By David Hildebrand
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Consciousness is the dramatic aspect of mental life, with mind providing the indispensable ‘back-story’ or narrative. 17 This concludes our review of Dewey’s more specifically ‘psychological’ accounts of human experience. qxp 4/21/2008 2:45 PM Page 35 Experience 35 psychology as our basis, we shift now to consider how his concept of ‘experience’ served his further philosophical goals. Experience Analysis of the concept of experience has an incredibly long provenance in the history of philosophy and occupied Dewey throughout his career.
In perception, the story goes, the simple ‘ideas’ (or ‘impressions’ or ‘perceptions’) impinge upon the senses and make their way into our thoughts. Dewey’s model rejects this ‘inner/outer’ model from the start. His is an ecological model – mind, body, and world are mutually created by their ongoing interaction. ) As an ecological model, it does not assume that perception starts with a radical gap between a subject and object (perceiver and perceived); therefore, it must also reject traditional accounts which, for example, describe a simple perception (like ‘red’ or ‘sweet’) impinging upon a waiting perceiver.
Instead of the reflex arc model’s patchwork of stimuli and various responses, Dewey suggests one that understands organism–environment interactions as ‘sensori-motor coordinations’, circuits in continual reconstitution and adjustment. Instead of starting with a narrow ‘seeing’ or sensory stimulus, he recommends we start from the act: a seeing-for-reaching. ‘What precedes the “stimulus” ’, Dewey writes, ‘is a whole act, a sensori-motor co-ordination . . [T]he “stimulus” emerges out of this coordination; it is born from it as its matrix; it represents as it were an escape from it’ (EW5:100).