John Dewey on the “Commercialised” Use of Applied Science

“It is an incident of human history, and a rather appalling incident, that applied science has been so largely made an equivalent of use for private and economic class purposes and privileges. When inquiry is narrowed by such motivation or interest, the consequence is in so far disastrous both to science and to human life.

John Dewey, 1902

But this limitation does not spring from nor attach to the conception of “application” which has been just presented. It springs from defects and perversions of morality as that is embodied in institutions and their effects upon personal disposition.

It may be questioned whether the notion that science is pure in the sense of being concerned exclusively with a realm of objects detached from human concerns has not conspired to reinforce this moral deficiency. For in effect it has established another class-interest, that of intellectualists and aloof specialists. And it is of the nature of any class-interest to generate and confirm other class-interests, since division and isolation in a world of continuities are always reciprocal. The institution of an interest labelled ideal and idealistic in isolation tends of necessity to evoke and strengthen other interests lacking ideal quality.

The genuine interests of “pure” science are served only by broadening the idea of application to include all phases of liberation and enrichment of human experience.”

John Dewey
Experience and Nature (1929, pp.164-5)

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