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The Fact of Sacrifice and Necessity of Faith: Dewey and the Ethics of Democracy

Melvin L. Rogers
Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society
Vol. 47, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 274-300
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/trancharpeirsoc.47.3.274
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Page Count: 27
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The Fact of Sacrifice and Necessity of Faith: Dewey and the Ethics of
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Abstract John Dewey's underappreciated 1888 essay, ““The Ethics of Democracy,”” attempts to answer the following question: How do I consider myself a member of ““the people”” that rule in a democracy, and yet belong to the political minority? In challenging the prevailing view of this essay, I argue that Dewey defends a fundamental indeterminacy in the idea of ““the people”” that implies a necessary, but productive tension between relative stability and emerging disruptions. The latter, he argues, holds out hope that the power of ““the people”” can be redirected, thus redeeming the sacrifices of the minority and retaining their identification with ““the people.”” For Dewey, the idea of ““the people”” means that, though democracy entails sacrifice, the legitimacy of the political system demands faith that it will be redeemed. Although this view is first captured in 1888, it receives amplification in his later writings.

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