How do we get around an everyday wilderness?

Hocking cultivated a philosophical space between Roye’s Idealism and James’s Pragmatism. Marcel was influenced by Hocking. Bugbee’s Inward Morning was inspired by Marcel’s Being and Having.

Hocking, Marcel, and Bugbee introduced a non-absolutist version of idealism in the 20th century. Other contributors were Benedetto Croce, R. G. Collingwood, José Ortega y Gasset, and John William Miller.

This neoidealist lineage is akin and estranged with Dewey’s version of pragmatism (“Instrumentalism”), which argues that “knowledge results from the discernment of corrrelations between events, or processes of change.”

A complete rejection of certainty leads to the “thinly lived, aesthetic existence” of postmodernism. We might not have absolute certainty (except for the The three laws of logic), but we need at least a Working certainty. Philosophy becomes this quest for working certainty.


Anderson, D. R. (2019). Working Certainty and Deweyan Wisdom. In Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture (pp. 65–84). Fordham University Press.

The most radical extension of Dewey’s thought involved the rejection of philosophy itself in favor of the thinly lived, aesthetic existence offered by various thinkers of the postmodern turn. My sense is that this is an overreaction based on a somewhat narrow consideration of what the history of philosophy has been about. I think also that Hocking, Marcel, and Bugbee are agreed on this. For them, philosophy does involve the need for at least a working certainty, and I believe their work provides a basis for understanding philosophy as a quest for certainty once the notion of certainty itself is revised and reoriented.

My walking seems first to require some sort of certainty to initiate it. My instinctive or abductive guesses about where and how to plant my feet seem guided, even if only in a minimal way. Moreover, as a practice, the walking of the rocks seems to generate another kind of certainty in the confidence it produces. I come to rely on my ability to negotiate the trip down the brook. If any quest for certainty makes sense, these experiences seem to offer a reasonable place to look.

reflect on our experiences of acting in the world and ask ourselves to what extent we can be autonomous agents without some sense of certainty in our lives. It is important to note that his argument begins with a reflection on experience; he is not engaged in the sort of abstract, transcendental deduction

‘It is not the scorn of action, it is the love of it, which prompts the quest for certainty, such as one can have before action begins.’’

The need for this stability or working certainty ‘‘lies in the nature of all action

working certainties provide the possibility of experimentation