Saatkamp – Hickman and Dewey: Naturalism’s Hope?

Herman Saatkamp

Indiana University

Larry Hickman has both fostered his own analysis, explication, and application of Dewey’s philosophy as well as overseen the critical edition of John Dewey’s works at the Center for Dewey Studies. In America our democracy is struggling, making Hickman’s scholarly work even more important. I will attempt to explain some of Hickman’s use of Dewey’s philosophy to address some current issues that include the roles of religion and education in American democracy.

Much of Hickman’s pragmatic naturalism provides hope for democracy as a way of life and as a governmental organization. But will that hope meet contemporary challenges in our society? I suggest some possible limitations to Dewey’s and Hickman’s views, but highlight the central role both play in American philosophy.

Shook – Technologies for Educating Brains, Without Reducing Smarts to Neurons

John Shook

Bowie State University

Neuroscience and neurotechnology has the potential to improve views of cognitive functioning and learning processes, and help refine learning techniques contributing to educational attainment. Optimism about productive dialogue and collaboration between neurotech and education is highly recommendable. Some skepticism, if not cynicism, is also urged in the short term. Overhyped claims about potential “cognitive enhancers” through brain stimulation, in the wake of pharmacological “smart pills,” have arrived. It has already been popularly imagined that neurotech for improving mental abilities won’t necessitate any tough learning or formal education, or much conscious effort at all. Little about developmental psychology, cognitive science, or neurology supports this fantasy, but the fundamental problem is a collective forgetfulness that education itself is already a technology, among the oldest wielded by humanity. By keeping Hickman’s pragmatic philosophy of technology in mind, we can avoid reductionist fallacies about the psychology of learning, and cautiously evaluate how neurotech may best serve genuine education. Tools should improve persons, without making persons into tools.

Solymosi – Neuropragmatic Tools for Neurotechnological Culture

Tibor Solymosi

Westminster College

Neuropragmatism draws on Larry Hickman’s conception of technology and technoscience and his distinction between nature-as-nature and nature-as-culture. Just as the technical precedes the scientific, nature comes before the cultural — all the while science remains technical, culture natural — these parallel distinctions not only clarify limitations within cultural neuroscience or neuroanthropology (notably, the creeping Cartesian materialism) but also provide means for imagining future democratic vistas. This act of imagination is a further call for reconstructing our sense of ourselves in our world by expanding, and thereby enriching, the transaction between organism and environment such that the cybernetic and the neural are no longer restrained to the bodily but become embedded in our biocultural environments.

Neuropragmatism provides a vision of neurotechnological culture, in both means and end, that is an ecologically novel future for how we construct our democratic niches. To achieve such a richly cybernetic culture, a vision must be sketched that is scientifically reasonable, in order to generate realistic hope that such a way of life is readily available from where we are now, given enthusiasms (warranted or not) about technology, and fears (warranted or not) that democracy is on its way out.

Spadafora – Hickman’s Theory on the Deweyan Technological Culture: The Meaning of the Teacher as Investigator for a New Model of School Curriculum

Giuseppe Spadafora

University of Calabria

Larry Hickman’s interpretation of Dewey is a point of reference for the Pragmatist Theory. The reversal of the Aristotelian classification between Theory, Practice and Poiesis, considering this last concept the heart of Deweyan Philosophy has been fundamental.  According to this idea I will try to analyze some aspects of  Dewey’s book The Sources of a Science of Education of 1929.

In particular, considering the variations of the second edition of Experience and Nature of 1929, I will endeavour to focus on the meaning of science of education as expression of the Deweyan scientific concept of philosophy, so as to analyze the meaning of the teacher as investigator and the importance of this idea to define a new model of  Curriculum for the contemporary inclusive school.

In conclusion I will propose the Deweyan idea of a techno-scientific way to change with education the possible development of democracy. 

Striano – The Productive Professor

Maura Striano

University of Naples

This essay will discuss if research activities can be seen as generating “products”, as well as what are the consequences of inspecting and evaluating them as such, instead of evaluating their contribution as ideas, thinking, research data, and materials for a collective process of inquiry.

Thompson – Ethics in the Innovation Process: Some Unaddressed Issues for Pragmatists

Paul Thompson

Michigan State University

There are dozens of proposals for integrating ethics into the early planning and assessment of technological innovation. Beginning with John Dewey in the United States, the call continued with Hans Jonas and the rise of environmental justice and regulatory risk assessment. Schemes for integrating ethics into the innovation process were advanced under the banners of “constructive technology assessment,” “anticipatory governance,” “democratizing technology,” and “responsible innovation,” among others. During the same era, the call for protecting the interests of human and animal subjects were framed as “research ethics” and research organizations created Institutional Review Boards to oversee scientific activity.

This paper tracks some of Larry Hickman’s contributions to these trends. Hickman first followed Langdon Winner’s critique of “straight line rationality” by demonstrating how Dewey’s approach offers much that has been unrealized in subsequent attempts to reform the innovation process. Later, Hickman demonstrates how pragmatist ethics and epistemology provide a positive program of action that complements the negative critique the Frankfurt School. While Hickman’s suggestions could be incorporated into virtually any of the new proposals for integrating ethics into technological research, development, and dissemination, the sheer plethora of new approaches suggests that the field lacks the continuity to follow up on Hickman’s suggestions.

In this paper, I will explores some reasons why the field remains fragmented, emphasizing weaknesses in the pragmatist approach. First, I will acknowledge the significance of obvious explanations: the technical community’s unfamiliarity with ethical inquiry and the lack of both administrative and financial commitment to ethics-oriented research. There is, in short, an epistemic gap between the message that innovators are prepared to hear and the sophisticated response that Hickman’s pragmatism offers. This gap may be a practical limitation to philosophical pragmatism in many of its manifestations.