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Phillip Deen

Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal


in American Philosophy, Volume 46, Number 2, Spring 2010, pp. 242-257
(Article)

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DOI: 10.1353/csp.2010.0009

For additional information about this article


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Abstract
This introduction contextualizes and evalu-
ates Herbert Marcuses the accompanying,
previously untranslated review of John
Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. Mar-
cuses critique of pragmatism is indebted to
Dialectical vs. Max Horkheimers claim that pragmatism
is an example of traditional theory and re-
Experimental duces thought to mere instrument in service
of external ends. Unlike Horkheimer, Mar-
Method: cuse concedes that Dewey, unlike the logical
positivists, attempted to develop a material
Marcuses logic of ends. However, he concludes that
the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful.
Review of I place this conclusion in the context of
Marcuses critique of technological reason.
Deweys Logic: Lastly, I defend Dewey from the charge of
crude instrumentalism and delineate Mar-
The Theory cuses and Deweys critical disagreement on
sciences capacity for self-reflection.
of Inquiry Keywords: Herbert Marcuse, John Dewey,
Phillip Deen Logic, Instrumental Reason, Frankfurt
School.

Hans Joas has called the German reception


of pragmatism a history of misunderstand-
ings. This is certainly true of the Frank-
furt Schools reception of John Deweys
work. Even as early as Lukcs History and
Class Consciousness, which exercised such
an influence on the western Marxism of
the Frankfurt School, pragmatism is taken
as a willful abandonment of reasons high-
est purpose. Pragmatism is equated with
relativism and is only able to conceive of
freedom within the gaps of a reified society
(1971: 194195). Adorno, seemingly the
most receptive to Deweys thought, believed
pragmatism to be the a priori exclusion of
metaphysics (1973: 373). Marcuse, the sub-
ject of this introduction, reviewed Deweys

TRANSACTIONS OF THE CHARLES S. PEIRCE SOCIETY


Vol. 46, No. 2 2011
242
Theory of Valuation and concluded that he fails to acknowledge an im-

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
plicit debt to the concept of freedom and thereby loses his critical posi-
tion (1941b: 144148). Across the board, pragmatism was dismissed as
the manifestation of the worst of Americas national culturethe crude
utilitarianism of success, profit, and anti-intellectualism (Joas 1993:
94116; Oehler 1981).
The early exchange between the Frankfurt School and pragmatism
was sadly hostile, one-sided, and fueled by ignorance. Despite the fact
that the School went into exile at Deweys own Columbia University
during the Second World War, he makes no mention of them in either
his published works or personal correspondence. Meanwhile, the mem-
bers of the Institute-in-Exile largely isolated themselves from the sur-
rounding American culture. One wonders what sort of conversation
could have occurred if only either side had thought to engage the other
in a meaningful way.
Thankfully, pragmatism and critical theory are now far less igno-
rant of, or hostile to, one another. The greatest cause of the recent rec-
onciliation is the work of Jrgen Habermas. Habermas has grounded
much of his theory of communicative action and discourse theory in
the work of Charles Peirce and George Herbert Mead, though, curi-
ously, he has little to say on John Dewey (Habermas 1985, 2001). An
ensuing cross-fertilization has stirred in Habermas wake. Critical social
theorists in Germany are providing compelling and innovative work on
the relevance of Deweys and Meads work to a theory of creative action
and the pre-political context of democracy (Joas 1993, 1997; Honneth
1998a, 1998b, 2001). Likewise, pragmatic social theorists in America
are incorporating and critiquing the work of the Frankfurt School (An-
tonio 1989, 1992; Bowman 1998, 2001; Shalin 1992).
As fruitful as this recent exchange has been, it has also been domi-
nated by Habermas presence (See, for example, Aboulafia 2002; Rehg
and Bowman 2001). Other members of the Frankfurt School, Herbert
Marcuse in particular, have been marginalized. For example, in a re-
cent encyclopedia article on the relation between critical theory and
pragmatism, Marcuse is mentioned only to be set aside (Shook and
Margolis 2006: 204). There are exceptions of course (see Hickman
2001; Feenberg 2003; and Nisbet 1974, among others), but Marcuses
critique of pragmatism, and specifically of Dewey, has not found a ro-
bust place in the discussion. By providing this translation of Marcuses
review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, I hope to rectify this
marginalization in some small way.
Marcuses review originally appeared in the Journal for Social Re-
search (Zeitschrift fr Sozialforshung), the main organ for the Insti-
tute for Social Research, commonly known as the Frankfurt School.
Their ongoing interdisciplinary project was to explain the failure of
the proletariat revolution and the collapse of the European working
243
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 class into fascism. In the pages of this journal, we see their project be-
gin as a critique of political economy and defense of the materialist
theory of history and then evolve into the Schools broader critique
of instrumental-technological reason. Published in the pivotal year of
1941, Marcuses review of Deweys Logic is part of the larger argument
that instrumentalism has severed the internal connection between rea-
son and emancipationsevered conceptually by Max Weber and prac-
tically by the rise of late capitalism and mechanized warfare.1 Though
members of the Frankfurt School often referred to pragmatism and its
theory of truth, these discussions focused on the thought of William
James to the detriment of the other classical figures, including Dewey.
Even fewer references were made to a pragmatic theory of inquiry. One
notable exception is provided here. In Marcuses review of John Dew-
eys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry we find a rare direct encounter with the
specific points of pragmatic instrumentalism.
Typically, the most heated arguments are between members of the
same family. Both pragmatism and western Marxism hope to develop
a theory of inquiry and knowledge rooted in historical human praxis,
not in the abstract operations of transcendental subjectivity. Both are
hostile to a logic of bare conceptual relations or one that would strip
thought down to an imitation of the physical sciences. However, the
Frankfurt School rarely saw the family resemblances and, for that rea-
son, did not see the true points of dispute between these parallel at-
tempts to work out a material logic. Though not a sustained account,
Marcuses treatment offers the opportunity to investigate the essential
differences between experimental logic and the dialectical logic of the
Frankfurt School. And, in turn, this delineation of the essential differ-
ences between them may help preserve pragmatism against the frequent
criticism that it offers no hope of an engaged and radical critique of
society.2
In this introduction, I will attempt to sketch briefly some of the
background to this review, both for the Frankfurt School generally and
for Marcuses thought in particular. I end by offering some of the basic
points of difference in Deweys thought and resources for a response
to Marcuses critique, with specific attention spent on Deweys critical
social science.

I. Max Horkheimer and the Origin of Marcuses Critique


Though pragmatism receives attention in a number of the critical theo-
rists works, Max Horkheimer offers by far the most sustained critique
of pragmatism as a method and a theory of truth. For this reason, I
devote this section to Marcuses review in the context of Horkheimers
original critique.
Unfortunately, Horkheimers critique is not very trenchant. This is
ironic, given the fact that he once wrote to Leo Lowenthal, a fellow
244
member of the Institute, You can see from my quotes that I have read

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
not a few of these native projects and I have now the feeling to be an ex-
pert in it.3 However, we may for the moment overlook the accuracy of
Horkheimers criticisms. They function here only as background. Aside
from the fact that they worked together, Marcuse makes explicit refer-
ence to Horkheimers On the Problem of Truth and its evaluation of
pragmatism. Given this, we must determine the context of Marcuses
review without specific reference to the value of Horkheimers position
itself.
In his Traditional and Critical Theory (1937), Horkheimer at-
tempts to distinguish the critical social science of the Institute of Social
Research, which he directed, from positivist theories of society. In it,
pragmatism is clearly defined as a form of traditional theory, which
views scientific knowledge as the subsumption of particular, empirical
data to general propositions that are derived by inductive selection,
invention, or axiomatic stipulation (1972: 196). Such a nomological
procedure is called explanation. This implies a sharp breach between
formal, conceptual knowledge and the facts of the world. Accordingly,
traditional theory does not account for conceptual shifts in the pres-
ence of novel data, as any theory can be reformulated to account for
new data without significantly altering its basic structure.
Further, traditional theory is calculative, oriented solely toward pre-
diction and control. In his Eclipse of Reason, Horkheimer makes use of
a distinction between subjective and objective reason. Pragmatism is
taken as a species of the former in which reason is equated with util-
ity and the end of useful action is subjectively determined. There are
no ends-in-themselves, objectively grounded, but only privately held
values. Values are then severed from the means used to attain them.
There is no rational procedure for evaluating ends, simply the effi-
ciency of the instruments. Instead of a fruitful transaction of means
and ends-in-view, there are solely procedures to ensure the adaptation
of means to ends. Subjective reason does not admit adjudication of
competing value-claims, refusing to judge matters of conduct. Hence,
contemplation of the proper ends of action is devalued as not having an
immediate practical application.
Pragmatism believes that an idea, concept or a theory is nothing
but a scheme or a plan of action, and therefore truth is nothing but
the successfulness of the idea (1947: 42). Thinking is reduced to the
operation of verification. Both pragmatism and positivism are species
of scientism, each taking laboratory experimentation and natural sci-
ence as its models. Thought collapses into action and the physical event.
Pragmatisms ambition is to be itself nothing but practical activity, as
distinct from theoretical insight, which, according to pragmatistic teach-
ings, is either a name for physical events or just meaningless (1947: 48).
Thought is reduced to action, thereby abolishing thought itself.
245
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 On its own terms, traditional theory cannot address the broader re-
search project of which it is a part. Nor can it address the social conditions
under which theory change takes place. These theories cannot understand
that they are within broader social movements and institutions. The prag-
matist, neatly equated with the positivist, views inquiry as a private enter-
prise, completely severed from social conditions. As such, pragmatism is
incorporated into the dominant cultural logic of the day. In the attempt
to legitimate its own approach, pragmatism is a defense of streamlined
corporate production. Even the Peircean scientific community of inquir-
ers is taken to mean those in the service of industrial laboratories and
their strict methods of inquiry based in the physical sciences. The scholar/
scientists role is simply to aid in the function of a systematic conceptual
framework. The social division of labor is mirrored in the mechanistic,
assembly-line manufacture of knowledge. And, like any product, knowl-
edge is then set to any particular use that the owner desires.
What the pragmatist fails to realize is that the objects of everyday
perception are socially constituted. The thing is a reified, that is, com-
modified nexus of transactions among men. Hence scientific activity, in
its failure to acknowledge the constitution of its objects, is severed from
the other activities of society. In this view of theory, therefore, the real
social function of science is not made manifest; it speaks not of what
theory means in human life, but only of what it means in the isolated
sphere in which for historical reasons it comes into existence (1972:
197). If the test of truth is subjective short-term satisfaction, then the
overwhelming force of the present natural and social world makes truth
into whatever allows survival. Deweyan adjustment, instead of being
the dynamic equilibrium of doing and undergoing, becomes simple
acceptance and acquiescence. Dewey identifies fulfillment of people as
they are with the highest aspirations of mankind (1947: 53).
The pragmatists supposed reduction of thought to instrument
opens the door to domination. Reasons operational value, its role in
the domination of men and nature, has been made it sole criterion
(1947: 21). The manipulative calculation of nature requires a corre-
sponding domination of human nature (an argument that reappears
in Dialectic of Enlightenment). Taking a clue from Webers analyses,
subjective reason becomes the process of rationalization whereby all of
existence is demythologized, that is, evaluated by efficiency alone, then
wrapped in the mythology of the enlightenment. Thought becomes
ideology, society becomes an accepted second nature, and language be-
comes propaganda for the status quo.
Pragmatism then has no critical potential, abandoning issues of
value and collapsing into the cultural logic of late capitalism. It, like all
traditional theory, is not suspicious of the categories of value by which
society is divided into better or worse, productive or wasteful, appro-
priate or inappropriate, etc. These determinations of value are taken as
246
fixed, objective, and alien. They are natural and to be accepted. The

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
individual believes himself to be separate from and subsumed to the
category Society as a fact of nature.

II. The Argument of Marcuses Review


We now turn to Marcuses critique itself. Though, as we will see, it con-
tains a number of the same conclusions as Horkheimers, this critique
does differ in certain important ways. Foremost is the presentation of
a tension between material and idealist logic internal to instrumen-
talism. Recognition of this tension forces Marcuse to elaborate on
Horkheimers original critique. The Frankfurt Schools analysis of the
specific process by which pragmatism is said to lose its critical capacity
is deepened.
Marcuses review itself is somewhat fragmented. It attempts both to
follow the content of the Logic as well as to present an argument of its
own. The needs of each are in tension with the other. In addition, the
review as a whole does not appear fully integrated. Witness the conclu-
sion which is not in fact a conclusion at all. Instead, the review appears
either to begin a transition into another aspect of Deweys thought,
his naturalism, or Marcuse has appended the review with a postscript
which is not integrated well with the rest of the piece. In short, the
review comes across as hasty. Despite this, a coherent argument still
presents itself. It is Marcuses overall contention that Deweys Logic,
though an attempt to develop a material logic, is actually idealistic.
Specifically, it is idealistic in a way which robs inquiry of its critical ca-
pacity. Inquiry collapses into a crudely instrumental affirmation of the
predetermined ends of research. Let us see how this argument is made.
To begin, Marcuses repeated separation of pragmatism from posi-
tivism is itself a strong move away from the usual equation of the two
by the other critical theorists, as seen above. The very fact that Marcuse
recognizes the desire to develop a material logic that motivates prag-
matic instrumentalism is then innovative. Instrumentalisms avowed
attempt to know the object, to include it in the process of inquiry,
is a break with the formalism of logical positivism. Logical forms are
understood only within the context of inquiry. Logical terms such as
judgment, subject, predicate, and copula are meaningful only inso-
far as they have a function within a concrete investigation. Therefore,
they are not true of Reason as such, but of an inquiring intelligence.
Because of their relative and contextual nature, systems of logical
terms are not final in themselves. They always depend upon some in-
quiry in which they function to resolve a problematic situation. Mar-
cuse takes this to mean that the ends of the investigation are then
predetermined. Logical instruments are located already within a con-
tinuum of research, wherein their function and goal are given. The role
of logical tools is to aid in the accomplishment of this objective. This is
247
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 the judgment. However, the nature of this resolution, the judgment,
is fixed before the process of resolution. The research program preexists
the instruments, logical concepts, and shapes them in advance.
The program of research is itself delimited. First, it is naturalistic.
This is interpreted as the requirement that inquiries model themselves
after the natural sciences. Any judgment is strictly spatio-temporal. Its
meaning is derived by reference to concrete, observable future conse-
quences brought about by determinate processes. Ideas are tested as in a
laboratory. However, because statements such as Justice is a virtue are
incapable of such reference, they are not meaningful, at least in a strict
sense. They still possess directive power, but do not have concrete, ex-
istential meaning. Second, every inquiry is societal. The language that
we use and the values we possess as a society prefigure the nature of the
research. A situation becomes problematic only under the cultural limi-
tations defining what in fact can be known as problematic. The basic
principles of a society cannot be questioned by the inquiry, as it already
exists within them. Instrumentalism possesses no standpoint of critique
that does not already presuppose the dominant cultural commitments.
Philosophical reasons continuity with common sense is a reduction of
the former into the latter.
Concepts, in the Hegelian sense, contain the truth of the particular.
Because of this, it is from the perspective of Reason, Freedom, and
Truth that judgments upon reality can be made. According to Mar-
cuses account, these universals are lost by pragmatic instrumentalism.
Vernunft loses out to Verstand. The self-critical capacity of reason to re-
flect on its fundamental categories disappears. The categories of reason
are subsumed to the needs of a particular research program and cannot
thereby render judgment on social reality as such.
Instrumentalism is then idealistic. The resistance offered by the ob-
ject in a material logic fades because the object can be only by its
prior assimilation to a concept in the service of the inquiry. Objectiv-
ity collapses into subjectivity. In contrast to this method is dialectical
thought, which seeks to heighten the tension between present reality
and its Truth to the point where the contradictions of the former are
overcome. From the perspective of dialectical thought, Dewey over-
comes the split between theory and praxis in a facile manner. As a re-
sult, justice is not done to the truth of the object. Rather, the tension
is circumvented by surreptitiously identifying the object with societys
dominant logic. Ironically, by taking positive natural science as its
model, instrumentalism becomes idealism.

III. Pragmatism and the Possibility of an Emancipatory


Social Science
I will not attempt to provide a systematic evaluation of Marcuses
critique. Instead, this section is devoted to an exceedingly brief
248
presentation of the underlying assumptions of Marcuses critique of

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
technological reason in its relation to emancipation and how they dif-
fer from Deweys own presuppositions. In this way, I will not evaluate
the specific points of the dispute, but only present the essential point
of difference.
Fundamentally, Marcuse and Dewey part ways on the issue of
whether scientific inquiry is self-reflective. Marcuses analysis, like that
of the other critical theorists, is Weberian. In his Industrialization
and Capitalism in the Work of Max Weber (1964), Marcuse offers
three characteristics of technological / instrumental rationality: 1) The
mathematization of experience based on the methods of the natural
sciences and extended into the social sciences. This reduction of quality
to quantity is concomitant with the universal functionalization of value
under the exchange value of the market place. Mathematical science
and market exchange are linked. 2) The necessity of rational, that is,
experimental proof. 3) This movement is embodied in a universal bu-
reaucratic organization that becomes necessary for the efficient accom-
plishment of projects. All of these are aspects of the overall reduction of
reason to its form. Instrumental reason is evaluated only by efficiency
of means, not by the specific content of the goal. The form of instru-
mental reason is simply domination, or, technical mastery. Abstract
reason becomes concrete in the calculable and calculated domination of
nature and man. The reason envisaged by Weber is revealed as technical
reason, as the production and transformation of material (things and
men) through the methodical-scientific apparatus (1968: 205).
Formerly metaphysical issues are functionalized. They change from
What is? to How is?. Functionalization is seen as part of the physical-
ist, mathematical treatment of the world. It allows us to remain exclu-
sively within an operational context, an inquiry, which means that the
only limit to operations is the technical capacity. Questions of whether
an action is right are left behind for matters of sheer ability. The sense
of the humanity of our actions is forgotten (1964: 151).
All bureaucratic activities are subservient to an irrational charismatic
authority. Therefore, beyond the specific substance of the project, there
is an intrinsic irrationality, when we accept only technical-purposive
rationality as our model. Under a totally administered society, Dew-
eyan inquiry is a productive process that is internal to bureaucratic ra-
tionality, for this is an aspect of all efficient technical activity. Therefore
the inquiry does not serve its own purposes, those given by the prob-
lematic character of the situation, but must be turned to the purposes
determined by the authority which oversees the bureaucratic, techni-
cal enterprise. Technology is always a historical-social project: in it is
projected what a society and its ruling interests intend to do with men
and things (1968: 224). Under modern conditions, these are the inter-
ests of organized capital. In short, the inquiry, as a productive process,
249
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 cannot determine its own ends, but must find direction from some-
thing external to the inquiry itself.4
In his Some Social Implications of Modern Technology, written
contemporaneously with his review of the Logic, Marcuse continues this
basic critique of technological rationality that he would later develop
in One-Dimensional Man. At the heart of this treatment of technologi-
cal rationality is the belief that this rationality is irreducible to the sum
of present technical apparatuses, but is instead fundamentally a social
process. Technology, as a mode of production, as the totality of instru-
ments, devices, and contrivances which characterize the machine age
is thus at the same time a mode of organizing and perpetuating (or
changing) social relationships, a manifestation of prevalent thought and
behavior patterns, an instrument for control and domination (1941c:
138139). Though ambivalent in its specific direction, it still embodies
a certain direction of history. That is to say, though this technological
rationality can be turned to assorted goals, the means themselves have
historical force. Marcuse terms this the Technological a priori. Mate-
rial is pre-figured as instrumental, to be subsumed to a potential project
prior to the development of specific technological artifacts. It is the ini-
tial selection of a worldview that precludes incompatible possibilities,
original historical commitments to a particular way of organizing reality.
Whereas liberal reason still contained an emancipatory moment (the
assertion that reality be judged in accordance with individual reason)
the growth of technological / bureaucratic reason has undercut the free
market foundation which supported the entrepreneurial frontier spirit.
Liberal reason modeled itself on the creative agent in the marketplace.
However, with the concentration of capital in this century and the birth
of a qualitatively new form of organized capitalism, this belief in the
continued relevance of the entrepreneur is at best ideological. The free
economic subject rather has developed into the object of large-scale
organization and coordination, and individual achievement has been
transformed into standardized efficiency (1941c: 142).5 However, the
direction of this efficiency is not in the hands of the individual, but in
the hands of those who direct the apparatus or, what is more dangerous,
separate from any person and internal to the logic of technological rea-
son itself. The worker is then an assistant to the machine, not the reverse.
This helps to explain the reduction of Deweyan doing and undergo-
ing to sheer survival. Success under modern conditions is dependent
upon ones ability to fulfill the demands of the process. Individual
rationality has developed into efficient compliance with the pre-given
continuum of means and ends (1941c: 144). This last phrase resonates
with Deweyan language. In this model, the continuum is the useful
coordination of elements, each point in the curve already subsumed
to a goal that is pre-fixed by the demands of the apparatus. In essence,
this is not actually a continuum at all. Ends are external to the process.
250
Within Marcuses presentation, a continuum is simply the path that

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
leads to the end without interruption or delay. An end is not continu-
ous with the means, but the means are in forced compliance with the
end. The individual loses the capacity to question the whole, for ra-
tionality is rational only because of its prior inclusion within a larger
project. To question the rationality of efficiency entails a contradiction.
Reasonable submissiveness follows.
So, though Marcuse notes the tension between pragmatic instru-
mentalism and logical positivism, he concludes that they share the same
flaws. Both collapse robust philosophical inquiry into mere method,
specifically, the method of the natural sciences. Internal to positivism is
an inexorable resignation before the existent state of affairs. Positivism
abides by certain principles that rob it of any critical capacity: One,
observation of fact trumps reason and the imagination. Any extension
beyond the bare datum is the introduction of error. Two, the given is
part of an inexorable order which has the status of natural laws. Three,
social science has no relation to value judgments; facts and values are
radically separated. Hence, there is no objective basis for judgments of
value (1941a: 34748).
To this Marcuse opposes a critical rationality that evaluates the sta-
tus quo in light of its own claims to truth. It is an immanent-historical
method that measures a societys implicit or explicit claims to social
justice.6 This method thereby separates itself from the Deweyan instru-
mentalism we find presented in the review. There, instrumentalism is
said to reduce logical concepts to their immanent-scientific function.
Inquiry is unable to produce a broad critique of society or the present
form of rationality because inquiry is internal exclusively to the exist-
ing scientific investigation. And, as we have seen, such investigations
are intrinsically unable to question their pre-given goal. Society itself
cannot become the object of an inquiry, as the category Society is
reified and external to the social agents that produce it. This, funda-
mentally, is the distinction between science and philosophy. Though
both penetrate appearances, scientific inquiry does so only within a
mathematical framework. Philosophical inquiry, however, retains its
complex historical character (1964: 185).
Dewey, of course, does not accept any of the three positivist prin-
ciples named above. First, knowing is an active relation in which con-
stitutive reason and imagination play an integral part. Second, natural
laws are explanatory tools and are therefore revisable, though they
possess a great deal of experiential support. (Marcuse even acknowl-
edges this point in the course of the review, but as a point of critique.)
Third, social science is intrinsically evaluative and value-rich. Further,
one could argue that the central theme of Deweys writings was the
objective status, without recourse to an absolutist perspective, of value
judgments (Dewey 1916; LW 12:480505).
251
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 A critical social inquiry based in pragmatic instrumentalism at-
tempts to address the means by which lived experience is truncated and
to develop the concrete institutional means by which these distortions
can be eliminated. There is no need to look for any authority aside
from the relations and desire for mature liberation internal to experi-
ence. Hence, though there is certainly a desperate need for liberating
intelligence, there is no need for a theory of reality in general, uber-
haupt to undergird, secure and justify it (MW 10:39).
Dewey did not believe that the relation of conceptual content to re-
ality was unproblematic, but that the supposed problem of the relation
of Concept to Reality does not exist. Problems are specific and contex-
tual.7 Therefore, though there are certainly cases of misunderstanding
and deception, and even of systemic distortion, these are grounded
and particular problems. The issue of knowledge is not one of relating
Subject to Object. Rather, it is the problem of knowing how we should
act, what we should desire, and whether we are being lied to. For ex-
ample, the ideological distortions so well described by the Frankfurt
School are in fact dire problems, but neither the problem nor the so-
lution is to be addressed by ontological considerations. When social
scientific inquiry addresses the problems of ideology, it does not do so
in order to achieve a reconciliation of Subject and Object, but to erase
those artificial and oppressive distortions that act in the lives of specific
individuals.8
Deweys naturalism requires that any theory of inquiry be continu-
ous with lower organic life. Taking the discoveries of Darwin as his
starting point, Dewey is able to undercut the previous split between
Mind and Nature. These no longer represent ontological categories,
but functional. Mind is not understood as a separate realm of being,
noumenal versus phenomenal, whereby we break with nature in or-
der to achieve reflection. Instead, Mind is a way that nature functions.
With the evolution of man comes the ability of nature to reflect upon
itself. There is no break that marks off the uniqueness of man. Our
capacity to reflect on, critique, and transform experience is not tran-
scendent, but is internal to the operations of nature.
The fact that these activities are natural does not require a reduc-
tionism. Deweys evolutionary naturalism does not imply that we may
reduce the qualitative richness of the particular experience to its physi-
calist components. Building from a Darwinian context in addition to
a German Idealistic one, he finds the source of critical social inquiry
in the desire for dynamic growth in a natural and social environment.
The statement Justice is a virtue does not dissipate once we recognize
the continuity of intelligence with lower biological operations. Nor
can qualities such as virtue be reformulated in terms of these lower
functions. Justice is not a coordination of chemical operations. How-
ever, if we attempt to deny the continuity of higher acts with their
252
biological context, then the cord that binds experience and nature is

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
cut (LW1:29). Once the breach between understanding and reason,
Verstand and Vernunft, is introduced as a rear-guard measure to ensure
the certainty of reason, then the grimmer task is to explain how one
sphere still has relevance for the other.
However, though he did not believe that critique required a new
type of reason, neither did Dewey believe that all inquiry could be con-
ducted in the same style as the physical sciences. In fact, Dewey both
locates the physical sciences within a cultural matrix of social relations
and denies that the methods of physical science are appropriate to the
study of social phenomena. In an explicit reply to the proto-positivism
of the philosophical realists, he writes, [A]ssuredly any philosophy
which takes science not to be an account of the world (which it is), but
a literal and exhaustive apprehension of it in its full reality, a philoso-
phy which therefore has no place for poetry or possibilities, still needs a
theory of experience (MW 10:359). In essence, he attempted to locate
the ends of inquiry within the problematic situation and our attempts
to resolve it, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the given
situations uniqueness. What are central to science are the experimental
attitude and the willingness to engage and modify our situation for
the better, not any specific method of measurement or manipulation
(LW12:481; LW 4: 108).
Dewey was well aware of the dangers inherent to technological reason:
A new individualism can be achieved only through the controlled use
of all the resources of the science and technology that have mastered
the physical forces of nature.
They are not now controlled in any fundamental sense. Rather
do they control us. They are indeed physically controlled. Every fac-
tory, power-house and railway system testifies to the fact that we have
attained this measure of control. But control of power through the
machine is not control of the machine itself.... We are not even ap-
proaching a climax of control; we are hardly at its feeble beginnings.
[LW 5: 86; see also LW 17: 451453]

However, rather than seeking another kind of knowledge radically dis-


tinct from that of science and common affairs, Dewey sought to find
out how this very problem posed by instrumental reason could also be
opened to inquiry and further control. Of course, this requires that
we reconceive the meaning of control. Control does not here imply
domination, but the self-control exercised in an integrated democracy,
a strong character, or an undistorted scientific community. Control of
unwelcome circumstances is not itself problematic. The danger is in an
incomplete or distorted inquiry that, often in the service of class, fails
to apply the experimental attitude embodied in scientific inquiry back
upon the methods of inquiry and desired objects themselves.9
253
T R A N S A C T I O N S Volume 46 Number 2 Dewey argues that we cannot speak of a monolithic bourgeois cul-
ture which encompasses economics and scientific/technological reason.
Present culture contains an inherent tension between the intersubjec-
tive, liberatory core of intelligent inquiry and the constraint of these
forces by established habits and institutions that were developed under
entrepreneurial capitalism (LW 11:54; LW 4:65; LW 5:41143). Orga-
nized capitalism is then a structure of social control which channels the
productive capacity of culture, developed by technological inquiry, into
the hands of a private few. Whereas Marcuse takes science and capitalism
to be part of a common process of bureaucratic rationalization, Dewey
argues that this movement is itself in tension between that aspect which
strives for self-control in the sense given above and the unreflective con-
trol of nature fostered by the privatization of goals and resources under
capitalism and our outdated philosophical inheritance.10
In answer to the rise of late capitalism, Dewey offers an alternate
route to that offered by the Frankfurt School. The response is the so-
cial organization of intelligence, which requires that we set aside the
outdated model of entrepreneurial individualism. He argues that we
should not pursue an isolating individualism, even if this seems to pro-
vide a safe refuge from the dissolution of the individual under modern
capital, the rise of fascism, the decline of the fathers authority, etc.
Under modern conditions, the task is to regulate social relations in
which individuality is formed without abandoning liberalisms funda-
mental commitment to self-development. Further, this can be accom-
plished only within a self-governing community of inquiry, that is, in
democratic association. The problem at hand is not then how to escape
technological rationality, but to develop the techniques through which
social power is redistributed, by a reflective society, in order to sus-
tain individual fulfillment. In short, Dewey would ask for the specific
means by which we are to achieve a praxis escorted by an unmutilated
theory.11
Marcuses review of Deweys Logic then takes us deep into the basic
commitments of each thinker. Fundamentally, Marcuse and Dewey di-
vide on the issue of whether science can reflect on its own orientation.
If not, science embodies an uncritical application of technological ef-
ficiency to the dominant cultural ends. In our time, this is the mastery
of both man and nature under late capitalism. Given this point of de-
parture, Deweys attempt to redefine logic as the theory of inquiry is
to deny the radically critical role of Reason necessary to question the
basic categories of society. Juxtaposed to Marcuses critique is the posi-
tion that experimentation requires reflection upon all aspects of the
problematic situation, not simply the means. For Dewey, the central
aspect of science is its liberatory capacity, brought about by its commit-
ment to intersubjective and experimental methods. If this liberation
is denied under late capitalism, it is not the result of scientific inquiry
254
itself but the failure to apply its democratic methods to the social con-

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
ditions that allow some to benefit to the detriment of others. As one
of the few points of direct engagement between the Frankfurt School
and pragmatic instrumentalism, this short review therefore offers the
opportunity to go to the core of our stance on the possibility of science
and its place in democratic emancipation.
Wellesley College
pdeen@wellesley.edu

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NOTES
1. See (Jay 1973) for a general history of the School and (Wiggershaus 1993)
for both a general history and (1993: 113125) for a discussion of the Zeitschrift
in particular.
2. Horkheimer and Marcuses critique is indebted to Max Schelers critique
of pragmatism in Erkenntnis und Arbeit. Schelers critique of pragmatism lives on,
continued in the 1998 papal encyclical Fides et Ratio, in which pragmatism is
given the common criticism that it is relativist and scientistic. This is not a coin-
cidence, considering that the author, Pope John Paul II, wrote his dissertation on
Scheler.
3. Quoted in (Jay, 1973: 83). Horkheimers questionable scholarship extends
to even misquoting the titles of works in suspicious ways, such as when Human
256
Nature and Conduct becomes Human Nature or Conduct or The Need for a Re-

Dialectical vs. Experimental Method: Marcuses Review of Deweys Logic: The Theory of Inquiry Phillip Deen
covery of Philosophy becomes The Recovery of Philosophy in his Eclipse of Rea-
son. Robert Westbrook goes so far as to say Like the rest of the first generation of
the Frankfurt School, Horkheimer did not know what he was talking about when
it came to pragmatism. (1991: 187n42).
4. Of course, it is ironic given that the Institute in Exile at Columbia Uni-
versity was funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, which believed that
the critical theorists work on fascism worked to the benefit of western capitalist
democracy. Specifically, Marcuses own work was also part of his service to the
State Department.
5. Dewey makes a strikingly similar argument in his Individualism: Old and
New (LW 5: 7584).
6. As explication of the immanent-historical method, Marcuse refers his
readers to Horkheimers Traditional and Critical Theory. We may assume that
Marcuse takes his own method to be essentially that of Horkheimer, at least at
this point in time.
7. See Deweys The Relation of Thought and its Subject Matter (MW 2:
298315), published as part of his Studies in Logical Theory (1903). Ironically,
Marcuse quotes this volume in his review.
8. Of course, the concern for suffering is at the heart of Marcuses project.
See Habermas memory of Marcuses words in his Psychic Thermidor and the
Rebirth of Rebellious Subjectivity (Bernstein 1985: 77). However, the rarified
manner of presenting the problem of alleviating suffering may get in the way of
resolving it.
9. Among many examples is that given in the Logic, where Dewey explicitly
criticizes those who, in social inquiry, are not willing to submit their goals to in-
quiry and thereby fall into a crude instrumentalism (LW 12: 490).
10. In pragmatic circles, there has been a growing interest in the isomorphism
of scientific and democratic reason. It is argued that they share a common inter-
subjectivity, reflexivity and orientation toward the truth. This, in turn, had led to
attempts to develop a deliberative model of democracy from the pragmatic model
of inquiry. See Cheryl Misaks Truth, Politics, Morality: Pragmatism and Delibera-
tion (Routledge) 2000, Robert Talisses Democracy and Liberalism: Pragmatism and
Deliberative Politics (Routledge) 2005 and Robert Westbrooks Democratic Hope:
Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth (Cornell) 2005.
11. Marcuses phrase, from the review.

257