, extending connections with what is good and right. Expanded perceptions open venues for understanding and action. Attention to detail excites potential for meaning, yielding important societal insights, previously taken for granted. Transformative experiences occur when people intuit new concepts, that occasion seeing in valued ways. Art communicates moral purpose and education. Dewey believes moral purpose is justifiable, art conveying messages that stimulate reflection on purposeful lives. Dewey is a pragmatist whose attraction to art postulates it as a means to an end because he envisions the end as just and fair: democracy.

Project Muse URL