John Dewey, phenomenology, and the reconstruction of democracy

  • Lars Løvlie Universitetet i Oslo



In this article, I propose a link, or at least a family likeness, between two great traditions, Dewey's pragmatism and continental phenomenology and hermeneutics, held together by an overlapping epistemological and ethical outlook. My argument is based on a tripod of terms: situation, experience, and reconstruction. I start by describing ‘situation’ as the a priori condition for having experiences: there simply has to be a situation for sensing, thinking, and making decisions to take place. My next point is that experiences are necessarily place bound, local, and everyday phenomena. Experiences are relational in the sense of a subject who relates to the (material) world and to significant others—the subject not as an isolated ego, but as being-with-the-other. The link between experience and reconstruction may not be so obvious to us. But it is Dewey more than anybody else who has made a case for democracy as a political reconstruction of our everyday experiences. There is a connection between his epistemological and ethical outlook, and political action as part of an education for a democratic life.

(Published: 3 November 2015)

Citation: L. Løvlie. “John Dewey, Phenomenology, and the Reconstruction of Democracy.” Nordic Journal of Pedagogy and Critique, Vol. 1, 2015, pp. 1–13.

Author Biography

Lars Løvlie, Universitetet i Oslo

Professor Emeritus

Institutt for Pedagogikk

Det utdanningsvitenskapelige fakultet

Universitetet i Oslo

Original Research Articles
pragmatism, phenomenology, situation, experience, democracy