x_filesize')); // Sort image tag $OC_sortImg = 'current sort selection'; ?> ࡱ> `b_ ubjbjVV -z<<RJKI78',S$8ww:$&&&&&&$ RJQJ$$MghL0 !L4 ! !(JJ ! : The Deweyan Individual as Ecological This paper serves as the first stage for developing an ecological model for understanding John Deweys notion of the individual. It begins by presenting three main criticisms of Deweys views and claims that these critics present truncated versions of the Deweyan individual. It then examines Dewey's writings on the individual and argues that an ecological model provides a better way of understanding the Deweyan individual. Finally, it argues that such a model provides a way of going beyond Deweys writings to take up race, class, gender, and sexuality issues within a Deweyan frame. The Deweyan individual exists in a relational, processive world without ultimate, fixed meaning. Within the processes of existence, the individual acts as an opening to new possibilities, creating meaning and wresting out a home in a universe that has rendered humans homeless. Thus, although Dewey calls the earth home, he points to human endeavor as a vital component to making the world what it is: while "[t]he earth is the final source of all man's food...his continued shelter and protection, the raw materials of all his activities, and the home to whose humanizing and idealizing all his achievements return," "[t]he world without its relationship to human activity is less than a world." Earth is home, but a home not separate from human endeavor. The word ecologyderived from , or home--captures what Dewey has in mind, for ecologists speak of "the environmental house [as including] all the organisms in it and all the functional processes that make the house habitable." But this "house" is not a container for these organisms and their activities but "a holistic and integrative ecological concept that combine[s] living organisms and the physical environment into a system." The ecosystem is the interaction of organisms and their environment, and those organisms themselves are dynamic processes arising within the environment. Individual organisms within the ecosystem are neither isolated from nor reducible to their surroundings. An ecological--or "study of home"--model thus provides a better way of understanding the Deweyan individual than usual approaches. Dewey rejects the liberal notion of the atomic individual in favor of a relational and especially social view; however, Dewey doesn't fit neatly into a purely communitarian model either, due to his insistence that the purpose of the state lies in the cultivation of healthy, growing individuals, or with the vital importance Dewey places on the individual as an opening of new possibilities into the world. An ecological model of the self recognizes the relational, processive aspect of the self without undermining the local uniquity and importance of the individual. It thus responds to various criticisms leveled against Deweys conception of the individual. CRITICS: Many critics attack Dewey's views of the individual without understanding the richness of Dewey's views and thus present the "Deweyan" individual in a truncated, reductionist fashion. There are three typical complaints against Dewey's notion of the self: that his views undermine individualism in focusing on the relational aspects of the self, that they ignore existential questions of modern existence by not adequately dealing with issues of the "deep self" or "transcendent ideals," and that they fail in presenting a view of growth that adequately guides individuals in what Dewey calls "the only moral 'end'." The most frequent complaint against the Deweyan individual is that Dewey sacrifices individuality to social relations. For Michael Katz, "Dewey in the last analysis stressed the subservience of individual will and aspiration to those of the group;" John Patrick Diggins concurs, pointing to Dewey's supposed "assimilation of self and society" so that "the self has no ontological status apart from society and its discontents." Naoko Saito argues that Dewey's approach to the recalcitrant child "suggests his tendency to muffle the voice of a single child" so that "[t]he inner life of the recalcitrant child...seems to be subsumed...." For Saito, this indicates a "totalizing tendency" in Deweys thought that needs an Emersonian "injection" to correct. Finally Martin Kilanowski overlooks the importance of the personal when he claims that for Dewey "everything that contributes to the development of the individual must also contribute to the development of the community....[E]verything that is good for me must be good for everybody, otherwise it never contained any good in the first place." While Dewey speaks of the individual as social, these writers fail to understand Dewey's thought when they reduce the Deweyan individual to the social and the social to human communities. Others argue that Dewey ignores the existential questions of modern existence by not adequately dealing with issues of the "deep self" or "transcendent ideals." Hilary Putnam claims that Dewey's vision is insufficient "when we try to apply it to individual existential choices." When "[i]ndividuality is at stake"--when the decision involves who a person is and wants to be--"intelligently guided experimentation" proves itself to be inadequate. Victor Kestenbaum makes a similar critique by arguing that despite the "important place for the ideal, intangible, and transcendent" in Dewey's philosophy, Dewey is able "to live in an abstraction only dimly prefigured in the particular, if at all." For Kestenbaum, Dewey's praise of the "negative capability" of the person "'capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason,'" undermines his "'first great consideration,' the belief that 'life goes on in an environment; not merely in it but because of it, through interaction with it." For Kestenbaum, Dewey's commitment to naturalism comes into conflict with his views regarding the transcendent and ideal. Robert Roth, however, argues that "Dewey's naturalism eliminated the transcendental as an integrating factor in man's effort to achieve self-realization," and was thus "inadequate to provide a complete solution" to the problems facing humans in their attempts at self-realization. Meanwhile, Ken Ken Stikkers questions whether Dewey adequately understands that "Existence is not merely precarious...it is disastrous; life does not merely teeter on the edge of a cliff; rather, from the beginning, it hurls headlong onto the rocks." For these thinkers, Dewey's failure to address questions regarding the "deep self," "transcendent ideals," and existential realities undermines not only his conception of what the individual is, but also what the individual can be. Still others argue that growth is problematic; since growth is lifes purpose, inadequacies in Deweys conception of growth create problems for his views on the individual. There are three distinct criticisms of Deweyan growth. Diggins argues that Dewey does not adequately set forth the proper end of growth and thus fails to distinguish good and bad growth. When Reinhold Niebuhr argues that society itself undermines individual morality and growth, Dewey serves as his primary target. Finally, Shannon Sullivan, Charlene Haddock Seigfried, and Reinhold Niebuhr argue that Deweys embodiment (as white, male, and middle-class) hampers his ability to understand and respond to socio-political realities. Seigfried writes that Dewey underestimate[s] the extent and depth of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and classism in personal habits and social institutions and seldom exhibits the anger and angst characteristic of those who practically suffer bigotry. Since growth occurs within the socio-political milieu, such concerns bring Dewey's views on growth and thereby the individual into question. An ecological model for the individual makes explicit both the challenges to growth and its moral importance for Dewey while also providing a means of analyzing diversity issues within a Deweyan scheme. ECOLOGICAL INDIVIDUAL Eugene Odum, in popularizing the term "ecology," pointed to the etymological connection of ecology and home, yet contemporary ecologists spill little ink on the subject. One reason may be that the point seems blatant: it is obvious that the earth is our home, so why write on the self-evident? But many people interested in environmental issues seem to want to get away from home, to get out into nature. Despite the fact that humans are part of the ecosystem, the man/nature dichotomy still appears in too many ecological discussions. However, this might simply be a failure in understanding the richness of the , home. An ecosystem is "a holistic and integrative ecological concept that combines living organisms and the physical environment into a system." But how often do we appreciate these same features within our homes? Ideally, a home is a localized and dynamic environ that qualitatively provides for security and growth while offering an intimate sense of belonging. It provides perspective, not only from what is not home, but also by housing various perspectives or voices within itself. Home is the center of living, where even external conflicts and dramas enter. As such, it becomes a place where both the deepest damage and greatest healing can occur. This home model helps make sense of our ecology and ourselves within it. There is no hard break between individuals or between nature and society. An individuals skin serves as a convenient demarcation, in the same way that a river may serve as a boundary line between two farms; however, the boundary is a functional and permeable one. Far from being distinct from nature, the individual exists as part of nature, taking in air and nutrients of that environment and likewise releasing elements vital to natural processes. Regarding the community, an individual takes up, passes along, and transforms the languages, values, and perspectives of that community. An ecological model of individuals captures this embedment more effectively than other approaches. This model fits what we see in Dewey's own writings. In Logic: A Theory of Inquiry, Dewey examines the transactional understanding of the individual and the environment: Whatever else organic life is or is not, it is a process of activity that involves an environment. It is a transaction extending beyond the spatial limits of the organism. An organism does not live in an environment; it lives by means of an environment. Breathing, the ingestion of food, the ejection of waste products, are cases of direct integration; the circulation of blood and the energizing of the nervous system are relatively indirect. But every organic function is an interaction of intra-organic and extra-organic energies, either directly or indirectly. (LW 12:173) For ecologists, an ecosystem is "a holistic and integrative ecological concept that combines living organisms and the physical environment into a system." Because Dewey places so much attention upon the individual within and as part of an environment, an ecological model of the individual seems appropriate for what he has in mind. However the concept of the ecological individual must take into account both the biological as well as the cultural, since the environment, for Dewey, is more than just the individuals physical surroundings but is also the cultural milieu as well. The Deweyan Ecological Individual exists within a dynamic web of human as well as non-human and physical as well as cultural relationships. It is this web of relationships that Neil Browne explores in The World in Which We Occur. In it, Browne develops what he calls Pragmatist Ecology, a way of thinking and being centered in the ecotone in which ecology and democracy interpenetrate and in which our culture can resuscitate its potential to evolve into a more socially and environmentally just one. Browne begins with the a discussion of the ecotone, which is a transitional zone between ecosystems (such as the area where ocean and land meet at the coastline) and is a place of intensified energy, where genetic exchange and evolutionary potential are initiated. Drawing upon Dewey, Browne argues that this model can be used to render porous the artificial boundaries between physical environments, but also cultural endeavors from the physical world so that democratic and environmental practices support and enrich one another. An example of the concept of the ecotone applied to a cultural development might be the city of New Orleans, a place that served as a transitional zone for a number of cultures, resulting in an intensified energy of both genetic and cultural exchange. This blending produced innovations in music, cooking, language, literature, politics, religion, and art, to name only a few. But what of the status of the individual in such a milieu? Certainly these innovations came about through individuals taking up their enviroment in creative ways, but how do we make sense of the individual within the ecotone? For Browne, patch dynamics provides a way of understanding the ways in which individuals are situated within their natural and cultural milieu (or ecotone). As Browne points out, patches are units within a larger ecological system that differ in biotic makeup or appearance (for instance, a burned area or a human village in the center of a forest). Despite the local instability which arises within and around such an area, because disturbances on the level of patches can be absorbed by the larger system, in many cases instabilities interact in ways that create a relative stability in the larger system. This metastability captures the sense of all elements within a system as intertwined, each affecting the others, and those interactions in toto represent the relative stability of the whole. Patches remind us that we find ourselves a part of a dynamic and pluralistic world capable of absorbing much of the harm that we visit upon it. However, our actions are intertwined, a fact that calls upon us to act with intelligence, responsibility, and restraintespecially given the fact that our combined actions can overload the system in which we exist. But for Browne, patch dynamics reveal more: Ecological patches are nested within each otherspecies (including humans), landscapes, universe. The human task is to perceive reciprocity and engage in conversation among these ecological levels, to take ethical responsibility for them through attention to interrelationships, especially to the participatory nature of interrelationships. Patch dynamics thus provide not only a reminder of the dynamic quality of nature, but also function as a local focus for environmental work. And because humans take up the project of living within this dynamic patchwork, the concept of the ecological individual must remain likewise flexible. The individual when viewed from one perspective appears as a patch within her local ecotone, but when viewed from another might be the biological and cultural environement for the microorganisms most suited to the individual's lifestyle. We see this complexity when an individual shifts from a traditional diet to one more amenable to the high-speed existence of contemporary American, not only in the fact that individual behavior responds to and reshapes the surrounding bio-cultural landscape but also in the fact that the individual becomes a ecological home to microbes, parasites, and diseases which flourish as a result. We can speak of the individual human in such a way as to emphasize group membership, such as when "[i]ndividual humans...lose their identity in a mob or in a political convention or a joint-stock corporation or at the polls" (LW 2:247). In this case, the emphasis is upon the shared qualities of the group, with the group being a patch within the larger environment. We can also narrow our focus to the distinct qualities of the individual, in which case, the individual appears as a patch. However, we can narrow our view more tightly still so that the individual becomes the environment within which a variety of processes occur. In each case, our understanding of the individual is functional yet always ecological, in that the individual is embedded within a biological and cultural milieethat is, the individual is always environed. Far from being static and autonomous, the individual arises within an ever-changing relational milieu, exists temporally, transforms those relations by taking up some possibilities and creating the conditions for others (within the context of others doing the same), and attempts to make sense or cultivate meaning along the way. Such a model recognizes that the individual is necessarily pluralistic and requires a pluralistic conception of being in the world. And it opens new avenues for applying Dewey's thought to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. As mentioned above, an ecological model for the individual makes explicit both the challenges to growth and its moral importance for Dewey, while also providing a means of analyzing diversity issues within a Deweyan scheme. So often issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality interpenetrate in ways that complicate our attempts to understand and address them. For instance, in addition to racism, Tim Wise claims that Hurricane Katrina "was about systemic neglect, about the dependence of a city on low-wage employment in the tourist industry, which left folks vulnerable and unable to escape. It's about the consequences of allowing vital wetlands, which can reduce the storm surge from a hurricane substantially, to be destroyed, all for the sake of oil exploration or shipping interests." And it is about outsiders looking in, believing the worst, and ignoring a continual denial of basic human dignity. When we understand the individual in ecological terms, we must take into account the individual as embedded in networks of biological and cultural relationships, all of which influence the individual and provide avenues for individual cultivation or deprivation. In doing so we become aware of the breadth to which Deweyan "problematic situations" extend. Racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are endemic: their effects reach farther than we tend to acknowledge, and we have little hope of overcoming them. Biological and cultural forces shape individuals, often in ways we do not recognize, despite the fact that they undermine growth. But the individual, as a creative response to the universe, has the ability to take up the environment in ways conducive to growth. For Dewey, a democracy should work to provide the means for that growth. When we understand the individual in ecological terms, we are better able to see exactly how far those needs extend and what we must provide if we are to a democracy worthy of our ideals.  John Dewey, Essays on School and Society, vol. 1, The Middle Works: 1899-1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston, 15 vols. (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1899-1924), 13.  Eugene P. Odum and Gary W. Barrett, Fundamentals of Ecology, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Thomson, 2005), 2.  Frank B. Golley. A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology: More than the Sum of the Parts, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 8.  See Thomas P. Kasulis' Shinto: The Way Home, (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2004), 170. "Etymologically, 'ecology' means the 'study of the home.' Ecology is not about managing or controlling the world, but about feeling at home in it."  See Daniel Savage's John Dewey's Liberalism: Individual, Community, and Self-Development, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002).  This piece will do little more than lay out the criticisms. Another project, Critiquing the Deweyan Individual: Toward an Ecological Understanding of the Self, takes up these criticisms in a more developed way.  John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, vol. 12 The Middle Works: 1899-1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston, 15 vols. (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1899-1924), 181.  Michael Katz, Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America (New York: Prager, 1971), 118.  John Patrick Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 378.  Ibid., 383.  Naoko Saito, The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 89.  Ibid., 97.  Saito draws heavily upon Stanley Cavells work. In particular, see Cavells Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990).  Martin Kilanowski, "Individual and Community: Dewey's Rejection of Sharp Distinctions in Social and Political Philosophy," in Deconstruction and Reconstruction: The Central European Pragmatist Forum, vol. 2, ed. John Ryder and Krystyna Wilkoszewska (New York: Rodopi, 2004), 24.  Hilary Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 190.  Ibid., 190-191.  Victor Kestenbaum, The Grace and the Severity of Ideal: John Dewey and the Transcendent (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 1.  Ibid., 225.  Robert J. Roth, John Dewey and Self-Realization (Edgewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1962), 123.  Ibid., 124.  Stikkers, 65.  Diggins, 314-315.  Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), xxv-xxvii. See also The Nature and Destiny of Man: Volume One, Human Nature (New York: Schribner's, 1964), 110-112.  Shannon Sullivan, Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2006), 33-39. Charlene Haddock Seigfried, "John Dewey's Pragmatist Feminism," in Reading Dewey ed. Larry Hickman (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1998), 194, 196. Niebuhr, Moral 212. See also Bill Lawson and Donald F. Koch's Pragmatism and the Problem of Race (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).  Seigfried, 194, 196.  This also seems to parallel Saito's concern regarding Dewey and the recalcitrant child.  Golley, 8.  Frank B. Golley, A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology: More than the Sum of the Parts (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 8.  See Deweys discussion of Robinson Crusoe in Individuality in Education, MW 15:178-179.  What follows is a reworking of a portion of my review of Browne's book in the November 2009 newsletter for the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.  . Neil Brown. The World in Which We Occur: John Dewey, Pragmatist Ecology, and American Ecological Writing in the Twentieth Century. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007. 184.  Browne, 3.  Browne, 152.  Browne, 153.  Browne, 13, 188-189.  The event, not just the storm  Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Rev. ed. 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