The book by John Dewey “Theory of the Moral Life” reflects widely arranged and objective supervision of morality with its interpretation and practice. There are frequent allusion on the statements and opinions of philosophers maintaining utilitarian theory, hedonism and moral theory. One of the most unique qualities of the book is applying to collusive theories that have own vision of morality and the place of human in higher virtues. The paper will analyze the book in the basis of used theories, which will show that Dewey maintains the law and neglects myth of cold justice as it fights virtues.
“Theory of The Moral Life” is an embodiment of the John Dewey’s outlook. The author is one of the founders of the philosophical stream of Pragmatism (stream based on practice as the main criterion for truth and sense), and his school counted numerous disciples among elite surrounding. His forty-seven years’ experience of tutoring at the Columbia University reflects not just a pedagogic experience, but also story of his anti-war activities and prolific writing skills. The book contains six chapters; each one has inner parts, and two introductions: one is about definition of ethics and moral, and the second one is about moral and human conduct. The first chapter has seven paragraphs, dedicated to the general issues of the Dewey’s theory. The author provides rhetorical technique of applying to his reader while discussing the phenomenon of moral act. Moral theory predicts, manages and removes the conflicts. Dewey applies to the Aristotle’s practice when he speaks about the nature of moral act, considering it as a voluntary issue. Dewey makes objective continuation when develops discussion about habit as an element of the inter-connected chain of actions that express our character. In fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh parts of his first chapter, Dewey speaks about motive as an action generator and moral reflection. Consequently, he touches the issue of moral codes as a resource for forming legal and social behavior. Finally, the writer names three large categories of moral theories: 1) virtue; 2) teleological; 3) jural.
The second chapter has seven parts and it reflects author’s opinion about moral actions, thoughts, human desires, hedonism and asceticism in people’s life, interpretation of Epicureanism, and measures of success. Hedonism is a philosophical kind of ethics, which maintains physical pleasure as a highest value for happiness. Asceticism is the opposite term and means renounce from physical satisfaction and strict life style. Dewey applies to psychological effect of desire and the way it impresses human character, how it refines out further feelings and emotions. When cultural norms fail, people ask themselves about changing goals, as the previous institutions are dysfunctional since some moment. The author provides quite interesting allusion on the issues of habit and goods: the last ones may change according to the conditions that provoke those changes. Dewey believes that habit building makes positive moral discipline and encloses wisdom.
The third chapter reflects the issues of right, duty and loyalty, and Dewey provides fascinating interpretation of law as an expression of wisdom of the community. The moral chain of duties derives from interaction between persons, and the author applies to the classical traditions of the Roman moral theory. For making better contrast effect, Dewey applies to the Kantian theory about extreme duty, which promotes replacement of the self-love with a desire to do one’s duty as a primary motive. In fact, there is unique moment: Dewey recognizes Kantian opinion about virtues and moral, however, Kant promotes atheistic postulates. Atheism is an outlook that neglects any kind of higher power embodies in religious studies. Simultaneously, Dewey cites doctrines of Christianity somehow forgetting their dual conflict and making them equal in their right to proclaim morality, law and the ideal outlook. Dewey supposes that Christianity gave prominence to the mental and legal that the autochthonous moral law judges feeling of hate, but not only physical elimination. The author frequently applies to the role of law and right as a necessary element of constancy and strength of the social good. His statements prove that people exist in relation to each other, and law is a mutually recognized mechanism, which expresses the way the cohesive group believes it must exist. The sense of duty that Dewey discusses in this chapter is bounded to the law, as there are no doubts in its rightness and fair justice. The author remarks that our nowadays culture neglects the vigor of jural acceptation.
The fourth chapter reflects the issues of disapproval and approval on the background of Utilitarian theory, Hedonism, the concept of Good, virtue and morality. The Utilitarian theory is a concept, which measures things, objects and phenomenon and processes from the position of its utility and possibility to use them for achieving goals. Dewey applies to the few English philosophers such as Mills, Adam Smith, Hume and Bentham. The last one completed approbation of how character guides blame and praise assessments within Utilitarian theory standards. The philosopher applies to Bentham’s theory because it reflects hedonistic psychology as a philosopher’s inner contradicting element, which is more fascinating. Every person act for her benefit and pleasure, however, praiseworthy deeds make pleasure for many individuals, which is particularly a paradox. In this way, Dewey applies to the challenge of individualism – the dual collision between being selfish and altruistic and the morality of approbation insists on harmony between the individual and collective pleasure. Dewey argues with the opinion that the domination of justice is a compulsory condition, even when all other necessary values are moved behind. The author believes that justice without humanity and benevolence provokes crimes, the idea of sentimental justice seems an absurd. The philosopher convinces that reflective morality neglects constant views of virtue. The circumstances differ and change in locations over time. Some traits appear and reflect singe interest of human. Human interests should promote equal treatment. Virtuous interests make a colossal impact on the individual character being single and melding into it. A valuable remark is that large collectives may break moral virtues, leaving space for hate, racism and combatant tendencies.
The fifth chapter Dewey dedicated to the issues of knowledge and judgement in their moral aspect. Impulsive approbation proceeds maturation of moral mentality and measures appraisals of concrete people and circumstances. The author applies to the intuition as a tool generating approval or disapproval of values and actions. The last chapter of the book is dedicated to the issues of self and individual. Within this context of the book, the previous definition of a habit seemed properly bounded. Dewey operates the terms of altruism and egoism, how inner collisions and requests reflect people’s motifs, relationships, recognition of responsibility and demands for freedom. Altruism is a kind of self-denial, selfless desire to work for the benefit of others. Egoism is the opposition – a principle of considering personal benefit and priorities as a higher value. The authors approach to responsibility as a change of habits ruling people’s future is quite fascinating, because it affects the desire and define virtues of the humankind.
The book “Theory of the Moral Life” by John Dewey unites various positions on the concept of morality and law according. The author applies to his own experience and to the theories of Kant, Mills, Adam Smith, Hume and Bentham. He protects the idea of moral law, implemented into social agreement and maintaining individuality. The book is full of contradicting elements, which interpret moral behavior and human actions in the aspect of consequences they provoke.