John Dewey’s Reconstructed Conception of Growth

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Author: Jerome A. Popp1
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John Dewey’s analysis of the role of emotion in moral reasoning, presented in the later Ethics, led him to conclude that our development of moral reasoning should be less focused on the secondary interest of attention to ourselves or others, and attend to the more complete interests of the welfare and integrity of the social groups in which we participate. In that analysis, Dewey identified the essential role of empathic understanding in moral decisions, referred to by neuroscientists as social intelligence. Dewey’s discussion of the essential role of emotion in these decisions is further supported by research in neuroscience which has established that general intelligence is located in an area of the brain distinct from the area that supports social intelligence, our capacity for empathic experience. These findings suggest that the presence of individuals with developed social intelligence in the groups in which we participate provide increased opportunities for growth.

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