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John Dewey on Happiness: Going Against the Grain of Contemporary Thought

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Dewey's theory of happiness goes against the grain of much contemporary psychologic and popular thought by identifying the highest form of human happiness with moral behavior. Such happiness, according to Dewey, avoids being at the mercy of circumstances because it is independent of the pleasures and successes we take from experience and, instead, is dependent upon the disposition we bring to experience. It accompanies a disposition characterized by an abiding interest in objects in which all can share, one founded upon a dynamic inner harmony and evolving adjustment to the world. The marks of such an expansive disposition are "stability of character, braveness of soul, and equanimity of soul," and the key to the development of these traits is what Dewey calls "ethical love." We conclude with consideration of three potential criticisms of Dewey's view of happiness and possible Deweyan rejoinders.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2009


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