John Dewey and an ecological philosophy of religion
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This dissertation carries out a systematic study of the religious thought of the 20th century American philosopher John Dewey. Its motivation is that Dewey’s religious views have been seriously misunderstood and under appreciated by philosophers and Dewey scholars to date. Breaking with the standard interpretation of Dewey as a thoroughly scientific and secular thinker, the dissertation shows that Dewey’s writings reveal a robust and highly original religious naturalism. It further demonstrates that Dewey’s novel understanding of the religious dimensions of nature and the experiencing self can capably meet the challenges posed to philosophy of religion by the ecological turn presently transforming the philosophical landscape. The driving insight of the ecological turn in contemporary philosophy is the need to reconstruct our basic philosophical concepts and principles in light of the results of the ecological sciences, many of which challenge core tenets of modern Western thought. To make the case for Dewey as a serious religious thinker, the dissertation places him into critical-constructive dialogue with other theorists representing a wide range of philosophical and scientific perspectives, including those of pragmatism, naturalism, ecological and Gestalt psychology, deep ecology, and recent cognitive science. Dewey’s religious views are also analyzed in relation to the self-cultivation doctrines of Daoism and Zen Buddhism, highlighting rich connections between Dewey and Eastern thought; all of these thinkers and schools of thought share Dewey’s overriding concern to restore continuity between facts and values, between knowledge and action, between nature and the full range of human experience. The dissertation shows that by recovering Dewey’s religious naturalism, full of ecological insight and relevance, a new paradigm for philosophy of religion can be discerned, one that promises to bring philosophy of religion’s core problems and methods in line with the most up-to-date scientific developments.