Dewey and Conservativism: Reading Liberalism and Social Action in Light of Vannatta’s Conservatism and Pragmatism

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Author: Justin Bell1
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  • 1 Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Houston – Victoria,

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Seth Vannatta argues that there can be a fruitful synthesis of pragmatism and classical conservatism. In doing this, he focuses the methodological commitments of pragmatism and conservatism. However, I will demonstrate with a reading of Dewey’s Liberalism and Social Action that other commitments might prevent this synthesis—at least a synthesis between the thought of John Dewey and Edmund Burke. My conclusion is that pragmatism and conservativism might travel parallel to one another but that we have good reasons for keeping some separation between the theories based upon their fundamental commitments. Deweyan pragmatism remains tied to democracy; conservatism remains tied to history.

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