From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Dewey, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Dewey. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Dewey for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by John Dewey in no particular order.
Dewey: A Beginner’s Guide – David Hildebrand
Publisher description: An icon of philosophy and psychology during the first half of the 20th century, Dewey is known as the father of Functional Psychology and a pivotal figure of the Pragmatist movement as well as the progressive movement in education. This concise and critical look at Dewey’s work examines his discourse of “right” and “wrong,” as well as political notions such as freedom, rights, liberty, equality, and naturalism. The author of several essays about thought and logic, Dewey’s legacy remains not only through the works he left us, but also through the institutions he founded, which include The New School for Social Research in New York City and the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Hildebrand’s biography brilliantly interweaves the different strands of Dewey’s thought, and examines the legacy he left behind. …
The Education of John Dewey – Jay Martin
Publisher description: During John Dewey’s lifetime (1859-1952), one public opinion poll after another revealed that he was esteemed to be one of the ten most important thinkers in American history. His body of thought, conventionally identified by the shorthand word “Pragmatism,” has been the distinctive American philosophy of the last fifty years. His work on education is famous worldwide and is still influential today, anticipating as it did the ascendance in contemporary American pedagogy of multiculturalism and independent thinking. His University of Chicago Laboratory School (founded in 1896) thrives still and is a model for schools worldwide, especially in emerging democracies. But how was this lifetime of thought enmeshed in Dewey’s emotional experience, in his joys and sorrows as son and brother, husband and father, and in his political activism and spirituality? Acclaimed biographer Jay Martin recaptures the unity of Dewey’s life and work, tracing important themes through the philosopher’s childhood years, family history, religious experience, and influential friendships. …
The Essential Dewey – Larry A. Hickman & Thomas M. Alexander
Publisher description: In addition to being one of the greatest technical philosophers of the twentieth century, John Dewey (1859-1952) was an educational innovator, a Progressive Era reformer, and one of America’s last great public intellectuals. Dewey’s insights into the problems of public education, immigration, the prospects for democratic government, and the relation of religious faith to science are as fresh today as when they were first published. His penetrating treatments of the nature and function of philosophy, the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of life, and the role of inquiry in human experience are of increasing relevance at the turn of the 21st century. …
The Cambridge Companion to Dewey – Molly Cochran
Publisher description: John Dewey (1859-1952) was a major figure of the American cultural and intellectual landscape in the first half of the twentieth century. While not the originator of American pragmatism, he was instrumental to its articulation as a philosophy and the spread of its influence beyond philosophy to other disciplines. His prolific writings encompass metaphysics, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, psychology, moral philosophy, the philosophies of religion, art, and education, and democratic political and international theory. The contributors to this Companion examine the wide range of Dewey’s thought and provide a critical evaluation of his philosophy and its lasting influence, both elsewhere in philosophy and on other disciplines.
Democracy And Education – John Dewey
Publisher description: John Dewey’s Democracy and Education addresses the challenge of providing quality public education in a democratic society. In this classic work Dewey calls for the complete renewal of public education, arguing for the fusion of vocational and contemplative studies in education and for the necessity of universal education for the advancement of self and society. First published in 1916, Democracy and Education is regarded as the seminal work on public education by one of the most important scholars of the century.
Experience And Education – John Dewey
Publisher description: Experience and Education is the best concise statement on education ever published by John Dewey, the man acknowledged to be the pre-eminent educational theorist of the twentieth century. Written more than two decades after Democracy and Education (Dewey’s most comprehensive statement of his position in educational philosophy), this book demonstrates how Dewey reformulated his ideas as a result of his intervening experience with the progressive schools and in the light of the criticisms his theories had received.
Analyzing both “traditional” and “progressive” education, Dr. Dewey here insists that neither the old nor the new education is adequate and that each is miseducative because neither of them applies the principles of a carefully developed philosophy of experience. Many pages of this volume illustrate Dr. Dewey’s ideas for a philosophy of experience and its relation to education. …
Experience and Nature – John Dewey
Publisher description: This is an enlarged, revised edition of the Paul Carus lecturers which John Dewey delivered in 1925. It covers Dewey’s basic formulation of the problem of knowledge, with both a full discussion of theories and resolutions propounded by other systems, and a detailing of Dewey’s own concepts upon the relationship of the external world, the minds, and knowledge.
Starting with a thorough examination of philosophical method, Dewey examines the interrelationship of experience and nature, and upon the basis of empirical naturalism analyzes experience, the formulation of law, the role of language and social factors in knowledge, the nature of mind, and the final interrelation of mind and matter. Dewey, as in his other mature philosophy, attempts to replace the traditional separation of nature and experience with the idea of continuity, using the traditional separation of nature and experience with the idea of continuity, using the concept of language as the bridge. …
The Public and Its Problems – John Dewey
Publisher description: More than six decades after John Dewey’s death, his political philosophy is undergoing a revival. With renewed interest in pragmatism and its implications for democracy in an age of mass communication, bureaucracy, and ever-increasing social complexities, Dewey’s The Public and Its Problems, first published in 1927, remains vital to any discussion of today’s political issues.
This edition of The Public and Its Problems, meticulously annotated and interpreted with fresh insight by Melvin L. Rogers, radically updates the previous version published by Swallow Press. Rogers’s introduction locates Dewey’s work within its philosophical and historical context and explains its key ideas for a contemporary readership. Biographical information and a detailed bibliography round out this definitive edition, which will be essential to students and scholars both.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- John Dewey and American Philosophy – University of Texas at Dallas
- John Dewey – University of Colorado Denver
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Dewey
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Dewey
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on Pragmatism
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
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