Title page for ETD etd-07082009-151831

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Mullins, William Murphy
Author's Email Address wmmullins@vt.edu
URN etd-07082009-151831
Title Dewey and Kuyper: A Common Grace in the Public Sphere
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hult, Karen M. Committee Chair
Garrison, James W. Committee Member
Lavin, Chad D. Committee Member
  • Dewey
  • Kuyper
  • Pragmatism
  • Calvinism
  • church and state
Date of Defense 2009-06-24
Availability restricted
Calvinism and Pragmatism may not seem to present similar religious significance for politics. However, Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and John Dewey (1859-1952), share a similar appreciation for the scope and depth of religiosity in public life. Although Kuyper was a Christian and Dewey did not consider himself a theist, each understands religious experience as informing every sphere of existence. According to their thought, a distinction exists between a religion and the religious. Both men may be termed “political poets,” because they used language as an expression of their esthetic imaginations to create concepts and objects within society as expressions of their religious values.

Kuyper’s work in the Netherlands is a useful case study for Dewey’s valuation of art. Kuyper wrote political philosophy and theology, founded the first widely distributed national newspaper, wrote for this publication over fifty years, founded what would be the largest university in the country, and eventually became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Throughout his life, he used rhetoric to create change in his society.

Dewey and Kuyper integrated academic work with public activity and sought to obtain consistency of being in experiences. If religiosity potentially encompasses every part of humanity’s common life, then individuals and groups should be aware of their own positions and participate in honest dialogue with others. “Neutrality,” “objectivity,” and “uniformity” often have problematic implications according to Dewey and Kuyper. Their thought in this area is salient to a discussion of education culture in the United States. The Common School and High-Stakes Testing models are useful for grounding Kuyper’s and Dewey’s philosophy in current educational and schooling experiences.

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