Sunday, February 2, 2014

John Dewey was "searching for the State" - Corydon Ford

If you study John Dewey on the surface, much of his history has been brushed away. But if you really go digging, you will find out about two of Dewey's early radical colleagues, those being Corydon and Franklin Ford. (Moreso Franklin than Corydon) In his book "The Child of Democracy: Being the Adventures of the Embryo State", Corydon La Ford recounts some of the relationship between the Fords and John Dewey. What's written on page 174 is just odd:
Professor Dewey, of Philosophy, sawed with me on the schools and welcomed the proposition of a new economy in the State through the organization of intelligence - he was searching for the State when my brother and I found him and his consciousness seized upon division of labor as key to the organic social. In Professor Dewey we found the sympathy of an intelligent co-operation with the ideas of an advance in letters which we had brought from the field of a practice - the laboratory of the moving fact in the region of the school and the newspaper.

Note how "State" is capitalized. I suppose there is a pithy line that could be used here about statists searching for the State so that they can worship the State, but there's a problem here in that in-depth information about Corydon and Franklin is preciously scarce on the internet. Here are a few things that I am able to determine though. By his own hand, John Dewey publicly acknowledged Franklin Ford's influence on him, in the book "Outlines of a Critical Theory of Ethics", on page ix (in the introduction):

As to the specific forms which give a flesh and blood of its own to this backbone, I may call attention to the idea of desire as the ideal activity in contrast with actual possession; to the analysis of individuality into function including capacity and environment; to the treatment of the social bearings of science and art (a point concerning which I am indebted to my friend, Mr. Franklin Ford); to the statement of an ethical postulate; to the accounts of obligation, of moral rules, and of moral badness.

What this information does do, is allow us to establish a timeline about John Dewey. His entire life, he was surrounded by radicals. Much later in Dewey's life he would serve as president of the League for Industrial Democracy. The LID would give birth decades later to SDS.

Franklin Ford was so influential in Dewey's life that Dewey would introduce Robert E. Park to Franklin Ford.

Where this trio really got involved was when they decided to put together a new kind of newspaper. They brought in George Herbert Mead and they called it "Thought News". Mead, Dewey, Ford, and Park's "Thought News", I shall close out this entry with the following advertisements. Published in the Detroit News for April 13th, 1892: (in the Quarterly Review)

Thought News hasn't such ambitions designs.... Its object is not to introduce a new idea into journalism at large, but to show that philosophy has some use. You know Mr. Huxley once called philosophy a matter of lunar politics - it was all remote and abstract. That's about the way it strikes the student, and the difficulty is to show him that there is some fact to which philosophic ideas refer. That fact is the social organism. When philosophic ideas are not inculcated by themselves but used as tools to point out the meaning of phases of social life they begin to have some life and value. Instead of trying to change the newspaper business by introducing philosophy into it, the idea is to transform philosophy somewhat by introducing a little newspaper business into it. When it can be seen for example, that Walt Whitman's poetry, the great development of short stories at present, the centralizing tendency in the railroads, and the introduction of business methods into charity organizations are all parts of one organic social movement, then the philosophic ideas about organism begin to look like something definite.

The facts themselves get more meaning, too, when viewed with relation to one principle than when treated separately as a jumble. This is what the writer meant, probably, when he alluded to the difference between "happenings" and "typical facts." Any happening, however slight, is typical, if treated as an expression of some law, of the movement of a whole. Any fact, however big, is only an accident if not treated as a symptom, as an exponent. It is quite possible that the daily newspaper treats events more as accidents than typical. It must do until it gets hold of the social law, but that's not the affair, one way or the other, of Thought News.

For now, Google books has that as a full view item.

The line that jumped out at me was the one where "to show that philosophy has some use".

One more announcement I found for Thought News, this time in 'The Open Court':

THE publication is announced for the present month of a new "newspaper" called Thought News. The aim of Thought News is to supply the want of a magazine "which shall not go beyond fact, which shall report thought rather than dress it up in the garments of the past, which, instead of dwelling at length upon the merely individual processes that accompany the facts, shall set forth the facts themselves; which shall note new contributions to thought, whether by book or magazine, from the standpoint of the news in them, and not from that of patron or censor. The immediate responsibility for the conduct of the magazine will lie in the bands of Prof. John Dewey, of Ann Arbor, Mich. Its cost will be $1.50 per volume (12 numbers) ; it will appear irregularly, as often as the material warrants, but at least once a month. We wish the project all success.

This is the kind of activity that radicals engage in.

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