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Pragmatism's EvolutionOrganism and Environment in American Philosophy$
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Trevor Pearce

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226719887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720081.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Pragmatist Ethics: Evolution, Experiment, and Social Progress

Pragmatist Ethics: Evolution, Experiment, and Social Progress

(p.248) Six Pragmatist Ethics: Evolution, Experiment, and Social Progress
Pragmatism's Evolution

Trevor Pearce

University of Chicago Press

This chapter demonstrates that John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Jane Addams, and W. E. B. Du Bois, building on the experimental approach defended by philosophers such as William James and economists such as William Stanley Jevons, applied the ideas of evolution and experiment to ethics and social reform. Each of them constructed experimental field sites for social inquiry: Addams at Hull House in Chicago, Dewey and Mead at their laboratory school, and Du Bois at his Atlanta sociological laboratory. Each of them relied on Herbert Spencer’s organism-environment framework, suggesting that moral and social problems stemmed from a mismatch between codes and institutions on the one hand and the social environment on the other. They shared a vision of moral development as evolution guided by experimental science. But they also shared something less palatable: a commitment to eugenics and civilizing progress, which was implicitly racist and reliant on a contrast between primitive and civilized peoples.

Keywords:   John Dewey, Jane Addams, George Herbert Mead, W. E. B. Du Bois, William Stanley Jevons, Hull House, laboratory, sociology, eugenics, ethics

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