chapter  3
13 Pages

Dewey’s theory of interest

ByAlan R. White

Though one usually associates Dewey’s views on interest with his educational theories, they seem to have received essentially their full and final shape in his earliest and preeducational writings on psychology and moral philosophy. Moreover, they both closely resemble those current among his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, such as Herbart, Mill, Stumpf, Stout, James and Titchener (cf. Arnold, 1906) and in some respects anticipate later psychologists, e.g. in their emphasis on interests as motives and on the personality or self as a system of interests (cf. Berlyne, 1949). Yet all these views of interests derive-as I think Dewey saw quite clearly-not from any empirical work in psychology or education, nor from any moral principles, but from philosophical analyses of the notion of interest. What, therefore, I shall try to do is to see how far Dewey’s conclusions about the nature of interest are justified. Others, more skilled than I in the appropriate field, have elsewhere described how far his and other current educational views are supported by the facts about interest (e.g. Wilson, 1971).