Apparently, Russell and Dewey had a very provocative debate in the philosophical literature of their time. Unfortunately I am only familiar with Russell's side of the debate, and want to learn more about Dewey's responses.

In his Logic: the Theory of Inquiry, Dewey side-lines truth (only mentioning it in the context of Peirce's definition once in a footnote) and focuses on inquiry, which he defines as:

Inquiry is the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate situation into one that is so determinate in its constituent distinctions and relations as to convert the elements of the original situation into a unified whole."

In his review of Dewey's book, Russell satirizes this definition by pointing out that it is met by a "drill-sergeant in transforming a collection of raw recruits into a regiment", or a "bricklayer transforming a heap of bricks into a house".

How did Dewey respond to these critiques? Does Dewey view the work of the drill-sergeant or bricklayer as inquiry? If so, then how do these seemingly physical tasks relate to a theory of logic? If not, then how did he refine his definition? If Dewey did not refine his definition, did subsequent pragmatists offer a response to Russell's critique?


The key term here is "indeterminate situation". Without a restriction on what counts as "indeterminate situation" the quoted definition is clearly far too inclusive.

Russell's critisism relies on "a pile of bricks" being an example of an "indeterminate situation". I don't think Dewey would agree. Dewey's meaning seems to be quite specific, roughly meaning something unknown about the world which we have decided is worth knowing about.

From this paper:

The undesirable quality of a situation, which inquiry seeks to eliminate, is its doubtfulness, or indeterminateness. [...] The situation must be adjudged to be problematic, and the nature of the problem must be clearly grasped.

There is nothing particularly problematic in having a pile of bricks, or some recruits. There is nothing that really needs to be solved about them (and if there were, this would require inquiry).

Personally, I would take the definition you quoted as presupposing a valid subject of enquiry, leaving what should counts as one to be determined by other means.

I know the quote I gave is not really a direct response to Russell as you requested, but I think it's a good indication of how one might go about forming one.

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