John Dewey’s pragmatist aesthetic theory, sketched in Experience and Nature and completed in Art as Experience, is a key achievement of the American philosophical tradition. It expanded and applied Dewey’s analysis of experience, a rich continuation of insights from Peirce and James, into a comprehensive philosophy of art. It is filled with insights from and allusions to a wide range of sources, particularly from those originating in the work of Albert Barnes, whose writings and art collection informed Dewey’s discussion of aesthetics on many levels. We know from his correspondence that in 1930 he had come into possession of some aesthetic writings of Samuel Alexander, author of Space, Time, and Deity. These writings, Art and the Material and Artistic Creation and Cosmic Creation, show remarkable parallels to the core arguments and concepts of Art as Experience. This paper explores the remarkable links, both historical and conceptual, between their two versions of a naturalist aesthetics.
Keywords: Dewey, Samuel Alexander, medium, experience, expression, creation.