Refuting John Dewey, Behavioralism, Empiricism – Gordon Clark Quotes

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This is a list of Gordon Clark quotes about John Dewey and Empiricism. For each quote, there is a link where you can purchase the book where the quote came from.

For Gordon Clark quotes about empiricism in general, visit Gordon Clark Quotes – Empiricism.

Gordon Clark Refutes John Dewey, Empiricism (Wheaton Lectures)

From Clark and His Critics, published by the Trinity Foundation (page numbers are from the Apple Books e-book).

Nietzsche was also a behaviorist. On this point John Dewey followed him. Drawing out the implications of evolution, Dewey held that mind is a complex of bodily habits, and knowledge exists in the muscles. Or, again, “Habits formed in the process of exercising biological aptitudes are the sole agents of observation, recollection, foresight, and judgment: a mind or consciousness or soul in general which performs these operations is a myth.”

It is these bodily habits that generate the principles of logic, and as the habits change, so logic changes with them. Today logic has changed, and it will continue to change. Indeed, Dewey deliberately compares the laws of logic to the civil laws on contracts. Both change from age to age, and in all their parts. The view that once the law of contradiction did not hold, and that, after having developed and governed human thought for a few thousand years, it again does not now or soon will not hold, necessitates, if we are permitted to think logically at this point, some very strange conclusions. What were the ancient beings that had not yet developed the law of contradiction? Were they men who could think, or not? If they were not men, there is difficulty in explaining how the physical and muscular reactions of animals could produce a law of universal validity. If, on the other hand, they were “thinking” beings, what kind of thoughts could they have had? Men today by the law of contradiction argue, “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.” But the ancestors Dewey provides for us, since they did not have the law might have argued, “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, he will never die.”

The same objection will of course apply to Dewey’s future epoch, now on the threshold in his own books, when again the law of contradiction will be unused. Since this law requires a noun to refer to something definite, so that man means man, and cannot mean not-man, the disciple of Dewey will argue, “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is a cat with nine lives.”

Now, the interesting twist in Dewey’s theory is that if logic is to be discarded, there will be no logical possibility of arguing in favor of Dewey’s theory. We may be deprived of Aristotle and Christianity, but at least we will escape Dewey’s philosophy too, and that is some sort of consolation.

Gordon H. Clark. “Clark and His Critics.” Apple Books. 67-69.

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