Review Of "John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology" By L. A. Hickman

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Hickman's welcome book provides a comprehensive canvass of Dewey's logic, metaphysics, aesthetics, philosophy of history, and social thought with the aim of showing the centrality of technological concerns to each of them. To a considerable extent he succeeds. Late in life, Dewey himself speculated that he might have avoided considerable misunderstanding if, instead of "instrumental," he had used "technology," characterized by Hickman as "a family of methods and tools that evolves in response to the needs and goals that it is called upon to serve, and in response to the uses to which it is put" (p.61). The book's focus on Dewey's "pragmatic technology," however, does not make it an ideal introduction to Dewey's general philosophy. For that, see J.E. Tiles's Dewey (CH, May'89). The book nevertheless merits a wide readership. Hickman shows, for instance, how Richard Rorty (Consequences of Pragmatism, 1982) has misunderstood Dewey. Even more importantly, Hickman situates Dewey's understanding of and reaction to technology in relation to the ideas of Jacques Ellul (The Technological Society, 1964; and The Technological System, CH, Jun'81), Langdon Winner (Autonomous Technology, CH, Sep'77), Albert Borgmann (Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, CH, Apr'86), Marx, and Horkheimer. Highly recommended for all college and university libraries and for large public libraries.


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