This is an excerpt from my recent article on John Dewey’s aesthetic theory for TheCollector. You can read the full article here.
Beauty is truth, and truth beauty—that is all
ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.(Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats)
Dewey does not dismiss science or rationalism but claims that there are truths that logic cannot approach. As a result, he argues in favour of a different path towards truth; a path of revelation.
Rituals, mythology, and religion are all attempts of man to find light in the darkness and despair that is existence. Art is compatible with a certain degree of mysticism as it addresses the senses and imagination directly. For this reason, the John Dewey theory defends the need for esoteric experience and the mystical function of art.
“Reasoning must fail man—this of course is the doctrine long taught by those who have held the necessity of divine revelation. Keats did not accept this supplement and substitute for reason. The insight of the imagination must suffice… Ultimately there are but two philosophies. One of them accepts life and experience in all its uncertainty, mystery, doubt, and half knowledge and turns that experience upon itself to deepen and intensify its own qualities—to imagination and art. This is the philosophy of Shakespeare and Keats.”John Dewey, Art as Experience, p. 35