Thinking Dialectically

What struck me as most interesting about John Dewey’s philosophy on reflective thinking is how it is completely encapsulated by the writing process. Australian poet and essayist, A.D. Hope once said, “Nothing that you write will matter unless it moves the human heart,” and this idea seemed to be reflected by John Dewey’s philosophy on reflective thought.

According to Dewey, what made an interaction beneficial and worthwhile was that it is shard by others, and therefore contributes to a heightened understanding amongst people, and therefore contributing to a greater good. Dewey believed that the main purpose of reflection is to initiate progress and growth in society through robust, thoughtful dialogue. Sharing experiences, or meaningful perceptions with others creates a “dialectical” effect, in which “there is a change not only in the self but also in the environment as a result.”

Of course these interactions can occur verbally and not necessarily through the written word, however I drew so many parallels between Dewey’s thoughts specifically about the thinking process and those traits that I personally believe make a great writer: Being constantly cognizant of a deeper meaning to your thoughts, noticing the significance or the impact of an event beyond what might be immediately evident, and connecting or bridging together events and circumstances so that you gain from them a heightened understanding of the world. The trait Dewey identifys that most resonated with me is curiosity—being not only completely curious about everything and anything, but being enthusiastic recipients of different understandings, perspectives and ideas.

Dewey scholar Richard Prawat said that, “Language is key. It allows the individual to transform his or her own inchoate understanding into a form that is more conscious and rational, thus serving the self. It also allows the individual to share insight or understanding with others, thus serving he community.”

It seems like Dewey would agree that a curious, enthusiastic, and thoughtful writer who is completely conscious of his or her own biases and shortcomings would be both well received and might instigate social change.

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