Author Avatar John dewey with f.m. Alexander

Introduction by John Dewey to Man's Supreme Inheritance
by F. Matthias Alexander

Many persons have pointed out the
strain which has come upon human nature in the change from a state of animal savagery to present civilization. No one, it seems to me, has grasped the meaning, dangers and possibilities of this change more lucidly and completely than Mr. Alexander. His account of the crises which have ensued upon this evolution is a contribution to a better understanding of every phase of contemporary life. His interpretation centers primarily about the crisis in the physical and moral health of the individual produced by the conflict between the functions of the brain and the nervous system on one side and the functions of digestion, circulation, respiration and the muscular system on the other; but there is no aspect of the maladjustments of modern life which does not receive
illumination.


Frank acknowledgement of the internecine
warfare in the very heart of our civilization is not agreeable.
For this reason it is rarely faced in its entirety. We prefer to
deal with its incidents and episodes as if they were isolated accidents and could be overcome one by one in isolation. Those who have seen the conflict have almost always proposed as a remedy either a return to nature, a relapse to the simple life, or else flight to some mystic obscurity. Mr. Alexander exposes the fundamental error in the empirical and palliative methods. When
the organs through which any structure, be it physiological, mental, or social, are out of balance, when they are
uncoordinated, specific and limited attempts at a cure only exercise the already disordered mechanism. In "improving" one organic structure, they produce a compensatory maladjustment,
usually more subtle and more difficult to deal with, somewhere else. The ingeniously inclined will have little difficulty in paralleling Mr. Alexander's criticism of "physical culture methods" within any field of our economic and political life.


In his criticism of return or relapse to the
simpler conditions from which civilized man had departed Mr. Alexander's philosophy appears in its essential features. All such attempts represent an attempt at solution through abdication of intelligence. They all argue, in effect, that since the varied evils have come through development of conscious intelligence, the remedy is to let intelligence sleep, while the pre-intelligent forces, out of which it developed, do their work. The pitfalls into which references to the unconscious and subconscious usually fall have no existence in Mr. Alexander's treatment. He gives these terms a definite and real meaning. They express reliance upon the primitive mind of sense, of unreflection, as against reliance upon reflective mind. Mr. Alexander sees the remedy not in a futile abdication of intelligence in order that lower forces may work, but in carrying the power of the intelligence further, in making its function one of positive and constructive control. As a layman, I am incompetent to pass judgment upon the particular technique through which he would bring about control of intelligence over the bodily organism so as not merely to cure but to prevent the present multitudinous maladies of adjustment. But he does not stop with a pious recommendation of such conscious control; he possesses and offers a definite method for its realization, and even a layman can testify, as I am glad to do, to the efficacy of its working in concrete cases.


It did not remain for the author of these
pages to eulogize self-mastery or self-control. But these eulogies have too frequently remained in the hortatory and moralistic state. Mr. Alexander has developed a definite procedure, based upon a scientific knowledge of the organism. Popular fear of anything sounding like materialism has put a heavy burden upon
humanity. Men are afraid, without even being aware of their fear,
to recognize the most wonderful of all the vast structures of the universe—the human body. They have been led to think that a serious notice and regard would somehow involve disloyalty to man's higher life. The discussions of Mr. Alexander breathe reverence for this wonderful instrument of our life, life mental
and moral as as that life which somewhat meaninglessly we call bodily. When such a religious attitude toward the body becomes more general, we shall have an atmosphere favorable to securing the conscious control which is urged.


In the larger sense of education, this whole book is concerned with education. But the writer of these lines was naturally especially attracted to the passages in which Mr.
Alexander touches on the problems of education in the narrower sense. The meaning of his principles comes out nowhere better than in his criticisms of repressive schools on one hand and schools of "free expression" on the other. He is aware of the perversions and distortions that spring from that unnatural suppression of childhood which too frequently passes for school training. But he is equally aware that the remedy is not to be sought through a blind reaction in abolition of all control except such as the moment's whim or the accident of environment may provide. One gathers that in this country, Mr. Alexander has made the acquaintance of an extremely rare type of "self-expressive" school, but all interested in educational reform may well remember that freedom of physical action and free expression of emotion are means, not ends, and that as means they are justified only in so far as they are used as conditions for developing power of intelligence. The substitution of control by intelligence for control by external authority, not the negative principle of no control or the spasmodic principle of control by emotional gusts,
is the only basis upon which reformed education can build. To come into possession of intelligence is the sole human title to freedom. The spontaneity of childhood is a delightful and precious thing, but in its orginal naive form it is bound to disappear. Emotions become sophisticated unless they become enlightened, and the manifestation of sophisticated emotion is in no sense genuine self-expression. True spontaneity is henceforth not a birth-right but the last term, the consummated conquest, of an art—the art of conscious control to the mastery of which Mr. Alexander's book so convincingly invite us.



Introduction by John Dewey © The Estate
of F. M. Alexander 1996.

Published in Man's Supreme Inheritance (Mouritz, London, 1996).

Reproduced with permission from Mouritz, London.

Author Avatar f.m. Alexander with John dewey

Literature about the F.M. Alexander Technique and John Dewey

Books and other writings that are currently available are linked to text or literature resources information.


Books by F. Matthias Alexander:


Man’s Supreme
Inheritance
, 1918. Introduction by John
Dewey


(Mouritz Press, 1996. Available
from Mornum Time Press.


Constructive Conscious Control
of the Individual
,
1923. Introduction
by John Dewey


(STAT Books, 1997. Available from Mornum Time Press and Mouritz.)

The Use of the Self, 1932. Introduction
by John Dewey
. (Available from Barnes & Noble.)


The Universal Constant in Living, 1941 (Mouritz Press 2000. Available from Mornum Time Press.)


Articles and Lectures (1894 -1950), 1995.
(Mouritz Press, 1996. Available from Mouritz
Press
.)

Additional LIterature:


 John Dewey and F.M. Alexander, edited by Alexander Murray. A series of four bookets.

John
Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander-- I
edited by Alexander
Murray..

Contents

Jones, Frank Pierce, “The Work of F.M. Alexander as an Introduction to Dewey's Philosophy
of Education.” Jones provides an in-depth explanation for Dewey's
statement, “My theories of mind-body, of the co-ordination of the active elements
of the self and of the place of ideas in inhibition and control of overt action
required contact with the work of F.M. Alexander, and in later years his brother,
A.R., to transform them into realities.”


In a letter to Jones dated October
5, 1942, Dewey wrote, “I have read your paper with much interest. I hope School
and Society
will publish it. I certainly endorse all you say about my work.
I am especially struck by the truth of what you say about the difference between
a kind of intellectual assent to certain propositions and beliefs and the concrete
vital meaning they take on after an experience of their work.”


Frank Pierce Jones was a professor of
classics at Tufts and Brown Universities. He completed Alexander Technique teacher
training with F.M. Alexander and with Alexander's brother, A.R. Alexander, in
1944. He was strongly encouraged by Dewey to conduct research into the Alexander
Technique. His research in the Technique was done at the Institute for Psychological
Research at Tufts University, where he also became a lecturer in psychology. Jones's
studies of the Alexander Technique have been reported in several professional
journals. Drawing on F.M. Alexander's writings, and long association with F.M.
and A.R. Alexander, Jones wrote a book published under the title Body Awareness
in Action--A Study of the Alexander Technique
. This book has been
republished under Jones's original title Freedom
to Change
. Jones completed the book shortly before his death in 1975.
Another book of Jones's writings, Collected Writings on the Alexander Technique,
is available from AmSAT Books.

 Dewey, John, Three Prefaces
to Books by Alexander: Man's Supreme Inheritance, 1918; Constructive
Conscious Control of the Individual
, 1923; The Use of the Self, 1932.


Dewey, John, “The Barrier of Habit” Human Nature & Conduct. Excerpt:“The
trouble is that instead of taking the act in its entirety we cite the multitude
of relevant facts only as evidence of influence of mind on body and of body on
mind, thus starting from and perpetuating the idea of their independence and separation
even when dealing with the connection. What the facts testify to is not an influence
exercised across and between separate things, but to behavior so integrated that
it is artificial to split it up into two things.”


Dewey, John “Preoccupation
with the Disconnected.” “From "Body and Mind.” A lecture to the New York Academy
of Medicine, 1928.First published in the Bulletin of the NY Academy of Medicine,
1928. Republished in The Collected Works of John Dewey: Later Works Volume 3:
1927-1928 Essays, Reviews, Miscellany, pp. 25-40. Southern Illinios University
Press. Full text.


 John
Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander-- II
edited by Alexander
Murray..

Contents

Turbayne, C.M. “John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander.” Department of Philosophy,
University of Pennsylvania, 1948. Republished as appendix to Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence by Eric David McCormack. (London, Mouritz: 2014.) Turbayne discusses what the Alexander
Technique is and what the Alexander Technique is not. “It is not a nature cure,
a system of faith healing, or a physical culture, or a medical treatment, or a
semi-occult philosophy. As to what it is, Dewey's brief but striking description
appeals most and has the least chance of being proved incorrect: 'It [the
Alexander Technique] bears the same relation to education that education itself
bears to all other human activities.'
” Turbayne quotes a number of descriptions
of the technique by Aldous Huxley, Dr. Wilfred Barlow, G.E. Coghill, and Nobel
laureate in physiology Sir Charles Sherrington (Mr. Alexander has done a service
to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated
individual, the whole psycho-physical man. To take a step is an affair,
not
of this limb or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the
moment--not the least of the head and the neck.)
. He also explains, using
quotes from Dewey and others, why the Alexander Technique is difficult to describe
in words and why direct experience of the technique is needed to understand it.
Turbayne uses a number of quotes from Dewey to support his argument that “what
we can be certain of is that Dewey obtained from Alexander experimental evidence
for his mind-body theory, and probably was in many other respects profoundly influenced,
especially in the sphere of education.” Through examining Dewey's statements about
the Alexander Technique, Turbayne follows “the development of Dewey's attitude
from the 1918 Introduction to Man's Supreme Inheritance to the 1939 The
Biography of John Dewey
.” “In 1923 Dewey no longer minces matters.... The
rigorous analysis to which he has been subjecting this 'new principle' in his
own mind, and the conclusions he has made, are revealed in his introduction to
Alexander's second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual.
His purpose is to show that it is no panacea... but 'satisfies the most exacting
demands of the scientific method.'” Turbayne explains how Dewey was able to formulate
and to verify, through his critical observations of the Alexander Technique, his
ideas about “the unity of the mind-body; the vitiation of our sensory appreciation,
the material of self-judgements; the unconditional necessity of inhibition of
customary acts and the change from 'theoretical belief' to knowledge.”“

Bourne,
Randolph, “Making Over the Body.” A review of Man's Supreme Inheritance.
First Published in New Republic #15 (1918)


Dewey, John,
“Reply to a Reviewer.” Dewey's response to Randolph Bourne's review
of Man's Supreme Inheritance. First published in New Republic (1918).


Dewey, John, “A Sick World.” First published in New Republic
#33 (1923). Reprinted 2014 as appendix to Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence by Eric David McCormack. (London, Mouritz: 2014.)


 John
Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander -- III
edited by Alexander Murray. .

Contents

Murray,
Alexander “A Note on E.D. McCormack's 'Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey,
A Neglected Influence,'” 1990. The author provides background information
on Father McCormack's Ph.D. thesis (University of Toronto).


Alexander Murray
is a Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and Co-Director of the Urbana
Center for the Alexander Technique.


McCormack, E.D. “Frederick
Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence” (Abstract for Ph.D.
thesis, University of Toronto), 1948. Reprinted London, Mouritz: 2014. Selected quotes: “This thesis
proposes to investigate the nature and effect of Dewey's contact with the Alexanders
and their work. Other references to Alexander in Dewey's published writings have
been sought, and inquiry made into his association with the Alexanders. The first
chapter of the thesis outlines the problem and the method of procedure followed.
The second chapter gives a brief account of the life and writings of F.M. Alexander,
and of the general features of his doctrine.” The third chapter discusses “Early
Relations between Dewey and Alexander.” “The fourth chapter compares some of the
essential doctrine of [Alexander's] Man's Supreme Inheritance with
Dewey's Human Nature and Conduct, the substance of which was presented
in a series of lectures at Stanford University in 1919... . In the fifth and final
chapter the importance of some aspects of Alexander's doctrine for Dewey's philosophy
is taken up.”“


Kuntz, Paul Grimley, “The Philosopher and the
Physiologist: The Case of John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander.” The
author discusses misrepresentations of Alexander's work by some Dewey scholars.
“The real issue underlying the opposition to Alexander...is that Alexander had
broken with the prevalent mechanism that produces body-mind dualism. Dewey's friends
saw the eccentricity and heresy: Dewey himself saw in Alexander's teaching an
important truth.”


Paul Grimely Kuntz Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy
at Emory University.


Boydston Jo Ann,
“John Dewey and the Alexander Technique,” 1986. Full
text


Jo Ann Boydston Ph.D. was the Director of the Center
for Dewey Studies and Distinguished Professor Emerita at Southern Illinois University,
Carbondale, Illinois. She was the editor of the 37-volume Collected Works of
John Dewey.


Dewey, John, Human Nature and Conduct (Excerpts).
Full text.


McCormack,
E., “Human Nature and Conduct and Alexander,” 1958. Excerpt
from Ph.D. thesis Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected
Influence,
University of Toronto 1958. Reprinted by Mouritz, 2014.

Full
text
.


John
Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander --IV
edited by Alexander Murray.

Contents

Mixon,
Don, “The Place of Habit in the Control of Action.” Mixon introduces
a paradigm from social psychology to discuss the distinctions between the “whats” of behavior (what people do) and the “ways” of behavior (“the ways people do what
they do”). Examples from social psychology and acting are used to explain these
distinctions. The author points out the differences between modern psychology's
definition of habit (“repetitive whats”) and Dewey's more traditional definition
of habit (“the way or how” something is characteristically done). Mixon explains
the key differences between “attitude” and “habit.”


The author explicates why Dewey “was prompted to write about habit as the key to social psychology by practical experiences and has stated that the ideas he held in an abstract and theoretical
way were given concrete significance and substance by acquaintance and study with
F.M. Alexander. He [Alexander] taught what he wrote about: how to re-integrate
behavior on a conscious level. Essentially he taught a way of changing habits.
The habit that served as a vehicle of instruction was the way we carry ourselves
and move.” The author describes Dewey's specific experiences with the Alexander
Technique and what he learned from these experiences, including how “ways of thinking
can be conceived in a fashion analogous to ways of carrying ourselves, moving,
speaking, and feeling.” Dewey was working against the overwhelmingly prevalent
mind/body dualism of his day but “making the move from 'physical' to 'mental'
is less demanding today.”


“The place of habit in the control of action” is
addressed through comparisons of the 'whats and ways' of the stage actor and the
whats and ways of the 'acter' in a social situation. The “skill-like” nature of
habit is explained. “Ways” of doing are the “means” and the “whats” of doing are
the “ends.” Dewey's term “intelligent control of means” is synonomous with Alexander's
term “means-whereby.” “By looking at the two aspects of action--the what and
the way--the importance of Dewey's insistence on the interactive (transactive)
nature of habit becomes evident.”


The author addresses “Habit Fixity and Flexibility.” Dewey's 30-plus years of Alexander Technique lessons were “illustrative of his
ongoing interest in habit change.” The ability to change a habit means the ability
to take responsiblity for the behaviors governed by that habit. “The problem is
not how to move people to behave, but to discover the means toward already desired
ends. Dewey called habits 'active means.'” The author suggests that it would be
beneficial to study “ways of doing” and to direct inquiry toward the role of habit,
including “habit flexibility.” “What we can control, what we can choose, what
is at our discretion is limited by organized skill-like ways of behavior--by our
habits.”


Don Mixon, Ph.D, is the author of Obedience and Civilization
(1989) and is retired Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the
University of Wollongon, Australia.


Dewey, John, “Body and
Mind.” Read at the Eight-first Anniversary Meeting of the New York
Academy of Medicine, November 17, 1927. First Published in Bulletin of the New
York Academy of Medicine 4 (1928): 3-19, and in Mental Hygiene 12 (1928): 1-17.

Dewey, John, “Nature, Life, and Body-Mind,” from Experience and Nature.


McCormack, E.D., “Aspects of Alexander's Doctrines for Dewey's Philosophy” from Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence.
Full text. Reprinted by Mouritz, 2014.




Binkley, G.,
The
Expanding Self
1993 London: STAT Books.

This is an extensive diary of Goddard Binkley's lessons with F.M.
Alexander and also includes notes and observations on Alexander's teacher training
course. There are several references to Dewey, including an excerpt from a 1918
letter from Dewey to a critic of Alexander and some of Alexander's reflections
on Alexander's discussions with Dewey.


Goddard Binkley (1920-1987) began
having lessons in the Alexander Technique during his studies for a Ph.D. in Sociology
at the New School for Social Research, New York. He went to London in 1951 for
a course of individual lessons with F.M. Alexander. He joined F.M. Alexander's
last teacher training course in 1953 and qualified in 1957.He taught the technique
in the U.S. from 1959 to 1981 and in Paris from 1981 to 1987. He ran Alexander
Technique teacher training courses from 1975-1987. 


Boydston,
J.,
“Alexander,
Dewey, Jones, and McCormack: A Circle of Influence”

Text of keynote address at the 1996 NASTAT annual meeting. NASTAT News (newsletter
of the North American Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) #34, 1996.
Available from AmSAT.
This talk traces
and analyzes the history of Dewey's interest in and support for the Alexander
Technique.


Jo Ann Boydston Ph.D. was the Director of the
Center for Dewey Studies and Distinguished Professor Emerita at Southern Illinois
University, Carbondale, Illinois. She was the editor of the 37-volume Collected
Works of John Dewey.


See also: Boydston Jo Ann, “John
Dewey and the Alexander Technique”


Jones,
Frank P.
, Body Awareness in Action--A Study of the Alexander
Technique
, Chapter 11 “Dewey and Alexander,” pp. 94-105. New York: Schocken Books, 1976. Out of print. Body
Awareness In Action
has been republished under the title Freedom
to Change
(London, Mouritz Press:
1997). Freedom to Change was Jones's original title for the book.


Also Chapter 1 “Escape from the Monkey Trap,” Chapter 2
“Sensory Evidence,” Chapter 4 “Man's Supreme Inheritance,” Chapter 5 “Constructive
Conscious Control of the Individual,” Chapter 6 “The Use of the Self,” Chapter
8 “The Two Brothers,” Chapter 9 “The Alexander Training Course,” Chapter 10 “Trial
in Johannesburg,” Chapter 12 “Experimental Studies,” Chapter 13 “What is the Mechanism?”


McCormack,
E.D., Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence
,
1958.
Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto. (London, Mouritz: 2014). Foreword by Alexander Murray.


Chapter 1 “Introduction: The Problem”

Chapter 2 “Frederick Matthias Alexander”

1. Life and Writings. 2. Doctrine: General Features and the Discovery.

Chapter 3 “Early Relations Between Dewey and Alexander”

1.Before Their Meeting in 1916. 2. Dewey's Position, 1915–1919.


Chapter 4 “Man's Supreme Inheritance and Human Nature and Conduct”

1. Man's Supreme Inheritance. 2. Human Nature and Conduct and Alexander.

Chapter 5 “The Importance of Some Aspects of Alexander's Doctrine for Dewey's Philosophy”


Appendices include: “A Sick World” by John Dewey, “John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander” by C. M. Turbayne, and “John Dewey and F. M. Alexander—36 Years of Friendship” by Alexander Murray.


Selected quotes: “This thesis
proposes to investigate the nature and effect of Dewey's contact with the Alexanders
and their work. Other references to Alexander in Dewey's published writings have
been sought, and inquiry made into his association with the Alexanders. The first
chapter of the thesis outlines the problem and the method of procedure followed.
The second chapter gives a brief account of the life and writings of F.M. Alexander,
and of the general features of his doctrine.” The third chapter discusses “Early
Relations between Dewey and Alexander.” “The fourth chapter compares some of the
essential doctrine of [Alexander's] Man's Supreme Inheritance with
Dewey's Human Nature and Conduct, the substance of which was presented
in a series of lectures at Stanford University in 1919... . In the fifth and final
chapter the importance of some aspects of Alexander's doctrine for Dewey's philosophy
is taken up.”


1. Text of excerpt from Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence.Human
Nature and Conduct
and Alexander.”


2. Text
of excerpt from Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence.



Murray, A.,
“Connecting
Links”
NASTAT News #16, 1992. Available from
AmSAT. A short article focusing on understanding
the Alexander Technique from Dewey's broad perspective.


Murray, A, “John Dewey and F.M. Alexander: 36 Years
of Friendship”
The F.M. Alexander Memorial Lecture, Society of Teachers of
the Alexander Technique, 1982. Republished as appendix to Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence by Eric David McCormack. (London, Mouritz: 2014.) This
talk opens with a brief discussion of Frank
Pierce Jones
's assertion that Dewey's philosophy
provides the best introduction to the Alexander Technique and that "to come from
the work of F.M. Alexander to John Dewey was to understand Dewey's concept of
experience in a way that wasn't possible to the uninitiated." Jones gave Dewey
lessons during the last years of Dewey's life. His scientific research into the
Technique was "inspired, encouraged and guided by Dewey."

The author quotes one of Jones's summaries of the Technique [1953]: "The Alexander
Technique is a method of reeducation that is psychophysical in the sense that
it brings about a change in the person as a whole, by introducing a change in
his total pattern of reaction. It is not an attempt to reeducate the mind by way
of the body or the body by way of the mind. It is a method for changing and redirecting
on a conscious level the background of postural tone which underlies and makes
possible all orderly motion. A change in this fundamental pattern is a total change,
and it effects the character of any activity whether the activity is mental or
physical." Jones's disclaimer to his own definition immediately follows: "This
kind of definition is better calculated for answering questions neatly than for
giving away information." Jones fully realized the difficulty of explaining the
Alexander Technique to someone who hasn't actually experienced it. Dewey grappled
with this problem for the 35-plus years that he studied the Technique.


The author uses a 1949 excerpt from a tribute by Sydney
Hook to illustrate how Dewey frequently has been misunderstood, particularly in
regard to the Alexander Technique. Hook believed that misunderstanding of Dewey
has been based on Dewey's perception of "experience." Dewey's conception of experience
differed radically from his philosophic critics' traditional ideas of experience.
["The Place of John Dewey in Modern Thought" Philosophic Thought in France
and the U.S.
Farber, ed.] Murray points out that this idea of 'experience'
which gave so much trouble to his critics included Dewey's experiences with the
Alexander Technique.

There is no available information
as to precisely when Dewey first began having Alexander lessons. Letters from
Evelyn and Lucy Dewey during the period 1914-1918 enthusiastically discuss the
Alexander Technique. [Letters in Dewey Collection, courtesy Morris Library,
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.] Murray explains: "Dewey said that
his family had had lessons for quite a while before he did although he had read
Alexander's book [Man's Supreme Inheritance, 1910, original short version].
At the time Dewey thought the technique was something like psychoanalysis, then
the rage in New York. But when Dewey had the experience [Alexander Technique
lessons], he realized that there was absolutely no similarity." Alexander
describes Dewey on an early visit, as an anonymous example in Constructive
Conscious Control of the Individual
: "A
pupil of mine, an author had been in a serious state of health for some time and
had at last reached the point where he was unable to carry on his literary work,
after finishing his latest book [Democracy and Education, 1916],
passed through a crisis, described as a breakdown, with the result that even a
few hours of work caused him great fatigue and brought on a state of painful depression.
From the outset of his lessons therefore I expressly stipulated that he should
stop and make a break at the end of each half hour's writing and than should either
do 15 minutes in respiratory reeducation [Alexander Technique] or take
a walk in the open air before resuming his writing."

"One afternoon he came to his lesson unusually depressed and enervated. And in response
to my inquiries he admitted that he'd been indulging in his literary work that
morning from 9 until 1 without a break, in spite of my express stipulation that
he must make frequent breaks. I pointed out to him that if he'd been continuing
his work for four hours without a break we couldn't be surprised at the unfortunate
result. For, as I explained to him, during deep thought, as in sleep, the activity
of the respiratory processes is reduced to a minimum, a very harmful minimum,
in his case owing to the inadequacy of his inter-thoracic capacity. This latter
condition being one of the causes of his breakdown.

'But I am unable to stop once I get into my work!' said the pupil. I suggested that
if this were so it must come from some lack of control on his part. 'But surely,'
my pupil objected, 'it must be a mistake to break a train of thought.' I answered
experience went to show that this was not the case, on the contrary, as far as
I could see, it should be as easy to break off a piece of work requiring thought
and take it up again, as it is to carry on a train of thought whilst taking a
walk with all its attendant interruptions. And that this should be possible not
only without loss of connection but with an accruing benefit to the individual
concerned.'

Murray points out that he
has emphasized "loss of connection" in the above quote because two paragraphs
later Alexander explains: "My pupil had
failed to make this all important connection between his work in reeducation
and his outside activities. Therefore the connection between the difficulty he
experienced in stopping in his lessons and stopping in the midst of his literary
work had escaped him. Like most others who miss most important connecting links
between different factors in a case." 


The author cites Irene Tasker's talk, "Connecting Links"
to show some more connections between Dewey and Alexander and possible influences
each may have had on the other. In "Connecting Links," Irene Tasker states,
"I remember various people, including Professor
Dewey, objecting to the length of the title, Constructive Conscious Control
of the Individual
, suggesting that the words 'of the Individual' be cut out.
F.M. [Alexander] said, 'No, that's the most important part of the title.
The time is coming when the individual is going to be considered of less and less
importance. The state, the community will be all. We are concerned with the quality
of the individuals who make up the community.'" [192?] 


The author suggests a possible connection between Alexander's
emphasis on the individual with Dewey's later emphasis on the same topic in his
articles on "Individualism Old and New." Murray suggests that Dewey's problem
with "end-gaining," described in the above quote from Constructive Conscious
Control of the Individual ,
was similar to Irene Tasker's own problem with
end-gaining, which she describes in "Connecting Links." (End-gaining is
a term Alexander used to describe a faulty and immediate habitual response to
a stimulus to do something--trying to achieve a particular end without first stopping
to use a better nonhabitual "means-whereby" to gain the end.) Murray points out
that Tasker states in Connecting Links that she had discussions with Dewey
(while traveling with Dewey and his wife to California) on this topic:
"I remember Professor Dewey busy with his
typewriter on the train preparing the lectures he was due to give at Leland Stanford
University. These lectures he used as material for his book, Human Nature and
Conduct
, which contains a valuable reference to his recent work with Alexander.
We used to talk on the observation platform and I remember our comparing notes
on end-gaining."

The
author quotes excerpts from Irwin Edman's Philosopher's Holiday, in which
Edelman describes Dewey's "thinking in activity" mode of lecturing, and points
out the difference between the "glib dramatics of the teacher-actor" and Dewey's
"enterprise, careful and candid, of the genuine thinker." Edman described attending
Dewey's lectures as the experience of participating "in the actual business of
thought. Those [Dewey's] pauses were actually delays in creative thinking,
when the next step was really being considered." This description of Dewey's mode
of lecturing also describes the "thinking-in-activity" taught in the Alexander
Technique.

Edman also described a seminar with Dewey
which Irene Tasker [Alexander Technique teacher] attended. An excerpt
from an article by another member of the same seminar class (John Randall Jr.
in "Dialogue on Dewey." Lamont, ed. Horizon Press New York 1959) describes an
interchange between Irene Tasker (described by Randall as "a young lady who had
come from England where she had studied philosophy with Bertrand Russell at Cambridge")
and Dewey on how "the truth of an idea was tested by its use."

The
author states, "One of the things that concerned Dewey most and why he thought
Alexander's work so vital was that it brought together in experience things which
words separate, for instance mind and body. The separation is still a problem."
He points out that several recent books on the Alexander Technique contain the
word "body" in the title. While this kind of title is trendy, it goes directly
against Dewey's and Alexander's work, which endeavored "to
fit together those things that language has broken up."

Other
Dewey/Alexander Technique references include correspondence between Frank Pierce
Jones and John Dewey. (Jones visited Dewey regularly until Dewey's death in 1952.)


Influences or traces of Alexander can be found in Dewey's
writings even where Alexander is not specifically mentioned. "Whenever you see
'means and ends,' 'habit,' 'mind and body,' or 'experience' in Dewey you can be
sure that Alexander is not lurking far behind."

"The
last time Dewey mentioned Alexander in print was in an 80th birthday volume."[The
Library of Living Philosophers
, 1939.] The final paragraph on Dewey
is in Dewey's own words: "I have usually,
if not always held an idea first in its abstract form, often a matter chiefly
of logical or dialectic consistency or the power of words to suggest ideas. Some
personal experience through contact with individuals, groups or as visits in foreign
countries was necessary to give the idea concrete significance. My theories of
mind/body, coordination of the active elements of the self, and of the place of
ideas in inhibition and control of overt action required contact with the work
of F.M. Alexander and in later years his brother, A.R., to transform them into
realities."

In regard to this quote Alexander
Murray states, "Although this statement stands right at the end of his eightieth
birthday commemoration the only person I know who took it seriously was the Benedictine
father, Eric McCormack. 'How strange," he [McCormack] thought, 'that Dewey
said this in 1939 and nobody had wondered who these people [F.M. and A.R.
Alexander] were.' " Murray suggests that this might be explained by the attitude
of Dewey's friends and followers, including Horace Kallen, as shown in a conversation
among some of Dewey's friends in "Dialogue on John Dewey" 1959. The conversation
is rather vague and dismissive of Alexander, most of what little information there
is on Alexander and his work is either incorrect or superficial. Murray likens
the tone and content of the conversation to "piecing together an elephant from
the descriptions of blind men." One interesting point that Kallen does make is
that Alexander apparently told him [Kallen] that he had gotten some of
his thinking, including the idea of ideo-motor, from reading William James. Kallen
erroneously equates Alexander's "physiology" with Mabel Ellsworth Todd's The
Thinking Body
.

Dewey's interest in the "problems
of people," as well as the "problems of philosophy" is discussed. Albert Barnes,
a self-made man and close friend of Dewey's was also very interested in "the problems
of people" and tried to actively put "Dewey's educational ideas into practice."
"Dewey said that Barnes had one of the most outstanding brains of anybody he'd
ever come across." But Dewey's friends had problems with Barnes as well, "None
of Dewey's philosophical friends could stand him." Excerpts from correspondence
between Dewey and Barnes on Alexander are presented and discussed. While Barnes's
views on Alexander's Technique were very positive, he did make one common error
in regard to Dewey and Alexander: Barnes attributed some of the efficacy of the
Technique to Alexander's personality and "force." However, the author points out
that Dewey knew that this could not be the case as Dewey studied the Technique
with both Alexander and Alexander's brother (and later with Frank Pierce Jones).
"Dewey knew that it wasn't the personality of the man that put the technique across,
that it was a principle at work."

Dewey's endorsement
of the Alexander Technique grew. By the time he wrote the introduction to Alexander
's third book, The Use of the Self (1932), he considered that the technique
was "absolutely basic to education."


Goddard
Binkley's diary
[1951] contains the following
quote by Alexander about Dewey: "Dewey once
asked me at a dinner party what would be my test of a person. 'Well,' I said, 'a
man who could decide what the thing is he should do, then stick to his decision
to do that and not some other thing. You see we decide to do a thing and then
we find out the means whereby that thing can be done. Oh, Dewey was a bad pupil
as he would
tell you himself
. He had many lessons, but it saved
him. He's an old boy of 89 or 90 now; when first he came to me in 1914 or 15 he
was like this': Alexander stooped over and shook his hands nervously."



A biography by G. Dykhuizen, The Life and and Mind of John Dewey, states
that "throughout most of his life Dewey enjoyed remarkably good health" and "Dewey
attributed 90 percent of his good health to Alexander and his work..." The author
states that this comment is "quite a testimony" to the change in health Dewey
experienced during his years of Alexander lessons.

Dewey's
influence on Alexander is demonstrated in an excerpt from Alexander's last book,
The Universal Constant in Living (1941), in which Alexander states,
"Man's educational plan for the development of
the individual self has been a meager one as compared to his plan for his development
outside himself. The knowledge that he has accumulated of the world outside himself
being out of all proportion to his meager knowledge of himself, has become a Frankenstein
monster, in that it has led him to bring about the very conditions that are menacing
his democratic way of life today. He adopted the democratic ideal as the way to
freedom of thought and action, but failed to understand that in order to
realize this ideal he would need to develop to full his potentiality for thinking-in-activity,
[Dewey's phrase] in the general use and functioning of the self for
which is essential not only individual freedom of thought and action, but
individual freedom in thought and action, and which gives, in process,
control of individual and therefore collective reaction to the way of life essential
to the putting into practice the theory of democracy."



Tasker, I., “Connecting
Links”
(1967 ) Booklet available from AmSAT
Books. “An informal talk given to teachers of the Alexander Technique at
the Constructive Teaching Center, London.” In this short autobiography,
Irene Tasker describes her "History of Thinking Leading Up to the Alexander Technique,” including studying classics at Cambridge in the early part of the twentieth century,
her work as a teacher, and her training with Maria Montessori in Rome. She describes
how she first came to know of the Alexander Technique through a student of Alexander's,
Ethel Webb, who was studying with Montessori at the same time as Tasker (1913).
During this same period, Ethel Webb also introduced Alexander's work to another
student of Montessori, Margaret Naumberg, a family friend and student of John
Dewey. Margaret Naumberg subsequently had lessons with Alexander in London, and
persuaded Alexander to go to New York to teach the technique and to meet Dewey
(1914). Tasker went to New York two years later. In New York, Irene Tasker taught
at the Walden School (founded by Margaret Naumberg), attended a post-graduate
course of lectures with Dewey, and began teaching the Alexander Technique. She
later traveled with Dewey and his wife to California.



“I remember Professor Dewey busy with his typewriter on the train, preparing the lectures he was due to give at Leland Stanford University. These lectures he used as material for his book Human Nature and Conduct which contains a valuable reference to his recent work with Alexander. We used to talk on the Observation Platform, and I remember our comparing notes on 'end-gaining' in [Alexander Technique] lessons.”



Irene Tasker also describes
her later work at F.M. Alexander's school for children, which emphasized “improvement
as a whole” through paying particular attention to Alexander Technique “inhibition” and “means -whereby” in school work and in Alexander's procedures. After observing
her work at the school, Dewey commented to her, “It is quite evident what you
are aiming at--and I wish I were a pupil in this class!” There are several other
brief references to Dewey, including: “I remember...Dr. Dewey's reply to someone
who compared F.M.'s [F.M. Alexander] principle of inhibition with the
'non-doing' of ancient Chinese philsophy--- 'Ah' said Dr. Dewey, 'but they did
not have Alexander's constructive "means" on the other side.'”



Irene
Tasker
began teaching the Alexander Technique in 1917. Up until that time
the only people teaching the Technique had been F.M. Alexander and his brother,
A.R. Alexander. She developed Alexander Technique “application work.”
 


Turbayne, C.M. “John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander.” Department of Philosophy,
University of Pennsylvania, 1948. Reprinted as appendix to Frederick Matthias Alexander and John Dewey: A Neglected Influence by Eric David McCormack. (London, Mouritz: 2014.) Turbayne discusses what the Alexander
Technique is and what the Alexander Technique is not. “It is not a nature cure,
a system of faith healing, or a physical culture, or a medical treatment, or a
semi-occult philosophy. As to what it is, Dewey's brief but striking description
appeals most and has the least chance of being proved incorrect: 'It [the
Alexander Technique] bears the same relation to education that education itself
bears to all other human activities.'
” Turbayne quotes a number of descriptions
of the technique by Aldous Huxley, Dr. Wilfred Barlow, G.E. Coghill, and Nobel
laureate in physiology Sir Charles Sherrington (Mr. Alexander has done a service
to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated
individual, the whole psycho-physical man. To take a step is an affair,
not
of this limb or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the
moment--not the least of the head and the neck.)
. He also explains, using
quotes from Dewey and others, why the Alexander Technique is difficult to describe
in words and why direct experience of the technique is needed to understand it.
Turbayne uses a number of quotes from Dewey to support his argument that “what
we can be certain of is that Dewey obtained from Alexander experimental evidence
for his mind-body theory, and probably was in many other respects profoundly influenced,
especially in the sphere of education.” Through examining Dewey's statements about
the Alexander Technique, Turbayne follows “the development of Dewey's attitude
from the 1918 Introduction to Man's Supreme Inheritance to the 1939 The
Biography of John Dewey
.” “In 1923 Dewey no longer minces matters.... The
rigorous analysis to which he has been subjecting this 'new principle' in his
own mind, and the conclusions he has made, are revealed in his introduction to
Alexander's second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. His purpose is to show that it is no panacea... but 'satisfies the most exacting
demands of the scientific method.'” Turbayne explains how Dewey was able to formulate
and to verify, through his critical observations of the Alexander Technique, his
ideas about “the unity of the mind-body; the vitiation of our sensory appreciation,
the material of self-judgements; the unconditional necessity of inhibition of
customary acts and the change from 'theoretical belief' to knowledge.”


Vineyard,
Missy,
“Frank
Pierce Jones's Life and Work”
Address
at 1996 NASTAT Annual General Meeting. NASTAT News No. 34, 1996. Available from
AmSAT. Some of the correspondence between
Dewey and Frank Pierce Jones is quoted and described in this address.


Missy Vineyard is an Alexander Technique teacher and the Director of the Alexander
Technique School of New England.

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Article summaries
by Marian Goldberg

Copyright 1997 Marian Goldberg


Literature
Resources




John Dewey and the Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique: The Insiders’ Guide

maintained by Marian Goldberg

Alexander Technique Center of Washington, D.C.

info@alexandercenter.com