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Journal Article

Walt Whitman, John Dewey, and Primordial Artistic Communication

Jim Garrison
Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society
Vol. 47, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 301-318
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/trancharpeirsoc.47.3.301
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Page Count: 18
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Walt Whitman, John Dewey, and Primordial Artistic
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Abstract It is well known that John Dewey was deeply committed to pluralistic, communicative democracy. Many consider Walt Whitman the poet of democracy, so perhaps it is not so surprising that Dewey himself admired him as the ““seer”” of democracy. My paper will use Whitman's poetry to illuminate a level of communication almost always entirely ignored by philosophers and political theorists, yet critical to all human (and oftentimes human-animal) interaction. Whitman's poetry artfully achieves unhindered communication at the height of consummatory aesthetic experience. However, it also achieves expansive community through communion at a primordial nonlinguistic, animal level. Relying on Whitman, this paper explores the pre-linguistic animal origins of meaning in Dewey's and why such a starting place remains important to the comprehension of all meaning, including especially, the most exquisite consummatory aesthetic experiences. My paper shows that such communication makes an important contribution to the emergence of linguistic communication, social cohesion, and the democratic polis.

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