Comparison of Dewey's Idea of Reflection and Arendt's Process of Thinking
I found that there is a connection between John Dewey’s idea of reflection and Hannah Arendt’s process of thinking. Dewey and Arendt both use forms of reflection to understand a thought, Dewey’s reflection is based on a whole thought with a step process. Arendt shows thinking as an umbrella topic with reason, reflection, and imagination encased underneath. I will show a key idea connecting Dewey’s idea of reflection and Arendt’s process of thinking. I will explain what I mean by the comparison between Dewey’s five steps of reflection and Arendt’s ideas of thinking and reflection. First I will go through the process of Dewey’s steps of reflection, and we will break his thinking process down. Once we understand Dewey’s steps of reflection we will apply this to Arendt’s umbrella of thinking, this will, later on, help us understand why Arendt and Dewey have parallel thoughts.
Dewey suggested that this sequence of steps encourages group members to ‘think reflectively’ about their task. In this way, all the relevant facts and opinions can be discussed and evaluated, thereby ensuring a better decision. Identify the problem; what is being decided upon? Group leader summarizes the problem, ensures that all group members understand the problem, and gains agreement from all members. Conduct research and analysis; what information is needed to solve the problem? Conduct research to gather relevant information. Ensure that all members have relevant information. Establish guidelines and criteria; establish criteria by which proposed solutions will be judged. Reach criteria through consensus and record criteria. Generate solutions; conduct brainstorming session. Don’t debate ideas; simply gather and record all ideas. Select the best solution; Weigh the relative merits of each idea against criteria. Select one alternative that can best fulfill criteria. If more than one solution survives, select a single solution that best meets criteria. Consider merging two solutions if both meet criteria. If no solution survives, return to problem identification step. Evaluate solution; does the solution have any weaknesses or disadvantages? Does the solution resemble the criteria that were developed? What other criteria would have been helpful in arriving at a better solution?
To clarify I do not want to argue that John Dewey’s theory on thinking is based upon the fact that every thought should have an immediate effect, I believed that he recognized that there is so much more to the human thinking process than just problem-solving. This is why I will connect it to Arendt’s idea of thinking as well, to clear up the grey areas. I believe that Dewey’s thought process is built of several components, such as Arednt’s, where logic comes into play aiding the thinking process, therefore he uses steps to help us understand the minute details of what is going on in one’s head. Dewey has used a technique when trying to explain himself, in which he uses bits and pieces of knowledge to connect to other pieces, therefore coming up with an entire thought process. Dewey does argue that humans do need abstract and practical thought (pg. 23), which is why he came up with his five steps stated before. I believe that Dewey is a very science based person and I believe he thinks that the characteristics of experimental science is like our thought process. We create an entire theory, based upon evidence, follow that evidence to conduct an experiment, and then we take our results and conclude our findings.
Arendt, on the other hand, acknowledges the same aspects that Dewey does, but she believes that they can be explained using human cognition. Arendt believes that humans like to understand what they are thinking by therefore breaking down their thought process using emotions and their intellect to make meaning from it. I believe that Dewey uses this process but more discrete in his step process, it’s harder to follow and maybe even understand, but it’s there. Arendt has a notion of willing, imagination, and judging to compose her theory, Dewey contains all of these components in his steps, but they are varied in a way that they are not completely the same but they are present in some aspect. Arendt doesn’t believe that we follow steps like a program, but we take what is given to us and analyze it using what we know from past experiences and creating a new thought.
Arendt has two different ideas, “knowing” and “thinking”, her “knowing” is almost the same as Dewey’s idea of “thinking”. But the way she describes “thinking” is much different from Dewey, but still can be connected in most ways. In the concept of knowing, it concerns things we can sense, a stimulant of a human’s intellect, so we can figure things out. “The object of knowledge is the truth” (Arendt, Hannah), as humans, we come to conclusions based on what we have previously sensed. Arendt likes to call “thinking”, meaning-making, and by this, she means rather than using our senses to understand something we are taken out of the world and we are free to make meaning of what we have experienced. Thinking in Arendt’s mind does not come from the step by step connection of bits of knowledge, as said by Dewey, but it can happen immediately and then completely disappear.
Thus, I argue that Hannah Arendt acknowledges the same aspects in that of John Dewey, the two have similar and fitting ideas of a thought process. Even though they are not completely identical, they have several components that connect with one another. Arendt’s use of willing, imagination, and judging are all carried in Dewey’s step process, they’re not blatantly said but they can be understood. As well as, Dewey’s idea of thinking is much more simple than Arendt’s so we can combine the two to complete the understanding. Dewey and Arendt both use forms of reflection to understand thought, Dewey’s reflection is based on a whole thought with a step process. Arendt shows thinking as an umbrella topic with reason, reflection, and imagination encased underneath.
Throughout this paper I have given clear evidence that John Dewey and Hannah Arendt have paralell thought processes in many ways, and they also have several differences. But these differences have little effect on the main argument, I am arguing that they are similar and are able to join as one to help create a better understanding of the process of thinking. Therefore I argue that John Dewey’s theory on thinking is a great compliment to Hannah Arendt’s theory of knowing and thinking. Dewey’s reflection is based on a whole thought with a step process. Arendt shows thinking as an umbrella topic with reason, reflection, and imagination encased underneath.
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