pragmatism, old-school

I am envious of the early pragmatists’ certainty and sense of purpose:

If a theory makes no difference in educational endeavor, it must be artificial. The educational point of view enables one to envisage the philosophic problems where they arise and thrive, where they are at home, and where acceptance or rejection makes a difference in practice. If we are willing to conceive education as the process of forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and emotional, toward nature and fellow men, philosophy may even be defined as the general theory of education. Unless a philosophy is to remain symbolic — or verbal — or a sentimental indulgence for a few, or else mere arbitrary dogma, its auditing of past experience and its program of values must take effect in conduct.

John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916), which has fittingly passed into the public domain. Art as Experience is a touchstone too, at least to my mind resonating in important ways with postwar cultural studies approaches like Paul Willis’ grounded aesthetics. While I was exploring the question of whether this is really such a reasonable connection to make (possibly not), I ran across Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische’s article What is Agency?. Good question, since I use ‘agency’ an awful lot in my work, so this analytical survey of what the concept could or should do for sociology is helpful. It also reminded me that I’m not a real sociologist.