Chapter 11 John Dewey and Early Confucianism on the Idea of Self-Cultivation

In: John Dewey and Chinese Education
ZHANG Huajun
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As many scholars have already argued, although Dewey spent more than two years in China from 1919 to 1921 and executed tremendous influence on Chinese social movements in the early 20th century, Dewey’s thought was mis-received, to a great extent, by focusing on his idea of “the scientific method.” By carefully reviewing Dewey’s philosophy of experience in his later works, mainly his books Experience and Nature (1925) and Art as Experience (1934), I argue that Dewey’s philosophy of experience is about the development of individuality. By realizing the potential values and meanings in experience, the individual creates an inclusive and transactive relationship with the world. This understanding of experience can be connected to the tradition of early Confucianism on the idea of self-cultivation, which is a creative and dynamic process of interaction between the individual and the world. Thus, I suggest that emphasizing Dewey’s philosophy of experience in his later works provides a new vision for Dewey’s reception in contemporary Chinese scholarship. Also, the dialogue between Dewey and early Confucian thoughts on the idea of self-cultivation creates new space for the development of individuality through educational interventions in the context of global conflicts.

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  • Introduction A Centennial Reflection on Dewey’s Visit of China


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