Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
John Dewey’s “Art As Experience” represents an unprecedented aesthetic theory insofar as it provides the reader with a way to think of aesthetic experience, not as relegated to a specialized realm of activity that one might denote as “the art world,” but as the primary mode through which human beings come to terms with the environment. This is one aspect of Dewey’s “cultural naturalism,” through which we can see how his philosophy intends a non-separation between the body, the mind, and the environment. This project aims to reveal the notion of the unconscious that is implicit within Dewey’s later work, particularly his aesthetics and metaphysics. This is a uniquely American unconscious with properties and functions that differ from the unconscious that was articulated by the tradition of psychoanalysis in Europe. I also make the pragmatic argument that when we treat the aesthetic and the unconscious as essentially linked, we benefit from a stronger hermeneutic for diagnosing culture, and we are better prepared to restore our connection with sensuous, immediate experience. This dual rehabilitation of the aesthetic and the unconscious serves to strengthen our capacity for eros, which, I will argue, is the need to live a shared aesthetic reality.
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