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Knowing and the Known
Hardcover edition
AuthorJohn Dewey and Arthur Bentley
CountryUnited States
Media typePrint
Pages334 pp.

Knowing and the Known is a 1949 book by John Dewey and Arthur Bentley.


As well as a Preface, an Introduction and an Index, the book consists of 12 chapters, or papers, as the authors call them in their introduction.[1] Chapters 1 (Vagueness in Logic), 8 (Logic in an Age of Science) and 9 (A Confused "Semiotic") were written by Bentley; Chapter 10 (Common Sense and Science) by Dewey, while the remainder were signed jointly.

The terminology problem in the fields of epistemology and logic is partially due, according to Dewey and Bentley,[2] to inefficient and imprecise use of words and concepts that reflect three historic levels of organization and presentation.[3] In the order of chronological appearance, these are :


  1. Vagueness in Logic
  2. The Terminological Problem
  3. Postulations
  4. Interaction and Transaction
  5. Transactions as Known and Named
  6. Specification
  7. The Case of Definition
  8. Logic in an Age of Science
  9. A Confused "Semiotic"
  10. Common Sense and Science
  11. A Trial Group of Names
  12. Summary of Progress Made


A series of characterizations of Transactions indicate the wide range of considerations involved.[4]

Illustration of differences between self-action, interaction, and transaction, as well as the different facets of transactional inquiry are provided by statements of positions that Dewey and Bentley definitely did not hold and which never should be read into their work.[5]

  1. They do not use any basic differentiation of subject vs. object; of soul vs. body; of mind vs. matter; or self vs. nonself.
  2. They do not support the introduction of any ultimate knower from a different or superior realm to account for what is known.
  3. Similarly, they do not tolerate "entities" or "realities" of any kind intruding as if from behind or beyond the knowing-known events, with power to interfere.
  4. They exclude the introduction of "faculties" or other "operators" of an organism’s behaviors, and require for all investigations the direct observation and contemporaneous report of findings and results.
  5. Especially, they recognize no names that are offered as expressions of “inner” thoughts, nor of names that reflect compulsions by outer objects.
  6. They reject imaginary words and terms said to lie between the organism and its environmental objects, and require the direct location and source for all observations relevant to the investigation.
  7. They tolerate no meanings offered as "ultimate" truth or "absolute" knowledge.
  8. Since they are concerned with what is inquired into, and the process of knowings, they have no interest in any underpinning. Any statement that is or can be made about a knower, self, mind, or subject, or about a known thing, an object, or a cosmos must be made on the basis of, and in the language applicable to the specific investigation.

In summary, all of human knowledge consists of actions and products of acts in which men and women participate with other human beings, with animals and plants, as well as objects of all types, in any environment. Men and women have, are, and will present their acts of knowing and known in language. Generic people, and specific men and women, are known to be vulnerable to error. Consequently, all knowledge (knowing and known) whether commonsensical or scientific; past, present, or future; is subject to further inquiry, examination, review, and revision.

See also


  1. ^ Dewey, John (1976). Knowing and the Known (PDF). Praeger. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  2. ^ John Dewey, Arthur Bentley, (1949). Knowing and the Known. Beacon Press, Boston.
  3. ^ John Dewey, Arthur Bentley, (1949). Knowing and the Known. Beacon Press, Boston. p107-109
  4. ^ John Dewey, Arthur Bentley, (1949). Knowing and the Known. Beacon Press, Boston. p121-139
  5. ^ John Dewey, Arthur Bentley, (1949). Knowing and the Known. Beacon Press, Boston. p119-121