"Thatness", transaction and craft: the development of John Dewey's esthetics


My task here will be to trace the development of the phics. American philosopher John Dewey's esthetics. Central in Dewey's work is the attempt to break down the rigidity of culturally imposed structures which divide esthetic experience from more general sorts of experience; in Dewey's work, esthetic and more general experience are organically continuous. I focus the early portion of this work tracing the roots of Dewey's more mature account of experience. In Dewey's work we discern a strong interest in the immediate, concrete content of our direct experience of the world: a character of experience which I follow Dewey in calling 'thatness'. It is this 'thatness' which most characterizes our esthetic experience, and it is pivotal in Dewey's account of the transactional nature of our interaction with our environment. I shall examine the role of 'thatness' in Dewey's transactional account of experience and then consider the relation between fine art and craft in an attempt to elucidate Dewey's claim as to the presence of the esthetic, with its accompanying 'thatness', in both pursuits



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