In the post-Rawlsian era, contemporary liberals have struggled to articulate a philosophical justification for democracy that will at once extricate them from Richard Rorty’s denial of any cognitive foundation for democracy and respond to Alastair MacIntyre’s critique that the liberal democratic project unjustifiably asserts a philosophically objective supremacy for itself relative to other rival traditions (e.g., the Enlightenment’s false claims to being ahistorical, universal, objective truth grounded upon scientific reason). One mode of liberal response to traditionalist criticisms like MacIntyre’s involves arguing, in the footsteps of the later Rawls, for a pluralist political liberalism that is not dependent upon, nor requires recourse to, any one of the many comprehensive worldviews (those that are inextricably linked to and premised upon controversial religious and metaphysical assumptions) for its justification. In this way, the response does not deny the possibility of cognitive foundations, but it also refuses to surrender to MacIntyre’s critique. A recent attempt to respond to liberalism’s critics – at least those who argue on bases similar to MacIntyre – offers an alternative set of liberal principles rooted in the life and work of the pragmatist philosopher, John Dewey. Ostensibly, scholars who pursue this believe that Dewey-related pragmatism brings to liberal democracy a basis for communitarian political liberalism that is more robust than that of Rawls.

As the pragmatist Robert Talisse observes, however, Dewey’s understanding of liberal democracy is not compatible with pluralism and political discourse, and Dewey’s thought assumes fidelity to its own comprehensive philosophy at odds with Rawlsian liberalism. Talisse has sought in his work to demonstrate not only that Dewey’s philosophy is incompatible with pluralism, but also that pragmatism still possesses the resources to overcome this problem and remain a viable tradition for political liberalism.

Still, Talisse’s nuanced attempt to reformulate pragmatism to accommodate “reasonable pluralism” ultimately fails when it turns to treating specific issues. In these instances, pragmatic liberalism appears to remain adversarial toward Catholicism in particular and is fundamentally incapable of the neutrality it claims. It is the burden of this essay to demonstrate how Talisse’s success and failure demonstrates Dewey and pragmatism’s fundamental incompatibility with the pluralism necessary for the political liberalism and democratic discourse that Talisse and others champion.


Alastair MacIntyre’s dissection of Enlightenment liberalism’s doctrine of ahistorical, universal, objective truth grounded upon scientific reason has elicited several responses from democratic theorists. Jeffrey Stout endeavored to defuse MacIntyre’s critique by contending that pragmatism was a viable form of “democratic traditionalism.” He declared that “there is much to be gained by abandoning the image of democracy as essentially opposed to tradition as a negative force that tends by its nature to undermine culture and the cultivation of virtue. Democracy is a culture, a tradition, in its own right….Pragmatism is best viewed as an attempt to bring democratic deliberation and tradition in a single philosophical vision.”1 Stout’s professed intention to enhance public discourse in a pluralistic society by incorporating both secular and Christian beliefs is seductive. But we have to ask: how pluralistic is pragmatism? In particular, how pluralistic is that pragmatism formulated by John Dewey, who is widely acknowledged as to be dominant voice of American democracy and pragmatic liberalism?2 Although MacIntyre neglected to offer a detailed analysis of Dewey’s philosophy, Jacques Maritain, another Thomist, not only critiqued Dewey but engaged in spirited and civil debates with Sidney Hook, Dewey’s leading apologist, over the philosophical foundations of democracy.3 Though Hook has been called “Dewey’s Bulldog,” Robert Talisse used Hook’s thought to challenge Deweyan pragmatism. Talisse insisted that Hook embraced Charles Peirce’s epistemic methodology, and thus circumvented the difficulty of reconciling reasonable pluralism with Dewey’s synoptic, comprehensive philosophy. Directly confronting the pragmatist establishment, Talisse announced “a farewell to Deweyan democracy,” asserting instead a minimalist defense of democracy. 4

In what sense does pragmatism constitute a tradition with its own core beliefs and standards of rationality? Pragmatism has been portrayed by critics as anti-tradition, although adherents claim it has deep roots in the American experience, both politically and culturally. In The Genius of American Politics, historian Daniel Boorstin has provided us with a past in which the pragmatic temperament—common sense-loving, problem-solving, hostile to fixed dogma or ideology—was pervasive throughout America.5 John Dewey, on the other hand, invoked Thomas Jefferson as “the first modern to state in human terms the principle of democracy.”6 Sidney Hook reiterated that “the philosophy of American liberalism is rooted in Jefferson and flowered in the philosophy of John Dewey.”7 In fashioning his post-modernist version of Deweyan pragmatism, Richard Rorty added Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman to the genealogy.8

Arguably, though, Dewey may be considered the leading theoretician of the progressive movement, given that he advocated a wholesale refounding of the American regime.9 Dewey’s quest for community was exemplified by his support of World War I, which he saw as a cultural-political-military opportunity in collective self-discovery, to metastasize the “American mind.”10 In his Freedom and Culture (1939), he portrayed American political culture as a democratic way of life which had not yet fully emerged, but which would have to exclude the authoritarian, hierarchical, and dogmatic (the Catholic Church, as far back as Charles Peirce, was repeatedly portrayed as intrinsically “un-American”).11 For Dewey Stalinism and Catholicism embodied “twin totalitarianisms.”12 Interestingly, Dewey’s narrative completely omitted any reference to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, most likely due to Tocqueville’s recognition of the salutary effect of pervasive religious belief.

While conventional histories of pragmatist philosophy are fond of making reference to the trinity of classical pragmatists (William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey), they also acknowledge that Dewey triumphantly achieved a systematic, comprehensive formulation of his predecessors.13 In the 1950’s, his thought was temporarily eclipsed, a phenomenon that some have attributed to the importation of British analytical philosophy. Others targeted Sidney Hook’s Cold War liberalism for poisoning pragmatism within academic circles.14 Rorty attributed the decline of interest in Dewey simply to “boredom” and an episodic change in fashion.15 Nonetheless, Dewey’s thought has been revitalized by a plethora of more recent books, to the point that James Campbell has announced a “golden age” of Dewey studies.16 Robert Westbrook and Alan Ryan’s widely read Dewey biographies certainly contributed to the renaissance.18 Very notably, Richard Rorty’s controversial synthesis of European post-modernism and Deweyan pragmatism stimulated additional interest both inside and outside the world of professional academic philosophy. Finally, the communitarian movement, including Robert Bellah and Michael Sandel, acknowledged Dewey’s inspirational role.19 According to John Diggins, pragmatism offers a promise of an overarching synthesis, given its applicability to a variety of discourses (law, politics, social science, religion and, of course, education), while at the same time integrating moral values with naturalistic, scientific methodology. The reason it ultimately did fail, Diggins concluded, was due to its irresolution regarding the crisis of World War II.20 A legion of new admirers of Dewey insist that his thought was never refuted, only misunderstood. Any weaknesses which do exist are explained as Dewey’s failure to fully develop a particular argument, although even these undeveloped thoughts are consistent within the Deweyan paradigm.17

In point of fact, such Dewey idolatry insulated disciples from objections to the prevailing orthodoxy. At the time, however, the attacks mounted by Reinhold Niebuhr, Lewis Mumford, Archibald MacLeish, and Mortimer Adler (among others) put pragmatism on the defensive, to the point that in 1944, Jacques Barzun observed that “today it is rather Dewey’s ‘Reconstruction in Philosophy’ [purely scientific instrumentalism] that seems on the other brink of the gulf.”21


Though he employed the term, “we Deweyans” as well as “we pragmatists,” Richard Rorty’s radical historicism has been stridently attacked by gatekeepers of the Dewey legacy.23 It is thought that Rorty arrived at a philosophical dead-end by denying that there can be an objective argument for democracy, arguing that it was pointless to even debate opponents about it. For example, James Gouinlock charged, “Insofar as he [Rorty] succeeds in appropriating Dewey’s legacy, he will reject what was surely dearest to Dewey himself.”24 Although a critic of Rorty, Robert Talisse admits that Dewey himself didn’t facilitate genuine open discourse. Dewey routinely and reductively dismissed classical philosophical thinkers with “ad hominem” attacks, accusing them of merely rationalizing the hierarchical power of the political status quo. At the same time, conscientious philosophical critics were stigmatized as irrational adversaries. Dewey invoked the term “fascism” in reference to Robert Maynard Hutchins, and he dismissed essentialist critics like William Bagley as aiding “forces of reaction.” It would appear that Dewey’s quest for community was not inhibited by an overriding commitment to pluralism. Rorty’s statement that democracy trumps philosophy does have some legitimate basis in Dewey’s writings.

Recognizing that John Rawls was widely acknowledged to be the leading political theorist of the last half-century, Talisse invoked Rawlsian “public reason” in order to demonstrate that Dewey formulated a substantive, comprehensive world-view that excluded plausible alternatives. Rawls argued that “a continuing shared understanding on one comprehensive religious, philosophical doctrine can be maintained only by the oppressive use of state power,” adding that appeals to such universalist dogmas should be excluded from political discourse. 25Talisse juxtaposes four theses of Deweyan democracy:

1. The Continuity Thesis: The democratic political order is a moral order characterized by a distinctive conception of human flourishing.

2. The Transformative Thesis: The democratic process is one in which individual preferences, attitudes, and opinions are informed and transformed rather than simply aggregated.

3. The Way of Life Thesis: Democracy is not simply a kind of state or a mode of government but a way of life.

4. The Perfectionist Thesis: Democratic states may enact legislation and design institutions for the express purpose of fostering the values and attitudes necessary for human flourishing.26

It is clear from the theses that a tension existed between reasonable pluralism and his monistic world-view. Richard Gale detected a kind of latent Hegelianism in Dewey’s appeals to democracy as “a way of life,” “the ultimate goal of humanity,” and the “greatest of human goods” to be applied to every aspect of human society.27 For Dewey, the fate of democracy depends upon comprehensively implementing the political-economic transformation to obtain them. A universal system of mandatory public schools was crucial to this process: “education can’t be neutral or indifferent to the kind of social organization that exists…education must operate in view of a deliberately preferred social order.”28 Other scholars also describe the “totalistic” nature of Deweyan democracy. For example, in John Dewey’s Ethics (2008), Gregory Pappas argued that “Dewey’s views about democracy cannot be separated from his plea that we accept a certain metaphysics.”29

Dewey held that “…the task of future philosophy is to clarify men’s ideas as to the social and moral strifes of their day,”30 and no one implemented that mandate more vigilantly than Sidney Hook. Yet, perhaps because of his vitriolic reproach of ritualistic liberalism, Hook has been excised from historical accounts of American pragmatism and specific analyses of John Dewey. It is telling that Richard Schusterman (in his “Pragmatism and Liberalism between Dewey and Rorty”) doesn’t even mention Hook. James Campbell’s book, Understanding John Dewey, excluded any reference to Hook. Despite Richard Rorty’s insistence that besides William Hames and Hohn Dewey, Sidney Hook was “the greatest influence for good of any American philosopher,” Cheryl Misak airbrushed Hook from her historical account in The American Pragmatists (2013) 31. Reasonable pluralism doesn’t appear to be hold much sway among mainstream pragmatists.

Talisse argued plausibly that Hook advocated and was pivotally influenced by Charles Peirce’s epistemic methodology, as articulated in Peirce’s famous essay, “The Fixation of Belief.”32 Pierce’s thought offered Hook a pragmatic alternative for deliberative democracy. Contrary to Dewey, Talisse himself has maintained that where intellectual freedom flourishes a variety of rationally defensible positions will be advocated in the public arena. Responsible democratic citizens will utilize reasons and evidence while engaging their opponents in open debate. They not only recognize but address contending arguments. He claimed that these epistemic norms are internal to the practice of holding beliefs rather than being externally imposed. Cognitive commitments are exemplified by, but not confined to, scientific methodology.33 Talisse praised Sidney Hook for modeling, albeit imperfectly, such proper conduct as a public controversialist.34

While Dewey did argue for the importance of liberating the capacities of individuals and facilitating students’ “moral growth,” this should unfold within the context of training citizens for social service. Dewey denounced the child-centered school: “to fail to assure them guidance and direction is not merely a permit to operate in a blind and spasmodic fashion, but it promotes the formation of habits of immature, undeveloped, and egoistic activity.”35 Dewey further contended that “the democratic idea of freedom is not the right of each individual to do as he pleases, even if it be qualified by adding ‘provided he does not interfere with the same freedom on the part of others.’”36 In Democracy and Education, he described schooling as crucial for moral transmission: “society exists through a process of transmission quite as much as biological life. The transmission occurs by means of communication of habits of living, thinking, and feeling from the older to the younger. Without this transmission, communication of ideals, hopes, expectations, standards, and opinions from those members of society who are passing on group life to those coming into it, social life could not survive.”37 His pedagogical agenda thus prioritized the inculcation of democratic habits. This was consistent with his understanding of democracy. For Dewey, the burden of proof was always on the dissenter.38 In Human Nature and Conduct, he chastised the bohemians as follows: “Fastening upon the conventional elements in morality, they hold that all morality is a conventionality, hampering the development of individuality.…They treat subjection to passion as a manifestation of freedom in the degree to which it shocks the bourgeois. The urgent need for a transvaluation of morals is caricatured by the notion that an avoidance of conventional morals constitutes a positive achievement.”39 Indeed, Dewey’s demeanor exuded bourgeois sobriety.40 As Tocqueville observed, not antinomian self-creation but mass homogeneity constituted the immanent trajectory of modern democracy.

Dewey’s Hegelian preoccupation with social unity was even more manifest when he attempted to put theory into practice. He undertook pilgrimages to the Soviet Union and Mexico. His penchant to such “democratic totalism” is graphically exhibited in his eulogizing the collective cultural experiment in Stalin’s Soviet Union as “nobly heroic, evincing a faith in human nature which was democratic beyond the democracies in the past.”41 Touring Mexico as an educational consultant at the invitation of the Calles regime in Mexico, Dewey applauded the government’s campaign to suppress, if not destroy, the Catholic Church. Amidst the savage repression during the Cristero War, he contended that: “the church can hardly escape the penalty for the continued ignorance and lack of initiative which it has tolerated if not cultivated.”42 For Dewey Mexican culture was bifurcated between Catholicism and scientific secularism: the Catholic Church was an obstacle to Mexico’s social-political integration and had to be exorcised.43 In contrast, Dewey was disconcerted by the rough-and-tumble adversarial aspect of American electoral politics. His understanding of substantive democracy mandated the imposition of a morally substantive agenda, not simply the maintenance of neutral procedural institutions.



Talisse, then, has formulated a compelling case for the incompatibility of Deweyism with reasonable pluralism. How pluralistic is Talisse’s non-metaphysical, minimalist epistemic understanding of pragmatic, democratic liberalism? Although he did address criteria for responsible public discourse, it still remains to ask, who determines what is “reasonable” and what constitutes justifiable evidence?44 Are religiously grounded beliefs impermissible? Is state coercion legitimate if bolstered by a reasonable explanation? Are there clear limits to the means employed to police and regiment enlightened conduct upon non-liberals?

Such an exploration of Dewey’s understanding of democracy is timely, for similar questions have surfaced again in the current debate involving religious freedom and health care. Advocates of deliberative democracy often expose the limitations of their openness when forced to identify what they are specifically against. Charles Peirce juxtaposed the despotic method of authority of the Catholic Church in “priest ridden states” to his scientific approach.45 John Rawls opined that “it would go against the ideal of public reason if someone voted against abortion rights as delineated in Roe v. Wade.”46 While ostensibly welcoming Christians into the public arena, Jeffrey Stout privileged a certain type of anti-institutional personal spirituality. He eulogized, for example, Rosemary Radford Reuther who stridently campaigned to “democratize” the Catholic Church. Robert Talisse insisted that, “laws forbidding homosexual sodomy fail to be publicly justifiable because there is no case forbidding homosexual sodomy that does not depend ultimately upon some sectarian religious doctrine.”47 Talisse disregarded the argument of natural law theorists, like Robert George, who utilize empirical, biologically based evidence to oppose sodomy. Is natural law theory inadmissible? Shouldn’t Talisse refute the claim that natural law can provide a reasonable basis for public discourse? Talisse also maligned Thomas Nagel, because he, even though an atheist, maintained that Intelligent Design theory can be discussed in the public schools.48

It would seem, then, that any position that directly or indirectly enhances Christianity’s plausibility must be held to be intrinsically suspect. And yet, this very suspicion seems to contradict Talisse’s maxim that it is not what people believe but how they hold their beliefs that is paramount. Likewise, it could be said that Sidney Hook’s adoption of Ludwig Feuerbach’s explanation for the psychological origin of religious belief in the projection of human ideals is tantamount to a personal attack, given that such an explanation violated his own principles as stated in “The Ethics of Controversy.” We could also say that Hook’s allegation that religious believers were afflicted with a “failure of nerve” did not facilitate productive public discourse.

Hopefully, in the future, Talisse will not only bid farewell to Deweyan democracy but to Dewey’s key initiative to secularize the schools. Will Talisse’s epitaph on Deweyan democracy entail an emancipation of the public schools from a strict adherence to exclusively secular discourse? Beneath the professions of pluralism and relativism, one can detect a liberal intolerance that, in Talisse’s case, services the public schools to inculcate democratic epistemological “virtues.” This tutelary democracy is reminiscent of John Stuart Mill’s advocacy of purging the native population in India of its backwardness in order to train them for eventual self-government.


Gary Bullert is Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia Basin College.



1. Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 3. See Thaddeus Kozinski’s treatment of John Rawls, MacIntyre, and Stout in The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism (New York: Lexington Books, 2010), 203ff. Pope John Paul II addressed the topic of pluralism during his trip to the United States in 1987 as follows: “But pluralism does not exist for its own sake; it is directed to the fullness of truth. In the academic context, the respect for persons which pluralism rightly envisions does not justify the view that ultimate questions about human life and destiny have no final answers or that all beliefs are of equal value, provided that none is asserted as absolutely true or normative. Truth is not served this way” (“Pope John Paul’s Address,” Origins [1 October 1981]: 269).

2. On the gospel of social intelligence as an instrument of progress, see Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Crisis of the Old Order, vol. 1 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), 13. Reinhold Niebuhr conceded that no one is better certified for modern liberalism than John Dewey (Niebuhr, “The Pathos of Liberalism,” Nation [11 September 1935]: 303‒04).

3. Sidney Hook, Philosophy and Public Policy (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 257‒78.

4. Robert Talisse, “A Farewell to Deweyan Democracy,” Political Studies (2011): 509‒26. Richard Gale aptly categorized this as sheer heresy against the pragmatist orthodoxy (Gale, “Review of Robert B. Talisse, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research [September 2012]: 435).

5. Daniel Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 200.

6. John Dewey, Freedom and Culture (New York: Capricorn Books, 1939), 155. Dewey’s narrative on American political culture made no reference to Tocqueville, and the role of religion was totally marginalized. On Dewey’s very selective appropriation of Jefferson, see Henry Edmondson, John Dewey and the Decline of American Education (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006), 57‒66.

7. Sidney Hook, Convictions (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990), 302. When Hook added Abraham Lincoln to the pantheon of pragmatists, Max Eastman objected to Hook’s elasticizing of “pragmatist” to mean simply “a prudent statesman.” A more substantive criticism would be contrasting Deweyan repudiation of inalienable rights and Lincoln’s appeal to these God-given rights, rooted in the claim that Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence is the bedrock of the American founding. See Hook, “Abraham Lincoln, American Pragmatist,” New Leader (18 March 1957): 16‒18; Max Eastman, “Lincoln Was No Pragmatist,” New Leader (23 Sept. 1957): 19‒20.

8. Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 151. See Talisse, “A Pragmatist Critique of Richard Rorty’s Hopeless Politics,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy (2001): 611‒26; Peter Lawler, “Rorty’s America,” Perspectives on Political Science (Fall 1998): 199‒205.

9. See Tiffany Miller, “John Dewey and the Philosophical Refounding of America,” National Review (31 December 2009): 37‒40. The cover article identified the Four Horsemen of the Progressive apocalypse as John Dewey, Herbert Croly, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Richard Ely. See also Morton White, Social Thought in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), 301.

10. John Dewey, German Philosophy and Politics (New York: Henry Holt, 1915), 143.

11. John Dewey lauded Paul Blanshard’s American Freedom and Catholic Power (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950), 106. For a contemporary rejoinder, see Patrick Brennan, “Are Catholics Unreliable from a Democratic Point of View? Thoughts on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Paul Blanshard’s American Freedom and Catholic Power,” Villanova Law Review (2011): 199‒226. On the history of anti-Catholicism, see John McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom (New York: Norton, 2003), 431.

12. Dewey to W. E. Hocking (16 May 1940), Dewey Correspondence, Center for Dewey Studies, Carbondale, IL. Dewey’s Committee for Cultural Freedom initially focused its attention upon Stalinist totalitarianism and Popular Front apologists. This agenda was held in abeyance when attention shifted to defending Bertrand Russell, who was denied employment at the City College of New York. Though the charges of “atheism” and “hedonism” were initiated by an Episcopal Bishop, William Manning, the issue was framed to indict the “totalitarian” Catholic Church, since the presiding judge was a Catholic. See John Dewey, “The Case of Bertrand Russell,” Nation (June 1940): 732‒33. Dewey concentrated on defending “academic freedom” and not Russell’s specific views on sex and marriage. After helping to arrange a job for Russell with Albert Barnes (Russell later sued Barnes), Dewey deemed Russell to be so obnoxious that he expressed reservations about defending him in the first place.

13. Robert Talisse, “Recovering American Philosophy,” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy,” (Summer 2013): 425.

14. See John Capps, “Pragmatism and the McCarthy Era,” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society (Spring 2003): 61‒76. An imposing list of scholars ostensibly operate within the pragmatic tradition, including W. V. O. Quine, Susan Haack, Philip Kitchens, Hilary Putnam, and Cornel West.

15. A more plausible account would take up Dewey’s pernicious educational influence See Lawrence Cremin, The Transformation of the School (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 381.

16. For example, James Campbell, Understanding John Dewey (Chicago: Open Court, 1993); Richard Bernstein, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward: Richard Rorty on Liberal Democracy and Philosophy,” Political Theory (November 1987): 538‒63. Further illustrations were cited by Talisse in A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, (New York: Routledge, 2007), 141.

17. Robert Talisse, “Toward a New Pragmatist Politics,” Metaphilosophy (2011): 554.

18. Alan Ryan insightfully concluded that Robert Westbrook’s John Dewey and American Democracy (1991) reinvented Dewey in order to customize him for the New Left (Ryan, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism [New York: Norton, 1995], 11. In order to establish any credibility for this contention, Westbrook demonized Dewey’s foremost disciple, Sidney Hook, who was definitely on the other side of the barricades during the 1960s. See Westbrook, “Stream of Contentiousness,” Nation (27 May 1987): 726‒30.

19. Bruce Frohnen, The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1996), 120. Frohnen separated MacIntyre from this camp of communitarians. Another communitarian leftist invoking Dewey was Harry Boyte, a 2008 campaign consultant for Barack Obama. See Boyte, “A Different Kind of Politics: John Dewey and the Meaning of Citizenship in the Twenty-First Century,” Dewey Lecture at the University of Michigan, 1 November 2002, at Talisse also endeavored to establish a linkage to the real world of American politics by discussing another Obama advisor, democratic theorist, Cass Sunstein (Talisse, Democracy After Liberalism [New York: Routledge, 2005], 109‒11).

20. John Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 515.

21. Jacques Barzun, “The Literature of Ideas,” Saturday Review of Literature (5 August 1944): 27.

22. Jean Porter, “Moral Traditions,” in Kenneth Grasso and Cecilia Castillo, Theology and Public Policy (New York: Lexington Books, 2012), 138‒39.

23. James Campbell, “Rorty’s Use of Dewey,” Southern Journal of Philosophy (Summer 1984): 175‒87. In a letter shortly before his death, Sidney Hook upbraided Rorty for employing the term, “we Deweyans,” in addition to attacking Rorty’s false portrayal of Dewey’s actual philosophy. The difference between Hook and Rorty roughly mirrors the conflict between modernism and post-modernism. See the letter, Hook to Rorty (20 March 1989) in Hook Correspondence, Hoover Institute Archives, Stanford University.

24. James Gouinlock, “What is the Legacy of Instrumentalism? Rorty’s Interpretation of Dewey,” Journal of the History of Philosophy (April 1990): 251.

25. John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 37.

26. Robert Talisse, “Toward a New Pragmatist Politics,” 554.

27. See Richard Gale, John Dewey’s Quest for Unity (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2010), 215.

28. Cited from Diane Ravitch, Left Back (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 220.

29. Gregory Pappas, John Dewey’s Ethics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 267.

30. John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), 26.

31. Cheryl Misak, The American Pragmatists (London: Oxford University Press, 2013), 304; Richard Shusterman, “Pragmatism and Liberalism between Dewey and Rorty,” Political Theory (August 1994): 391‒413.

32. Talisse, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, 115‒30.

33. Talisse, “Pragmatist Political Philosophy,” Philosophy Compass (2 September 2014): 123‒30.

34. Talisse, “Sidney Hook Reconsidered,” The Pragmatism Cybrary,

35. John Dewey, “How Much Freedom in the Schools,” The New Republic (9 July 1930): 205.

36. John Dewey, “Democracy and Education Administration,” School & Society (April 1937): 459.

37. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: MacMillan, 1916), 3.

38. John Dewey and James Tufts, Ethics, 2nd ed. (New York: Henry Holt, 1932), 282.

39. John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct (New York: Random House, 1922), 8.

40. An analysis of the complicated relationship between Dewey, Hook and Rorty transcends the scope of this article. Nonetheless, Rorty described himself as a “post-modern bourgeois liberal.” He candidly acknowledged that his own moral preferences were the product of his family roots, life experience, and inherited culture. He eluded the abyss of Nietzsche’s nihilism by admittedly “freeloading” off the moral capital of the Christian tradition.

41. John Dewey, “A Country in a State of Flux,” The New Republic (28 November 1928): 14. For an analysis of Dewey’s transition from Soviet sympathizer to the anti-Stalinist Left, see Gary Bullert, “The Committee for Cultural Freedom and the Roots of McCarthyism,” Education and Culture 29, no. 2 (2013): 25‒52.

42. John Dewey, “Mexico’s Educational Renaissance,” The New Republic (23 September 1926): 116.

43. John Dewey, “Church and State in Mexico,” in The Later Works, 1925‒53, ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 97‒98.

44. Henrik Rydenfelt asked how there could an “external method-independent way of evaluating the reasonableness” of the scientific method itself. See Rydenfelt, “Epistemic Norms and Democracy,” Metaphilosophy (2011): 581.

45. Charles Peirce, “The Fixation of Belief,” Popular Science (November 1877): 1‒15.

46. John Rawls, Political Liberalism, 204.

47. Robert Talisse, “Religion, Respect and Eberle’s Agape Pacifist,” Philosophy & Social Criticism (9 January 2012): 2.

48. Scott Aiken, Robert Harbour, and Robert Talisse, “Nagel on Public Education and Intelligent Design,” Journal of Philosophical Research (2010): 200‒19.