Dewey on Individuality

Individuality is at first spontaneous and unshaped; it is a potentiality, a capacity for development. Even so it is a unique manner of acting in and with a world of objects and persons. It is not something complete in itself, like a closet in a house or a secret drawer in a desk, filled with treasures that are waiting to be bestowed on the world. Since individuality is a distinctive way of feeling the impacts of the world and of showing a preferential bais in response to these impacts, it develops into shape and form only through interaction with actual conditions.

Dewey (1931b: 156) quoted in Approaches to the Individual: The Relationship Between Internal and External Conversation

I’d never encountered this phase of Dewey’s thought before. As the author of the above book makes clear, he ‘radically changed’ his views on the self, ultimately coming to see selfhood as a cultural construction. Whereas I think the above quote is lovely and it captures something which I find difficult to express in anything other than the most abstruse language.

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