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Symposia: John Dewey's Lectures in Social and Political Philosophy (China)


Roberto Frega and Roberto Gronda

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  • 1 John Dewey, Lectures in China, 1919-1920, edited and translated from the Chinese by Robert W. Clopt (...)

1In this Issue of the European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy we publish for the first time the text of the Lectures in Social and Political Philosophy that John Dewey delivered in China in 1919. Dewey’s manuscript was considered lost and the only existing publication of the Lectures1 is based on a transcription made in Chinese while Dewey was delivering his lectures.

2The critical edition of Dewey’s text is accompanied by three interpretative articles: an essay of Roberto Gronda putting Dewey’s Chinese experience in the larger context of his struggles to understand the function of theoretical reflection for social life, an essay of the historian Yung-chen Chiang which provides a textual analysis of the differences between the manuscript here published and the version that has been in print till today, and by an essay of Roberto Frega discussing the relevance of this manuscript for interpreting John Dewey’s social and political philosophy.

  • 2 We are indebted to the Hu Shi Memorial in Nankang, Taipei, Taiwan, for providing us scanned copies (...)

3The typescript of Dewey’s “Social and Political Philosophy” lecture series has been discovered by Prof. Yung-chen Chiang,2 and it is now deposited at the Hu Shi Archives, Box Number: E87-001, Authors Unidentifiable; Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences, in Beijing. Dewey’s “Social and Political Philosophy” lecture series consisted of sixteen lectures that he delivered at Peking University once a week on Saturday afternoons from 4 P.M. to 6 P.M., beginning on September 20, 1919. The lecture notes survived and now collected in the Hu Shi Archives consist of Lectures I, II, III, IV, VI, X, XI, XII, and XVI. They were typed by Dewey himself using the typewriter that he brought with him to Japan and China. With the only exception of Lecture VI, which is one page long, each lecture is about twelve pages, the shortest being Lecture XVI, which is six pages long. Dewey’s name never appears on any of these notes: the words “Social Pol Phil Lecture I” appear on the first page of the first lecture, with the page number typed on the top middle of the page for this lecture. The rest of the extant lecture notes have “SPP” typed on the top left margin, followed by a Roman numeral indicating the lecture number in the series and then by a dash and an Arabic number indicating the page number of the lecture.

4Transcription was generally unproblematic. The transcription reflects Dewey’s final intended product: we have therefore incorporated Dewey’s subsequent revisions in the text without annotation in all those cases in which the incorporation was unproblematic or in those cases in which the revisions are accompanied by marking to indicate the correct point of insertion. When the point of insertion is unclear, we have enclosed the words within slashes //.

5As for the policy of transcriptions, we have decided to minimize the interference with the text. We have corrected all the typographical errors, and we have expanded the abbreviations in all the uncontroversial cases. No record is provided of these sorts of changes. Where a word is added, however, the annotation is provided.

6For questionable words, a bracketed question mark [?] has been added. For indeterminable words, [illeg.] is provided. When a sentence is not complete or is not grammatically well-formed, we have enclosed it within curly brackets { }. In general, punctuation has not been changed or added: we have only replaced commas with semicolon and fullstops when strictly needed. In all instances, the underlined text has been replaced with italics, which Dewey never used in the typescript. It is very likely that most of the underlining was done by Hu Shi rather than by Dewey: indeed, some of the underlining was done by using a Chinese writing brush, and it is highly unlikely that Dewey was able to use it. Nonetheless, we have decided to leave them in the text as part of the history of the typescript.

7Page numbers are shown at the end of each page, within square brackets, to indicate actual location of page break: i.e. [End page 2]. We have never modified original line breaks. Similarly, we have never changed the structure of the paragraphs. At the beginning of each lecture we have enclosed within square brackets the title and the page number of the corresponding chapter in John Dewey. Lectures in China, 1919-1920, translated from the Chinese and edited by R. W. Clopton and Tsuin-Chen Ou, Honululu, The University Press of Hawaii.

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1 John Dewey, Lectures in China, 1919-1920, edited and translated from the Chinese by Robert W. Clopton and Tsuin-chen Ou, The University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1973.

2 We are indebted to the Hu Shi Memorial in Nankang, Taipei, Taiwan, for providing us scanned copies of these lecture notes, which we use to transcribe and publish in this special issue.

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Electronic reference

Roberto Frega and Roberto Gronda, IntroductionEuropean Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy [Online], VII-2 | 2015, Online since 23 December 2015, connection on 09 August 2022. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Roberto Frega


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Roberto Gronda

Università di Pisa

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