## Democracy as personal ethic - John Dewey

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In the 4-page attached paper Creative Democracy, John Dewey claims that democracy is a process of our lives, not a state, nor a self-perpetuating external institution.

"democracy is a personal way of individual life; ...it signifies the possession and continual use of certain attitudes, forming personal character and determining desire and purpose in all the relations of life."

As in Wittgenstein, an attitude here is the position we take towards another, and ourselves, which forms and determines us. Democracy is not everyone arguing with the force of reason to determine the answer to what is right. Democracy is hope and respect for the capacity of each other (as if we do not yet know the terms on which to judge).

This means "to treat those who disagree – even profoundly – with us as those from whom we may learn, and in so far, as friends."

And our society (with each other) should develop conditions for each to be free to perfect themselves regardless of ends.

"[ 'Inherent in the democratic personal way of life' is ] to cooperate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because of the belief that the expression of difference is not only a right of the other persons but is a means of enriching one's own life-experience."

Discovering and enriching our (own and others) needs and desires is more important than opinions and knowledge. Our way of life is our democracy, not a goal, or answer, or belief, or constitution, or political structure. If we don't realize that all our fixed institutions are our expressions, then our desires will just adapt to them (we become the product of our culture, Marx says).
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Intolerance, abuse, calling of names because of differences of opinion about religion or politics or business, as well as because of differences of race, color, wealth or degree of culture are treason to the democratic way of life. For everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life. Merely legal guarantees of the civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail if in daily life freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred. These things destroy the essential condition of the democratic way of living even more effectually than open coercion which- as the example of totalitarian states proves-is effective only when it succeeds in breeding hate, suspicion, intolerance in the minds of individual human beings.

The victims of bigotry and coercion should remember insights such as these, especially when terms such as “democracy” leak from the other side of a hater’s mouth.
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Dewey is the main target of conservatives who oppose "progressivism". The irony is that some of these same conservatives are great admirers of Lincoln.

Dewey emphasizes the importance of public education for democracy. Conservatives call this indoctrination. The centra point of the difference at issue can be seen in Dewey's claim that:

All ends and values that are cut off from the ongoing process become arrests, fixations. They
strive to fixate what has been gained instead of using it to open the road and point the way to new and
better experiences.
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Conservatives call this indoctrination.

Of course education is indoctrination. But how else is conservatism to be conserved from one generation to another?
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They do not see it that way. What Dewey calls arrest and fixations, being cut off from the ongoing process, they call the unchanging truth.
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The unchanging truth is not their doctrine?

Someone should let them know that indoctrination with the unchanging truth is what education is supposed to be; its the transmission of culture, and so the conservation of conservatism. Do they think that to be conservative just means hanging on to one's stash?
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The unchanging truth is not their doctrine?

It is.

Someone should let them know that indoctrination with the unchanging truth is what education is supposed to be; its the transmission of culture, and so the conservation of conservatism.

Indoctrination with unchanging truth is not what education is supposed to be according to Dewey. The situation is analogous to the conflict between Socrates and Athens, or more generally, philosophy and the city. Should we simply accept the gods of contemporary conservatism or call them into question as part of the tradition of free inquiry and deliberation? Put differently, what is it we wish to conserve?

The transmission of culture, which Dewey is in favor of, does not mean the unquestioned acceptance of some particular set of values that are only a part of our pluralistic culture.
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Indoctrination with unchanging truth is not what education is supposed to be according to Dewey.

But it is what conservatives accuse him of, and what they favour themselves, but presumably call by another name.

Put differently, what is it we wish to conserve?

Ooh, sir! I know, sir! We wish to conserve what is good and change what is not so good for the better.
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As if by magic, conservative and progressive align with wealth and poverty, because the poor want to get rich and the rich want to stay rich.
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But it is what conservatives accuse him of, and what they favour themselves, but presumably call by another name.

Yes, that is how I see it as well.

quote="unenlightened;736247"]As if by magic, conservative and progressive align with wealth and poverty, because the poor want to get rich and the rich want to stay rich.[/quote]

I think it is more a matter of the wealth and poverty of power and influence, something money can't always buy. We were told in school that the US is a classless society, but one thing conservatives wish to conserve is class structure and its privileges.
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We were told in school that the US is a classless society,

That's indoctrination!
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That's indoctrination!

Yeah, that occured to me, and in a school that was influenced by Dewey's educational philosophy!
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“If one asks what is meant by experience in this connection my reply is that it is that free interaction of
individual human beings with surrounding conditions, especially the human surroundings, which develops
and satisfies need and desire by increasing knowledge of things as they are. Knowledge of conditions as they are is the only solid ground for communication and sharing; all other communication means the subjection of some persons to the personal opinion of other persons. Need and desire – out of which grow purpose and direction of energy – go beyond what exists, and hence beyond knowledge, beyond science. They continually open the way into the unexplored and unattained future.”

Rorty’s view of democracy via the notion of the conversation of mankind ,was influenced by Dewey. But the idea that need and desire can be separated from knowledge of things as they are has been questioned. If desire co-constitutes things as they seem to be , then things as they ‘are’ cannot be a basis of consensus without also being the basis of marginalization and repression. There will always be those left out of the conversation of mankind.
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Despite the title of this discussion (being provocative simply to draw attention), I wouldn’t say Dewey is against institutions or truth or science or culture, even as something that must become fixed, an end. Democracy is “experience as end and as means” which generates the authority for our further direction. But that experience is ours: we are democracy; the way we come to ourselves and treat others, which is always becoming enlarged and enriched. And so the enemy is not these things in themselves except maybe their use against our greater selves, and the necessary freedom and support from us.

So I take the framing as the personal rather than the public (process, abstraction, institution, constitution, theory, etc.) as hate comes in all forms and for all reasons: maybe not just defense of a fixed state, but as me against you, even treating you only as what you say in abstraction, in violence of its life “in your shoes” (as “expression” of what matters or revealing your interests—a key term of Wittgenstein’s as well)—looked at as merely opinion or beliefs in argument of what is true or false.

And so conservative vs progressive are too loaded, not only as associated with beliefs, but because defense and provocation do not capture Dewey’s non-partisan indictment of suppression, silencing, dismissal, etc. as these can come from any encampment, and Dewey is trying to avoid stratification itself. As an example, an argument against perfectionism (say against Nietszche’s will or Emerson’s whim) is that it is selfish or solipsistic or “subjective”, but there is nothing stopping someone’s duty and expression to be aligned with the state, to others, or in congruence with culture (not, however, in “sacrifice”, or suppression or abandonment, of our self they will admonish).

And yes education for Dewey is a term for something special, so something merely additional to the necessary and inevitable indoctrination with the ways of our lives (their criteria and judgments Wittgenstein will call it). Encouraging all of us to reach for our higher self is in the same spirit as our duty to “learn” from those with whom we disagree (quoted from the essay) to be broadened to a larger world, a more complete vision of how things are (a fuller perspective on the grammar of the criteria of a practice as Wittgenstein puts it).
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The victims of bigotry and coercion should remember insights such as these, especially when terms such as “democracy” leak from the other side of a hater’s mouth.[/quote]

To understand, what would the victims remember? And to what gain?

I'm also interested in your bringing up the forces against democracy. Dewey is defining freedom of speech not as our being free to say whatever we want, but as a duty to bring each other together. Your allegiance is not to the state, but to your fellow citizen. Acceptance is the "essential condition of the democratic way of living", not just the opportunity to say something, to tell us your beliefs. It is not the content of our speech, nor is it agreement—as if convinced to esteem something true or right or fact—it is allowing the others' words to be an expression, which is to say that we read a full person into them. The goal is not to judge them (bad, or even good, say, because they share our opinions) but to enlarge and deepen that reading to get through to a place where we can appreciate and respect the other, learn their desires and needs, their history and context, to acknowledge the self of the other as a moral not an empirical claim. Our treason then, is failing in what Emerson calls the "upbuilding" of people as part of his similar call for the perfection of the individual, here in American Scholar (but, most directly, in Self-Reliance). Our work is the opposite of hate, and so, love. If not to suppress the individual voice, then to listen in a new way, as if to a friend, as if to our own self.
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In support of what you say, from the link you provided:

In any case we can escape from this external way of thinking only as we realize in thought and act that democracy is a personal way of individual life; that it signifies the possession and continual use of certain attitudes, forming personal character and determining desire and purpose in all the relations of life. Instead of thinking of our own dispositions and habits as accommodated to certain institutions we have to learn to think of the latter as expressions, projections and extensions of habitually dominant personal attitudes.
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the idea that need and desire can be separated from knowledge of things as they are has been questioned.

I'd be interested to know where that ties in to the tradition, but I don't take Dewey as wanting to separate the two; only for us to see that knowledge contains our interests. As he says: institutions are our expressions; they are projections and extensions of us. Importantly also though, we are not talking about knowledge of “things” but of our “conditions”—Wittgenstein will call this "grammar", their "possibilities" (#90)—which are the particulars of a thing's context: the options and the criteria of how we differentiate between them, count something as something; this is how they contain our desires and needs (what is essential to us about them--PI #371) and how they are the means of sharing our interests with each other.

If desire co-constitutes things as they seem to be , then things as they ‘are’ cannot be a basis of consensus without also being the basis of marginalization and repression. There will always be those left out of the conversation of mankind.

In saying our desires and needs are satisfied by the “knowledge of conditions as they are”, Dewey is not contrasting this with how things "seem to be". He is alluding to, but rejecting, the traditional framework that our political conversation is about what “ought” to be, thus our goal is not to come to consensus, say, in our opinions or to Plato’s “knowledge” (as addressed by Wittgenstein in #241). And so there is no "basis" that need be fixed (not even from Rawls' original position), including and thus excluding, though I find your bringing up marginalization intriguing. I would agree there is no guarantee that my interests and needs will be manifest: our times may be degenerate Thoreau would say; or, despite it not being due to inhabited hatred, oppression can be institutionalized; or, because it is the responsibility of each to find and follow their own voice, we may fail in hating ourselves.

As a postscript, Wittgenstein will also find our need to "go beyond knowledge" (e.g., in the face of another's pain, PI 3rd, p. 225), and this brings up that the political realm (like the moral realm) has its time and place as an event, when we disagree. As with most philosophy, we do not usually reflect to see ourselves in our institutions, to make conscious the implications of our acts, to remember the criteria we use to judge. Our duty is to find our actual disagreement, if any truly exists, by learning about the other's interests and needs (as Wittgenstein searches for our "real need" in #108). Instead of arguing about an abstract right, we are learning about what matters to each other. In doing so, we have the possibility to truly understand each other, and, if we do still disagree, we at least do so rationally, having preserved our community, our union.
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And yes education for Dewey is a term for something special, so something merely additional to the necessary and inevitable indoctrination with the ways of our lives (their criteria and judgments Wittgenstein will call it)

Unfortunately, there is no escape from the politics. Progressives can accept the need for institutions, for a stability in society, the way a home improvement fan can accept the need for a home to improve. But to accuse Dewey of indoctrination is weaponised irony, as I tried to point out. The inheritors of Dewey are people like John Holt and Ivan Illich, those who see at least a part of education as a mutual exercise in learning from each other, as you have described above.

I make much of the use of the word 'indoctrination' because it is used as a term of abuse projected by those who would abuse onto those who want to prevent that abuse. This practice, which has infected the US and the world, destroys the language and society with it. But I'll leave it at that and perhaps we can ignore the propaganda now, and get on with the more interesting discussion of Dewey and education, which I am keen to learn more about.
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Our duty is to find our actual disagreement, if any truly exists, by learning about the other's interests and needs (as Wittgenstein searches for our "real need" in #108). Instead of arguing about an abstract right, we are learning about what matters to each other. In doing so, we have the possibility to truly understand each other, and, if we do still disagree, we at least do so rationally, having preserved our community, our union.

Do you think the hermeneutical aim of the fusion of horizons is ever completely realizable for Wittgenstein, or are there necessarily situations where we cannot even agree to disagree? This is what Lyotard refers to as the paralogical situation, where the very terms of the conversation exclude participants, so that neither agreement not disagreement is possible.
“ For Lyotard, it is "never certain nor even probable that partners in a debate, even those taken as witness to a dialogue, convert themselves into partners in dialogue". Rather, what is certain here is that we end up with more than one conversation, each structured in its own genre, with different participants, and different senses…. this paralogical result is not inconsistent with Gadamer's own principle that we always understand differently. In doing so, however, we do not enter into the original
conversation, but create a new one for ourselves.”
(Shaun Gallagher).
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Unfortunately, there is no escape from the politics

To the extent we allow ourselves to fall into what Dewey calls cliques, sects, and antagonistic factions (which I take as what you mean by “politics”), we are not practicing democracy. We could call it the tyranny of others' opinions (even those we agree with). To say we care about your interests but not your opinions is to admit that politics is not disinterested, but that our interests are not isolated but expressed in our institutions. This is not that I tell you what my interests are, but that what is (the conditions as they are) gives away our interest in it, it contains what matters to us about it.

I make much of the use of the word 'indoctrination' because it is used as a term of abuse projected by those who would abuse onto those who want to prevent that abuse. This practice, which has infected the US and the world, destroys the language and society with it.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're saying, but a less charged word would be "training", though it implies conscious effort, which is usually not the case. We are trained in the ways of our lives: apologizing, pointing, obeying rules, etc. We pick these up as we go along by a kind of osmosis: watching others, following examples, being corrected, explicitly told some things, etc. Language is picked up the same way; there is no meaning for every word such that I teach you each one and that covers all applications--most of the time its a kind of thing where we know to use this phrase in that type of situation. Now you are talking about the occurrence of someone with one culture being forced into the ways of another; but there is no habitable place outside of every culture, and so Dewey, as you say, starts in the house we have, but his fight is not between progress and stasis, but between the cultural and the personal.
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are there necessarily situations where we cannot even agree to disagree? This is what Lyotard refers to as the paralogical situation, where the very terms of the conversation exclude participants, so that neither agreement not disagreement is possible.

It seems obvious to say yes; sometimes when we are intransigent, others where we do not have common-enough interests to make disagreement possible. But both of these seem peripheral. To say that it is possible to talk past each other, even probable, appears to be a social observation and perhaps critique and not evidence for a structural philosophical insight. It seems to come back to the old panic that, because we may not come to agreement in an ethical discussion, there must not be any rationality. It remains the claim that democracy is the duty to put yourself in the others' shoes and investigate the desires and needs involved in the dispute at hand.
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there is no habitable place outside of every culture, and so Dewey, as you say, starts in the house we have, but his fight is not between progress and stasis, but between the cultural and the personal.

It remains the claim that democracy is the duty to put yourself in the others' shoes and investigate the desires and needs involved in the dispute at hand.

Put this in brackets, and call it the Dewey, Nickles, unenlightened position. So we can put ourselves in the shoes of some other that calls this 'Commie indoctrination'. They are not letting us in the house to discuss.To them, we are undermining the foundations. They are claiming the virtue word 'democracy' for themselves and excluding us from it. Now you can say oh that's politics and this is democracy, and I can agree, but what are we to do about the Republican Party?
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Democracy, if we're talking about government here, was, in my humble opinion, born in a rather ignoble family - sheer mistrust of one's fellow man (no one, absolutely no one, could sit on the throne and not become a tyrant) - and for that reason any attempt to paint democracy as something grander is hopelessly misguided. Prove me wrong ... please.
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It seems obvious to say yes; sometimes when we are intransigent, others where we do not have common-enough interests to make disagreement possible. But both of these seem peripheral… It seems to come back to the old panic that, because we may not come to agreement in an ethical discussion, there must not be any rationality.

If goals and interests are inseparably entangled with ways of interpreting the very sense of a situation , then it is not simply a matter of shifting our motivation , to choose to be less intransigent and more interested. It would be a matter of choosing to do something much more difficult, seeing from a vantage of comprehension that may so alien to our own that it is not attainable for us. The MAGA Trumpist vs CRT opposition is anything but peripheral, and I would argue is not a matter of rational disagreement within a common. perspective, but a differend that is no more resolvable within a single overarching rational frame that the differing perspectives of Wittgenstein scholars or psychological theorists. This does not deny rationality , it makes rational agreement a local and imperfect achievement. Perhaps in the conversation between Gadamer and Lyotard you prefer Gadamer’s position:

Gadamer: That I, as an individual, find myself always within a hermeneutical situation, a conversation, signifies that I am not alone. Even if I am only talking with myself, my language is something that I have inherited from others, and their words interrupt and make possible my conversation. Even if there is no universally shared human nature as a basis for Romantic trust, within the hermeneutical situation there is still some shared aspects, a certain range of background knowledge, some limited common ground which enables the particular conversation to happen. Otherwise communication would be impossible. Neither the common ground, nor the communication it makes possible, will necessarily guarantee community, consensus, or a resolution of differends. We are not focused here on outcomes, a particular consensus to be reached, but on what is anterior to (as a condition of possibility for) conversation. This anterior common ground may only be the battlefield on which our conflicts can be fought. Isn't the principle something like, no differends without a battlefield?

Lyotard: You know yourself how even "the battlefield" is open to conflicting interpretations. This was a favorite example used by Chladenius in his Enlightenment hermeneutics. Differends are not fought out on the battlefield; they remain outside the circumference of the battlefield, unable to enter the conflict within. So we must define many small battlefields, each of which might be called a community of difference, which is not presupposed but accomplished in and through conversation which remains dialogue without ultimate synthesis. Conversations, in such cases, always remain incomplete, imperfect. In them the we is always in question, always at stake, the consensus always local and temporary, community always deferred. Perhaps, within these conversations, a trust which is not good will is required; a trust that we are different and for that very reason require conversation to create a we. This is not a trust in a preexisting we, but a trust in the promise of a we, a not yet we which will always remain not yet, defined by our differences. I have stated elsewhere, "the true we is never we, never stabilized in a name for we, always undone before being constituted, only identified in the non-identity between you ... and me ..." A conversation "could do no more than put the we back into question"
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But Dewey is reacting to tyranny, just as the founders did, even mentioning a simpler time when it was strictly physical tyranny rather than the tyranny over ours and others’ selves (the self; he calls it “moral”). And he even discusses the institution of our democracy, structured in the hope of curbing tyranny, which, he says, lulls us into the thought that that structure will perpetuate democracy without me, without my being responsible personally other than in participating externally (even, say, in protesting).

He does talk of the importance of “attitudes”, and I tied that to our position in relation to others, but Dewey also talks of “faith” in others, as the kind of trust we must have in ourselves in reaching for a greater, as yet unknown, self. And I think it is selective to think of the formation of our country as coming only from mistrust. Our democratic hope for all people is one of attainment of a happy founding of our self in freedom (this is not “optimistic”; it’s claimed as part of the structure of our human condition). To stop at cynicism is, in Dewey’s words, “treachery”; I have said above that the possibility of failure in an ethical conversation does not equate to its irrationality.
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Tyranny? What about Socrates' philosopher kings and Buddhism's wisdom kings? Mythical, like dragons?

Democracy is to me "the least worst option"; it really ain't the best system, but it'll have to do (for now). I hope that doesn't make me an anarchist. :chin:
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This does not deny rationality, it makes rational agreement a local and imperfect achievement.
.

We do not need to agree on or share interests or needs; and the means for discussing those are just the conditions of the world as they are. Yes, Gadamar is correct that there is no guarantee our dispute will be resolved; we may not be able to find or maintain any kind of union, but the fact of this does not make the means for it any less workable, nor does it relinquish our duty to try. All of the limits and qualifications described are not the barrier here—Wittgenstein shows that we share enough of our lives to get at our essential desires and needs (there is nothing special about you).

We are actually what gets in the way: the ideas of universality and certainty are the standards we--along with Plato, Kant, Descartes, etc--fantasize about which cause us to overlook our existing conditions (Wittgenstein will call them “our ordinary criteria”). Since we can’t have knowledge with certainty in politics, we think we can only settle for opinion (people condescend to call Dewey “optimistic” or his democracy a “utopia” because it sidesteps the criteria of certainty). This is how we feel that we cannot even get started (our "anterior" preconditions have not been met). And Dewey is not calling for us to agree in our opinions (nor contract for a knowledge of the right or good), or even to “agree” (say, to decide on the means, or the conditions). His measures of our political structure (its requirements for being democracy; its "grammar" Wittgenstein will call ito) are actions, not agreements or answers or endings.

Additionally, people would rather state an opinion, and judge others on theirs, because then they do not need to be responsible for bridging the gap between us, standing for the other (taking their stance, seeing from their position), which would also mean being known, answering for our own desires and needs.

Lyotard is correct that our community (he calls it the "we") is "always in question". For quoting, here's Stanley Cavell: "we are separate, but not necessarily separated (by something).... "there is no assignable end to the depth of us to which language reaches; ...nevertheless there is no end to our separateness. We are endlessly separate [bodies], for no reason. But then we are answerable for everything that comes between us." The Claim of Reason, p. 369.
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Tyranny? What about Socrates' philosopher kings and Buddhism's wisdom kings? Mythical, like dragons?

I need more. Are we asking why tyranny? as if, what does tyranny have to do with democracy? say, when we are off searching for the right and good in order to rule justly? (the answer in the face of, simply: might makes right) And, if that's close to the case, I would conjecture that Dewey would say the philosopher king is one more tyrant; that the good and right oppress us because they take the conversation of justice away from our interests (abstract it), removing the human, in order to create some certainty (knowing the right, we know what we ought to do, and we can avoid failing to do so).
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Non intellego. All I'm saying is a philosopher/wisdom king $\geq$ democracy. What explains such a position?
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Plato thought that knowledge was greater than or equal to virtue; that, if we knew what the good was, we'd do it. But I side with Emerson, who says "character is higher than intellect", or, i.e., what we do matters more than what we know. Cavell takes from Wittgenstein that there is more to the world beyond knowledge: I don't know your pain, I accept it, react to it. Here, Dewey is saying democracy is up to how we treat each other, not whether we are free to tell each other our opinions.
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Democracy reminds me of atheism in the sense it forces us to come to terms with hard facts (there is no god/we can't trust each other) and then once the destruction of our faith/trust is complete to build a better, stronger, more realistic relationship with the world (atheism)/each other (governance). It's healthier to be frank & open in re human folly - we're not gods and for everyone's sakes we better factor that in, everytime & everywhere.

The guy in your office who, when there's a problem, goes "call the expert", that's Plato.
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