July 31, 2014

John Dewey on control, blindness, and peril

"In the present state of the world, the control we have of physical energies, heat, light, electricity, etc., without control over the use of ourselves is a perilous affair. Without control of ourselves, our use of other things is blind." 
                                       John Dewey*

*From Dewey's preface to F.M. Alexander'sThe Resurrection of the Body. Quoted as an epigraph in Michael Heim's The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality.


  1. tp://www.johndeweysociety.org/the-journal-of-school-and-society/
    The John Dewey Society
    My article on Hope in an Anxious Time, Education and the Great Acceleration." I had not known about this quote of Dewey's.

  2. Thanks for this, David. These lines from your essay (among others) jumped out at me: "We seem to avoid or be unable to bring into clearer focus the existential threats that engulf our world... Hope is possible only if and when we dare to think about the danger at hand...Perhaps we do not care to look because we no longer believe in reality.”

    How technology encourages, assists and promotes our disengagement from reality is a recurring theme of this blog and of my book (Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology). There's a chapter in my book called "Dreamworld" that includes this:

    "In 1899 John Dewey wrote that democracy requires 'tools for getting at truth in detail, and day by day, as we go along…Without such possession, it is only the courage of the fool that would undertake the venture to which democracy has committed itself.'"

    It goes without saying that the recent election provided ample evidence that we're heading in the opposite direction. In that regard, one of my earlier blog posts might interest you: "Sham Universe: Notes on the Disappearance of Reality in a World of Hallucinations" (http://thequestionconcerningtechnology.blogspot.com/2014/07/sham-universe-notes-on-disappearance-of.html )

    Re "The Great Acceleration," see my post on "Falling Man" (http://thequestionconcerningtechnology.blogspot.com/2012/02/falling-man.html)