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.
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