The traditional view of philosophy is that its business or aim in knowledge of Being or Reality, which is more comprehensive, fundamental and ultimate than the knowledge which can be provided by the organs and methods at the disposal of the special science, for according to this view, with the possible exception of matter; Science deal with what is temporal, changing and contingent while philosophy aims at knowledge of that which is eternal and inherently necessary.
Its (Philosophy) knowing are so primary and final that it alone can give sure support to the claims of truth put forward by the lesser form of knowledge.
Since the business of philosophy is with ultimate reality behind and beyond the phenomenal world, the possibility of knowledge, the conditions of knowing before knowing, takes place, becomes the chief problems of philosophy.
Dewey’s conception of philosophy widely differs from this. He does not believe in two levels of beings: the phenomenal level and the ultimate level, ‘Dewey is out to abolish all dualism in ontology, and epistemology, science and philosophy.
Dewey’s conception is that philosophy is not outside of and above all other human pursuits, cultivating in secrecy and silence a remote, stacked-off pressure of its own. Philosophy is and works within the open and public domain of all human activities, one among others, differentiated by its scope and function, but in no way set apart.
The scope of subject-matter of Philosophy, as described by Dewey can be represented in the form of three concentric circles.
The first area, bounded by the innermost circle, is occupied by reflective thought, by logic or what logic or Dewey now calls Inquiry. In the second area are the typical modes of human experience, such as the practical or utilitarian, the aesthetic, religious, scientific.
Philosophic inquiry here concerns itself with analyzing what these modes of experience are and particularly, with discovering their inter-relations, how the practical or utilitarian develops with scientific, the scientific into aesthetic and vice versa.
The third area is that of the socio-cultural world. The social world raises such questions as “the Value of research for social progress: the bearing of psychology upon educational procedures: the mutual relation of fine and industrial arts; the adjustment of religious aspirations to scientific statements, the relation of organization to individuality.”
The significance of Dewey: conception is not, to be found in the mere extension of the range, significant as that is.
It is to be found in the inter-relations of the three areas, that they are functional distinctions, discriminate able divisions within one inclusive field of experience, the boundary lines being neither fixed nor impermeable, marking off, but not insulating any one from any of the rest.
Philosophy is an enterprise of reflective thought and can only deal with problems in a reflective or intellectual way.
But when each bundle of actualized problems labeled with its own bag of epistemology, ethics, logic, aesthetics, social philosophy, are treated as if each constituted a separate and distinct substantive realm, as being the original and primary subject-matter of inquiry, philosophy instead of prospering as a reflective enterprise, degenerate into a mere process of untying each bundle in some way and tying it again in another.
Reflective inquiry, philosophic or otherwise can handle and actual condition that is a problem only transforming it into an intellectual form. An architect engaged on the problem of re modeling a house uses a blue print. The blue print is an intellectualized form of the actual house.
An architect does not substitute his blue print for the house; he does not consider the blue print as constituting the original and primary subject-matter of his inquiry and he does not think that he changes the house when he changes the blue print although changing the blue print may be all that he professionally contributes towards the consummation of that final end.
In philosophy blue prints have taken the place of the actual house. This substitution in philosophy has resulted in vain disputes and arid verbal jugglery. It has led to a diseased formulation of philosophic problems. Dewey distinguishes between problems in ‘General’ and the ‘General Problem’.
The problem of e.g. knowledge in General, i.e. ‘Is knowledge possible’? Is a diseased formulation of the problem of developing a general theory of knowledge? It is just as intelligent for a philosopher ask ‘Is knowledge possible’ as it would be for a scientist to ask ‘is motion possible’. There are specific cases of motion and scientific inquiry experiments with these specific cases.
There is no ‘motion in general’ and hence no ‘problem in general’. But there is a general problem of theory of motion, which for the scientist consists in Central laws of motion. The general laws are not proved valid by evaporating out of scientific existence, specific cases of motion, but their validity rests on their ability to explain or account for the specific cases.
Similarly there are specific cases of knowing. There is no knowledge in general and hence any problems of knowledge in general. But there is the general problem of knowledge, which consists in finding general conditions in knowledge.
Thus a philosophic generalization must satisfy the same requirements as a scientific generalization. The philosophic task is to reach generalizations that meet specific conditions. It is true that generalization of the nature of the reflections process certainly involves elimination of much of the specific material and contents of the thought situations of daily life and of critical science.
Quite compatible with this, however, is the notion that it seizes upon certain specific conditions and factors, and aims to bring them to clear consciousness not to abolish them while eliminating the particular materials of particular practical and scientific pursuits
(i) It may strive to hit upon the common denominator in the various situations which are antecedent or primary to thought and which evoke
(ii) It may attempt to show how typical features in the specific antecedents of thought call out diverse typical modes of thought-reaction; it may attempt to state the nature of the specific consequences in which thought fulfils it careers.
There is thus no conflict between the philosophic concern with the general or generic and interest in the specific. Where philosophic activity eliminates the specific entirely, it gets into insoluble problems.
Philosophy if it is to escape being confined to the futile world of blue prints must adopt empirical method so that its activity is in continuous functional connection with socio-cultural and scientific world.
All philosophic problems have empirical fathers who can be empirically traced, located and identified. An insoluble problem in philosophy is an intellectual disease which can be caused by tracing back the problem as it appears in philosophy backs to its origins in the primary subject method of experience and finding out how, in the course of its intellectual genetic history, it got that way.
Again the prevention against a insoluble problem and futile and frustrated philosophic activity consists in working back and forth between the narrow and large fields of the technical study of the intellectualized problems in philosophy and the socio-cultural, and scientific world that generate those problems.
A working back and forward between the three areas of problems called by Dewey ‘double movements’ this “double movements” is both corrective and cumulative. It tests the increment in our field by transferring into method of work in another field. Again it functions to uncover new clues for different fields.
To sum up Philosophy has at various times been set up as a separate and peculiar science, sin genesis. This according to Dewey is not true. Philosophic problems arise out of the common matrix of experience.
For philosophy to solve its own intellectualized problem it must move into the common field of problematic situations. The solution of problems in philosophy can be reached only by working back and forth between the technical or private domain of philosophy and the final or public domain of socio-cultural experience.