by Gordon L. Ziniewicz

1. The ideal of democracy is the idea (possibility) of voluntary cooperation (unity) of diverse and unique individualities (plurality), distinctive individuals who are open to the distinctive individuality and interests of one another. This means that the ideal combines personal creativity (originality of outlook) with sympathy (an outlook which includes imaginatively the outlooks of others). It is marked by flexibility of thought and action in following a path which is one's own but which "looks out for others" as they pursue their paths. It invites the possibility of "shared paths," where individuals walk in the light of ideals (such as the ideal of democracy) and with the help of methods worked out together. The ideal of democracy is an imaginative vision of individuals respecting others as individuals (equality), leading and governing themselves (liberty) and assisting others to do the same (fraternity) by modifying the conditions of life (economic, industrial, social, and educational) so as to foster personal initiative and growth.

2. The democratic disposition makes room for individuality to grow; it respects (tolerates) the unique life-careers of oneself and others. It treats all individuals equally (but not the same); it regards others as neither inferior nor superior, but uniquely important in their own ways. It treats each individual as a potential aristocrat, one who, with the right conditions, is capable of ruling himself and of making a unique contribution to a possible whole. It gives oneself and others room (by clearing prejudices) and opportunity (resources) to think and act. It understands that distinctive individuality can not be developed without freedom of thought and action. Finally, the democratic disposition requires "fraternal regard" and self-control. In fact, democratic freedom means self-control(1), the capacity to inhibit impulse and to delay overt action, until the full social bearing of projected courses of action can be evaluated. The only alternative to stopping (restraint), starting (initiative), or directing one's own energies, is to have them stopped, started, and directed by someone or something outside of oneself, by some external authority or force. Being forced does not develop individuality, but only compliance; no one can "make" an individual democratic. The point of democracy is that thought and action (and cooperation) be voluntary. Though it is impossible to separate individuality and association (they are interdependent qualities of human existence), equality and liberty emphasize the individual (and unique) side of human existence, while fraternity accents the associated (or communal) side of human existence.

3. Ideals, insofar as they are practicable, indicate possible redirections or reorganizations of actual energies (real tendencies or conditions). They are projections based upon the way energies can move or combine. The ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity have to be based upon accurate knowledge of human nature (psychology), the knowledge of actual moving human tendencies (habits and desires). Thus, democracy is bound up with psychology. But democracy is also a moral idea or ideal; it is a humanism concerned with what human beings should be or become. Democracy implies moral faith that human nature is capable of change and development, that it is not something fixed. Democratic faith in individuals means belief that every individual can be more than he is now, that he has "possibilities." This is the meaning of Dewey's faith in the "common man." It is Dewey's view that democracy is the only way of life consistent with the genuine fulfillment of the capacities of human nature. In Dewey's view, those views of human nature which dominated early political understandings of liberty and equality -- views of isolated and self-contained individualism which applied quantitative and external measures to human existence -- are both undemocratic and unscientific. They regarded association as a threat to liberty and equality, which they believed would flourish, if only individuals were to be left alone. According to Dewey, the projection of the ideal of democracy depends upon and calls for a new view of human nature, one that is based on an interactive interpretation of natural energies, rather than a Newtonian scheme of force and counterforce.

4. According to Dewey, psychology and philosophy have fallen again and again into the error of making effects into causes; they have repeatedly mistaken tendencies acquired through complex interactions with the environment for basic "instincts" or innate tendencies. Thus, human nature has been described as naturally social or antisocial, curious or dull, good or bad. According to Dewey, such terms indicate what human nature has become, not what it was capable or is capable of becoming (potentiality). What is attributed to human nature is often really "second (acquired) nature," rather than "first (original) nature." Dewey himself avoids speaking of fundamental human tendencies, except in the broadest, most indefinite terms, yet he does say there are some such tendencies. In general, for Dewey, human nature is indefinite. In the case of human beings, patterns of desires (as they develop from earliest contact with the environment) are complex and highly individualized. Beyond certain basic needs, it is more appropriate to speak of "human natures" than human nature. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to sort out the original from the acquired. With their first encounters with real conditions, original impulses are no longer "original"; they are transformed into acquired dispositions, altered preferences, making a new human nature. Basic impulses are capable of development in many directions, some good and some bad; what counts is the way relatively neutral impulses are modified, what they become due to a variety of environmental conditions. Human beings are neither "good" nor "bad" by nature.(2) Looking at environing conditions is more fruitful than speculating about original impulses. We see that competition and cooperation are possible acquired ways of associating, based upon indefinite human impulses transformed by cultural conditions.

5. But something more can be said, in general, about human nature. There are two natural tendencies that go to the heart of human nature. Human nature tends to distinctive individuality, but it also tends toward combination and association. Fundamental to human nature are the needs to "stand apart" and to "come together." Individuality and association are the polarities between which human existence stretches. Distinctive individuality is linked to preference (interest or slant); union or continuity is tied to plasticity (flexibility or adaptability). We shall see that equality is defined in part by individual preference, and that freedom consists to great extent in the ability to change preference. Openness to change, the willingness to change preference, to expand interest, is allied to the desire to work things out together, to cooperate, to adapt. There is a tendency to hold back and to define oneself; at the same time, there is a tendency to reach out, to cross barriers, and to expand one's horizons. Either tendency, if pursued to the exclusion of the other, is self-defeating. Contraction, if protracted, can lead to exclusiveness and isolation. Expansion, as the need to "join," can lead to dispersal and conformity. Individuality and association are correlative facets of an essentially undivided experience.

6. According to Dewey, this dual tendency presents a problem (one paralleled in the democratic problem of the individual and the common good) that needs to be solved in thought and action. Dewey is critical of dualism because it "ducks" the issue by setting up barriers between the self and the world. Dualism turns a thought-provoking ambiguity into an insoluble metaphysical duality. For Dewey, on the other hand, the ambiguity of individuality and association can be and often is resolved. It is resolved in advance and imaginatively in the projection of the democratic ideal, and here and now and factually in day-to-day triumphs of cooperative work and friendly communication, wherein distinctive individuality and social harmony are jointly realized.

7. The "two-sidedness" of human nature, its fundamental ambiguity, reflects the contractive and expansive tendencies of all natural existences. Both individuality and association are "natural." Where "nurture" or growth comes into play is with the development of individual capacities as fully as possible and with the improvement of human social relations to the extent that they are both satisfying in themselves and productive of individuality. In other words, the ideal of democracy is that natural individuality should become distinctive and creative personality, and that natural association should become community. As hydrogen and oxygen are modified yet remain distinct in combining to form water, so individuals are transformed yet made distinctive in vital face-to-face community and communication. The "dialectic" of the individual and the universal is the reciprocity between reaching out to include others and their ideas and developing one's own distinctive manner of thinking and acting (freedom).

8. Central to the democratic ideal and to the democratic way of life is the importance of the individual. Equality and liberty pertain to individuals in their individuality. According to Dewey, only individuals think and act, even when they think and act together. The term "society" does not refer to something above or beyond individuals, a kind of "separate entity." Society means individuals together.

9. For Dewey, individuality means uniqueness. Every natural existence has unique quality. Individual forms are unrepeatable and irreplaceable. They have unique positions and functions within a possible whole. The red of each rose is different. No two sunsets are the same. The quality of each human life is unique. Much can be known about the whence of individual forms, how they occur. But the fact of the existence of unique individuality (unique form) is impenetrable and mysterious. It is beyond knowledge, but not beyond experience. Time is the continual release of new forms, of new individualities. This release (change) is the basis of variety and novelty. The present never has the same look as the past, never simply repeats the past.

10. Recall that the framing of inclusive (humane) ends and ideals requires imagination of the unique standpoint of others. Deliberation has to include images of people and their projects, from their point of view, so far as this is possible. The individuality of human individuals is their "standpoint," their unique standing in dynamic interaction with common conditions. It is their unique approach, their individualized method, where their region touches upon the world. A person's individuality or standpoint is his unique angle of vision. The "angle" of unique individuality can also be referred to as interest. Interest or preference (bias) characterizes all natural existences. The individuality of human individuals is more distinctive than the individuality of atoms and molecules, because of its complexity. The greater the complexity, incorporating more diverse energies, the greater is the potential individuality of any existence. Thus, individuality which is undeveloped (as yet potential), because it has encountered few objects and resolved few problematic situations, lacks the unity within extensive experience which characterizes more developed individuality.

11. Each individual has something unique to offer. A child, doing the same problem in addition done by many others many times before, does it in a way never done before, with a unique approach. The democratic way of life requires belief that each unique angle is important and irreplaceable. From the democratic point of view, each life "stands out," represents a fresh start for a continually changing universe. With the individuality of individuals, the meaning-horizon, which includes possible redirections of energies, undergoes fundamental change. There is something new under the sun with the appearance of each new individual with his own way of thinking and doing things. The democratic ideal, as imaginative vision of the whole, sees these individualities with their unique standing and position within the whole and imagines them shining in the fullness of their distinctive character. It does not merely tolerate, but reverences their uniqueness. It regards uniqueness and variety on the part of others as stimuli for fresh thought and new plans of action. For human beings, the appearance of the genuinely new lights up new possible directions (possibilities) for thought and action. New actuality suggests new possibilities. The possibility of endless expansion and change is guaranteed by the emergence of new unique individualities that reveal whole new spaces (room) for thought and action. Democratic faith in experience means faith in time, belief that new forms are and can be wrought out of old conditions. The only alternative to faith in time as a sphere of novelty and variety is resignation before eternity as a closed regime of fixed and predictable forms, where each "individual" is an example or instance of a general type.

12. For Dewey, each individual is not an instance of a fixed class, but is in a class all by itself. The democratic way of life includes appreciation of individuals as unique and unrepeatable forms, as incomparable and sui generis. The democratic disposition acknowledges and welcomes novelty; the authoritarian disposition fears and denies it. The democratic attitude regards change as opportunity and the emergence of fresh approaches as new chances for the universe; the authoritarian attitude is threatened by change and sees variety as leading to chaos. Variety and novelty, which produce the breathable atmosphere of democratic life, without which growth is impossible, depend upon the individuality of individuals. The flash of original insight, the mutual transformation of old meanings and new facts, happens as the focal point of individual imaginative consciousness.

13. Though each angle is different, the world it touches is common and shared. Recall that for Dewey, "form" indicates unique quality of eventual unity of complex energies. Form, whether in works of art or in human individuals, is a consequence of the coordination of diverse energies, not an underlying essence. It is something unique, not repeatable. It amounts to a qualitatively unique configuration of operating conditions, of which one "condition" is the unique angle of vision itself. Though human individuals share many physical and cultural conditions (insofar as they are not unjustly excluded from such participation), their way of handling these same conditions is different. An individual is what he does with the facts he faces, the obstacles and the resources that environ him. Personal unity (unique form) is the outcome of unique active adaptation to actual conditions.

14. Individuality depends upon what is common, what is shared. Democracy means individuality, not in the sense of atomistic and isolated quantity, but in the sense of relational and focal quality. Individuality emerges from and depends upon interactions and "cooperations" of diverse energies. It is not something that pre-exists any or all association. According to Dewey, "atomistic individualism," which viewed individuals as self-contained and relations as external (mechanical), was allied to Newtonian views of unchanging bits of matter in motion. All natural existences are transformed intrinsically, not just extrinsically, by transactions with their environment. Equality, as both fact and ideal, means individuality (unique and distinct). Individuality is, in one sense, something given (a fact); the infant or the child is already an individual. In another sense, individuality is something to be achieved (ideal). For the child, individuality is both actuality and possibility; he brings to thought and action a unique angle of vision, a unique approach. Yet individuality is still in front of him; it remains a possibility. Angle of vision has to be tried out, broadened, tested, and reworked in the face of actual events. Native capacities, already unique, are transformed in interaction with the environment; distinct individuality grows, deepens, widens. Furthermore, it becomes conscious. An originally unique angle of approach becomes a distinctive attitude and character. It does this through creative adaptation of real conditions offered by problematic situations. Equality as ideal means the full development of original unique capacities with the help of conditions appropriate to these unique capacities. The individual has something to offer or to contribute, only if conditions cooperate with the individual's capacities. Otherwise, the individuality of the individual remains a possibility (promise) rather than an actuality (fulfillment). In other words, the real possibilities of individuals depend upon the existence of appropriate opportunities, means or conditions that fit their specific needs.

15. Equality does not mean sameness. It means that individuals (insofar as they are unique) cannot be compared with one another or measured by some external "universal" standard. Recall that qualities, as such, are incomparable and unique. Individuals can only be compared with themselves (in terms of growth or decline). What they are can be compared with what they have been and what they ought to be. Individuals are qualitatively equal; from the standpoint of individuality, no one can be said to be better or worse than another. Equality consists in the unique way each person thinks and acts, if conditions are provided. It is the way he functions, not the way he appears at any one time. Just as growth consists in the overall direction of one's life, rather than in any one phase or stage or object achieved within that life, so the individuality of individuals consists in their unique growth and operation, their temporal "careers," rather than in any measurable markers along the way. Dewey means that human individuals cannot be compared any more than one can compare violets to oak trees. Each person is equally individual, and the distinctive individuality that is his to develop or denigrate is unlike any other; so also, the overt contribution he can make to his fellows has no substitute. This means that the projected ideal of individuality varies from person to person, even as the problem and the good of each situation are unique. What are measurable are the means or conditions or possessions that attend the individuality of individuals. For example, although intelligence as unique angle of vision is a quality and not a quantity, external performance (such as in intelligence testing) can be measured. Unfortunately, in education there is often a tendency to measure the results of a child's thinking rather than to appreciate the unique way the child thinks or approaches a problem. In terms of measurable (quantitative) possessions such as intelligence, strength, learning, etc., individuals are unequal. In addition, what they receive or contribute to society is quantitatively unequal. Quantitatively, the child has much to learn from the father, the untrained from the adept, the naive from the wise; but qualitatively, the "child is father of the man."(3) The child's unique offering and role is as important as the parent's. The violet may not be as big or as powerful as the oak, but it has its own incomparable beauty. For Dewey, quantifiable traits or possessions are secondary to qualitative individuality. One's unique approach to the world and therefore one's potentially unique and irreplaceable contribution to the world are more important than one's intellectual and material possessions.

16. An alternative to the democratic idea of equality or incomparable individuality is division of individuals into classes which are higher and lower (hierarchically arranged). Inequality is an approach typical of feudalistic regimes, where lower classes submit to the rule of the "higher-ups." The upper classes are distinguished by quantitative superiority in terms of birth, wealth, education, or force of arms. It is their prerogative to do the planning and thinking for everyone else, to frame purposes and ideals, while those under their dominion learn how to obey and do the work necessary to fulfill the purposes they have not framed. In authoritarian regimes, acquiescence is the virtue of the masses, while creative power is the virtue of the chosen few.

17. Aristocratic regimes, whether political, social, or intellectual, often make the mistake of placing quantity above quality. Quantities are conditions, useful tools, generalities, "matter." They are means (externals) for the securing of qualities. Such means include the acquisition of learning, the possession of wealth and property, the collection and recollection of data. The real end is growth, unique and specific to the individual, not the "possession" of things or even the possession of knowledge. No person ought to be judged on the basis of what is external (conditions); depth of character and unique wisdom can not be read off of a person's clothes or bank account or use of grammar or "breeding." The importance of the "common man" is that he is really, as an individual, quite uncommon, rare, unique. Those who feel themselves superior to the "common man" deprive themselves of unique opportunities for new understanding afforded in the variety of approaches available for the price of listening. Such is the "snobbery" of intellectual aristocrats, like Nietzsche, who divide mankind into "overmen" and "undermen," masters and slaves, geniuses and peasants, those who count (genuine individuals) and those who do not (everyone else). Against this feudalistic or hierarchical view of human affairs (with gradations from anointed rulers to lowly peasants), set within a hierarchical view of nature as a whole, Dewey makes a case for a democratic view of nature and human affairs. The imaginative vision of democracy yields a whole new view of nature as well as of human society. The world is not a fixed order of grades of beings. It is not an empire where lower species serve higher species, where variation occurs from species to species, but not from individual to individual. Grades of higher and lower, subordination of the particular to the universal, do not apply. Each existence is unique and irreplacable. Each is essential. None is merely an example, an instance, an "imitation" of a lofty paradigm. Each counts; each stands for itself, represents only itself. Whereas the error of the feudalistic hierarchical approach lay in comparing everything on a vertical scale, the error of atomistic individualism was to make the order of existence horizontal, without recognizing the dignity of individual distinctions. Atomistic individualism drowned all distinctions in a sea of quantity. It mistakenly believed that the importance of the individual is that he is separate, "distinct" without being distinctive. Thus, according to that view, liberty and equality were pre-given birthrights (innate and inalienable), the same in every individual (one of the "masses"). Like Leibnitz's monads, the programming within each individual was already complete and only needing to be run. Everyone was esteemed equal and free, in advance and apart from circumstances. If individuals were left alone by government and other agencies, freedom of thought and action were thought to be assured.

18. The test of any belief is whether it is warranted. It is warranted if it leads to favorable consequences. From Dewey's point of view, democratic faith in human nature has yet to be tried. Equality is still an ideal; it is "formal," rather than existential or substantial. Old style hierarchical approaches and rigid as well as pejorative views of human nature, not to mention class prejudice and elitism of every type, stand in the way of the democratic experiment. Thus, the fact of equality, like the fact of partial democracy, is a mixture of equality and inequality. Human nature is potentially equal and individual. Human beings can be developed through education and other positive means to "full blown" equality and distinctive individuality; or, lacking these favorable conditions, human beings are thereby denied equal opportunity (conditions appropriate to their individual capacities), as well as equal participation (having the chance to contribute in accordance with their capacities); they are then liable to become passive laborers following the plans of others. Thus, in America, which is not yet democratic, the movement toward equality is a movement away from inequality, a movement from exclusion to inclusion, that abolishes racial and cultural and economic walls. Barriers that include some and exclude others are "undemocratic." But even in the midst of inequality, contact with human natures is apt to suggest possibilities. The democratic attitude approaches "unfinished" human natures with an eye to what they could be. It looks at ordinary people and sees inchoate aristocrats -- artists, philosophers, heroes, and saints.(4) Human nature includes potentiality and possibility, as well as actuality; the lines of present conduct can be extended in imaginative projection. Through sympathy, the appreciation of the standpoint of the other and the possibilities leading out of this standpoint, is possible. A key term for Dewey is generosity. As stated before, the general, the universal,(5) is, most truly, not the abstract or disengaged thought, but the generous, open-minded, wide-ranging, and inclusive thought. The alternative to generosity is narrowness (and superficiality), as the alternative to appreciation of distinctive individuality is "sizing" others up in terms of external, static, and quantifiable measures (labels). Humanism means belief that there is more to individuals, in terms of angle of vision and future possibilities, than meets the eye, and that this "more" indicates unique ways of participating in a natural and social whole. It is the task of education to maintain this faith in the attempt to assist potential individualities in attaining fully developed distinctive individuality. Faith in human nature means faith that growth is possible. And growth is individualized. An individual's possibilities are always "his or her own," insofar as they are practicable ends and ideals. Actively assisting others,(6) whether in education or elsewhere, requires sympathetic imagination of their standpoints and possibilities, not the imposition of one's own ideals, however cherished and hallowed.

19. Growth means ongoing increase, fulfillment, and freeing of individual capacities. Capacities undergo constant change in interaction with environing conditions; humans are born with relatively limited capabilities which are called out, intensified, modified, and multiplied in contact with a variety of actual conditions (the more variety the better), some supportive and others inhibiting. Potentiality or capacity is not an all-at-once fixed and inborn set of limits. For Dewey, potentiality means power. Power is usable energy, energy that arises from encounters with many stimuli and which can be intelligently directed or redirected, given conditions that cooperate with it (move in the same direction). Potentialities change depending upon changing conditions. A man may be able to build his own house, when he has sufficient skills, wealth, materials, and tools on hand. His power to act is not something purely "inside of him." The term potentiality can refer to what a person can do here and now, given available resources, and what he could do, if certain absent conditions were made present. Powers or available energies point in specific directions, even when their fulfillment in those directions is not yet fully supported. To return to our example, the paupered and uneducated man, if given the training and the resources, has the potentiality (can be "empowered") to build his own house. That is the meaning of democratic faith in the potentiality of human beings (humanistic faith). It is the belief that if certain conditions are met (if diversified and appropriate opportunities are provided), then the genuine capacities of human beings will emerge and grow. Since potentialities develop as consequences of interactions, they cannot be known before the interactions have occurred. That is why democracy means faith in and not knowledge of human potential; one has to believe it is possible (can be), that it can come about, in order to do what is necessary to help it come about. The ideal of the democratic fulfillment of individual capacities is an hypothesis, a possibility, which can only be proved by means of genuine democratic experiment.(7)

20. Freedom or liberty is the release (freeing up) of and fulfillment (development) of individual capacities. It is allowing pent up or inhibited energies to find suitable outlet and positive enhancement amidst actual conditions. Thus, freedom has both a negative (liberating) and a positive (fulfilling) side. It means freedom from inhibiting and contracting obstacles and freedom to act based upon furthering and expanding (diverse) resources. In every problematic or perplexing situation, obstacles must be overcome or transformed and resources must be identified and used. It makes no sense to say that a person is free merely because nothing stands in his way. That is only half of freedom. Genuine positive freedom consists in the development of capacities with the help of resources. To tell a man he is free to build a house, when he has no tools or other means, is to do lip service to freedom, but not to secure the means of its fulfillment.

21. Freedom (which means growth) is both mental and overt. It consists in both freedom of thought, the ability to change one's mind or preference, and freedom of action, the ability to change the direction of one's actions and transactions with the environment. It is basically the capacity or power to change (in a positive sense). The accomplishment of overt freedom requires the cooperation of natural and social conditions; it also requires adaptation and accommodation to the capacities and powers of others. What a person can or cannot do depends upon what others can or cannot do, their potentials or powers, the presence and movement of their energies. The liberty of some may mean the restraint of others. Scientific observation of the behavior of natural energies shows that cooperation is more effective and efficient than conflict. Energies operating together are ensured their full development; the liberties of individuals working together, in a spirit of friendly as opposed to ruthless competition, are enhanced.(8) Thus, there is no such thing as liberty isolated from the activities of others. Though liberty is the fulfillment of distinctive individual capacities, liberty is always linked to association. The freeing and activation of individual powers is inseparable from existing social conditions.

22. Essential to freedom of action, however, is the second kind of freedom -- freedom of thought. Primarily, freedom means freedom of mind, growth in intelligence, even more than it means freedom of action. Freedom of thought requires freedom of action for its completion; reflection is incomplete without action. But quantity of action is less important than quality; what counts is whether acts proceed from due consideration and choice, from a mind free (able) to imagine, to weigh, and to choose from alternatives. It can be argued that contraction of overt action (the meeting of obstacles) is favorable insofar as it diverts energy to expanding the range of thought possibilities (reflection), although complete inhibition of action is detrimental to thought (which, shut off from action, becomes fantasy). One's distinctive individuality is primarily one's unique angle of vision, one's way of thinking, and the imprint this individuality leaves upon particular acts. Overtly, one must accommodate rather than dominate in order to make room for others to act, since physical space is limited. Mental space provides more breathing room, whole unexplored frontiers of possibility opened in imaginative encounter with reality. Democratic free play of thought and openness of inquiry are the foundation and the heart of the ideal of liberty.(9)

23. As "negative freedom" (liberation from constriction), freedom of thought means freedom from prejudice, from dogmatism. The closed mind does not admit new possibilities. It is reluctant to stretch or expand its meaning-horizon. It is parochial rather than universal, exclusive rather than inclusive. Having decided in advance, it has no need to decide anew or to reassess the facts. It is not free, because it is held back from new discovery by its own preconceptions; it cannot appreciate individuals in their unique individuality, because it already knows everything it needs to know about "human nature." The dogmatic attitude precludes growth, because it resists change; it does not exercise the fundamental freedom of changing one's mind. It yearns to stand still, but ends up only imagining that it is standing still, in a world that never stands still and that does not "stand for" beings that fail to adapt and change, that remain inflexible. Dogmatism is a contractive, as opposed to an expansive tendency of mind. It is opposed to life (including the life of the mind), which needs expansion, variation, and harmony within ever increasing complexity. Dogmatism may be due to the inertia of habit, fear of change (need for security), or to reliance upon (or fear of) external authority. Dogmatism of this variety is a form of obedience, of submission of inferior to superior, and is opposed to democratic freedom of thought, whereby the "seat of authority" rests with each individual. The thinking and scientific mind (democratic) has freedom to roam a universe of imaginative possibilities shut out by the obedient and feudalistic mind. The ideal of democracy implies the development of open-minded citizens who think for themselves, rather than closed-minded subjects whose thinking is done for them. Just as democracy requires the replacement of feudalistic with democratic social structures, so freedom of thought requires the replacement of authoritarian and hierarchical habits (routines) of mind with democratic and scientific ways of thinking.

24. Liberation from prejudice and dogma is but the precursor to positive freedom of thought. Mental freedom, the "inner half" of undivided freedom or activity, consists in the capacity to frame purposes, to judge, to reflect or deliberate, and to choose (means). The "outer half of" undivided freedom or activity is the power to organize conditions, to realize ends or purposes in action. Thus, freedom of thought implies framing one's own purposes, deliberating and judging for oneself, choosing for oneself, and acting in continuity with these choices.

25. The freedom of individuals is especially bound up with their capacity or power to frame their own purposes and to envision their own ideals. They are their own purposes insofar as they are possibilities of their own actualities, of what counts as real in their experience, including other people and their projects. Their imagination of the standpoints of others, which affects the purposes they frame, is from their standpoint and bears the stamp of their individuality. Furthermore, even the social purposes they have in common with others are colored on their own side by the unique standpoint of their own expanding, yet centered, experience. The only purposes totally divorced from their individuality are the purposes they have had no role in framing; insofar as these are divorced from the conditions of their existence, they are at the same time detached from the very means the individual has of carrying them over into action. Individuals, singly or together, have to have purposes that are connected, not disconnected, with the means they have at their disposal, that fit their situation. In other words, purposes are individualized. Even social purposes, though they are common and shared, are individualized (have individual contribution and bearing) at their point of attachment to individuals. Ends disconnected from means are a common occurrence in industrial society. Activity is free only to the extent that there is a continuity between purposes framed and action taken.

26. Freedom of thought and freedom of action are summed up and brought together in choice. Choice, insofar as it is intelligent, liberates both thought and action. Democratic freedom is self-expanding. Free acts lead to freer deliberation, as well as to awareness of new opportunities for action. In other words, freedom of action and freedom of thought are mutually reinforcing, complementary facets of a single onward and upward expansion of individuality. Opening up alternatives in overt action (releasing capacities) produces new situations which suggest new directions and possibilities. In other words, creative action makes new facts suggestive of new possibilities.

27. The only alternatives to such continuity of action (inner and outer) are action without thought at all, action and thought which have nothing to do with each other, or action which is connected to the thought (purposes and plans) of others, but disconnected from one's own mental activity. That amounts to taking and obeying orders, where the "seat of authority" rests with those higher up. As a prolonged rather than merely occasional fact of everyday existence, this separation of the "thought" side of existence from the "action" side is opposed to the democratic ideal.(10) It makes for passivity rather than self-rule, conformity rather than individuality. It also produces individuals whose daydreams are far removed from the facts of their day-to-day experience.

28. Not only the ability or power to choose, but the belief that these personal choices "make a difference," can change things overtly, is what counts. This means that choice presupposes that the turn of events is indefinite, and that the power to "define" them (decide their direction) rests with individuals, and not with external forces. Liberty means intelligent change(11) (of mind and conditions) that comes from individuals (the people); it presupposes a world that is indefinite (plastic). It is implied that the energies of nature, both non-human and human, can actually change direction(12) depending upon the activity of distinct individuals. Democratic belief in the possibility of liberty is directly opposed to the ideas of fate or mechanical necessity.

29. Freedom means the ability to change one's mind (to change one's preferences), and to make choices. It does not mean absence of preference, which is clearly impossible. Human energies are always already operating in a particular direction; freedom means the capacity to change this direction. Initiative, the movement of energies along a line of preference (the axis of conduct), indicates the individuality of the individual. Change of direction means change of individuality. It presupposes the other tendency of human existence, adaptability and plasticity, its outgoing tendency. Central to freedom is the ability to change one's own individuality, rather than to have it changed by external coercion. It is even mistaken to believe that individual paths can be changed from without. What gets changed is overt action, while inner preference continues on its way, albeit imaginatively, as fantasy divorced from conduct.(13) One cannot anymore make individuals democratic by autocratic means than one can make anything move by itself(14) by towing it. The point is to assist in converting preference into intelligent preference, to encourage thought. This means an acknowledgement of the individuality of individuals combined with encouragement to develop original plasticity or flexibility. Freedom of thought depends upon the development of democratic openness to variety and change, based on individuality of standpoint and approach.

30. The ability to change preference requires the power to think alternatives, to deliberate, to imagine possible courses of action leading to different consequences. In other words, it depends upon the capacity to imagine possibilities. Freedom of thought comes down to free play of imagination (both in framing purposes and imagining courses of action). The development of freedom of thought means development of imagination, a capacity usually found in children (fresh individuals) and then often discouraged in the name of efficiency or pre-established "truth." Plasticity in conduct needs plasticity in thought (imagination). Possibilities have to be opened up mentally before they can be realized in the opening up or redirection of actual affairs. This means capacity to stretch the meaning-horizon, to make inferences, to conceive of possible existence -- in a word, to think the possible (the ideal). The cultivation of this power stands or falls with the conditions of associated life, in particular with face-to-face communication and contact with a wide variety of ideas and facts. This communication comprises education, both formal and informal. Freedom means growth. It is the task of education to provide the atmosphere and conditions that are necessary for expanding and "fine-tuning" powers of imagination, observation, and judgment, which empower individuals to enlarge the range of experience (culture or meaning-horizon). Education leads to expansion, not contraction, of mind and action, increase, not decrease, of possibilities. Both personal growth and social progress require variation, variety, novelty. The fresh outlook of the new individual suggests manifold new possibilities in the direction of that individuality. The value of the individuality of individuals to the "common good" is immeasurable. Plasticity is always this plasticity, the outgoing and outreaching toward possibilities connected to actualities near at hand. The arrival of this new individual means, if education enlightens and does not darken imagination, the arrival of a whole new region of previously unforeseen possibilities. Human beings together (society) need human beings individually because they need the prospects for progress opened up by the emergence of these new ideas. As long as individuals are being born and encouraged to keep their "child's heart"(15), the universe still has a chance; affairs can take a different turn. In terms of idealizing and realizing democracy, education of individuals to think for themselves and to imagine anew the meaning of the democratic ideal, ensures that there is always the possibility of a new America.

31. Freedom as capacity or power requires openness and flexibility. Growth in imagination means growth in sympathy, as thinking of possibilities becomes thinking of possibilities for others, as one imagines their standpoints. Imagination at its best is "social." This social imagination is nourished and anchored, its images are made vivid and effective, by actual contact with the paths of others, through shared experience, and contact with their ideas, through the give and take of friendly conversation. Development of imagination in education means development of social imagination, of sympathy, in connection with social action which is cooperative rather than coercive. Freedom of thought means widening of imagination to include the standpoints of others. Freedom of action means linking distinctive energies together so as to increase their unified power and deepen their distinctive quality. The fullness of equality and liberty are inseparable from full participation in associated life; the creation of genuinely distinctive individuals includes the imaginative vision of fraternity.


1. Compare to the ancient Greek emphasis upon self-control.

2. Compare to Confucianism. On the whole, Confucius believed that human nature is originally neither good nor bad, but can be cultivated or educated in the direction of humanity (jen). For Confucius, as for Dewey, developing human nature is more important than speculating about its original condition.

3. After William Wordsworth, "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold."

4. The similarity of my words to Nietzsche's formulation is intentional.

5. For Dewey, "universal" means "inclusive."

6. According to Dewey, we help others only indirectly, by providing conditions that enable and empower them to think and act for themselves.

7. Pessimism regarding human nature usually confuses what has been achieved with what can be achieved. An example of this is "intelligence testing."

8. For this reason, laissez-faire capitalism is opposed to democratic development of everyone's individual capacities. In laissez-faire capitalism, the liberty of a few (oligarchs) is purchased at the expense of the many. More in accord with both democracy and nature is a scheme of things wherein individuals adjust the movement of their energies to be cooperating rather than conflicting. This implies that energies be developed in the first place so as to be moving in the right, i.e. democratic, direction, so that others are respected as individuals rather than judged as "being in the way."

9. Thus, it must be repeated that the democratic ideal is the only ideal consistent with the development of imagination.

10. Such is the condition of many laborers who fulfill the capacities of their employers, rather than their own capacities.

11. This means more than merely the illusion of change, whereby individuals are convinced that they are the agents of change, even as an "invisible hand" of divine providence or mechanical law or absolute reason operates behind the scenes.

12. One should keep in mind that control of energies is never complete; there are always uncontrolled forces that operate alongside controlled ones. However, that certain energies are not controlled does not mean that these energies cannot be controlled. Fatalism gives up too soon.

13. The forced march of authoritarian teaching produces individuals who continue to answer politely, while their inner thoughts "take a hike."

14. Dewey would agree with Aristotle that freedom consists in self-movement. For this reason, growth (or natural movement) can be distinguished from artificial production. Aristotle writes: "So it is with all other artifical products. None of them has in itself the source of its own production." Aristotle, Physics, Book II, Chapter 1, 25 - 30.

15. The philosophy of Mencius is valuable reading in this regard.

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This page last updated 10/14/12

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