Teaching democracy by teaching supernaturalism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper analyzes critiques of the supernatural by John Dewey, a celebrated American philosopher. Dewey rejected the supernatural on scientific and cosmological grounds, but his most significant critique was made on political grounds. In A Common Faith and other writings, Dewey suggests that supernaturalism erodes democracy by promoting a dualism between religion and science which depreciates the social values that religion originally promoted. Dewey’s claims are contextualized and then tested with reference to teaching supernaturalism in a university classroom. The author explains how the study of magic and supernatural mythologies can address real-world issues, turning attention squarely towards (not away from) history. This paper thus presents a counter-possibility: Can appreciation of the supernatural operate as a catalyst for intercultural learning and social empathy? Examples are given. A discussion of the civic function of wonder follows
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019

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