John Dewey was an American philosopher and educator, born in Burlington, Vermont, on October 20, 1859. He took a bachelor`s degree from the University of Vermont in 1879 and earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1884. Thereafter, he taught at universities, beginning Michigan, Minnesota, and Chicago before joining the faculty of Columbia, where he remained until his retirement from active teaching in 1930.
At his death, Dewey was probably America`s best known philosopher and proponent of pragmatism, or "instrumentalism" as he called his version of it. While at college, Dewey was influenced by Auguste Comte and in graduate school, he studied the thinking of George Sylvester Morris, an active supporter of Hegel. He was heavily influenced by Darwin, and tried to interpret thinking as an attempt to resolve tension and conflict.
His distinctive philosophy began to take shape while at Chicago around the turn of the century. There he was involved in the Laboratory School and adopted "learning by doing" as his watchword.
Dewey was a close friend of Jane Addams. He also helped to organize the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors. Along with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, he was one of the great influences on the concept of "legal realism," according to which judges take an active role in making law and should understand the social consequences of their decision. Today, this is sometimes described as "legal activism."
Dewey died on June 1, 1952 at the age of 92 in New York City.