My research interests are primarily in the history of philosophy with an emphasis on Pragmatism. Specifically, I examine how John Dewey conceived of the role of emotion in inquiry. I suggest that for Dewey, emotions are an ineliminable feature of the structure of experience. From this conclusion, I argue that good inquirers, which include scientists, artists, and workers generally, require a holistic education that emphasizes and teaches emotional intelligence.
The classical pragmatists, beginning with Peirce (and arguably Emerson) put feelings at the center of their work. Through James and eventually Dewey, feelings became a more refined and technical term. For James, feelings constituted a fundamental piece of his late metaphysics in works like A Pluralistic Universe and Essays in Radical Empiricism. James also privileged feelings as relevant philosophical criteria for deciding between metaphysical frameworks, as he explained in “The Sentiment of Rationality.” Finally, James explained how feelings and emotions connect through bodily changes via his somatic theory of emotion. James’s somatic theory of emotion sets the groundwork for a pragmatist “philosophy of feelings” grounded in embodied activity, instincts, and habits.
While James’s work established a groundwork for a philosophical method that utilizes and relies on our bodily feelings, the view did not mature until Dewey, with who I am primarily concerned. In my research, I examine the general structure of “an experience” for Dewey and argue that this structure is ineliminably emotional. I argue that if experience is ineliminably emotional then intellectual, artistic, and moral experience require more than just “theoretical” training. Instead, they also and maybe primarily require emotional training. As Garrison briefly notes, “successful coordination requires emotional clarity and cognitive conciseness” (Garrison, 2003).
This conclusion about the ineliminably emotional structure of experience is important in the following way. As suggested by Garrison, for a community of inquirers to be successful, they must coordinate themselves in ways that resolve the disruptions of their habits that gave rise to the experience in the first place. In other words, a healthy and effective community of problem-solvers must possess the skills necessary to solve problems in the right way. To solve a problem in the right way, to conclude an experience, is to understand (1) how our emotions constitute the experience, (2) how to orient our emotions in a problematic situation, and (3) which emotions are useful and which are not useful for solving the problem at hand. Emotional education, therefore, is fundamental to achieving Dewey’s goal of fostering a community of inquirers and collaborators who will build and maintain a well-functioning democratic society.