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Abstract

This dissertation draws on the work of John Dewey and other pragmatists to construct an extended critique of scientism. Rather than focusing on the legitimacy of non-scientific knowledge, it questions the ontological premises which provide the foundation for scientistic claims of the superior value and adequacy of scientific inquiry over other forms of knowledge and non-cognitive practices. By arguing that nature and experience are continuous, the dissertation argues that the qualities of experience which scientism usually considers to be distorting importations of experience---such as volitional, moral, emotional, and aesthetic qualities---are equally real qualities of the objects of nature. Science is not therefore a means of separating the real qualities of nature from the distortions of human experience. The dissertation goes on to provide a positive picture of science as a method of selectively emphasizing the specific qualities of nature which are amenable to manipulation and control, so as to secure more favorable conditions for human life. However, just as science is an important practical tool for creating improvements in human environments, there are multiple distinct practical tools for enriching human life which take very different forms. Aesthetic media serve as examples of such practices. Later chapters show that aesthetic works of art, by virtue of their particular capacities for negotiating and manipulating elements of experienced qualities, can make important improvements in human social, political, moral, emotional, and conceptual environments. By showing the important influences of art and literature, the dissertation argues that scientistic claims of the superior or exclusive value of scientific knowledge are misguided, and that equally important practices of human enrichment can take very different forms.

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