Ends, Means, and John Dewey
May 28, 2014
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Apropos of nothing beyond my appreciation for his phrasing and for the general idea he expresses, I quote here Dewey’s explanation of what he would come to call the difference between ultimate ends and ‘ends-in-view’ – that our goals are never final but rather are formed in continual conversation with the means available to us and our understanding of possibility.
‘[T]he process of growth, of improvement and progress, rather than the static outcome and result, becomes the significant thing. Not health as an end fixed once and for all, but the needed improvement in health—a continual process—is the end and good. The end is no longer a terminus or limit to be reached. It is the active process of transforming the existent situation. Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim in living.
 MW 12:181
For Dewey, then, there is no such thing as instrumental rationality in the sense that it is usually understood, and nor is there a value rationality to be counterposed against it. There is adaptation and transformation, and thus there is only continual growth, as the passage of time, and creativity, as the essence of action.