Who is John Dewey?  Meet America’s greatest philosopher.

October 20, 2009

Tuesday, October 20 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of John Dewey. John Dewey is rightly honored as America’s greatest philosopher and social progressive. Dewey’s pragmatism, humanism, and faith in democracy stand among the greatest achievements in the history of human thought.

John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, educator, social critic, and political activist. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, on 20 October 1859. Dewey graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879, and received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1884. He started his career at the University of Michigan, teaching there from 1884 to 1888 and 1889-1894, with a one year term at the University of Minnesota in 1888. In 1894 he became the chairman of the department of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy at the University of Chicago. In 1899, John Dewey was elected president of the American Psychological Association, and in 1905 he became president of the American Philosophical Association.

Dewey taught at Columbia University from 1905 until he retired in 1929, and occasionally taught as professor emeritus until 1939. During his years at Columbia he traveled the world as a philosopher, social and political theorist, and educational consultant. Among his major journeys are his lectures in Japan and China from 1919 to 1921, his visit to Turkey in 1924 to recommend educational policy, and a tour of schools in the USSR in 1928. For over 50 years Dewey was the strongest voice for a liberal and progressive democracy that has shaped the destiny of America and the world. A co-founder of such organizations as the ACLU, the NAACP, and the AAUP, Dewey supported equal civil rights and liberties, women’s suffrage, progressive education, the humanist movement, and world peace. Dewey died in New York City on 1 June 1952.

The Center for Inquiry and the Center for Dewey Studies are holding the largest conference honoring Dewey this month.