How We Think by John Dewey


John Dewey was born in 1859 and died in 1952 and was one of the founders of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism. He wrote the book, “How We Think”, that concludes that we can be taught to think well, but not the process. He tells us that thinking is automatic, like breathing and our heartbeats.

Dewey tells us that our knowledge is what we are aware of, and that how we consider those things are beliefs. He tells us that beliefs have consequences, and that knowledge is relative to its interaction with the world.

He says that, “Genuine freedom is intellectual; it rests in the trained power of thought, in the ability to turn things over and to look at matters deliberately”. Thinking is more important than what is being thought about. “If a man’s actions are not guided by thoughtful conclusions, then they are guided by inconsiderate impulse.”

He tells us that thinking is the act of believing and offers an example: “I think that it is going to rain tomorrow’ is equivalent to saying, ‘I believe that it is going to rain tomorrow”.

Dewey tells us that the thinking process begins with a dilemma that suggests alternatives, indicating that thinking is evoked by confusion. He adds that schools do not need to teach information but should encourage stimulus that challenges external reality. The goal is to create curious and questioning minds that see wonder in science and philosophy, rather than monotony and routine in school.

Thinking doesn’t just happen, but it is evoked by something specific. Experience is a point of reference for the imagination.  The mind reflects by looking for additional evidence to compare with new experiences. Good and bad thinking in some cases can be in effected by the amount of experience or prior knowledge. With nothing to draw on the result is uncritical thinking.


Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.

We only think when we are confronted with problems.