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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 3, 1977

Bruce Nissen
Pages 709-738

John Dewey on Means and Ends

This article analyzes John Dewey’s critique of the traditional distinction between means and ends in terms of "instrumental" and "intrinsic" value. Dewey's own counter doctrine of the "continuum of ends and means" with only a temporal distinction between the two is also analyzed. It is argued that both Dewey's critique and his own position fail; Dewey fails to invalidate the instrumental value/intrinsic value distinction, fails to show that the relation between means and ends is symmetrical, fails to show that we always prize the means equally with the end, fails to account for "external" means which are not incorporated into their end, confuses an end or goal with the plan to achieve that goal, and ultimately borders on a utopian position that means necessarily resemble their ends.